A long time ago on a streaming platform far, far away (well, in America), The Mandalorian touched down on Disney+ – and for UK viewers watching enviously from across the pond, the few months’ delay for Star Wars’ first live-action series felt as brutal as a night in the Sarlacc pit.
Now, four months later we’re finally getting our hands on everything the House of Mouse’s new streaming service has to offer, including two episodes of ‘Mando’ before the series settles into a weekly release pattern from Friday 27th March.
While there’s an awful lot to enjoy on Disney+ (and I mean a lot, based on this list alone) and even a few other original TV series and movies it’s safe to say that, at the moment, The Mandalorian is one of the big draws for the service – and happily, based on the first two episodes alone it’s worth the investment.
For this opening double-bill, the premise is simple – unusually so, in fact, with few extraneous characters or even much dialogue for long stretches of the action. Game of Thrones’ Pedro Pascal stars as the titular Mandalorian, though you won’t see much of him – as part of his culture’s battle-based religion, our hero can’t remove his armour or surrender his weapons at any time (presumably also making for easy stunt double work and adding in extra dialogue later).
Like the original Star Wars movies’ Boba Fett, another Mandalorian (OK, that’s debatable) who inspired this series, Pascal’s character is a bounty hunter, eking out a living tracking down ne’er-do-wells on backwater planets a few years after the collapse of the Empire (but a while before 2017’s The Force Awakens).
Taciturn, professional and impatient, it’s a little hard to get a read on the Mandalorian at first – though he’s certainly devoted to his people, currently hiding underground – so it’s a good job the world he walks through is so vivid. Disney reportedly spent 15 million dollars per episode and you can see every cent onscreen as we sidle down alien-thronged back alleys, stalk over misty ice fields, soar through outer space or engage in vicious blaster battles.
More than anything, this is recognisably the Star Wars world, even without any familiar characters (though a few well-known alien species like Jawa crop up) and with a slightly darker sheen to proceedings. Still, while the Mandalorian’s quests aren’t quite as noble as Luke Skywalker’s, it’s hard not to root for him as he takes on a mysterious new job for a deep-pocketed client (played, inexplicably, by documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog).
To say much more would be delving into spoiler territory – though, realistically, if you’ve managed to dodge all spoilers for this long you may have been living somewhere in the Outer Rim yourself – but suffice it to say that in the course of his travels he ends up taking charge of an infant alien. One with familiar pointy ears and a particularly verdant hue…
I am, of course, referring to the internet’s new mascot ‘Baby Yoda’ (actually called The Child on the show, but no matter how hard they try that’s not catching on), an infant from the same species as Frank Oz’s legendary Jedi Master/grammar mangler whose mysterious origins are set to form the spine of the rest of the series.
When The Mandalorian debuted in other territories last November Baby Yoda became the breakout hit of the show, and it’s not hard to see why. Cute and expressive (thanks to an impressive practical puppet), in no time flat even the Beskar-steel heart of Pascal’s ‘Mando’’shows signs of melting.
Given this, Disney’s decision to release the first three episodes of The Mandalorian within one week in the UK (the release was more staggered in the US) seems like a canny move. Baby Yoda is definitely the soul of this show, and allowing fans to get to know him better (he only features lightly in the first episode) is definitely the best way to understand what The Mandalorian is really about.
Still, perhaps fans won’t need to see all three initial episodes to be persuaded. Sure, it’s a little basic – there are hardly any characters, and some of the CGI looks a little less polished than you’d expect from Star Wars – but it’s a rollicking good time from start to finish.
Full of brilliant set design, pulse-pounding action and offbeat, slow-burn storytelling, The Mandalorian is something new and special – even if it is, technically, a few months old already.
The Mandalorian’s first two episodes are available on Disney+ now (sign up for £5.99 a month or £59.99 for the year), with new episodes released every Friday. For a full list of what’s available, check out our guide.