Starring: Pedro Pascal
Genre: Space Opera
First Aired: 2020(UK), 2019(US)
It took a long time to get here, but at long last we have a live-action Star Wars TV show. If nothing else, we can thank Disney for that. The sequel trilogy may have been controversial, but there are no such problems here. Solo and Rogue One went some way to showing a universe beyond the Skywalker family, but The Mandalorian goes even further. There is almost nothing to tie this series into the main narrative, and that is its greatest strength. For the first time since the abolition of the old Expanded Universe, the Star Wars galaxy feels like a big and unexplored place.
Taking place a few years after the end of Return of the Jedi, The Mandalorian shows how the Galaxy is faring under the rule of the New Republic. But the Empire is still very much in play. In this it harks back to the glory days of the old EU. It’s easy to see how a Wedge Antilles or Kyle Katarn might slide easily into the lawless fringes of the Galaxy. But there are no returning characters. There is only one main character, Pedro Pascal in the title role, and we are not permitted to see his face or even know his name. Like all the best Star Wars characters, he remains hidden beneath a helmet at all times.
I’m not going to spoil any of the plot, even if those pesky Americans have been free to chat and theorise for several months now. In short, our Mando – as he is known – is a bounty hunter who finds himself at a crossroads when he takes on an unusual job for a deadly client. For someone who never shows his face, Pascal does a phenomenal job of expressing his character. This probably the most mature series that is likely to be on Disney+, and it balances gentle humour with some dark and terrible moments. Pascal carries it all effortlessly.
There are of course side characters, many in recurring roles. Carl Weathers and Werner Herzog bring the gravitas of those burdened by command, while Gina Carano pulls a stellar turn as a former Rebel. Continuing a recent trend of having droids being voiced by comic actors are Richard Ayoade and Taika Waititi. A special mention must also be made of Jason Sudeikis bringing the most banal scout trooper ever known to life. It doesn’t matte rif they’re recurring guest stars or one-off appearances, every piece of casting is spot-on.
The only real stumbling block of the first season is that it’s clearly all set-up for whatever is to come next. There’s exploration of background, introduction of characters, and there is of course a conflict. But it’s impossible feel satisfied with just this one outing. Don’t come to this show expecting a complete story, because it’s only the first act. or maybe even just a prologue. What is undeniable, however, is that this is a Star Wars that will appeal to fans both old and new, those who only know the Disney era and those who were invested in the old EU.
It’s a genuinely new story set in a familiar universe. What more could you ask for than that?