The Mandalorian: A Spoiler-Free Review

A visually and sometimes emotionally captivating show with its fair share of flaws

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Photo Credit: Yahoo News Canada

Ayush Nafde, Writer

I assure you, the winter break I planned did not involve a raging pandemic and not being able to go literally anywhere. But 2020 happened, and here I am binge watching shows and doing pretty much nothing else. Over the course of the last four days, I started and completed the popular Disney+ original The Mandalorian – and I have a lot to say.

Photo Credit: TV Guide

Let me talk about the strengths first, then the weaknesses. At the end, I’ll give you my overall rating and who I recommend this series for. Also, I’m going to be referring to the protagonist of the story, the Mandalorian, as Mando. That’s what they call him in the series.

Photo Credit: Digital Spy
Photo Credit: Thrillist

One thing I must praise about The Mandalorian is its use of settings. The series involved an independent story in a different physical setting (i.e. planet) each episode. Saying their set design was phenomenal would be an understatement. Each sector, planet, and village hjad rich details and beautiful scenery that underscore the vastness and heterogeneity of the Star Wars universe. When I tell you there was every imaginable being in this show, there was. A blue guy with gills, an adorable frog, an ant but humansize, and so on. I found the unique quirks of each “species” to be a great way to remember the complex web of story threads that is the Star Wars saga. And my appreciation for the intricate sets and character designs actually kept me going even when the story seemed directionless.

Photo Credit: Frederick Scout

After some pans of the setting (the show writers flexing their high budget) and some quick chit chat, each episode jumps right into the action. Action usually involves tons of shooting and tons of dead stormtroopers. I found the action sequences in The Mandalorian to be almost as outstanding as the settings. Everything down to the hollow sounds of gunshots to the way the camera whipped from good guys to bad guys. I found myself engaged and captivated throughout, even though most of the time it was clear which side was going to win. I liked the variety of weapons and stormtrooper killing methods used. There were close range guns, automatic rifles, snipers, and everything in between. I also appreciated how they made battles a sort of challenge. The characters worked creatively and intuitively to ward off an enemy. It wasn’t just an amorphous slew of gunshots, at least most of the time.

Photo Credit: Hypebeast
Photo Credit: Yahoo News Canada

This next point is a critique and a compliment wrapped in one. It’s Grogu: the endearing sidekick to Mando who has become a cultural icon. In the series he’s known as “the child” or “the kid.” I absolutely loved Grogu throughout the show. I thought he really brought another dimension to Star Wars that I’ve been craving for so long: some lightheartedness. This may be controversial, but Star Wars sort of feels gray. It’s always super serious—got to save the universe and all that. But an element of humor and cuteness here and there keeps people going and makes the story more enjoyable along the way. And that’s exactly what Grogu delivered. In addition to his goofiness, Grogu actually had some really touching moments. Particularly, I found what happened with Grogu at the end of season two to be incredibly moving; nothing in the Star Wars saga other than the switch of Anakin to the dark side resonated so much with me. Bravo, The Mandalorian. But I feel the climax of seasons one and two could have been even more powerful. What a great segway into my critique.

Both Mando and his unbearably cute companion are protagonists in the story. Mando’s journey is returning Grogu to his ancestral home and coming to terms with his identity, and Grogu’s journey is growing up. However, throughout season one, Mando is the star of the show, and Grogu appears sporadically, almost exclusively to add some levity. Now I understand Grogu is feeble, but The Mandalorian has demonstrated it is capable of illuminating a lot about characters through little moments. For instance, the moment when Grogu tries to kill Cara for winning an arm wrestle with Mando exemplifies the profound love he has for his “father.” I wish moments like these—which reveal little nuances of Grogu’s character or demonstrate his development—appeared more frequently throughout the series. But they didn’t. Instead, Grogu became the star of the show at the very end of season two to wrap the story up in a nice little bow. Subsequently, the climax could have been even more touching had Grogu developed more organically throughout the two seasons.

Photo Credit: Quartz

But the show’s biggest flaw, at least for me, is the storyline. As alluded to in my Grogu critique, The Mandalorian’s pace abruptly turns from distracted and leisurely at the beginning of both season one and season two to “we need to do this now or we will die” at the end of each season. For the first many episodes of each season, there is always a loose end goal in sight. And in each episode Mando goes to some planet to get something to achieve that goal, but he must help someone on some mission first. After an hour and a half of that, I felt like nothing significant had happened. The only things that kept me going were the outstanding cinematography, action sequences, and details. Oh, and Grogu too. And then finally at the end things started heating up and during the last few episodes the story reached a climax. But even in the tensest most climactic moments at the very end, the characters wasted so much time. At that point the otherwise exciting moment that I’d waited an entire season for became painfully unrealistic and anticlimactic.

Photo Credit: News Break

My rating: 4/5. The Mandalorian has ample strengths including a stunning production value; an impressive balance between gravity and levity; and a deep, powerful exploration of its characters. However, I feel the story could have been better executed to make it engaging all the way through. So who do I recommend this to? I think all hardcore Star Wars fans would definitely enjoy and appreciate this intimate look into one of the billions of beings in the Star Wars universe. As for Star Wars fans that aren’t fanatics and anyone twelve and under, I think this series will still probably be enjoyable. For everyone else, read my review. Do a little self-reflection and think about what a good TV show means to you. Is it a high production value? Is it an exciting storyline? Is it a compelling set of characters? If you’re still having trouble deciding, give it a shot. You never know.

Today’s hashtag: #thisistheway

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