I love that cowboy feel to it – every planet is a desert, every town a mongrel outback. One town even has a rectangular entrance arch, reminiscent of every cowboy movie you ever saw. And the theme tune is a split second away from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Humanoids and droids of all kinds live on the edge, both literally and figuratively. We’re back in the familiar territory of the original Star Wars trilogy, a world that I first discovered in my youth (I was 14 when Star Wars: A New Hope came out) and now seems long lost. The Empire struck back and lost but things aren’t exactly peachy.
Throw into this the Mandalorian himself. I know nothing about Mandalorians or Mandalor as I’ve not watched the animated series, The Clone Wars. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. You get fed enough information to work it out. Remembering bits and pieces from Star Wars movies gives the story resonance but I’m quite sure you’d be able to watch this without knowing anything – I’m thinking particularly of younger kids here, who may not (how?!) have ever seen a Star Wars movie. I can’t get over the fact how much you love the main character, the Mandalorian himself, played by Pedro Pascal, because YOU NEVER SEE HIS FACE. What does the actor have left to act with? His voice (gruff and sexy), his body, his armour, but mostly his stillness. Even hidden behind a helmet, his emotions are plain to see.
The main story arc has been unfolding slowly (I’m currently halfway through the second series) and what a brilliant story it is. I’d be quite happy for this tale to go on for 100 episodes. As it is, it gets eked out in only eight episodes per series, which is a killer. And sometimes those episodes are very short, barely over half an hour. Yet every episode is packed with plot, with action, with humour, with fantastic characters, and also quite a lot of beasties. I could probably do without the monster-of-the-week (those spiders aaaargh) and does food always have to be alive in sci-fi stuff these days?! I love that it can be REALLY funny without anyone cracking a joke.
There really is something for everyone. Thoughtful moments as well as big action sequences, without ever resorting to swearing or gore (both of which have been done to death and lack imagination). There are moments of terror, of great sadness (“I have spoken!) and air-punching joy. The delight I feel in watching each episode has been a tonic during lockdown2.
Now hang a sec. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something.
As if the rest of this show isn’t wonderful enough, we get a small green alien child of unknown origin, about whom nothing is known except that we know he’s the same species as Yoda. And oh dear God, he’s the cutest thing ever invented. I’ve been a diehard fan since the first moment I saw him in endless clips on YouTube. When I finally got around to watching the first series, it occurred to me that his darling sweetness might be, well, a bit saccharin. But I needn’t have worried. There’s nothing sentimental in this series. Unlike another sci-fi TV series that continues to disappoint (Star Trek: Discovery), there is no dripping, gushing sentiment at work. The Child does not take over the story at all, though it is basically at the heart of the story arc. And there’s no deliberate cuteness. There’s no cutesy babyness. He’s adorable, he’s funny, but he also pukes up blue biscuits.
There’s just one thing I’ve wondered about though (other than what Din Djarin looks like after a bath) is why the Child has not been named. People have an innate desire to name things. Even a stray dog gets a name, or a cat who visits you once a week, or a squirrel you see regularly in the park (oh, okay, only me, then). If you are going to have a small child-creature with you for any length of time, wouldn’t you name it?
(The drawing is by my daughter)