The Mandalorian Works Because It’s Not About the Jedi
While the show shares a world with the story of the Jedi, it wisely tells the tale of characters that don’t often get the spotlight
There are many things that fans love about the universe of Star Wars. Prime among those is the struggle between the Jedi and the Sith. While the story between these two seemingly diametrically opposed groups is thrilling and the main draw of the Star Wars world, (who doesn’t love laser swords and magic telepathy fights?) what is so refreshing about The Mandalorian is that it doesn’t directly have anything to do with the world of Jedi and Sith. Of course there are little Easter eggs here and there propelled by profound nostalgia, but what the main story chooses to focus on finally gives the characters on the side a chance to shine.
The show takes place about 5 years after the events of The Return of the Jedi and the fall of the Galactic Empire. We follow the journey of a bounty hunter (the Mandalorian in which the show’s title is referring to) as he ruthlessly hunts down targets. The audience quickly realizes our main character seems to contain very little empathy for the people he is hunting down and appears to be very good at his job. It’s only when he is asked to kill a particularly childlike target that he rebels and we see the first sign of a soft side in the bounty hunter. We watch as the Mandalorian and “The Child” set off together on the run to go looking for answers on the significance of this mysterious and seemingly special target.
In 2016 Disney released Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The movie was a little different than what we were used to when it comes to Star Wars content. While the story took place in the same wonderful universe of the Jedi and the Sith, we followed the paths of a host of soldiers and misfit rogues (hehe). It was a big contrast to watching the Jedi leap around like super heroes, using the force like a special power to serve and protect the innocent. While the Jedi are fascinating characters to observe and dissect, it was a really nice change of pace to explore the lives and stories of characters that are more like the people watching the movie. Outside of the animation world, Star Wars fans haven’t seen much in the way of the stories of ordinary people in the fight against the empire. Rogue One was an excellent primer for audiences and showed Disney that fans wanted stories outside of the Jedi/Sith world.
The small screen served as the perfect opportunity to show the lives of people other than that of the Jedi. When a Star Wars movie is released, it’s a very big deal, often being one of the biggest movies of that year or even of all time. Fans have a certain expectation when it comes to seeing a movie set in the Star Wars universe, so going small would be a big gamble for the studios all things considered. With the theater being reserved for the grand stories of the Jedi, the Mandolorian is the perfect starting point for Disney’s plans to bring more Star Wars content to your TV screen. All without sacrificing quality and still giving fans the chance to be immersed into the world many of us have been obsessed with our entire lives.
There are so many wonderful things about The Mandalorian that keep us engaged: from the western genre themes, to a host of splendidly seasoned actors, to the campy comedy; the show has many sticking points. But what will determine the longevity of the show is in how close it decides to get to the myth of the Jedi. With certain elements revealed in season 1, we see the very real potential that the show will lean more heavily on Star Wars themes of the past. We all love those themes, but to use that nostalgia as a crutch would only cause the show to limp half heartedly into its final seasons in a fun but ultimately uninspired end. For the show to artistically succeed, it should continue to use the power of the mythos of Star Wars as a stepping block but never let it consume it. As I said, we love the the stories of the Jedi and Sith, but at a time when we are getting to peak saturation with Star Wars content, the stories of smaller more relatable characters are ultimately more interesting at this point.