What They Say:
The battered Mandalorian returns to his client for his reward.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An episode is good when the minute it ends you just kind of stare at the credits in wonder. And mine was there for a good couple of minutes because of things that this episode accomplished. My love of Star Wars as a property is long and deep, meaningful to me in a way I do evangelize or really talk about in person with anyone. I even do my best to avoid online discussions and just leave me thoughts within the reviews themselves and that’s it. Whatever fandom is, the squeaky wheel part of whatever percentage overall it is, doesn’t impact me. I enjoy what’s out there, be it novel, film, or comic, and the shared universe builds and expands. What this series is doing simply feels different than what’s come out since the Disney purchase.
Frankly, this series is one where it feels like those that worked on it went to those that have managed it for all these years and said, “What can we do?”
Dave Filoni’s influence on this is I suspect larger than many of us thought. While an EP on it and working with Favreau was a given, most of us were just delighted to see him getting to direct a live-action work after toiling for years on animated projects and bringing so many wonderful stories to life. You could see the touches of him and his backing in the first few episodes, things that to some may seem like call-outs to certain things in the films, but they’ve populated the larger galaxy for a long time and that’s what made it a delight. It truly felt like this was all lived-in and has been a place telling stories for the thousand-plus years of the Old Republic. With this episode, Deborah Chow stepped into the director’s position and you could easily see how she’s pulled all she’s learned from so many other projects into this, making it the best of the episodes yet.
And not just because of the action.
And oh is there action. The Mandalorian has returned to collect on the package but there are quite a few concerns since so many other hunters were out there and he is actually curious about what will happen to the kid. That’s essentially breaking the rules of the Guild and it’s no surprise that he backs down considering the size of the payment. Hell, the payment is so much that even his fellows that hide below the surface aren’t exactly thrilled that he’s come back with so much since it’s tainted by the Empire. All of this and more really gets under his armor and that has him breaking the kid out and getting offworld with him. Which makes him the biggest target out there since he’s making the cardinal sin against the Guild. That’s the basics and it does what it needs to in putting him on the run and not quite sure what his next step is – certainly a rarity for him.
In regards to the action, what I really love is that there are so many precise moments before it starts. We get the survey of the location, firming up of the details, the simple execution of it. It’s not a ton of stormtroopers pouring in at once, it’s a range of uncertainty as they make their way through once they realize something is wrong. For The Mandalorian, it’s smooth movements for the most part as these level fighters don’t provide too much of a challenge, but it’s the numbers as they grow that do. And as it progresses outside and the bounty hunters get in on the game, it really becomes both a numbers game and one with a great deal of variety. But what sells it so well for me is that it’s not filled with quick cuts and crazy camera movements, sweeping music, and so much going on you lose track of it. It’s not simple by going in the other direction either, but rather it’s just so elegantly staged so that you can savor what actually happens instead of it being a blurred mess. You get the confidence and competence of our title character and what he has to struggle against because the odds are not in his favor. It’s just strikingly beautiful.
The Kid is all things. I love all the little moments even if he is basically asleep most of the episode. The brief times awake makes for the perfect playfulness when appropriate and Pedro Pascal’s physical interactions are just sublime.
What’s definitely going to delight a lot of fans who came of age with the Clone Wars is what we get from the Mandalore culture itself. We’ve had some great teases with the armor, the Beskar, and hints of what’s going on. With this episode, we get a strong change to his armor because of all the Beskar he gets, which is great, but we also start to learn more about the culture that’s new. The Way is a new saying that’s part of the lore now and it looks like it stems from the time after The Great Purge on Mandalore, which would have come at the end of the Republic as the Empire took over and crushed what is such an obvious insurrectionist opponent that I believe was within the mid-range area. We’ve seen the flashbacks and that expands here, but we get a lot that speaks to how they operate almost as a secret society in the post-Empire galaxy.
The jaw-dropping material for me, however, is in the final fight sequence of the episode. With the Mandalore episodes of the Clone Wars being as strong as they were for so many reasons, and expanding on that in Rebels, seeing a good group of them that are seasoned warriors fighting together in battle in live-action form was just amazing. Every moment of it was ideal as it unfolded and we saw what they were capable of it. It’s like knights returning from myth to step into the battle as needed before disappearing into the mist once again. It had all the right power, intensity, and authority that should come from it. With the culture of this group being explored as a subplot in the season, I hope it increases in time spent because it is definitely one of the best pieces of new lore that could be introduced here.
I’ve enjoyed a whole lot of what’s come out since Disney took over Lucasfilm but right now this show is edging into the top spot very quickly and just may displace Rogue One for me. As much as I enjoy a whole lot of the Clone Wars animated works for the story they built, and the novels for much the same, this series is providing me with the Star Wars experience I dreamed of since I was a little kid. It’s not reinventing the wheel, trying to find hugely profound things to say, or just throwing the same familiar things at us constantly. It feels like that this is the first real “mature” Star Wars project we’ve gotten. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.