The following review contains spoilers for The Mandalorian S1:E1 “Chapter One" and S2:E2 "The Child."
While very focused on world-building and rule-setting regarding the nature of the bounty hunting work, the first chapter of The Mandalorian establishes itself as both a Star Wars Western and a massive mystery box all in one.
Right off the bat the show is clearly set up as a Western in the same vein as the cult-classic Sergio Leone genre films. I definitely caught vibes of Harmonica from Once Upon a Time in The West when the Mandalorian’s quiet main character first walks into a bar on an unnamed mystery world (more on that later).
The show takes all of 2 minutes to establish that this particular Mandalorian is not one to be fucked with - And the inevitable bar fight that ensues results in one assailant being stabbed, another being smashed with a drinking glass, and a third getting cut in half (mostly off-screen) by a closing blast door.
After the capture of the first bounty, the show does take a couple moments to break tension and offer some clues as to how this bounty hunter operates. To this end, I was glad to see the portable carbon freezing chamber, which was a nice add.
Among the introduction of so many fresh elements, Chapter One took great care in establishing the Mandalorians as the samurai of the star wars universe. Stoic and duty bound, every action taken by the titular character seems to carry real weight behind it, with seemingly calculated words (however few of them, for most of the chapter). If it is indeed Pedro Pascale in the armor, he does a great job at carrying himself as a silent warrior type.
Carl Weathers as the bounty hunter guild Chief Greef Carga was a great addition to the cast, and his steady-handed acting style that he’s used so much in recent years works well for him here. A few elements are introduced in the guild scene that should be mentioned.
First - The introduction of the “puck” as the formal way to view a bounty was cool to see on-screen. The second element was a bit more ambiguous and confusing - The Mandalorian is offered a tracker that appears to track one specific target, but I’m unsure how this tool is supposed to work in the little context provided. Like is this some kind of radio signal tracker? Is everyone chipped? The show never answers and it’s one thing I was too lazy to look up... so moving on!
In this scene we also learn that the Empire has indeed fallen, and their currency is highly undesirable as a result. The Mando takes a job here from a clandestine client, which we will learn more about very shortly, because the client is played by Werner Herzog (such a random and good choice), and he shows up in the next scene.
The cooking of a Salacious Crumb creature was pretty funny, had a chuckle at that one.
When the goes to meet the blacksmith in the Mandalorian. Bunker, a lot happens. The blacksmith asks about his signet being revealed or not, which I don’t know about. Also, she mentions the good of the Beskar (the super-strong sacred metal that Mandalorian armor is made of) being back with the tribe.
Then he has flashbacks from when he was a kid and his village was attacked while the Blacksmith does her thing. He gets a new Beskar pualdron which is cool.
Learning to ride the blurg was entertaining, he had that crocodile Dundee moment too. Nick Nolte as the Ugnaught Kuill was a surprise, what a great original ancillary character. The practical effects used on Kuill were impressive, to say the least.
The scene with suicidal bandoleer-wearing, Taika Waititi-voiced IG unit sauntering up was hilarious, he’s all business and later constantly tries to initiate self-detonation. Great western style shootout. One IG unit is apparently a force to be reckoned with, which really hasn't been demonstrated visually in any other SW media.
The mystery box posed by the 50-year old "Yoda" baby is extremely interesting. Not only has Yoda's species never been named in SW canon, Yoda himself is said to have been “found” and trained by Galactic Republic era Jedi Master N’kata Del Gormo. There’s virtually nothing about Yaddle in SW lore, but she is assumed to be related to Yoda because they are apparently the same species. In reality, Yaddle is based on a concept for Yoda that wasn't used until George Lucas filmed the Jedi Council scenes for the prequels.
The idea that this story (or possibly any great story in SW canon) will somehow touch on the force and the legacy of the Jedi post-Darth Vader is really interesting, especially considering what we now know as canon that was established in The The Last Jedi.
Had a few gripes to dish out: I wish the show would name the planets that the Mandalorian lands on. It makes narrative sense to not explain his name or origin, the Bounty Hunters Guild, the X-Imperial Officer acting as a Client, and the presence of the bounty on some random planet... but not naming the random planets just seems like an oversight.
The music also felt somewhat lacking. We’re too spoiled with John Williams.
I'm hoping subsequent episodes are longer - Clocking in right around 35 minutes, "Chapter One" ended too soon for my liking, but that didn't take away from my experience so much as it had really hoping for more.
Overall, I'd say this is a MUST WATCH for new and returning Star Wars fans - You will not be disappointed by much in this action-packed debut!