You may have seen the announcement about Jon Favreau’s live action Star Wars show, The Mandalorian. Set after the events of Return of the Jedi but before The Force Awakens, The Mandalorian will follow a gunfighter in a familiar armor as he travels the Outer Rim of the galaxy. You might look at the first image released and mutter, “What a bullshit attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Boba Fett,” and I get where you’re coming from. You’re coming from the POV of someone who hasn’t watched Clone Wars or Rebels.
My journey with Star Wars has been long and difficult. An OG true believer, I was there for Shadows of the Empire and Dash Rendar. I remember when Star Wars was a dead franchise, when kids at school didn’t know who R2D2 or Chewbacca were anymore. But I fell out with the Prequels, and I was out, hard, for a decade or more. That meant I missed The Clone Wars while it aired, but eventually I came around to it. And to Rebels, a series set just before the Battle of Yavin in the first Star Wars. And those shows won me back, and The Last Jedi cemented it – I’m a Star Wars guy again. I’m back to the teenage enthusiasm for this universe.
If I hadn’t seen Clone Wars or Rebels I would definitely think The Mandalorian looks like horse shit. I mean, it’s just Boba Fett by another name, and we all know that Boba Fett is actually secretly ineffectual and lame and has coasted by only on his design. If anything, the Prequels made him worse.
But I have seen those shows, and that means I understand that a lot of work has been done in laying backstory for the Mandalorians, the race of people from which Boba Fett hails. The armor he wears is their traditional look, and they’re a warrior people who have had some of the best and most politically intriguing stories in the Star Wars animated universe. Obi Wan Kenobi was in doomed love with their leader, Duchess Satine! They were the center of much Clone Wars drama because they tried to remain neutral between the Old Republic and the Trade Federation, but that just drew both sides to fight over them. They had vicious civil wars break out as a result. They have their own version of a lightsaber, a black energy blade called the Darksaber (created by the first Mandalorian to become a Jedi. When he died the Jedi kept the blade; the Mandalorians launched a raid on their temple and stole it back!). Whoever wields it rules the Mandalorians. And their planet was the site of the final massive battle of the Clone Wars, the Siege of Mandalore.
In Star Wars it’s often bad news when a mystery is solved, when a backstory is attached to a tossed off reference. We knew for decades that Boba Fett wore Mandalorian armor, but we knew nothing about the people. I never wanted to know about the people. But Dave Filoni, the genius who drives the animated shows, actually gave me the backstory I didn’t want and made me love it, turning the Mandalorians into a kind of Game of Thrones society of violence and intrigue, with a deep and glorious history of being iconoclasts on the galactic stage.
So the idea of a show about a Mandalorian isn’t just a cash-in on Fett; there are hours of great Mandalorian stories in Star Wars canon now. Beyond that, Dave Filoni is an executive on this show, and his vision for the Mandalorians is what made them great. I trust Filoni. But wait, there’s more – Jon Favreau, the creative force behind the show, actually did a voice on The Clone Wars, and it was a Mandalorian. He did six episodes as Pre Vizsla, the villainous leader of the faction Death Watch, and wielder of the Darksaber. Favreau won’t have to be taught the backstory of the Mandalorians, he’s been part of it. This show won’t be Favreau trying to tell his version of a Boba Fett story, it’ll be a story coming from a guy who understands the lore.
What’s more, the idea of a gunslinger traveling the Outer Rim is just about the perfect Star Wars episodic concept. The lead can go anywhere, meet anyone, and have any adventure. Have Blaster, Will Travel is an idea that fits right into where George Lucas was coming from when he created Star Wars; the wandering cowboy and the wandering ronin are both in the DNA of the galaxy far, far away. Add to that the possible political intrigue that could come from this character being a Mandalorian – is he connected to one of the Houses we already know? Is he a member of an existing faction? Could the Darksaber come into play? – and you have the ingredients of a great show.
On top of that Lucasfilm has tapped a crew of diverse and exciting directors, including Taika Waititi, proving that they’re taking this seriously.
We’re in the most golden possible age of Star Wars, and while there have been bumps in the road, The Mandalorian is a sign to me that Kathleen Kennedy and her team have figured out where they’re going. I couldn’t be more excited.