What can I tell you about the The Mandalorian, the first-ever live-action Star Wars TV series and the headliner of the much-hyped Disney+ platform, which launched bright and early this morning?
Well, it’s about a Mandalorian bounty hunter played by Pedro Pascal whose name is not revealed in the first 40-minute installment. (A second installment will appear Friday on Disney+.) As promised, Werner Herzog appears in episode one delivering lines such as, “He said you were the best in the parsec.” (Oh, man: classic Herzog.) Nick Nolte also makes an appearance, though only in vocal form, as the voice of Kuiil, an alien who teaches the titular Mandalorian how to ride a blurrg, a more sluglike version of a horse. There are plenty of gun fights, and, just in time for the holidays, an image of Salacious P. Crumb (or perhaps his brother) roasting on an open fire, plus an ending that was spoiled on Twitter at an unconscionably early hour but which I will not spoil for you here.
The bottom line: Star Wars fans will undoubtedly want to have a look at this series, and it’s at least worth a free, seven-day trial of Disney+ to do that. Whether it’s worth actually paying to subscribe for The Mandalorian alone, or whether the series as a whole is genuinely good, is impossible to gauge from watching a single episode. But that single episode suggests there’s at least some promise here.
As created and written by Jon Favreau and directed by Dave Filoni of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Mandalorian is pretty much what was promised in the teases offered in trailers and pre-release interviews. Set in a post–Return of the Jedi world, it unfolds very much like a classic Western, with the Mandalorian, a bounty hunter, in the mode of the lone, mysterious gunman. In the first sequence, our hero — antihero? — walks into a bar, captures his asset, and informs him, while placing a hand on his weapon, “I can bring you in warm, or I can bring you in cold.” It’s very Clint Eastwood, if Eastwood were Boba Fett. (To be clear: the Mandalorian looks like Boba Fett, but is not Boba Fett.) It doesn’t take long until that asset winds up frozen in carbonite. The poor guy says he wants to make it home in time for Life Day this year. He will … not make it home in time for Life Day.
The Life Day reference, a shout-out to the Wookiee holiday famously mentioned in the disastrous but also amazing Star Wars Holiday Special, is one of many fun nods to the franchise’s history in The Mandalorian, which moves along nice and briskly as the Mandalorian is given yet another asset of even greater import to hunt down and capture. It’s so brisk, however, that we don’t get much of a sense of our main character. Having him hidden behind all that armor makes it a bit challenging to connect with him; there is a brief flashback to the Mandalorian’s childhood that implies that — shocker — he had a traumatic upbringing. We also learn that he’s not usually a fan of droids. Apart from that, he’s a cipher. Again, though, it’s only the first episode and presumably more episodes will provide some sense of flesh beneath that sleek helmet.
What may be more important to establish out of the gate is that this series will function at the same level as the Star Wars movies do, and on that count The Mandalorian succeeds. The effects and production value are both high, and the mix of action and wry dialogue feels very much in keeping with what we expect from the franchise. The episode’s ending — which, again, unlike Twitter, I will not spoil here — also leaves you very curious to see what happens next. And at launch time, that’s all that The Mandalorian and Disney+ can ask for: that you’ll be back another day, ready to stream more.