When The Mandalorian premiered on Disney Plus in 2019, it was the reset the imploding Star Wars franchise needed. Though it was set in the same universe and featured plenty of familiar planets and alien races, The Mandalorian sidestepped the burdensome canon by centering on an unfamiliar character who had no connection to the Skywalkers.
Who is The Mandalorian for now?
For a season, The Mandalorian reveled in its freedom to tell fresh stories, introduce weird new characters, and explore regions of the galaxy where the Jedi and Sith weren’t battling over the fate of the universe. But much like the Dark Side, the temptation of the established Star Wars canon was far too powerful for creators Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni to resist.
Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu could only exist in a vacuum for so long before they had to cross paths with Boba Fett, Ahsoka, Bo-Katan, and Luke Skywalker.
But the cameos alone aren’t dragging The Mandalorian down. What sullied the show for many casual Star Wars fans — myself included — is the show’s insistence on gradually becoming a direct sequel to a series of animated shows I’ve never seen.
It’s no surprise that Dave Filoni — former Star Wars: The Clone Wars supervising director and Star Wars Rebels creator — would want to work characters and storylines from the animated shows into The Mandalorian, which he executive produces.
Unfortunately, those of us who haven’t watched all 208 episodes of those shows are no longer the target audience for Filoni’s live-action Star Wars shows (and upcoming movie).
The Mandalorian has eight episodes per season to complete a story arc, and in season 3, we spent more time learning about cloning, the New Republic, the Imperial Shadow Council, and the impending return of Grand Admiral Thrawn than ever. All of that might be catnip for Clone Wars and Rebels fans, but none of it means anything to me.
The issue isn’t that Favreau and Filoni want to integrate The Mandalorian into the larger Star Wars story, but that there’s simply not enough time to explain to the audience why they should care about any of these disparate plot threads. That series you were watching about a badass bounty hunter and his cute green ward has been subsumed into a web of intellectual property that it’s unlikely to ever untangle itself from.
I do not have the same reverence for the Darksaber as fans of Rebels likely do. If not for the fact that I read Heir to the Empire when I was 14, I wouldn’t know who Grand Admiral Thrawn was either or how he factors into this story. And while I have seen the entire Star Wars sequel trilogy, I absolutely don’t care about how Supreme Leader Snoke or the resurrected Emperor Palpatine came to be. In fact, the less I know, the better.
For better or worse, that’s where this story is heading, and Ahsoka (which follows a character introduced in The Clone Wars) is sure to dive even deeper down those rabbit holes.
A few months ago, I wrote about how there’s room for both The Mandalorian and Andor in Disney’s Star Wars universe. While that might still be the case after The Mandalorian season 3, I’m starting to wonder how much room is left in the Star Wars universe for fans who don’t want to have to watch every Star Wars show ever produced in order to keep up.