Admittedly, I was wary of The Mandalorian, because I haven’t been a huge fan of serialized, non-movie Star Wars offerings thus far. Look, I have nothing against The Clone Wars, Rebels, or Star Wars Resistance. Yes, I know they all have their fans. And, yes, I’ve watched a significant amount of these shows, but they all just fall into the, “Eh, not for me” pile. But, now, three episodes into The Mandalorian, this just feels like the Star Wars show I’ve been dreaming about since 1983.
Here’s what I’ve noticed: when I talk to my longtime Star Wars friends, they LOVE The Mandalorian. A week ago, after the second episode debuted, I was at my local pub and three separate people I knew walked in, at different times, and just started cheering about The Mandalorian. (One of these people just looked at me, shouted, “The Mandalorian!” then gave me a high ten.) My friends back home, who I’ve talked Star Wars with for long portions of my life — they all love it. And I’m watching people who I’d consider ‘tough customers” relegated to emotional wrecks when they start talking about Baby Yoda. (Yes, I know it’s not actually Yoda, but I refuse to refer to it as “the child.” So, until we have something better, Baby Yoda it is.)
I’ve seen the criticism. And I understand some of the complaints. Yes, a big one is our main character (at least so far) doesn’t take his helmet off. And, no, there’s not a lot of dialogue. I get the points being made, but I find myself just shrugging and saying to myself, “So what? This show is awesome.”
So what I have noticed is that it’s really hitting with fans of the Original Trilogy. Yes, almost every Star Wars fan is a fan of the Original Trilogy. But I’m more talking about the people who grew up with the Original Trilogy, hate the Prequels, didn’t watch any of the animated series, and their opinion of the Sequel Trilogy and A Star Wars Story films is somewhere in-between “they are great” and “they are fine.” (For the record, this describes me, but I want to classify that I am really enjoying the sequel trilogy.)
To be clear, I’m not saying The Mandalorian is the first thing I’ve watched that feels like Star Wars, because Star Wars is such a wide net now and means so many different things to different people. But I do think it’s the first entity that feels like the Original Trilogy. Granted, a big reason is it’s set so close to the Original Trilogy’s timeline, so that helps. But the thing about the Original Trilogy that makes it so fascinating was that it rarely stops to explain anything. The people in those three movies just live in that world, they know how that world works, and they go about their business. Han Solo starts bragging about the Kessel Run, yet there’s no followup line of exposition to explain the Kessel Run. In The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo tells Leia he has to leave the Rebel Alliance because of a bounty hunter they ran into on Ord Mantell. Again, there’s no further explanation. And what this does is, it allows the viewer to just enter this world sort of through osmosis. Once characters start explaining things, that’s when Star Wars gets kind of bogged down. And the Prequels are basically nothing but people explaining things.
This is, more than anything, why The Mandalorian is hitting so well. Look, here’s this bounty hunter, who lives in this world, and he knows how this world works and he just goes about his business. Every episode kind of feels like we, as viewers, get to just walk around inside the Original Trilogy and see what that’s like. And like the Original Trilogy, there’s so much going on in the background of every scene and no one stops to say, “Hey, so let me explain who this is.” This allows the viewer’s imaginations to take over. (Like in the third episode when a character says, “E chu ta.” We don’t know what that means. The show doesn’t explain it. But we do know a droid said this exact same thing to C-3PO on Cloud City and C-3PO found it to be rude.)
The Mandalorian is kind of an open-ended world Star Wars show. We get to spend more time with (as opposed to explain) all the interesting things we wondered about from the Original Trilogy. I know it’s fun to make fun of Boba Fett these days because, in the movies, he didn’t really do anything and just wore cool armor. And, sure, that’s mostly true. But Lucasfilm introduced kids to Boba Fett a year before The Empire Strikes Back came out, with both toys and the Star Wars Holiday Special. So kids had a full year to imagine all these crazy adventures that Boba Fett went on. So I think, more than anything else, that’s where a lot of his lore comes from. And I think that plays a factor with The Mandalorian, too. Because, frankly, this guy looks just like Boba Fett, so we finally get to see him go on all these adventures we imagined as kids — hey, what if Boba Fett fought a Jawa Sandcrawler! — as opposed to just watching him fall into a dumb pit, then get eaten.
But, yes, now I, too, am perhaps overthinking The Mandalorian. So I’ll just revert back to my original thought and say, yes, this show is awesome.
‘The Mandalorian’ is currently streaming via Disney+. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.