I was going to write something about the election, but then I remembered that writing about the election is stupid. If you haven’t made your mind up about the presidential race yet, yikes.
Instead, I want to talk about “The Mandalorian,” the original Disney+ show based in the “Star Wars” universe. If you can remember back to when movie theaters still existed and when there were actual new movies to go see in them, I wrote a column about how “The Rise of Skywalker,” the most recently released episode in the “Star Wars” trilogy trilogy, was a little meh. I didn’t, however, pile onto the Disney hate train, because I knew and I know that the studio is capable of great work.
Good news: I was right! “The Mandalorian” has been out for some time now, but the brand-spankin’-new second season of it will be available on Disney+ by the time you see this column in print. Like a throwback to my college days, I crammed over this last week to watch the show for the first time so that I’d be caught up to watch the new season. Just kidding, I never studied in college. However, I did indeed watch all eight episodes of “The Mandalorian” over the past week.
What I discovered was a pretty impressive show. I’m not a big TV guy, so for me to actually sit and blaze through an entire season in such a short amount of time is unheard of. I was invested because of the “Star Wars” of it all, no doubt, but “The Mandalorian” actually felt like something that wasn’t “Star Wars.” And that’s actually a good thing.
The big problem with “Star Wars” is that I don’t think the fanbase is growing at a pace that is sustainable. This is partly due to the idea that the “Star Wars” universe is rather limited by its own cultural weight. What I mean to say is that “Star Wars” writers rely on the same four last names for every character and the same three planets for every setting. When something like “The Mandalorian” comes along and breaks from this familiar territory, the result is a fresher experience.
Let’s say someone jumps into “The Mandalorian” as their first “Star Wars” experience. That’d be a little weird, but roll with it. You pretty much don’t need to understand anything from the movies to “get” it. There’s no references to Skywalkers or Alderaan. Tatooine gets a visit, but nothing there would have you believe this is uber-familiar territory. There are a few visual nods to “Star Wars” images of the past, but things are mostly contained to the story of “The Mandalorian.”
This is what “Star Wars” should be. Fan service is never really the best idea, but it can happen from time to time. “The Mandalorian” pretty much avoids fan service entirely, but still remains true to the general aesthetic of the original trilogy. This, as it is supposed to be, is an expansion on the ideas of “Star Wars” rather than the terms of “Star Wars.” As a completely isolated experience, “The Mandalorian” can be enjoyed by a wider audience. It doesn’t go out of its way to pander to fan expectations, and I really hope it stays that way as it transitions into the second season. Expanding the “Star Wars” universe, not forcing continuity, has always been one of the series’ greatest strengths.
Sam Zavada is a copy editor with The Standard-Speaker in Hazleton. He previously served as the news clerk at The Standard-Speaker, working with the obituaries and the community and lifestyle pages. Sam’s work in print dates back to his time at King’s College, where he spent two years as the editor in chief of the school’s newspaper, The Crown. Earlier in his time with The Crown, he worked as a staff writer and the entertainment manager. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.