Star Wars has ruled the box office for more than four decades, in that time becoming one of the most well-established, though sometimes divisive, franchises in pop culture. Star Wars has always been a sure thing on the big screen, raking in billions since its inception in 1977. Can that same success, both commercial and critical, translate to the world of television? That's been the question we've been wondering since the Lucasfilm announced Star Wars: The Mandalorian, a TV series exclusive to the newly-launched Disney+ streaming service. Disney+, along with the first episode of The Mandalorian, arrived on Tuesday morning, and proved that Star Wars can not only work on television, but it can thrive.
The Mandalorian takes to the darkest and grittiest corners of the galaxy to explore the inner-workings of bounty hunters and the criminal underworld, elements of the franchise that we've all enjoyed since Han first shot Greedo in Star Wars: A New Hope. Pedro Pascal stars as the titular bounty hunter, donning a mask for the entire run time of the pilot, but making sure you never forget just how charming and dangerous his voice really is.
On one hand, The Mandalorian is nothing like the big-screen Star Wars flicks. It's not a happy blockbuster filled with triumphant moments and John Williams' fanfare. It's not filled with bright colors and smiling faces. The Mandalorian is dark, brooding, and incredibly Western in its approach to Star Wars. It's an entire show made out of the cantina arguments and life on the run that we've only seen glimpses of in the past.
Pascal's lead character is something out of a Clint Eastwood vehicle, never saying much and always ready to fire, but still able to crack a great one-liner when necessary. He also knows how to get his ass kicked and find a way back on his feet. Everything else in The Mandalorian works hard to surround the titular bounty hunter with even more Western elements and styles, intent on convincing you that this is more Unforgiven than Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
Then again, there are parts of this series that are Star Wars in the truest sense. It's a bit clunky out of the gate, and once or twice the dialogue may make you wonder if what you're watching is actually well-written or if you're giving it the benefit of the doubt because it's Star Wars and "still better than the prequels." Like most other Star Wars projects, you stop asking these questions rather quickly, regardless of how you may have answered them the first time. There's a glimmer in the eye of this series that promises a grand adventure and it's nearly impossible to turn down the offer.
Perhaps the most Star Wars of all The Mandalorian's features is its ability to hook you with its tertiary characters. Pascal is the lead of the series, and he's great in the role, but he won't be the first character you think of when you talk to friends about your favorite parts. You'll immediately discuss Taika Waititi's hilariously serious bounty droid IG-11. You'll want to explain how, despite the fact that he couldn't care less about the franchise as a whole, Werner Herzog may have been born to play a Star Wars villain. You'll end every sassy tweet with Nick Nolte's instantly iconic catchphrase "I have spoken." Star Wars has long excelled at making you fall in love with its sidekicks and foils, and The Mandalorian continues that trend with ease. Simply put, more time with all of these characters is absolutely necessary.
The Mandalorian is inherently Star Wars, especially when it isn't. It's a George Lucas idea with the flair of J.J. Abrams and the bold confidence of Rian Johnson. It's a unifying rally cry for a franchise that needs it most. Is it perfect? Absolutely not, but neither was Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back. Star Wars has never been about being perfect, it's about the adventure ahead, something The Mandalorian has absolutely no shortage of.
Rating: 4 out of 5
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