The first season of The Mandalorian has finally aired to completion. That’s right, the show that almost singlehandedly carried Disney’s streaming service during its launch is over for the time being. Sure, the second season is already underway, but for now, this is it.
I’ve been a champion of the series since its debut, but that’s not anything to brag about because pretty much everybody who has come into contact with the show has championed it. We all know it’s been good (by modern Star Wars standards any way), the question is, how good is its first season as a whole?
I’m not going to lie. A lot was riding on this final episode. And before I dive too deep into it, I have to admit that Disney Plus probably should have just released the whole season in its entirety at once instead of dripping it out week by week. I’m sorry, but no matter how much investors might want the company to milk every show for what it’s worth, the old convention of waiting a week to see the next episode of a series is just dead now in the age of digital streaming.
In other words, I probably would’ve enjoyed the show as a whole more if I had binged the entire series over a weekend. Look, I’m all for delaying gratification, but the problem is the longer you delay gratification, the greater you expect that gratification to be at the end. Maybe my expectations were unreasonably high after anticipating each episode week after week, but I didn’t find this season capper to leave me as fulfilled as I had hoped. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the episode itself though. It’s that the serialized form of the show might have hindered it more than helped it in retrospect.
By the of end of this eighth episode I started to realize that not a whole lot has happened over the course of this season. It’s been like one big eight-hour long introduction to a rather basic premise. In light of animated Star Wars offerings like The Clone Wars and even Rebels which pack a lot into twenty-minute long episodes, The Mandalorian could have packed more substance into its extended 40-minute long episodes.
But I digress. That’s my little caveat of a grievance before officially slapping my seal of approval on this first season. I most certainly approve of the direction The Mandalorian is taking the franchise and this has been an enjoyable ride from start to finish all things considered.
Directed by none other than Thor: Ragnarok‘s Taika Waititi himself, Mandalorian‘s eighth episode packs a lot of punch. It includes instantly classic scenes like the humorously extended exchange between two bike scout troopers as they await orders following their seizure of “the Asset” (aka the Child, aka Baby Yoda). We also finally get to see Mando’s face in the flesh. Most of us who paid attention during the end credits already knew it was Pedro Pascal of Game of Thrones and Narcos fame, but it was nonetheless a surprise to see him remove his helmet on camera.
An even more pleasant surprise was the return of the Armorer who not only gifts our protagonist with his very own jetpack, but also gives some much-needed exposition on the background of Baby Yoda’s species. She notes that its race of people have ties to the Jedi and that as a group they’ve long been considered enemies of Mandalorians. Still, as per the Mandalorian Creed, she implores Mando to reunite the Child with its family as it personally has done nothing wrong.
Other highlights include the revelation that Gideon is a war criminal who was a high-ranking officer in the Imperial Security Bureau before the Empire invaded Mandalore. Seeing an R2-D2 style droid equipped with arms that can row a boat through a river of molten lava was also memorable.
The tension, too, was palpable as IG-11 sacrifices itself for the team by walking through said river of lava to take out a team of Stormtroopers at the end of a tunnel before the ultimate showdown between Mando and Gideon in a TIE fighter.
Honestly, the more I write about it, the more I appreciate just how epic this episode is. The only problem is, it’s made me rethink my assessment of the series as a whole. While I’ve truly enjoyed the stand-alone episodic nature of the show over the course of its run, I feel like a lot of the exposition we received from this episode should have been given to us earlier on.
It makes those previous filler episodes feel even more like filler episodes in retrospect. Which again, wouldn’t be as hard to swallow if the show had been released all at once on launch instead of being a weekly event that I had to set aside time for in my schedule every seven days.
In the end, the episode gave my positive feelings about it, but reservations about the show as a whole that I didn’t previously have. While it doesn’t diminish what the show has been doing up until now, it does kind of call into question the choice to make many of the first season’s episodes so linear and self-contained.
I didn’t mind it before because I thought that was the kind of storytelling they were going for, but now that the final episode has revealed deeper ambitions, I’m left wondering why these ambitions weren’t explored sooner and more throughly before if they’ve been capable of doing so all along. In short, it makes the whole enterprise seem like somewhat of a tease.
For now though, that’s fine. It’s a strong first season and a strong final episode. Moving forward, however, I will expect more substance from the second season. If this episode proves nothing else, it’s that it’s time to take off the training wheels.