The Mandalorian: Season 1, “Chapter 1: The Mandalorian”

Original Air Date: November 12, 2019
Writer: Jon Favreau
Director: Dave Filoni

“I can bring you in warm or I can bring you in cold.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The one bright spot in Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm has been the Mandalorian series, a Western/Samurai themed serial space adventure following a lone bounty hunter, with plenty of tropes hearkening back to the original allure of Star Wars. The show brings together the talents of producer Dave Filoni and writer/actor Jon Favreau who both wanted to creatively explore the “scum and villainy” of the galaxy through the lens of a serial show (thankfully Kathleen Kennedy appears to have only been minimally involved in the production). After the wasted opportunity of a new Star Wars film series and the apparent flailing incompetence of Lucasfilm’s management, Disney decided to take a big risk by investing about $100M in Jon Favreau’s new idea for The Mandalorian (approximately $15M per episode). While The Mandalorian series does not possess a terrible amount of depth, it should be noted that neither do the classic Western serials like Gunsmoke or Wagon Train. These episodes are instead a collection of engaging adventures complete with remarkably well-constructed, lived-in worlds reminiscent of the efforts put together in Blade Runner. In addition, Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson delivers an incredible score for this series, a moody arrangement with clear allusions to the strange mystique of yesteryear’s Samurai films.

Hopes were high for this inaugural episode and they did not disappoint. We are dropped into the dirty, post-Imperial world on the outer rim of the galaxy. It has been five years since the fall of the Empire (as portrayed in Return of the Jedi) but shadows of the lingering Imperial presence still persists. Times are tough and lawless bands of rogues rule the outer rim. The first episode opens on a frigid ice planet apparently known as Pagadon. In a bar, two trawlers rough up a blue-skinned, fish-like Mythrol man (played by Horatio Sanz of Saturday Night Live fame) hoping to kill him for his valuable musk –but then the door to the bar opens and a nameless Mandalorian bounty hunter appears (played by Pedro Pascal). The scene brings to mind Clint Eastwood’s “The Man With No Name” in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. The Mandalorian draws attention and a fight ensues ending with one man beaten to death and the other sliced in half at the door (the Mandalorian’s priceless beskar armor amazingly deflects their blaster fire). Once the two men are neutralized, this silent nameless Mandalorian approaches the Mythrol and shows him a hologram to claim his bounty. When the man desperately offers the Mandalorian either a drink or money instead, the Mandalorian simply responds that he can either bring him in “warm or cold” (i.e. alive or dead).

The Mandalorian leads his new prisoner to his ship which is parked across a frozen lake preyed upon by a massive ravinak creature lurking beneath the icy surface (newly created for the show), and thus a taxi is needed for transportation across the ice. A Kubaz ferryman plays a small instrument and hails a droid-driven speeder reminiscent of Luke’s land-speeder in A New Hope, however the Mandalorian does not trust any droids so instead an older, more run-down ship helmed by an elderly man (played by Brian Posehn) carries them to the ship. The Mandalorian’s ship is called “The Razor Crest,” a pre-Imperial ship modified to fit the Mandalorian’s needs. Moments later the ravinac bursts through the ice and kills this taxi driver, but the Mandalorian and his prisoner manage to escape just in time. Once they leave the planet’s atmosphere, the Mythrol feigns needing to use the restroom or “vacc tube” in order to explore the back of the ship (he claims to be molting), but while poking around the ship he finds several other people frozen in carbonite as bounties (in a nod to The Empire Strikes Back/Return of the Jedi) and shortly thereafter the Mandalorian surprises the Mythrol and freezes him in a block of carbonite.

The ship travels onward to a terrestrial planet in the outer rim called Nevarro where the Bounty Hunters’ Guild resides. The Mandalorian enters a cantina and meets with an agent/administrator of the Guild named Greef Karga (played by Carl Wethers). However, Karga attempts to pay for the bounties in Imperial credits which are no longer accepted so instead he pays half what is owed in Calamari Flan -a nod to the homeworld of Admiral Ackbar. As they continue to haggle over payment, Karga instead offers the Mandalorian an “off the books” job which promises a huge reward, and the Mandalorian finally accepts.

Walking along the dusty streets of the city he turns down a lone alley to a doorway (here we see a gatekeeper droid emerge from the wall a la Return of the Jedi). Inside we find four remnant Imperial stormtroopers along with an old man known as “The Client” (played by Werner Herzog). Just then a man emerges from a side door named Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi) and the scene very nearly leads to a shootout but The Client defuses tensions. He offers the Mandalorian a chunk of beskar steel as a down payment while promising a further treasure trove (or “camtono”) of beskar if he can deliver an unnamed asset dead or alive, even though Dr. Pershing requests that it be delivered alive. We learn that the asset is a 50 year old creature known only by its tracking fob. The Client suggests it is good to restore the natural order of things, alluding to the history of Mandalore. From here, the Mandalorian walks the streets of the hazy town and ventures to an underground lair of Mandalorians in order to present the beskar to a smith who claims it will support many young foundlings (in a brief flashback we learn that our nameless protagonist was once, himself, a foundling after his parents were gunned down in the streets.

The Mandalorian flies his Razor Crest craft to a desert planet called Arvala-7 where he is quickly attacked by a pair of creatures known as blurrgs, but they are both incapacitated when hit with dueling tranquilizer darts. The darts were fired by a mounted Ugnaught named Kuiil (Nick Nolte) who immediately recognizes the Mandalorian as a bounty hunter. Kuiil lives alone and has seen many people come and go on his planet since the end of the Galactic Civil War. He says many bounty hunters have arrived searching for the asset in question but all have failed. Kuiil offers to help the Mandalorian in exchange for captured blurrgs, and so Kuiil leads the Mandalorian back to his moisture farm and amusingly teaches him how to mount a blurrg before they ride out together to the facility where the asset is being held.

At the encampment the Mandalorian spots a droid, IG-11 (Taika Waititi), who has unknowingly also been dispatched by the Bounty Hunters’ Guild to secure the asset. The two agree to split the commission as waves of Nikto gunmen appear on all sides along the rooftops to the ground, and a classic Spaghetti Western shootout ensues. When they finally enter the facility the fob leads them to a small, infant life-form, also known as “the child” or more famously as “baby yoda.” IG-11 claims his orders are to terminate the asset, but the Mandalorian shoots and kills IG-11 and takes the baby for himself in defiance of The Client’s wishes.

“I have spoken.”

The Mandalorian Trivia:

  • George Lucas visited the set of this episode which was also coincidentally on Jon Favreau’s birthday.
  • Jon Favreau wrote this episode in December 2017 while working on other projects.
  • This was producer Dave Filoni’s live-action directorial debut.
  • This episode was filmed concurrently with Chapter 3.
  • Jon Favreau previously voiced a Mandalorian character in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
  • The IG series of assassin droids have a rich fanlore history of overthrowing their creators, and many of them went on to become bounty hunters like IG-11.
  • Ugnaughts are a hard-working breed of alien from a planet called Gentes.
  • Neither the Mandalorian nor the Child are named yet in this episode.
  • A Kowakian monkey-lizard (from Return of the Jedi) can be spotted in the background being roasted over a spit as the Mandalorian walks the streets.
  • The Kubaz are an insect-eating species formerly enslaved by the Empire.
  • The Mythrol are a humanoid, amphibious species who first appeared in this episode.
  • Each episode ends with comic book-styled imagery of the events featured in the story, these are some of my favorite parts.
  • The credits featured in the episode point to Mon Calamari, Admiral Ackbar’s home planet.
  • When the Mythrol is inspecting the Mandalorian’s ship, Han Solo’s gun can be spotted in his weapon’s chest, and each of the people frozen in carbonite are actually characters from the original trilogy.
  • There was an initial Star Wars T.V. show in the works with no less than 50+ scripts drafted but it was never officially greenlit by Lucasfilm.
  • This episode alludes to a past Mandalorian purge wherein the Empire apparently confiscated all the priceless Mandalorian beskar steel.
  • Like Boba Fett before him, this Mandalorian has not received a signet yet, indicating that he has not been welcomed into his local clan.
  • All the flashback scenes in this episode take place during the Clone Wars time period.
  • There is a fan theory that Dr. Pershing actually cloned Yoda hence why he desires for the asset to be returned alive and why his sleeve bears the same symbol as the cloning facility in Attack of the Clones.
  • In this episode we learn a bit about the Mandalorian religion as the protagonist refuses to remove his helmet, and Kuiil describes how the ancient Mandalorians conquered the “Mythosaurs.”

Return to my survey of The Mandalorian series

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