The Mandalorian

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Paul Asay

TV Series Review

The Empire had its faults: Its all-powerful leader was the embodiment of all evil; and his attack dog, Darth Vader, wasn’t exactly cuddly. But still, there is something to be said for stability.

It’s been five years since both the Emperor and Vader died aboard their latest (ahem) invincible Death Star (as chronicled in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi), and the Empire has since crumbled into so much galactic dust. And while the good guys won the day, they’re maybe not so good at ruling. The old Alliance’s grip on the galaxy, or at least its outer reaches, seems about as firm as a Bantha’s tummy. Star systems, freed from the Empire’s endless restrictions and tiresome paperwork, have sunk into chaos.

But with chaos comes opportunity. Bandits and pirates roam the stars. Smugglers and assassins ply their nefarious trades. Various warlords vie for control of a planet here, a moon there.

And bounty hunters? They’re in high demand.

If you’re a good bounty hunter—one who happens to come from the planet of Mandalore—your talents are particularly coveted. And expensive.

Vogue One

Alright, let’s back up the geek train here and launch into some explanations. In the Star Wars universe, the Mandalorians have long been known as wildly skilled warriors. Few, it seems, take up accounting. Throughout the galaxy’s recent history (or long, long ago history, as the case may be), they’ve been well regarded as go-to bounty hunters, mercenaries and assassins. Indeed, the Empire cloned one of their number—Jango Fett—to create its clone army (Episode II: Attack of the Clones). Boba Fett, the most famous Mandalorian (in Episodes V-VI), was also a clone, but was raised by Jango as his son.

Also of interest: The Mandalorians are deeply loathe to remove their helmets. How they eat is beyond me. Also, hat hair.

The Mandalorian we meet here follows planetary tradition and has become a successful bounty hunter. He’s the 007 of the galactic bounty hunter guild—the man everyone wants to hire when they really need to track someone down, be they a war criminal or a guy who cheated them at cards.

But in this unsettled time, it’s even hard for a bounty hunter of the Mandalorian’s skills to make a living. Some would-be clients have taken to hiring cut-rate hunters. As Guild Master Greef Carga tells our titular protagonist, “They don’t mind if things get sloppy.”

To make ends meet, the Mandalorian takes on an under-the-table job: His clients seem to be folks with certain, shall we say, Imperial entanglements. And the Mandalorian’s quarry—though seemingly harmless—may be more dangerous than the Mandalorian can dream.

The (Disney) Empire Strikes Back

The Mandalorian is Disney+’s flagship original program, a story that takes place in the Star Wars (literally) extended universe between The Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, filling in the gaps between the old Empire and the formative First Order. And in keeping with both the franchise’s tone and the explicitly family-friendly streaming service, the show keeps its helmet pretty clean.

We don’t need to worry about too much foul language here—at least not crudities spoken in English. Viewers will hear some mild profanities in a few episodes–and even a bit more raw at times than we hear in the Star Wars movies. But compared to your typical Marvel superhero flick, the language by comparison feels fairly chaste.  (If someone starts cursing in Jawa-ese, well, that’s beyond my ability to critique.) And since the Mandalorian rarely even takes off his helmet, it seems unlikely we’ll need to worry about excessive nudity.

Even the Force—that spiritual power that unites and binds all things in the movies and can feel very much like an Eastern religion—takes a back seat here. This Mandalorian, at least early on, seems disinclined to mysticism.

But we do have a few cautions before you turn on your hyperdrive.

Disney+ rates The Mandalorian as TV-PG, which might be a wee bit permissive, considering both the potential body count (which can be high) and the way those bodies come to be counted. In the first episode, one unfortunate fellow is cut in two by a door: off-camera, of course, but still, a young imagination can fill in the details quite efficiently.

Viewers will get more reference to bathroom activities than they might expect, too. And while allusions to the Force may be minimal, some of these galactic denizens have their own religions that they reference on occasion.

The Mandalorian feels both gritty and fun, well in keeping with the central film franchise and many of its entertainment offshoots. But for those hoping for a wholly innocuous, worry-free galaxy to explore, this isn’t the show you’re looking for.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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