By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – November 19, 2019)
Well, that was fun.
That was my initial takeaway from the opening 40 minutes of Jon Favreau’s latest effort, and it left me eager for The Rise of Skywalker and just as eager for more of The Mandalorian. It’s a little rare these days for a service to launch with a killer app, but that’s what Disney+ has with this series, which has everyone talking and has me comparing the show’s feel to a few other of my favorite things.
First, Micah Peters over at The Ringer nailed one facet of the series, which is it reminded him a bit of Raylan Givens’ character in Justified, and for me personally it hit a “space western” feel, which means I thought a lot about Joss Whedon. Even down to the idea of bounty hunting and finding less than ideal ways to get paid, having characteristics to like and dislike in the characters (minus The Mandalorian himself, thus far at least), this thing SCREAMED Firefly to me.
And that’s a very good thing.
It looks gorgeous and Ludwig Goransson’s score fits the bill perfectly. The opening scene, which was what Monday Night Football teased us with a few weeks ago, had both a John Williams effect, mixed with something that would take place in an old time saloon, which again captured that space western, epic aura beautifully. While there wasn’t a tremendous amount of story in the first few minutes, within the episode, we got to know just a bit about the protagonist and managed to get that cliffhanger moment with the indelible image of the one of the most beloved characters in all of pop culture.
Yes, Baby Yoda did not disappoint, and although I hated to see IG-11 go, our hero had no choice. Here’s the question I’m left with, however. Did he shoot the droid to save Baby Yoda from an altruistic perspective, or because he gets paid more if he follows Greef Karga’s instructions to bring the asset in alive? Notice there are a whole lot of people interested in this particular being, which we find out from Kuill amidst one of his, “I have spoken” moments. He’s a likable, very Star Wars universe kind of character that is pretty static, but exists with just enough humor to make him memorable as a piece of the quest. Also, Nick Nolte? That’s a name we might not have anticipated.
We find out quite a bit about the currency surrounding this world, with Beskar obviously being valuable, perhaps in a gold-like fashion, and it’s something that can be melted down and crafted into strong weaponry. We know Imperial Money isn’t sought after, we learn what bounty pucks and chits are, and we see that “credits” can’t save a Mythrol from the carbonite treatment. And apparently a “camtono” is…well, it’s a crap ton I suppose. Our hero isn’t all about the cash, although it’s his job, but there’s a depth to this character that is hinted at in his actions and the care with which he chooses most of his words. He has feelings. He has thoughts. He’s not a mindless robot, my apologies to droids I may have just offended.
Speaking of which…
…let’s get back to IG-11, so that I can just discuss again how much I love Taika Waititi doing weird, oddball characters. This dude makes me laugh, and I thoroughly appreciate that. Korg was such a joy in Thor: Ragnarok and Endgame, and something about the delivery and the matter-of-fact way he approaches this dialogue always works. I hated seeing the droid get 86ed because Waititi was the voice and you could tell in how the character was written. Even in the short time we knew him, he still gave us that whole back-and-forth over the self-destruct protocol and even the “agreed” response to the Mandalorian’s, “You’re not that bad, for a droid” line. I love this dude. I love people that make me laugh without much crassness, just a very slapstick, almost Monty Python-esque dryness that slays.
We got a few monsters, got to watch our title character attempt, first failing miserably, to ride a Blurgg. This was a show that captured what Star Wars felt like for me at its best, whether it was in the original trilogy or The Force Awakens. It struck the right notes without coming across either too cheesy or too surface-level. It wasn’t hard to follow, and full disclosure, I love Star Wars, but I’m by no means an expert in comparison to many others who can tell you about all the species and races and locales. Maybe someday, but I’m cool just knowing SOME stuff and adoring the story.
This isn’t the in depth Star Wars minutiae blog. Those are out there. I’m going to miss some inside stuff and probably some callbacks and you guys can call me out on that and help educate me when necessary (hopefully it will be rare), but know that I’m telling you up front I don’t know everything there is to know here.
Why is Baby Yoda so important? We know how big a deal Yoda is, but that’s because we’ve seen the movies. In this universe, why is this particular child…or FIFTY YEAR OLD…special? Even the Mandalorian freezes, not because it’s an infant or because he’s confused that his bounty is a fifty year old going on six months, but seemingly because there’s something major lying in front of him. The way the last few seconds are shot with the single finger put out and the baby’s hand beginning to reach up indicates there’s more to this encounter than a bounty hunter’s surprise. This is meaningful, but we don’t know why just yet. Perhaps he doesn’t either.
That’s the best kind of question to leave an audience with in a series opener, especially when you’ve hooked me into wanting to find out what’s next. This was a strong opening to the show, which has Favreau’s creative mind behind it, a good lead in Pedro Pascal, and a solid supporting cast as well with Carl Weathers, Werner Herzog, and so many others, plus who knows who might pop in from time to time.
It was an incredibly fast watch that left me wanting more and doesn’t require 2000 words to describe it all. There will probably be much more story to dissect in future episodes, but rest assured, this is a series I will indeed be following closely and writing on for the foreseeable future. I’m supremely excited to see a show that I feel one day I could share with my kids and not question the content. It seems that list is growing shorter and shorter. This was something that was adult enough to enjoy, but created that childlike wonder and fun in me at the same time. It’s a delicate balance, but at least in the first episode, The Mandalorian did it.
I’m jacked up. I’m looking forward to covering this one. What’d you guys think of the opener?
I’m @JMartZone. I’m the best in the parsec.