The Mandalorian Saved My Star Wars Fandom
Disney has done at least one thing right.
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I was seven years old when Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith came out, so my Jedi Master Aunt Pam thought it would be a great time to raise her Padawan nephew on the series up to that point. We spent the months leading up to the release watching and rewatching the previous five films as I finished my education just in time. It was the perfect time to be a seven-year-old boy and the perfect plan.
I’ve been a Star Wars fan ever since.
Nearly two decades later, I’ve found myself identifying more as a fan of the original trilogy than a fan of the series as a whole. We’re all aware of the prequel trilogy’s problems, Clone Wars has left me cold, and the Disney sequel trilogy is nothing but high-budget fan fiction.
In fact, Disney has largely turned me off from the franchise. I went from defending The Force Awakens and Rogue One to seeing them as the gateway drug that The Mouse found addictive on its way to an overindulgence in Star Wars content.
When I was a kid, I would have killed for this much Star Wars stuff. I saw that trilogy’s third entry in theaters and that was about it. The generation(s) of kids above me waited 15 years from the original trilogy to the prequels. It seems silly to complain about having a lot of something you love, but it’s very much too much of a good thing.
It’s also not necessarily the thing that I love(d) either. Disney’s additions to this universe have been as misguided and shot-in-the-dark as they come. The Rise of Skywalker was a mess, I couldn’t make it past two episodes of The Book of Boba Fett, and I watched even less of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The only thing keeping me, and many others, afloat is The Mandalorian.
One of the most impressive aspects of The Mandalorian is its ability to capture the tone and spirit of the original Star Wars trilogy, while also forging its own path. It’s both familiar and fresh.
That is, in large part, thanks to the leadership of showrunner Jon Favreau and "Lucas encyclopedia” Dave Filoni (whose Star Wars fandom makes JJ Abrams look to be a Trekkie of the worst kind). They have figured out how to give us new Star Wars stories by writing them the way they were originally written: as westerns. As adventures. Other Disney shows and movies have found inspiration in only the rest of the series. The Mandalorian has found inspiration from martial arts to westerns, from Lone Wolf and Cub to The Magnificent Seven, (which is, of course, Seven Samurai in disguise.)
The Lone Wolf is our title Mandalorian. Despite wearing a helmet for most of the series (the controversial, anti-Mandalorian decision of taking it off has been a large focus of the third season), Pedro Pascal's performance brings depth and complexity to the character that makes him incredibly compelling. He brings depth and nuance to this loner who initially seems like a stoic, emotionless bounty hunter. As the series progresses, we see him grow and change, developing real relationships with other characters and questioning the morality of the work he is doing.
His interactions with those other characters, particularly his Cub, Grogu (or The Child or Baby Yoda) have been an oft-discussed highlight of the show. Not only has the creative team created a new iconic character of the series (something that is so rare in the Disney-verse that the only character worth a damn from the other stories is Babu Frik, who has now appeared in Season 3), they’ve found the emotional core of a genre piece. Beyond the memes, Grogu is an important character in his own right, serving as a catalyst for The Mandalorian's character development and providing some of the series' most heartwarming moments, like the Season 2 finale.
Star Wars is about good and evil. The Force and The Dark Side of the Force. The Empire and The Rebellion. It’s simple, really. The Mandalorian has discovered how to do all of that in just one character.
The show is so strong, I almost can’t believe it's Disney. It doesn’t have to rely on fan service (though we get just enough), it doesn’t have to play the lowest common denominator, and it doesn’t even need the other shows that Disney+ pretends that it needs (apparently I should’ve watched two episodes of Boba Fett before this season, but I’m just simply not going to do that,) it’s just good. Which feels so rare.
It’s a fantastic addition to the Star Wars universe, and one that stands on its own as a great piece of television. Cultural phenomenon, sure. But for this guy, it’s keeping the fandom flame alive.
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