The first episode of The Mandalorian is quick to reassure viewers that this the classic Star Wars we all know and love. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, writer and creator Jon Favreau said about The Mandalorian:
“I’m trying to evoke the aesthetics of not just the original trilogy, but the first film. Not just the first film, but the first act of the first film. What was it like on Tatooine? What was going on in that cantina? That has fascinated me since I was a child, and I love the idea of the darker, freakier side of ‘Star Wars,’ the ‘Mad Max’ aspect of ‘Star Wars.'”
The franchise has always been influenced by the Old Western genre, an influence that remains very evident in The Mandalorian. The tone is set early on, with a shot of the titular protagonist (Pedro Pascal) standing like a lone gunslinger. He enters a cantina where aliens of all kinds take wary interest in him, a scene that is very reminiscent of the Mos Eisley scenes from A New Hope.
The Mandalorian’s big job comes from a mysterious Client (Werner Herzog) with obvious ties to whatever is left of the now-defunct Empire, including a small squad of stormtrooper bodyguards (or, possibly, jailers). The only information given to the Mandalorian is his assigned bounty’s age (50 years old), as well as a tracking device.
Things get even more interesting when we find out the bounty is actually a baby, who, in addition to being probably the cutest creature the franchise has ever seen, also belongs to the same species as franchise icon Master Yoda. Up until now, the only other two known canon characters from the same species have been Yoda and Yaddle, both of whom served on the Jedi Council at one point.
With this, the end of Chapter 1 raises the question: Could this bounty baby, a.k.a. The Child, be Force-sensitive?
For me, The Child is what made Chapter 2 as good as it was. For a character with no dialogue at all, it shows a distinct personality in its expressions and repeated attempts to interact with the stoic Mandalorian.
The episode’s defining moment was an action scene in which the Mandalorian encounters a ferocious creature called a Mudhorn. Just when we think the Mandalorian can’t fight his way out, The Child raises a hand to halt the Mudhorn with the Force, thereby allowing the bounty hunter to kill the creature. It’s a taste of classic Star Wars, certain to thrill long-time fans, but it also ups the ante for the mystery surrounding The Child. Where did it come from? Why does The Client want it? Whose Child is it?
Admittedly, Ludwig Göransson’s (Black Panther) score took a while for me to adjust to, but I especially enjoy the fact that it’s all original and new, and it really helps tell the audience how we should be feeling. There is a scene in episode 1 where the Mandalorian is trying to learn how to ride a blurrg (a two-legged creature) that is really enhanced by the music, which brings some heart to a more comedic moment.
The Child aside, there are callbacks aplenty to classic Star Wars canon. The Mandalorian is shown to use carbon freezing on his bounties. A gatekeeper droid guards The Client’s location, just like the one that guarded Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi. We see a lot of Jawas—creatures first introduced in the original trilogy—and their role in episode 2 is both funny and intense at the same time. A big highlight of Chapter 2 is a chase sequence on a Jawaese sandcrawler, a scene that is not only cinematically but physically impressive.
There’s not much dialogue throughout the series, but the pacing of each episode is surprisingly great enough that we don’t really need any. Through measured storytelling, meticulously pared down dialogue and some brilliant physical acting from Pedro Pascal, The Mandalorian does a solid job of humanizing a character whose face we haven’t even seen yet.
Overall, I’m very impressed with the first two episodes of The Mandalorian and am really looking forward to what else the series will bring to Star Wars canon.