DrunkWooky’s Unsolicited Review of The Mandalorian Episode 1: Binary Sundance Kid

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The day has come to pass and we all rejoiced! Disney+ launched today, November 12, 2019 and episode 1 of the hotly anticipated Star Wars live action series, the Mandalorian was pre-loaded and ready to go! I was ready. I have my Hot Toys Mandalorian and IG-11 on pre-order and I’m ready to see how bad-ass these two fellas are in action! Albeit, with some buffering and site crashing issues.

This is DrunkWooky back with another totally unsolicited review! That’s right. Nobody asked for it. Nobody needs my opinion, but here it is anyway!

The Short of It:

If the purpose of a pilot episode is to whet the appetite of the viewer, pique their interest, and get them to return for more, then Episode 1 of the Mandalorian is effective. For a long time I have felt that there’s been a lot, perhaps too much, emphasis on Jedi, Sith, the Empire, Rebels, and Republics. Most of us viewers aren’t involved in the real-life analogs of those large political concerns. One appeal of the Star Wars franchise has always been the gritty survivalist streak most citizens of the galaxy labor under. Yes, the Empire was oppressive, but how do street-level characters with smaller concerns operate within that system?

The Mandalorian takes Star Wars’ used and worn universe aesthetic and pairs it with classic western tropes to touch on an ingredient in that 70s sci-fi nostalgia some fans may have forgotten about. The Mandalorian is familiar, but excitingly new! Not without flaw, but hitting all the important marks, if you view the first episode, you’ll want answers, and you’ll want to return.

The Mandalorian, at the outset, is looking to be, as the Mandalorians would say “Jatnese be te jatnese”, or “the best of the best” Star Wars entries yet!

PSA: SPOILERS will follow in this review. You’ve been warned.

The Mandalorian, Episode 1, now streaming on Disney+


I’m going to start with some information that I was searching out prior to the release of the Mandalorian today. You see, we planned on screening it over brown bags in our office conference room yesterday and I wanted to make sure my job wasn’t on the line by broadcasting something overtly sexual and graphically violent through the conference room windows. I’m also a dad now, and I want to share my favorite franchise with my favorite little human. So, I search this sort of stuff out now.

The best information I could find before release is that the Mandalorian would “likely” be rated TV-PG or TV-14. Having viewed the episode, I’d say it lies comfortably within that range. There’s nothing overtly sexual in the content of episode 1, no nudity and just your basic Star Wars level violence. A bar denizen does get bisected by a door, but it’s off screen. Basically, there’s potty humor in the first act and laser fights throughout. If your kids can handle a western like Fistful of Dollars, then laser blasts to torsos will sit just fine with them.

A Fistful of Credits:

I mentioned a Clint Eastwood classic western above, A Fistful of Dollars. That wasn’t by mistake. This episode is thick with western tropes and themes. The cinematography is evenly paced and lets the action unfold organically. The dialogue is used judiciously and the creators chose to show more than tell in this first installment. For example, we get a sense of the Mandalorian society’s notoriety mostly through aliens turning their heads as our protagonist Mando enters the room. Nobody needs to walk up and say “you guys are legendary!” It’s understood. However, there are enough bread crumbs to help viewers who aren’t steeped in Star Wars lore up to speed.

As the opening sequence unfolds, we have a bar-fight-turned-involuntary-organ-donation confrontation. Our own “man with no name” waltzes into this no-name saloon in this no-name town and coolly sets himself up at the bar. Our quiet-spoken stranger turns head immediately because he is recognizable as a Mandalorian by his armor.

The would-be organ harvesters can’t help but take the bait and pick a fight with the Mando. “Is that real Beskar steel?” (paraphrasing here) the ringleader taunts. Another brawl ensues and our Mando saves the day for the blue victim whose gills are now still intact thanks to the intervention. It’s soon revealed, of course, that our once victim is actually the bounty. This seems like a pretty simple scene, but it sets up so much: the Mandalorian culture’s notoriety galaxy-wide, the concept of Beskar steel and foreshadowing of its importance in the upcoming events, and the Mandalorian’s pragmatic views when it comes to moral relativism.

Quarry and Hunter’s trip back to the ship could have been uneventful, but the creators take the opportunity to fill out more of the Man with No Name’s character. A Garindan Cabbie hop, or perhaps some sort of galactic Lyft assistant, hails a droid-driven speeder. The Mando passes for a sentient-driven speeder on the older side of maintenance. The driver (Brian Posehn) chats about things under the ice and when that beast he mentions rears its head, we get to see how our Mandalorian deals steadily under pressure. Our blue passenger drops an easter egg about living until “Life Day”, a reference that gives shivers to anybody who has seen the Holiday Special.

A Few Credits More:

I won’t go into too much detail about Carl Weathers’ and Werner Herzog‘s scenes where the Mando gets his under-the-table commission because these were revealed through shaky cameraphone footage back during Celebration 2019.

Werner Herzog in The Mandalorian, Episode 1, now streaming on Disney+

Carl Weathers does admirably carrying the plot forward and illustrating the tough road that needs to be hoed for galactic citizens to make a living. There’s a statement dropped by Mando about the empire falling when imperial credits are offered. These types of small elements assist the less indoctrinated Star Wars viewer to place the film in the chronology. “Oh, ok, we’re after Return of the Jedi?” a coworker turns to me and asks. Weathers offers our Mando a tip on an undercity commission outside “the Guild”. Werner Herzog has the perfect accent and demeanor to deliver the calculating client who grants Mando his commission. He’s to pick up a “50-year-old”, dead or alive, but preferably alive. I think I prefer Werner as a dramatic actor rather than a documentarian, but that’s neither here nor there.

The Mandalorian forge from The Mandalorian, Episode 1, now streaming on Disney+

What’s interesting is where our Mandalorian takes his credits from the Carl Weathers interaction and his Beskar down payment from the Herzog interaction. Our next scene is an undercity enclave of Mandalorians in diaspora. The Mandalorian takes his credits and raw materials to the forge and the peoples’ armorsmith forges him a new shoulder pad. He also gives his bounty payments to the enclave. All-of-a-sudden our protagonist has become less of an entirely pragmatic capitalist in the vein of Boba Fett and some moral underpinnings are starting to surface. You get the idea of an oppressed, once-proud warrior people. Mando is dedicated to bringing glory back to his people. The enclave is a moody and uninviting place where only Mandalorians would feel at home. There are nice easter eggs here, as with most scenes in the first episode, like the nicely polished mythasaur head above the forge’s door.

We don’t have a word for hero. Being prepared to die for your family and friends, or what you hold dear, is a basic requirement for a Mando, so it’s not worth a separate word. It’s only cowards we had to find a special name for.“―Baltan Carid[src]

The Binary Sundance Kid

Mando lands on an unnamed planet and immediately finds himself at odds with a new beast in the (at least live action) canon, the Blurrg. Kuill (Nick Nolte) enters as the savior, seemingly without explanation and Mando is back on track, just having lost his flamethrower gauntlet. This introduction is one of the more ham-fisted steps in the plot development. Mando (apparently) needed help to find his quarry and this gave an excuse for some light-hearted Blurrg training. Again, I’m reminded of western scenes. In particular, the Sundance Kid’s romp on the bicycle. The Blurrgs are somewhat silly, ill-tempered and stumpy versions of Dewbacks. Watching Kuill and Mando bobble along the horizon on the CG creatures does give you the sense that something doesn’t look entirely right about that effect, but we’ve seen worse in some of the effects attempted in the Special Editions. I’m hoping Kuill turns up later and this introduction isn’t as vain as it initially seems.

I’ll forgive the abrupt introduction of Kuill because of his plausible explanation that he wants the pesky interlopers that Mando is hunting gone from his planet. By the end of the episode, the occupants of the compound are still a mystery to us in many ways. What is their affiliation? Do they mean good or ill? What does that imply about the remnants of the empire that sent Mando on his bounty?

And before you know it, we’re at another scene that reminds me of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Mando finds he’s not the only hunter who’s on the job, an IG bounty droid is reading the riot act to the compound guards. If I need to call it out, this starts to smell a lot like the courtyard finale in the Sundance Kid.

We have an extended and suspenseful shoot out between IG-11 and Mando on the one hand, and the compound’s guards on the other. This scene feels really effective. So far on this planet, Mando is not some infallible, unbeatable, and wildly skilled hunter. He’s flawed in his execution in spite of the reputation projected onto him. He gets gnawed by a Blurrg and he gets pinned down with his back against the wall at the compound.

When you pair this with the motivation we saw in the Mandalorian enclave, a more human character starts to emerge from under the helmet. He’s not a cold-hearted capitalist like Boba. He has a goal. He has rules.

And then the big reveal! No scene illustrates Mando’s limits better than the infant(?) member of Yoda’s race being revealed as the target of the bounty. IG-11 insists on termination. For some reason his commission differed from Mando’s. Termination was dictated to IG-11, not optional. Mando summarily places a blaster bolt in IG-11’s dome.

It’s unclear whether Mando neutralized IG-11 for the higher bounty offered for a live specimen or because of the morals we’ve scene a glimmer of earlier. But, that’s perhaps the point! If the reason for a pilot episode is to pique the audience’s interest and get them hooked, then that did it! There are only two members of Yoda’s species prior to this that I am aware of: Yoda himself, and Yaddle, who is also on the Jedi Council. George Lucas has been tight-lipped about even releasing the race’s name for decades. Apparently Jon Favreau and DaveFiloni received the thumbs up from Lucas to just bust that locked door wide open! Suffice to say, I’m on board for the whole Mandalorian ride! This is a puzzle I want to see unravel!

The Mandalorian, at the outset, is looking to be, as the Mandalorians would say “Jatnese be te jatnese”, or “the best of the best” Star Wars entries yet!

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