Star Wars Without Nostalgia: The Mandalorian

Index

Here it is, the show that turned my most stubbornly reluctant self into a massive Star Wars fan. Initially, I thought I’d give an episode a try out of curiosity, that I’d watch it for Baby Yoda. I was gloriously wrong. I fell in love with every single aspect of the show, from the titular Mandalorian, to the world, the soundtrack, other characters, and I fell in love hard. I fell in love with it as I fell in love with The Gray House, the obsessive, all-consuming, dorky passion that’s as intense as it is rare. It made me happy in a time when I needed it the most.

I have talked about it some in the intro already, but I really did not want to go into it too much until it was finished and I have watched all the episodes, just in case it fucked up in the later episodes. Which I’m glad to say it did not! After the last episode, I can comfortably say this is my favourite show, and generally one of my favourite pieces of media ever.

The concept is simple: a Mandalorian bounty hunter living paycheck to paycheck in the Wild West of space is hired for a sketchy job with an unusually high bounty. And then the target turns out to be an incredibly adorable alien child. In a way, The Mandalorian is really an almost slice of life story of a wildly unprepared new dad, although one with a very adventurous job. Though it may expand in scope in the next season(s), it’s small-scale, personal, and far from a space opera epic the movies are. Is there really any surprise that I loved it? Or that my favourite episode is the 4th, the most slice of life of them all?

In many ways, the overall plot is very predictable – it’s blatantly obvious from the start that Mando is going to end up protecting and taking care of the kid (or, as he’s known, Baby Yoda – although he’s not Yoda, just of the same species). The plot, when put in bulletpoints, doesn’t reinvent the wheel or do anything wildly subversive, but what there is, is executed so wonderfully well that it doesn’t really matter. Despite the “predictability,” the tension was still too much to take at many points (there was many an AAAAAAHHH) and subversion alone doesn’t guarantee quality. And though I have seen some grumbling about the middle episodes being filler, I like the structure a lot – first, three episodes that mostly advance the overall plot of the season, followed by three almost stand-alones with self-contained stories, and a two-episode finale. And without spoiling anything, the ending was perfection.

I mean, come on, look at them.

The main charm of The Mandalorian is in the characters. Baby Yoda, of course, steals the show with his overwhelming cuteness (how could he not?), but at no point it feels like a gimmick. Plus, just look at him, how could anyone not love the Force-sensitive little green bean with his big eyes and expressive ears and love of shiny ship controls who sneakily follows his adoptive dad no matter how much he tells him to stay put?

But most of all, I didn’t expect I’d grow so damn attached to Mando himself. Whatever you think he’s going to be going in, you’re probably wrong. Yes, he’s a badass bounty hunter who never removes his helmet and rarely speaks, but he’s also so much more than that. And far from the more usual aloof asshole. His softer side is subtle, but definitely present. He asks for and accepts help readily. He’s very competent and the action sequences are great, but he’s not invulnerable, obviously cannot use the Force, and gets his ass kicked plenty. He’s clearly influenced by his past (revealed slowly) and the Mandalorian culture he adopted. In short, we have a fully three-dimensional, interesting character. With an awesome helmet.

Again, keep in mind that all of that comes across without the actor ever removing the shiny bucket, with just body acting, voice, and the soundtrack as cues.

There’s plenty of other awesome characters as well – Kuiil with his compassion, the ex-soldier Cara Dune (I love how they didn’t make her a waif, or that there’s no romantic subplot), the Armorer…the only ones I did not like was the mercenary crew from episode 6 (mostly because they were rude and disrespectful) and Xi’an in particular – in a series that’s been amazing with female characters until then, what the hell was with the constant lip licking and weird flirting? Disappointing.

Another thing I found fascinating, even if I couldn’t properly appreciate until after I watched the movies, is that it shows us the Star Wars universe from the perspective of average people who mostly haven’t even heard of the Jedi or the Force. It’s also somewhat more morally gray – the Empire may have been destroyed (as it takes place shortly after The Return of the Jedi), but the universe is in disarray, a lot of the Outer Rim planets lawless, and bounty hunters are perfectly happy to take a job for just about everyone. They went for a very Space Western aesthetic without the hypermasculine baggage that usually comes with it(!!!). As someone who has spent a large part of this summer tearing through almost every Fantasy Western she could find, it was a lovely throwback and one more reason to adore it.

(Seriously, why did I ever have doubts that my reaction would be anything than adoration? Slice of life elements, armour, Western aesthetic, cuteness overdose in form of baby Yoda, basically everything about Mando as a character, badass ladies galore…it’s very much Para bait in show form 😁)

It’s also easy to recommend to just about everyone. If you like action, yup, there you go. Or maybe you’re more into character development? Adorable aliens? Found families? A certain aesthetic? And I could go on. Whether you’re familiar with Star Wars or not doesn’t matter either. It has plenty of fanservice and shout-outs for older fans, but is equally excellent as a gateway. I immediately wanted more of the world.

And there is another advantage I found, that’s a complete novelty for me: with how popular and wildly beloved it is, you can squee and people will get it. It’s not like with The Gray House where I had to scour the internet using a language I can’t read or speak to find a bit of fanart and desperately try to convince people into reading a strange, unknown book just to have someone to talk to. Now that I’m into something mainstream, it’s awesome and so much easier. I went lurking and immediately, easily stumbled upon gifs, memes, fanart, character analysis pieces, a hilarious amount of thirst, enamel pins, discussion, answers to some of my questions, crochet patterns…and the fandom overall seems shockingly positive.

Season 2 can’t come soon enough and if you haven’t watched the show yet, do it. This is the Way.

2 thoughts on “Star Wars Without Nostalgia: The Mandalorian”

    1. I find it really amazing how Star Wars is such a divided and splintered fandom however you turn it but…basically everyone loves this show? United by the adorable green baby. It’s so nice to see!

      Liked by 1 person

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