Serial Consumer celebrates and interrogates Evan’s relationship to franchised media and his addiction to purchasing its licensed products. Amid a brief absence of new content, Evan is creating throwback recaps for each episode in the first season of The Mandalorian for his latest installments.
I wrote an essay about The Mandalorian after the first season ended, in early 2020. At the time, it didn’t seem worthwhile to follow the series week to week. Serial Consumer, my weekly column about Star Wars (and Marvel) shows and the merchandise they inspire me to buy, didn’t start until the premiere of season two of The Mandalorian and is very much a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the role collecting played in helping me stay sane. Turns out that following these shows week-to-week is a lot of fun, so I kept writing through The Bad Batch, Marvel’s What If … ? and The Book of Boba Fett.
Occasionally, I popped in to write about preview episodes of WandaVision, The Falcon & the Winter Soldier, and Loki, but they didn’t inspire full columns. We’ll see where this year goes, but looking at the next month or so without Serial Consumer made me sad … so I’m going to go back in time to last 2019, with a few weeks of essays about the first season of The Mandalorian, so that Serial Consumer has the entire thing documented as we enter a new era of seemingly more-frequent Star Wars programming. It helps that I haven’t rewatched most of it in sequence since its original airing.
I like the way Ludwig Göransson’s score announces the Mandalorian’s appearance with flutes — a callback, I presume, to the way harmonicas introduce Blondie in Once Upon a Time in the West (and the way other Ennio Morricone scores use similar motifs in other classic Westerns). The first scene, which shows us the Mandalorian kicking some ass on the tail of the Mythrol, does a great job of establishing this new character as the Boba Fett of our dreams. Cool armor, cool weapons, sour disposition. It’s kind of a shame the actual Boba Fett character was such a lame-ass when he got his own show, but I’m glad Mando carries on his tradition. “I can bring you in warm or I can bring you in cold.”
Not only do we get Mando beating up on bad guys before the title card, but we also get him fighting a giant monster (who eats the character played by Brian Posehn). Bad guys and monsters are essential elements of Star Wars, and we get them right upfront. I actually didn’t realize, looking back on this season, just how few giant monsters show up. It’s nice we got a good one upfront.
With regard to Mando’s portable Carbonite freeze: This is six years after Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back, where Darth Vader and Boba Fett weren’t sure if the technology would keep Han Solo alive in transit. I think six years is more than enough time for other hunters to adopt this type of system for transporting their quarry, particularly if it’s bootleg technology that doesn’t always work. There’s no indication Mando’s freezer ever kills his bounties, but I don’t think he’d lose sleep over it if it did.
This is the episode where we first meet Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) and I’m glad he isn’t buddy-buddy with Mando from his introduction. Weathers is terrific in the role. I’m glad he gets to do some minor world-building in how he describes the galactic underworld post-Empire. Not a lot of work for the Guild. Lots of shady dealings. Things aren’t better because of the New Republic, just different now.
We also meet the Client, aka Werner Herzog in space, a casting choice that remains kind of mind-blowing. He’s surrounded by dirty Stormtroopers, aka Remnant Stormtroopers, who I wish had been more widely available in 6” form now that I can buy my own 6” Client figure.
Karga and the Client send Mando to Arvala-7, where he is immediately attacked by a Blurrg. Blurrgs first appeared in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, and their reappearance here is another instance of Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni pulling from classic Star Wars concepts for their series. I like Kuill a lot, and the sequence of him teaching Mando to ride a Blurrg was a smart way to slow the narrative down and build on their characters. In general, I appreciate this series’ patience and world-building. It’s a nice contrast to J.J. Abrams’ approach to the sequels of no patience and no world-building).
Notably, Mando suffers his first armor loss here, with the Blurrg destroying his left gauntlet. I actually prefer Mando’s original armor to his later Beskar silver. The red chest plate, right Shoretrooper shoulder pauldron, incongruous color scheme … it looks neat, and I would like some flashbacks to his time as a bounty hunter just to see more of it. His more iconic armor (which he gets in Chapter 3) has grown on me and feels complete now that he has the Darksaber, but this old armor just feels more classic to me.
Everything builds up to the first Western showdown of the show, which becomes the staple climactic scenario and never gets old. IG-11 somehow makes the old IG-88 immobile prop look capable of movement. Taika Waititi’s voice work is fun. I admire the fact that Favreau and Filoni don’t make Mando an indestructible badass here; he seems legitimately fearful for his life at certain points and only survives due to quick wits and help from a friend. Despite never showing his face throughout much of the series, he’s an entirely human protagonist.
I think the cliffhanger to this episode is one of the best we’ve seen in the past decade, with Mando meeting the child we’ll come to know as Grogu for the first time. Their little finger touch gets me every time.
Something that stuck out to me in this episode is that Filoni’s direction places great emphasis on Mando’s two big choices, which, honestly, reflects his deep understanding of Star Wars in a way I think other writers and directors have kind of misunderstood (besides Rian Johnson). The first choice is to take the job from Karga. The second choice is to save the child. The camera lingers on Mando in both instances, emphasizing the weight of the moment. He’ll make other major choices later, of course, but other directors usually fetishize the moment a little less.
Göransson truly is the MVP of this series.
I would love to know how Grogu ended up on Arvala-7.
Someday, I hope we get to see stories about Mando and his covert earlier in his life. He was obviously a die-hard who rarely ventured to the surface, but how did he become such a proficient bounty hunter? What did he think of the Empire? These are all meaningless stories, but it’s Star Wars, which is a franchise built on meaningless prequels.
Well, I made a few more pre-orders. The next wave, Wave 32, is showing up at Target stores, but that’s a “right place at the right time” crapshoot, so I put in a few orders on Amazon for Ahsoka, Omega, two Death Watch Mandalorians (you need two of every troop to flank their leader, right?), and Bad Batch Echo. I’m actually most excited for Omega and Echo, because they’ll complete my Bad Batch team before the second-season premiere. At least I hope the pre-orders ship before then.
I also pre-ordered the new Cad Bane figure based on his costume from The Bad Batch. You can read about my excitement for his appearance in my essay about the episode, and getting a figure of this version was on my wishlist from the series. Sure, he’s basically just the Clone Wars figure I already own with new clothes and a new face, but still … he’ll look great on a Bad Batch shelf whenever I more thoroughly segment my collection.
My buddy Greg was kind enough to give me a large box of The Force Awakens & Rogue One era merchandise that he no longer had room for, and basically can’t sell. I have no idea what to do with it besides make a reward box for my son.
He also happened to have an extra Deluxe Din Djarin & Grogu 6″ Black Series figure, which I stupidly did not find when it was released a year or so ago. I found some new TVC figures and traded him for it. It looks great on the shelf and really fills a hole in my collection of scene-specific Mandos. He also gave me a Ghost Yoda & Ghost Obi-Wan, which I need to slot into my Return of the Jedi diorama. Hasbro better give me more Ewoks…
On the arrivals front, I finally got my copy of the Star Wars Legends: Rise of the Sith Omnibus. It looks great. I plan on buying the rest of these Legends Omnibus editions whenever they’re available.
My Rey Skywalker Force FX Elite Lightsaber shipped three months early, which was a really welcome surprise. I always tell myself each lightsaber is the last one, but I’d still like the Force FX Elite Darksaber someday, and if they ever announce better Ahsoka white sabers or Qui-Gon … well, I’ll be in trouble, there.
There are still quite a few figures as yet unreleased from this episode that I would love to buy. I’ll admit I still don’t own a 6” Kuill. I don’t want to pay $20 for him, but he’s never dropped in price. I would love to see them release a Blurrg-and-Kuill deluxe set, but that seems really unlikely given the way Black Series is trending.
There are a host of aliens, Mandalorians and bounty hunters seen in the background in this episode that are really, really cool and would make excellent figures. I mentioned earlier that I wish the 6” Remnant Stormtroopers had been more widely available. Every day, I consider dropping $25 a pop on some more clean Stormtroopers.
The Mythrol has a 3.75″ figure, which makes me think a 6” version is likely to appear within the next few waves. I wouldn’t mind a Kubaz Ferryman, either.
Perhaps my biggest desire from this particular episode is a replica of Mando’s rifle. Not the Nerf one, either. I want the real, full-sized gigantic replica. I have no idea where I’d put it, but damn, it would be cool.