Mandalorian, we meet at last!
The first episode of The Mandalorian introduces us to only a few characters. We meet the title player (Pedro Pascal), a stoic and no-nonsense armored bounty hunter. A new mission comes his way- a slightly under-the-table retrieval of a mystery person for some Empire-related clients. While the Mandalorian is clearly trying to avoid lingering Imperial entanglements (the series is set post-Empire), the clients offer to pay him in beskar, the now-rare, original material for Mandalorian armor. Thus, our hunter sets off in search of his bounty.
We learn very little during this slow-moving introductory episode. At least, nothing we weren’t expecting (apart from one glaring exception that I’ll omit for our non-American readers waiting till March). Yes, The Mandalorian has a tragic past. Yes, he’s surly and quiet. Yes, he never takes his helmet off (which, honestly, what is the point of casting Pedro Pascal if he’s merely a clunky body and a ghostly voice?). Yes, he’s going to become an intrepid rascal. What else is new?
The series is framed like a Western. Despite being the natural, and aesthetically well-executed choice, it doesn’t quite work yet. The scenery is Wild West-inspired and the music by Ludwig Göransson is delightfully inspired. But what is the theme? Westerns are all about thematics. You can’t just patch together classic plot elements and call it a Western. Western stories are about man’s struggle against nature, or against the wild or the unknown. They’re about conquest and exploration. They’re about honor codes and knights of the wild. What is The Mandalorian about? Thematically, nothing yet. It’s about doing your job and getting paid. But there’s the hint of more to come. It’s indicated that our protagonist will choose to break off his mission and go rogue with his bounty. Only then can true Western themes develop.
Is The Mandalorian hollow beneath all its aesthetic armor?
I’ve never been able to connect with characters wearing helmets. Instead of being intrigued by the mystery of what lies beneath, I feel cut off from them as emotional beings. I can’t access their feelings, so I can’t connect with their story. When The Mandalorian was announced, I knew I’d be in trouble again. I was right.
I struggled to connect to the Mandalorian. He seemed like an empty shell to me. I understand that Mandalorians are deeply stoic, but I desperately need a hint of personality to latch on to. We’ve been shown unique, diverse characters to come and so far I’ve mostly just watched a man in a suit go about his job. There are only eight episodes; will that be enough time to fill out The Mandalorian‘s hollow shell?
As the first episode comes to a close, there is a moment that gives me all the hope in the world that The Mandalorian can turn into something great. It’s a classic trick used to humanize characters, but it works. A head tilt, a finger extended. The first lick of emotion to seep out from under that cold helmet. The promise of more.
The Mandalorian: Chapter 1 is streaming on Disney+ in the United States now!
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