Connect with us
AEW Dynamite Wrestling AEW Dynamite Wrestling

TV

AEW Dynamite is one of the most Exciting Shows on Television

Published

on

What is AEW?

If I told you one of the most exciting television programs of the year is a wrestling show, you might think I’m lying. The truth is, AEW Dynamite is just that— a bloody, brutal and exciting two hours of television with scene after scene of balls-to-the-wall action. No frills and all thrills, AEW (All Elite Wrestling) is more than just another wrestling league, and for the first time in a long time, WWE finally has some competition.

To say AEW’s Wednesday night program titled Dynamite is just another wrestling show doesn’t do the program justice; it’s so much more than that. The high flying action and breakneck fight sequences featured on Dynamite move at such a ferocious pace, you’ll swear the action was sped up. The punches, kicks, suplexes, body slams, dropkicks, and high flying moonsaults are so fast and well-executed, you won’t want to blink. The fact of the matter is, AEW features some of the best wrestlers and wrestling the world has ever seen and even if you’re not a wrestling fan, you’ll get a kick out of watching the action unfold on the screen.

DX Invades WCW Nitro

Monday Night Wars

Some of you have likely never heard of AEW but you’ve most likely heard of the WWE. Ever since its CEO Vince McMahon purchased WCW in 2001 (which included its video library, some wrestler contracts, and selected intellectual property) the WWE (formerly WWF) has dominated the professional wrestling landscape no thanks to ending the run of Monday Nitro, WCW’s flagship program and rival to WWF’s Monday Night Raw that aired at the same time on the same night.

For the unfamiliar, for nearly two years between 1996 and 1998, World Championship Wrestling was at the top of their game thanks to many of McMahon’s biggest stars such as Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Macho Man Randy Savage jumping ship to WCW. During that time WCW produced some of the most exciting matches and best wrestling storylines including what is arguably the biggest storyline in wrestling history, an angle known as the New World Order. If you were a wrestling fan at the time, the Monday Night Wars was most certainly must-see TV.

The Monday Night Wars was about more than just ratings— it was part of a larger overall personal and professional battle between WWF owner Vince McMahon and WCW-owner Ted Turner. The rivalry between the companies escalated throughout the 1990s to include the use of cutthroat tactics and the revolt of several high-profile employees of both companies. Hogan and company joined WCW while stars like Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, and Eddie Guerrero headed to WWE. During that time, the suspense was heating up week after week with fans eagerly guessing what shocking revelation would unfold next. I fondly remember my friends and I gathered in front of the television every Monday night, flipping back and forth between channels to see which show had the best storylines and who had the best wrestling matches. It was the time when the Montreal “Screwjob” sent Brett the Hitman Hart to WCW and Stone Cold Steve Austin was driving a Coors Light truck into arenas and drenching his rivals with beer. And who doesn’t remember when D-Generation X invaded Nitro? If one were to write a list of the 50 greatest moments in the history of professional wrestling, chances are most of what you’d find on that list would have taken place during the WCW/WWE feud.

It’s no secret that when it comes to the world of professional wrestling, most wrestling fans derive as much pleasure watching people talk about wrestling as they do watching wrestling itself, analyzing the industry gossip and news about creative differences, hirings, firings, and the real-life rivalries and tragedies. For decades, pro wrestling has had its share of drama, both inside and outside of the ring but never to the degree of what transpired during the Monday Night Wars era. And at times, following the drama that unfolded behind the scenes felt necessary since both Nitro and Monday Night Raw would often cross-reference each other.

Unfortunately, that all ended on Monday, March 26, 2001, when Vince McMahon entered the Nitro arena and announced he was now the owner of WCW. To add salt to the wound, McMahon simulcast his announcement both in Cleveland, where Raw was occurring and during the WCW telecast in Panama City, Florida. To put into perspective just how huge of a deal this was, it would be the equivalent of Iron Man appearing in the next Avengers movie, turning to the camera, breaking the fourth wall and announcing that Marvel now owns all D.C. property. It was a huge deal and the world of professional wrestling has never been the same since.

sammy guevara

Wednesday Night Wars

The downfall of WCW is a long, complicated tale, written about ad nauseam and often told one-sidedly in various WWE documentaries released over the years but if you’re wondering how it connects to AEW, the answer is simple…

When AEW Dynamite premiered last month on TNT, it marked the first time in 18 years there was a legit competitor to McMahon’s empire. Not only is AEW going head-to-head with the wrestling behemoth’s live NXT show on Wednesday nights, but the upstart pro wrestling company’s weekly show Dynamite has beaten WWE’s NXT each and every week in the ratings, averaging well over a million viewers with a fanbase growing by the day. And with both shows airing at the same time on the same day, fans have dubbed this new wave of competition, the Wednesday Night Wars — a return to the aforementioned Monday Night Wars when WWE feuded with WCW for ratings and global supremacy. And much like the good ‘old days, the rivalry is heating up with wrestlers from both companies repeatedly taking jabs at each other during interviews and calling each other out on social media. With AEW gaining momentum, the landscape of professional wrestling is certainly chainging and some would argue for the better.

Funded by the billionaire businessman Tony Khan, All Elite Wrestling was launched last fall with the help of executive vice president Cody Rhodes, his wife, and chief brand officer Brandi and co-EVPs the Young Bucks, a.k.a. the greatest tag team in the world. On New Year’s Day, they officially announced their formation and ever since the AEW has been defying expectations. After making history in 2018 by becoming the first independent wrestling show to sell over 10,000 tickets in North America, the pre-sale tickets for the Las Vegas’ Double or Nothing pay-per-view sold out in record time. The success didn’t end there with every future show being a commercial success and the company gaining widespread media attention across the globe. As it stands, AEW has so done what no other wrestling promotion has been able to do in decades thanks to the all-star roster, enthusiastic fanbase and incredibly entertaining style of wrestling that most people aren’t used to seeing.

AEW

Why is AEW Such a Success?

There’s a long list of reasons as to why AEW is one of the best shows on television and at the top of that list of reasons is the league’s dedication and passion to the art of wrestling. The action in AEW is so relentless, I sometimes wonder if the wrestlers asked for stunt doubles. Week after week the incredibly talented roster of athletes perform dazzling stunts that sometimes have me rewind my PVR to see it done again. Only six episodes in, the newfound professional wrestling promotion has not disappointed viewers with their adrenaline-fuelled spectacle of flying fists, whirling kicks and daredevil antics that have left fans shouting for more. Thanks to the combination of experienced professionals and various fighting styles, every episode of Dynamite has found new ways to energize the crowd.

If you’re a fan of the high-flying precision of Mexico’s Lucha libre style of wrestling, you’re going to love AEW. If you prefer the anything-goes attitude of the American backyard wrestling scene, you’ll be happy to learn AEW has that too. If like me, you’re interested in seeing more of Japan’s hard-hitting strong style (Puroresu), it’s worth noting it’s also fearued in AEW. And if you’re a casual wrestling fan who grew up watching the likes of the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels or The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, you should know that AEW also has the spectacle and showmanship of the WWE.

Watch Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley go at it with barbed wire weapons and I promise you’ll be gripping on to the armrests of your chair. Watch any of the jaw-dropping tag team matches and you’ll be inviting your friends over for the next pay-per-view event. Overall, the wrestling of AEW has lived up to the hype and even includes the sort of hardcore matches you would see back in the days on ECW. Hell, even its Tuesday YouTube show AEW Dark has consistently produced at least one match that rivals anything WWE does—see the Joey Janela vs. Kenny Omega unsanctioned match as just one example.

Double or Nothing
Dustin Rhodes vs. his brother Cody at Double or Nothing

Over the years, WWE has done everything in their power to scrub the word “wrestling” from their glossary. Prior to WrestleMania 36, the company went so far as to request that local officials refer to their talent as WWE Superstars and NOT as professional wrestlers— and their company as WWE and not World Wrestling Entertainment. They even asked that the press use the term Sports Entertainment to describe the brand and went so far as insisting on using the word “title” and not “belt” or a “strap.” As David Shoemaker once wrote, “I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re pulling the wrestling out of the product so cavalierly. It’s like Coca-Cola changing its name to “Coke” and messing with the recipe.”

Unlike the WWE which puts wrestling on the backseat and produces shows that consist mostly of just men and women yelling at each other, AEW actually puts the wrestling front and center. The league even brought back the time limit knowing that even if it isn’t the most satisfactory way to end a match, it does still create the feel of real competition. And unlike the WWE in where it doesn’t matter who wins or loses; All Elite has made it a point to specify that wins and losses matter and that the ranking of their talent roster will help determine who will get a title shot. The wins-losses-draws are even listed next to the names of each wrestler as they make their entrances and if every win and loss matters, that means every match matters, keeping fans in suspense each and every week. AEW isn’t just trying to be different, it wants to be better and in doing so, feels closer to a professional sport than any other form of pro wrestling.

cody-dustin-rhodes-hug

AEW Signals Professional Wrestling is Alive and Well

The glory of Monday Night Wars may be long and gone but Wednesday Night Wars is just getting started. It’s an amazing time to be a wrestling fan as AEW looks to bring back many of the fans who stopped watching wrestling over the past 18 years. If you are one of those fans, I strongly encourage you to check out AEW. Make no mistake about it, AEW is changing the landscape of the wrestling world and Wednesday Night Dynamite is an electrifyingly kinetic and insanely frenetic spectacle stacked with a level of athleticism at which the WWE stars of yesteryear would marvel. It sure did leave me feeling black-and-blue and breathless.

As I said, there are plenty of reasons to take interest in AEW; the star-studded roster itself is worthy of its own article— but all in all, it’s the wrestling that takes center stage and makes a show like Dynamite the rawest and most intense wrestling spectacle we’ve seen on broadcast television in years. AEW is an unstoppable wrecking ball and signals professional wrestling is alive and well.

  • Ricky D

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and the NXpress Nintendo Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound On Sight, and host of several podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead podcasts, as well as the Sound On Sight and Sordid Cinema shows. There is nothing I like more than basketball, travelling, and animals. You can find me online writing about anime, TV, movies, games and so much more.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement

TV

A Brief History of Survivor Series: A Cornerstone of WWE

Published

on

History of Survivor Series

Relive Some of the Biggest Moments in Survivor Series history

There are a few pay-per-views that are mainstays of WWE’s annual slate of offerings. SummerSlam. Royal Rumble. WrestleMania. Kids grow up dreaming of wrestling at these shows, and Survivor Series is one of them. The classic Survivor Series match is a five-on-five elimination bout, featuring a variety of top stars as well as up and coming wrestlers. It provides an important showcase for WWE’s talent, some of which don’t always get pay-per-view time.

Survivor Series
Hulk Hogan’s Best Survivor Series Team

Besides that, it’s a lot of fun for fans to watch.

Over the years, Survivor Series has produced a number of career-defining moments for the talent involved and those moments can mean everything. This is the pay-per-view that kicks of the build up to WrestleMania, the ultimate goal for all WWE wrestlers.

The 2019 event is even more interesting than past iterations because of it’s incorporation of talent from NXT for the first time ever, pitting their champions against Raw and SmackDown. If fans were looking for a statement as to how seriously WWE is taking NXT as its own brand, matching NXT against their long-standing brands accomplishes that.

Survivor Series NXT
Triple H with his NXT Champions

Bret Hart’s Survivor Series History

Many of the biggest moments in Survivor Series history happened outside of the actual namesake match. One of the most infamous moments in WWE history, The Montreal Screwjob, happened at Survivor Series 1997. Knowing Bret Hart was leaving WWE and wanting to make sure he didn’t take the belt to WCW, Vince McMahon ordered a fast count during Hart’s match with Shawn Michaels.

Hart’s response was infamous and understandable, his long feud with both McMahon and Michaels only coming to a relatively recent end.

Hart had a part in another big moment, this time at Survivor Series 1996. One year before The Montreal Screwjob, Bret Hart faced off against a young wrestler name Stone Cold Steve Austin who was looking to make a name for himself. Thanks to this match, he would do it. While it’s not often recognized as such, this match was the start of Austin taking the wrestling world by storm and building a legendary career fans still talk about.

Notable Survivor Series Debuts

A WWE franchise player, The Undertaker himself debuted at Survivor Series 1990, starting arguably the most legendary run for any gimmick in wrestling history. The next year at Survivor Series 1991, The Undertaker would go on to defeat Hulk Hogan for the World Championship and cement his legacy as ‘The Phenom.’

Royal Rumble
The Undertaker vs. Hulk Hogan at Survivor Series 1991

The Undertaker wasn’t the only wrestler to debut at the venerable pay-per-view. The Shield, a faction that would go one to produce three major singles champions, made their first main roster appearance at Survivor Series 2012. They came through the crowd and destroyed both John Cena and Ryback on behalf of CM Punk. The legendary Sting made his first WWE appearance at Survivor Series 2014, attacking Triple H and setting up a WrestleMania match between them.

WrestleMania
Sting vs. Triple H at WrestleMania

Sole Survivors

Asuka also achieved glory at Survivor Series 2017 as part of her build-up to WrestleMania. She was a member of the Raw Women’s Team, putting in a typically dominant performance. Asuka was the sole survivor, winning the match for her brand and eventually going on to win the first Women’s Royal Rumble match.

Survivor Series WrestleMania
Asuka Victorious at Survivor Series

Unfortunately, she didn’t win her match at WrestleMania, a loss that took months and months to recover from. Now, it seems like she’s finally back on track alongside Kairi Sane as the Women’s Tag Team Champions.

Many big names have been sole survivors, as well. Roman Reigns, Kofi Kingston, Andre the Giant, and Lex Luger have all held that distinction. The likes of Ric Flair, The Rock, and Dolph Ziggler have been sole survivors on two separate occasions each. Randy Orton holds the unique distinction of being a three-time sole survivor, though that’s no surprise for ‘The Viper.’ He is nothing if not a survivor.

Now. Then. Forever.

The big four pay-per-views will always have a special place in the hearts of WWE fans, and Survivor Series is no exception. While every moment on screen plays a role in building a successful wrestler, showing up and showing out in big moments like this set the tone for the rest of the year.

Some of the biggest names in WWE history have made their names at Survivor Series, possibly even more so than WrestleMania. Survivor Series was created to play off the success of Andre the Giant versus Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III. Both men led their own teams at the inaugural event, featuring some of the biggest talents of their time.

That continues today as modern talent use this traditional pay-per-view event as a means of launching careers. It’s one of those events young wrestlers grow up dreaming about.

Continue Reading

TV

‘The World According to Jeff Goldblum’ is a Quirky and Oddly Engrossing Worldview of Modern Culture

Published

on

Disney Plus launched on November 12th to the general public and with it came ten new pilot episodes for upcoming original shows including Star Wars: The Mandalorian and Pixar In Real Life. Out of all the original television series to debut on opening day, one strikingly stands out from the rest: a quirky National Geographic docuseries featuring Jurassic Park and Thor: Ragnarok actor Jeff Goldblum that was initially going to air on the television channel before switching over to the digital streaming service.

In the mouse’s newest selection of shows for their Netflix Competitor, variety can be the key to the foundation of building something successful and The World According to Jeff Goldblum might just hit the sweet spot for what this service needs, but it is still notably something that would never be labeled as a reason to buy into Disney Plus. With that being said, viewing a regular conversation with Jeff Goldblum has never been so engrossing before than in this odd gem of a series.

Goldblum Versus The World

The pilot episode of the series turns Goldblum into a comedic ethnographer who indulges himself in the culture of shoe collectors and creators. Goldblum slowly dives into his worldview of the purpose and significance of the common day footwear, while looking into how the business operates and the passion behind those who proclaim shoes to the highest extent. The pilot episode focuses on a theme of revelation while jumping from different specialists within the culture such as basketball teams, business owners, creators, and even YouTube personalities.

If you are a fan of the actor then you should already except what you are about to watch. Goldblum has his typical quirky and childish mannerisms that make him iconic, while he goes around interacting with a vast selection of people who are widely educated about the subject matter that each half-hour episode focuses on. Despite seeming like a show that can easily become a bore to watch, it never loses steam and becomes an exceptionally well-executed documentary with a flair of humor and spice of knowledge thanks to Goldblum’s mesmerizing appearance.

From the perspective of becoming an ethnographer, Goldblum surprisingly does a good job interacting with an audience he typically would never engage with. He never misses a beat as he proceeds to ask serious questions and of course, make humor out of certain situations when appropriate. Never once does he provocatively attempt to embarrass a group of people for mindless entertainment or make fools out of them like other docuseries on specific cultures have.

In fact, Goldblum goes the extra mile to participate in sneaker conventions, recreational basketball games, and even professional science laboratory visits- taking on the tasks that a legitimate ethnographer would have to engage in. All of his crazy yet conventional doings ultimately pays off into what ends up building a captivating show that may even attract audiences who do not care about anything that is being discussed. Goldblum’s personality will miraculously keep you hooked on his wild journeys through everyday life as he attempts to explain his stance on common objects while plunging into a perspective of life he has never once stepped into.

Science, Psychology, and Style

This is a National Geographic production though, after all. It is no surprise that this series would be injected with a relentless amount of historical knowledge that is slowly seeping into the core of the show. In the pilot episode, Goldblum combines science, psychology, and of course eccentric style to form a captivating presentation that is quite unlike any other docuseries. For example, in the pilot episode alone Goldblum covers how shoes work, why the category of clothing is so popular among shoe collectors, and the different art styles of footwear found throughout shoe brands.

That being said, for a series revolving around such a simple concept, there is a substantial amount of content to actually talk about and the production value here is unnecessarily high- hitting that Disney expected production value to the point where its astonishingly remarkable how much passion was actually put into this series. From the editing to the cinematography, this is certainly something that was not made without passion. On-screen graphics are always welcomely flashy, lighting is constantly up to pristine quality, and the focus always remains on the title actor.

Goldblum’s consistent upbeat pazazz and high energy makes this series not only entertaining and relaxing to watch for his comedic appearance, but for an enjoyable source of overall education- something that most other docuseries tend to struggle with when multitasking multiple genres.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Is The World According to Jeff Goldblum worthy of being called a reason to purchase Disney Plus? Absolutely not. Is it worth watching on an empty afternoon though? Unsurprisingly yes. This is a fun family series that is not only educational regarding subject-matter but educational to learn more about Jeff Goldblum himself. Without the big-name actor though it would be hard to imagine why anyone would ever want to watch this series.

Goldblum’s presence allows this series to become a notable piece of content available on the streaming service, however, without him, it would be nothing but another typical documentary series with no real focus. It is entertaining until the very end and is keen on ending off on a positive punchline to keep you coming back next time. Simply put, it is another great addition to Disney Plus’s colossal lineup that will seemingly never stop producing high-quality content.

Continue Reading

TV

The Mandalorian’s First Episode is an Impressively Lush, Spaghetti Western-inspired Introduction to its World

The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode One Review: “Chapter One”

Published

on

The Mandalorian Chapter One

George Lucas famously took inspiration from Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress when first writing his treatment of what was then titled The Star Wars; it’s pretty much why we spend the first twenty minutes of A New Hope with R2-D2 and C3-PO. He also used many of its shot compositions, but ultimately reconstituted the pastiche through a unique, worn science fantasy style into what we collectively recognise as Star Wars: A New Hope. In the ensuing four decades, the Star Wars franchise has looked well beyond Kurosawa for its cinematic language, channeling everything from gangster movies to political thrillers to survival horror to wuxia through its peculiar galactic design.

Now, to the delight of everyone who has ever wanted Star Wars to be a Western since seeing gunslinger Boba Fett, The Mandalorian is here to satisfy under auspices of director Dave Filoni.

That “Chapter One” is a meditative and deliberate character study where nothing extraordinary happens, and yet is still riveting, suggests that The Mandalorian will be a complex and thoughtful offering.

The first episode, titled “Chapter One,” is a tale of two halves, and within those halves are two different Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns. As with that genre, the exposition is minimal; yet, accepting the basic conceit as one does with a Western — in this case, the eponymous Mandalorian (forever the ‘Mando’ with No Name, played by Pedro Pascal) is a gun-toting bounty hunter who goes around chasing renegades — the rest is parsed out. Given the series is so stylistically steeped in that heritage, it is fruitful to analyse The Mandalorian in the context of its spaghetti western influences.

The Mandalorian strides toward town amid a flurry of snow

The opening moments find the Mandalorian checking a transponder on some icy planet amidst a sleet storm, then ambling towards some podunk outpost framed by a wide shot, in much the way Stony the gunman did in the beginning of Once Upon A Time In The West. The subsequent scene, in a bar, reflects Once Upon A Time In The West’s saloon confrontation as well — if not for the actual exchanges, then for the chiaroscuro contrast in the set lighting, the cutting to the other patrons’ reaction to accentuate unease, and the close-ups of all involved. Composer Ludwig Göransson even tries for something akin to the famous aching harmonica, but lower-pitched with woodwinds.

Unlike Cheyenne and Harmonica in Leone’s masterpiece, “Chapter One” sees the Mandalorian break the tension by breaking a few heads, as he quickly comes to collect his target fugitive: a blue-gilled alien named Mythrol (Horatio Sanz), who immediately tries to talk his way out of it. This is one of many naturally-lit, seated conversations that frame the episode, with each successively coaxing a little more emotion from the initially silent Mandalorian. It’s a simple but effective technique, providing expositional context for the uninitiated, introducing the other starring actors, and it ultimately suggests a nuanced character beneath that blank helmet.

The affable-yet-blubbering Mythrol’s juxtaposing role in “Chapter One” efficiently emphasises how imposing the bounty hunter is. For example, Mythrol is a terrified wreck as the Mandalorian clinically dispatches a giant, scaly walrus called Ravinak. His nervous yammering in the face of the Mandalorian’s austere silence aboard the starship makes his request to “evacuate a thorax” far more intimidating. And when Mythrol inevitably tries to plan his escape, the Mandalorian appears like a phantom, mercilessly freezing him in carbonite (but not before Mythrol laments that he won’t be seeing his family by “Life Day”…The Star Wars Holiday Remake, coming to Disney+ this December). To his enemies, this Mandalorian is as much of a frigid void as carbonite.

Werner Herzog talks to The Mandalorian

To his employers, however, he is marginally more talkative. Carl Weathers as Greef Carga, a bounty hunter guild-master and form of bail bondsman, along with Werner Herzog (presumably as “Werner Herzog”), have sparse, largely expositional dialogue, but both immediately create an engaging dynamic with the Mandalorian on the strength of their acting. Weathers especially makes the most of deviously trying to pass off Imperial Credits in the aftermath of the defunct Galactic Empire; the mixture of indignation and exasperation when exclaiming, “They still spend!” is perfect. Werner Herzog essentially just has to intone in his distinctive German accent, but clad in black and surrounded by ex-Stormtrooper bodyguards, it’s no wonder that the Mandalorian is unsettled by his new client’s dubious proposition.

However, the fortune he will be paid in Beskar — the metal alloy used in Mandalorian armour that was ostensibly robbed by the Empire from the Mandalorian homeworld — allows him to ignore the obliquely threatening idea that it is “good to restore the natural order of things after a period of such disarray.”

These conversations are interspersed with brief vignettes of the Mandalorian walking about town ignoring roasted and caged Kowakian monkey-lizards, or through dark alleyways and halls, observed by other mute bounty hunters, which serves to distance him from the liveliness of the society. One gets the feeling that he is less troubled in the desolate plains of foreign planets, or in the cold steel of his spaceship.

Leone’s spaghetti westerns were enriched by a masterful, atmospheric craftsmanship that complemented the profoundly beautiful composition of the cinematography; in that vein, “Chapter One” is very much a pensive tonal piece over anything else, happy to leave much to situational subtext while lingering on that inscrutable helmet.

Only once does the episode pierce through the mask to the man behind it, with disorientating flashbacks to the childhood trauma punctuated by the triggering anvil strikes of a newly minted shoulder plate from the Beskar ingot he received as down-payment.

The Mandalorian walks through to the blacksmith

Each interaction — with his victims, his superiors, his equals — makes the Mandalorian slightly more forthcoming, more human, and less robotic, like the droids he so detests. Credit should be given to Pedro Pascal and his doubles’ physical acting. As the Mandalorian’s emotions come increasingly to the fore, Pascal’s physical demeanour and movements become less constricted, and instead grow more loping and loose. Now that his shoulder plate signet is ceremonially fitted onto his ensemble, it will be interesting to see how the rest of this season explores the broken man occupying the armour, and whether it is a protective halo to suppress his nightmares, or a cage for reawakening humanity.

With humanity comes fallibility, and while the second half of “Chapter One” mirrors the beginning of the first — with a transponder held aloft — here The Mandalorian transitions to its second Leone work, A Fistful of Dollars. Almost immediately after he steps onto the planet’s surface, the Mandalorian nearly has his arm ripped off by a bipedal fish-headed monster called a “Blurrg.” He genuinely becomes “The Mando with No Name,” because Clint Eastwood’s “Stranger” in the Dollars Trilogy couldn’t take a punch either, despite being a fantastic gunman. It’s also possibly the first time a feted, cool, masked Star Wars character anticlimactically getting knocked about hasn’t infinitely diminished the allure; rather, it acts as a reminder of the tenuousness of their line of work. It only took thirty-six years, but Star Wars has finally cracked the “Boba Fett Syndrome.”

The Mandalorian is rescued by Nick Nolte’s pig-faced Kuiil, whose facial hair is alike José Calvo’s helpful innkeeper, Silvanito, in A Fistful of Dollars. Kuiil plays a similar role to Silvanito, feeding and resting the Mandalorian, then guiding him to where the bandits are hiding. There is a shot of the two looking down over a ridge to observe the bandits that echoes Eastwood and Calvo watching the massacre of Mexican soldiers.  

Mando and Kuiil talk about the situation

The closing act of “Chapter One,” as one would expect for a Western, is a shootout (heavily promoted in the previews). Things are complicated, however, by the presence of the unintentionally deadpanning bounty hunter murder-bot, IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi), who shoots before he asks questions like whether the Mandalorian is also part of the bounty hunter’s guild. However, the two team up in order to try to kill the bandits and split the reward. In a true sign of growth, the Mandalorian goes from dismissing droid landspeeder taxi drivers at the start of the episode to repeatedly stopping IG-11 from initiating self-destruction. It’s a darkly funny scene, and like most of the episode, is tonally on point amidst gunfire.

In general, the comedic style in “Chapter One” is comparable to the Original Trilogy in its understated and wry sensibility. The comedy is indicative of larger reassuring qualities that the episode possesses: it is atmospherically, thematically, and tonally cogent. This returns us to the discussion at the start of the review, and poses a question: with the variety of genres Star Wars has subsumed, one can reasonably ask, what is Star Wars “supposed” to be? And therefore, does The Mandalorian feel like Star Wars?

Lest this be mistaken for some covert screed about agendas and ruined childhoods, it is an important question, because it is one that Star Wars has been asking itself since at least 1999, when The Phantom Menace first arrived with its diplomatic negotiations and midichlorians. During Dave Filoni’s show-running and development of The Clone Wars and later Rebels, physical and mystical manifestations of The Force were introduced. Rebels even had time-travel! Rogue One had moral turpitude and bleakness.

Relating to comedy, Lawrence Kasdan’s script made The Force Awakens probably the most overtly comical Star Wars film to date. Meanwhile, one of the frequent criticisms levied at the divisive The Last Jedi was that the so-called “gag humour” pushed things too far for Star Wars. So The Mandalorian and “Chapter One” arrives at a crucial, but not unusual moment in helping to set standards for what Star Wars is — or more accurately, illustrating what it could be.

The Mandalorian Chapter One

For that reason, having Dave Filoni direct the first episode of this venture into live-action television was a smart decision. Some shot compositions are deceptively beautiful in their clarity, the mark of a masterful animator who appreciates the importance of artistic staging and creating coherent lines of focus. Furthermore, at this point, Filoni may have contributed more hours to Star Wars canon than George Lucas himself. As Lucas’ padawan, he has a firm grasp of navigating the tonal and shifts within the realm of Star Wars, while still having learnt the core tenets of the series directly from the source.

However, he has frankly executed those ideas with more panache than Lucas managed post-1999. At a time when legions of people are imposing upon the franchise some decades-worth of expectations of what they believe a galaxy far far away should be and represent, The Mandalorian is a nexus of both traditional Star Wars adventure and pushing it towards what fans always imagined the imperfect films to be. That “Chapter One” is a meditative and deliberate character study where nothing extraordinary happens, and yet is still riveting, suggests that The Mandalorian will be a complex and thoughtful offering.

That was a lie about nothing extraordinary happening. There is one revelation at the very end that serves as a brilliant hook for the next episode and has ramifications for Star Wars as a whole. Suffice to say, it brings the Mandalorian’s arc in “Chapter One” to a thematically interesting place that is consistent with his burgeoning humanity. The consequences will surely propel the conflicts for the rest of the season, and it’s the sort of momentous event that gives renewed hope the tumultuous times Star Wars finds itself in won’t be the death of its potential inventiveness as a galaxy-wide lens for exploring compelling concepts.

Other Thoughts/Observations:

The Mandalorian and Greef Carga’s conversation references Star Wars: Underworld, the unproduced live-action series George Lucas had proposed and commissioned purportedly fifty scripts for, and the main reason why he made Clone Wars in the first place — to see if Star Wars was viable on a television budget.

Armourer (Emily Swallow) has an interesting Mandalorian costume that mixes a Viking fur cloak and a cross between a Corinthian and Trojan helmet. Also, watching two Mandalorians sit across from each other, barely speaking with neither removing their helmets, is the sort of awkward visual comedy I hope we see more of amongst these reserved bounty hunters.

Kuiil witheringly chastising the Mandalorian that his ancestors rode “Mythosaurs” and he can barely mount a Blurrg was funny.

Similarly, Brian Posehn’s taxi driver showing up in a spluttering, barely functioning landspeeder was a good joke. They also got a wide-shot landspeeder and screen-wipe in! It’s like poetry!

The CGI for the Blurrgs was generally good, but the combination of the bright daylight and their smooth skin texture made the effect much more obvious than others. Still, we’ve come a long way from staccato creatures incongruously inserted into the Original Trilogy. Also, IG-11 looks so photorealistic!

Continue Reading

Trending