Right from the get-go, the prospect of The Mandalorian never exactly appealed to me. Oh, of course, I was excited about getting a live action Star Wars TV series, but at best I was ambivalent. Even the involvement of animation mastermind Dave Filoni and a host of diverse and talented directors wasn’t enough to rouse my excitement in the same way as the forthcoming The Rise of Skywalker has.
When the trailer dropped, it offered a glimpse of the story, a lone nameless gunslinger in the galaxy’s badlands, a male power fantasy stuffed into iconic armour. The overall rhetoric around practical effects and the obvious reverence for the original trilogy made it clear, at least to me, exactly who this show was aimed at.
All of this was going through my mind as I watched the debut episode. Is it really any wonder that I was disappointed? My experience became a self-fulfilling prophecy, yet many of the people in the Star Wars community whose opinions and insights I value and respect were raving about the show. In the hours that followed that first viewing, my thoughts kept returning to what I’d seen – especially to the possibilities and scope offered by that ending (don’t worry, there’s no spoilers here). I realised that the marketing had been deliberately elusive so as not to sully the scope of the story, to preserve mystery and intrigue – something Filoni is famed for.
The more I thought back on what I’d watched, the more I realised that, actually, it had been compelling and I was intrigued to see where the story went next. So, I guess I enjoyed it? I’m reminded of The Last Jedi. When I came out of the theatre for the first time after watching it, I wasn’t sure how to think or feel. I wasn’t even sure I liked the film, though I certainly didn’t dislike it. There was just so much to take in and process and it wasn’t until my second viewing that I really fell in love with it. Of course, one forty-minute episode of The Mandalorian can’t contend with two and half hours of the Skywalker Saga, but the process here is the same.
Having now watched that first episode for a second time with my expectations out the way, I have to say I found myself enjoying it, glimpsing the shape of things to come. It seemed to me that the titular character isn’t some male power fantasy, using the armour to intimidate, but rather to heal his trauma, and guard his wounded heart. Even in one episode, there were hints enough at his wellspring of emotion, at his tenderness to make me hopeful for what lies ahead. Future episodes will also bring a number of female characters to help salve one of the other pressing issues thus far.
Despite how similar the atheistic was and how much of the backdrop and characters evoked the OT, there’s plenty of potential on offer for The Mandalorian to get weird, to give us something different, to go the other way and to subvert expectation. Because expectation is often like watching something through your fingers. Sure you get an impression, but so much is obscured and getting what you want isn’t always for the best.