Star Wars has been crippled on the big-screen in recent years by fandom in-fighting and a zig-zagging sequel trilogy that struggled to stay cohesive. You seemingly can’t move on the internet without someone offering up an opinion on Star Wars: The Last Jedi or Rise of Skywalker. Before that, the prequels received a tepid response, though that has eased somewhat.
Now, for the first time in decades, fans are united. The Mandalorian is the first Star Wars property since the original trilogy to be universally beloved by everyone. Whether you prefer the prequels, sequels, wider spin-offs, or are even a newcomer, The Mandalorian is a broad church for all fans. It has become the series to watch, and it offers a perfect blueprint for all future Star Wars-related material to follow thanks to showrunner Jon Favreau’s ability to pay reverence to the franchise’s past without being beholden to it.
Take, for instance, Ahsoka Tano’s introductory episode – perhaps the best example of that desire to appeal to all. Rosario Dawson’s portrayal of Anakin’s former Padawan not only pays forward years spent watching The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, it also invites others to try out the non-mainline Star Wars entries. And, if you don’t fancy diving into the animated series, there’s just enough information in the episode that you still have a grasp of the situation, or at least are now looking forward to Ahsoka’s inevitable fight with Admiral Thrawn.
The episode also does much more than simply bring the expanded universe crashing into The Mandalorian. The Dave Filoni-directed Chapter 13 is a mini-movie, drawing from the Samurai influences held so dear by George Lucas, and includes, by my count, references to prequels, video games, animated series, and even teases Jedi past and future. Most of all, it propels The Mandalorian season 2 forward as its own narrative – while presenting genuinely revelatory information about The Child.
Make no mistake, Baby Yoda – now officially called Grogu – is key to the show’s success. The mystery of the youngling’s origins will engage many, but it cannot be overlooked just how well The Child entices younger fans. Grogu as a whole is representative of Mando’s ‘come one, come all’ ethos.
There’s a reason why we all stuck with Star Wars growing up. Maybe it was the lightsaber battles, or the podracing, or even the trade negotiations (you never know). For a new generation, Grogu offers Jar Jar-come-latelys a chance to join the Star Wars fandom, be it through the memes plastered over social media or his cutesy look. Star Wars should never be about gatekeeping; The Mandalorian understands that best with using Grogu as an entry point for everyone.
It’s the medium, though, that has mainly provided opportunities that the films could never take advantage of. Star Wars has never had such a broad canvas to paint on. So much so that what some may decry as filler episodes only works to make the franchise richer. Unexplored planets and uncharted territory become fair game for Din Djarin on his quest with The Child where, before, they would simply be rushed through or brushed past. It may be distracting in places, yet it is an ultimately useful exercise in world-building. Not since A New Hope has there been a better jumping on point for Star Wars – but it goes deeper, wider, and further than they ever could have dreamed of with two hours back in 1977.
So, whether or not you’re interested in the Obi-Wan and Cassian Andor spin-offs coming to Disney Plus, you can take solace in the fact that – if treated with the same love and care as Mando – each show will only expand our understanding of this universe and its motley crew of characters.
Marvel, too, can be confident that its baby steps into television will yield similar results with WandaVision this January. Giving a franchise more time, more often, and letting fans join in the conversation every week means Star Wars is in far ruder health than it was after the divisive Episode 9 – and could similarly re-energise the MCU after its 18-month enforced break.
Overall, it’s the positivity among Star Wars fans and critics alike that that stands out as the biggest takeaway. If The Mandalorian’s only legacy is to give a clean slate to a franchise that so desperately needed to hit the reset button, all while keeping fans sweet, it would be enough. But Mando is so much more than that.
It’s a pathway for new fans to become interested in all things Star Wars – the good and bad – and has rewarded those who watched from the sidelines while The Clone Wars seemingly became an afterthought. Most of all, Mando reminds us of why we all fell in love with Star Wars in the first place: a charming, awe-inspiring, pulse-pounding slice of sci-fi that lets our imagination run wild with the possibilities of what’s lurking just around the corner.
For now, at least, we can put our differences to one side. Whether you’re passionate over the prequels or side with the sequels, The Mandalorian forgets all the tub-thumping to bring us together again. We needed this in 2020 and it’s been so heartening to see the community come together to swap theories and build up hype week after week. Let’s hope it’s a pattern that will continue for years to come.