Episode 14: Television Mandalorian

Television Man | by Aidan Morgan

“As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a television man” —Televisionmanfellas (1990)

A SCENE FROM THE POST-APOCALYPSE: “What is television?” said the wise man, leaning back from the fire and stroking his beard. The children quietly leaned forward. “Is it a giant box that delivers stories in 30- or 60-minute increments? No, not anymore. Is it a service you pay for so the giant box will show you naked bodies and blood but somehow make you feel smarter for having seen it? No, not even that.”

The wise man leaned forward again, the fire glinting in his eyes.

“No, children. Television is being able to watch The Cat from Outer Space or Girl Meets World whenever the hell you feel like it,” he said. “On your television, your laptop, your phone.

“Now go eat your roasted rats and enjoy Disney+, the last remnant of a civilization you can only experience through streaming media”.

A Man, A Plan, A Mandalorian

Disney+ has launched and entertainment will apparently never be the same. That’s what countless think pieces and hot takes are telling us, even though at this point it’s mostly a buggy DVD library of Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and archival Disney content. Feel like letting your kid snarf down Hannah Montana episodes or doing a Marvel movie binge? You can do that. For my money, though, Disney+’s original series will make or break the service.

The Mandalorian is Disney’s flagship offering, a live-action Star Wars TV series with the budget of several small nations and a cast that feels like a table of drunk film nerds flexing. How else do you explain a show with Carl Weathers as a bounty broker named Greef Carga, or Werner Herzog as a menacing underworld figure who surrounds himself with ex-Stormtroopers and hisses about “the natural order of things”?

Creator Jon Favreau has cited spaghetti Westerns as inspiration, and it’s apparent in the craggy landscapes and wide-screen compositions. The titular Mandalorian (a stoic Pedro Pascal) hops from planet to planet, hunting bounties and scraping together a living on the frontiers of civilization. Meanwhile, hints about his turbulent past and nerd-bait culture are dropped (it’s a credit to Pascal that he can get away with lines like “I’m a Mandalorian. My weapons are my religion”).

The costumes, sets and locales are authentically Star Wars-ian: gritty and pulp-inspired without ever verging into genuinely adult territory. The original Star Wars movies functioned as George Lucas’ prepubescent pulp fantasies with the erotic edges sanded down for all-ages consumption, and The Mandalorian hits that formula precisely.

For all its flash, though, The Mandalorian is not prestige television. With its video-game plotting, its broad characters and thirtyish-minute runtime, the show feels more like an extremely handsome serial. It’s designed to work in installments or in a single sitting.

Watch now or binge later, it’s your call. Or watch The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. Kill some time before the climate change apocalypse has us all eating rats.

The Mandalorian airs Fridays on Disney+. The season wraps up Dec. 27.

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