TV Review: ‘The Mandalorian’ on Disney Plus

Variety | 11/12/2019 | Caroline Framke
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SPOILER ALERT: This review discusses some spoilers for the first episode of Disney Plus’ “The Mandalorian.”

A vicious killer with a tragic past and the faint glimmers of a beating heart is no stranger to television, a medium particularly suited to telling winding stories about rises, falls and redemptions. And yet it’s still something of a jarring trope to center “The Mandalorian,” the first live-action “Star Wars” TV show and the marquee original series for Disney Plus, which launched in the witching hours of Nov. 12 in an explosion of Technicolor classics, obscure childhood favorites and blockbusting properties.

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Every other Disney Plus original to debut, including reality shows like “Marvel’s Hero Project” and the aggressively meta comedy “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” run on optimism, selling the Disney brand as unfailingly aspirational. In introducing a “Star Wars” series along with it all, it would have been completely understandable if it were a romp that leaned more into a popcorn-ready “Return of the Jedi” vibe than the sinister politicking of “The Empire Strikes Back.” (Or, in new trilogy parlance, more of a “Force Awakens” tone than “The Last Jedi.”) If Disney Plus had kicked off its inaugural wave of “Star Wars” content with a “Muppets”-style sitcom about bored Cantina bartenders, I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised (or, for that matter, disappointed, because that actually sounds awesome). But at least in its first episode, “The Mandalorian” is a grim Western of a show that’s less concerned with capturing the magic of “Star Wars” than roughing it up a bit. Even when “The Mandalorian” lags, its swerve from a more expected route makes it more intriguing as an entryway into a galaxy far, far away.

Jon Favreau’s new swing at the “Star Wars” universe picks up sometime after the fall of the...
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