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UK viewers: The Mandalorian on Disney Plus really does live up to the hype

(Image credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)

It's not just about Baby Yoda

Sure, Baby Yoda generated many memes, which may have been unbearably omnipresent for months now on social media, especially if you're a UK viewer who hasn't been able to see the show that birthed it. Baby Yoda and the broth bowl? Yeah, you've seen it. Baby Yoda falling over in his cot? Big mood! And so on. Whoever designed that little guy deserves to go home to an extra storey on top of their house. 

But while the Baby Yoda puppet is a technical marvel and a massive part of Star Wars series The Mandalorian's appeal, the show is enormously successful in other ways, too. This week, Disney Plus viewers in the UK finally get to see what the fuss is about, with the debut of two episodes of the show on the new streaming service.

In a lot of ways, it's the opposite of the TV shows people are trying to make right now. The Mandalorian is a very stripped back show, with some serialised elements, but mostly self-contained episodes that are only 30 minutes long. It's very light on plot: usually, The Mandalorian travels somewhere to do a thing in a Star Wars location, then leaves at the end, Baby Yoda in tow. 

Maybe this isn't what you hoped a Star Wars TV show would look like in an age of dense cable and streaming dramas – but rather than coming off as unambitious, it's beautifully simple, and elevated by a clearly enormous budget. It makes you realise that Star Wars is at its best when it's plugged into a very straightforward and familiar storytelling template. 

In this case, The Mandalorian has likely been inspired by the manga Lone Wolf and Cub (also adapted into a series of movies), about a hired assassin who travels around with his son in Edo-era Japan. In this case, of course, the assassin is the faceless Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal), and his son is the adorable baby alien. This combination works wickedly well: you don't see The Mandalorian's face, but you can vividly imagine his reactions to this green companion that totters around eating lizards, and getting into assorted mischief. 

The Mandalorian season 2 baby yoda

This little guy.  (Image credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)

That contrast works so well, and it's helped by a strong selection of guest stars: Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Nick Nolte, Taika Waititi, Giancarlo Esposito and – of course – Werner Herzog. There are a few other surprises besides that are worth discovering for yourself.

But the show has also received affectionate criticism for being similar to 90s adventure shows like Xena and Kevin Sorbo vehicle Hercules. Again, this isn't a bad thing, because who else is making TV like that now? And those shows never looked or sounded anything like The Mandalorian. A big pile of money makes a huge difference to the end result. Weirdly, we can picture Swingers-era Jon Favreau tuning into these types of dramas in the mid-'90s. 

Without The Mandalorian's debut at a similar time as The Rise of Skywalker, it's conceivable that there'd be less appetite for more Star Wars in the immediate future. But The Mandalorian makes you dream about the future of Star Wars TV, and what it could turn into. It's got enough of the iconography of the films to remind you which universe it's set in, but those familiar elements never threaten to suffocate The Mandalorian like they did with Episode 9. 

You're in for a treat. By the end of the week, you'll have the first three chapters to watch. And if that isn't enough Star Wars for you, the final season of The Clone Wars launches on Disney Plus UK on March 24 too.