Episode Review: Mandalorian Chapter 1

November 2019

A unique blending of authenticity and familiarity makes Lucasfilm’s the Mandalorian a phenomenon that makes for arduous articulation. That is not to say that breaking down the wonder of this pilot episode of the new Star Wars series is impossible. Everything about this show has something wonderful on which to comment. The opening, for starters, does a terrific job of griping attention, dropping us into a world we all know so well, and simultaneously making sure we know that this is an entirely veritable series in an otherwise fully-explored universe. Throughout the episode, I expected at least one scene where the titular Mandalorian would sit down with someone and give a lengthy expositional recap of who the Mandalorians were, what they did, where they came from, why this particular one ended up here, and so and and so forth. To my surprise, there was no such expositional dump anywhere in this episode. More to the point, there was no long-winded attempt to explain to general audience members anything about Star Wars history, or the Jedi and the Sith, or Palpatine, or any other grand in-universe name that would cause a surge of gasped recognition. What’s more, there are no explicit cameos, or name-dropping to tickle the nostalgia center of the brain in attempts to trick viewers into liking the show more because they recognized something they knew. In other words, this episode has made it pretty clear that this show is not going to be a parade of fan-service. To that point, none of the cast of characters are positioned in any such way that their name or face is being used to sell the show to a broader audience. In that sense, and more, this show has started off by being so effortlessly Star Wars. No one was going to theaters in 1977 to see a Mark Hamill flick, or even that new movie Harrison Ford is in. It was all the appeal of the content, which is what the Mandalorian has offered with this pilot episode. I think the look of this show is so brilliant, as well. It offers a midpoint between practical-looking creatures and action, and the vague sense of George Lucas 1997 Remastered graphics. It brings it to the point where it presents this odd sense of wonder and a certifiable feeling of a Saturday morning space adventure serial. Along with the visuals, the feel of the frame leaves a feeling of awe: the composition, the lighting…all the way down to the nuance in production design, it’s all remarkably exquisite. The editing is inspired and beautifully invisible, which is the bedrock contributor to the steady and unwavering pacing of this episode. The goals of both the characters and the shots are well-defined and artfully articulated. All of this, combined with the music and the actors’ tremendous in-universe performances, culminate in an insanely integrated piece of Star Wars media. Episode 1 of the Mandalorian, simply titled, Chapter 1, is an emotionally nuanced and well-placed Star Wars adventure, leaving expectations at the ideal position for not only its follow-up episode, but the future of Star Wars as it enters its new Age of Television.

Published by Nick Wager

Writer, videographer, video editor

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