Early “reviews” of The Mandalorian, based on 27 minutes of footage cut together from several episodes, are very good. The reaction to the trailers are the same, It has that classic original trilogy feel – a gritty, lived-in world where anything can happen. It also appears to skew more adult, similar to how the very well-received Rogue One did, garnering a TV-14 rating. Safe to say, expectations for The Mandalorian are high. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.
The Weight of Expectations
Before I go any further, I want to make it perfectly clear that I expect The Mandalorian to be absolutely fantastic. I want it to succeed. Our staff here at Edge of the Galaxy is fully bought-in, where we’ve taken a day off work just to watch the premier multiple times. We have our merch and are planning a lot of content around the show. But all that excitement got me thinking about something I just can’t shake…
Before a single second of footage was shown, let alone shot, The Mandalorian had an impressive pedigree. Created by Jon Favreau (Elf, Iron Man, The Jungle Book) and executive produced by Star Wars fan-favorite Dave Filoni, the show has all the reason to get fans excited. Favreau helped usher in a new era of comic book films and even has a Star Wars past having voiced Pre Vizsla in The Clone Wars series. Filoni is basically the second coming of George Lucas. There’s no way these two, of all people, could possibly screw this up.
The Mandalorian also carries with it the added weight of a particularly vocal group of fans. You know the ones. They…strongly dislike just about everything Star Wars that Disney has produced since taking over in 2012. In a lot of ways, The Mandalorian is a chance for Disney to temp those fans back into the fold and give them something to celebrate. It looks like the Star Wars they put on a pedestal. More importantly, it feels like the Star Wars they love and hold most dear. But all indications are that the main characters of The Mandalorian are new characters, people and droids we’ve never met before. And that could be a problem.
Addressing Boba Fett
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more confusing character in Star Wars than Boba Fett. His place among Star Wars fans, especially those who cut their teeth on the original trilogy, is legendary. From toy recalls to his first appearance on the equally legendary 1978 Holiday Special, Boba has piqued fans’ interest for over 40 years now. But ultimately, at least as far as the official canon is concerned, Boba Fett just isn’t that important.
Sure, he’s the bounty hunter ultimately responsible for the capture of Han Solo, but we all know Vader and his stormtroopers did the hard work. In the grand scheme of things, Fett is just a very cool looking background character. The comics and The Clone Wars have given him more to do and fleshed out his backstory much better than Attack of the Clones ever did, but there’s just not much substance there. He’s a bounty hunter. A damn good one, sure, but he’s mostly just a cog in the larger machine. Lucas may have had big plans for him initially, but those plans clearly changed.
What’s most troublesome about Boba Fett as it relates to The Mandalorian is that we know that Boba is not a Mandalorian. His father Jango Fett’s heritage and ties to Mandalore are questionable at best. In The Clone Wars, when Jango is referenced by Obi-Wan Kenobi to Prime Minister Almec, the Prime Minister completely disavows Fett’s relationship to the planet and culture, insisting that Jango isn’t a true Mandalorian, but someone masquerading as one. Jango’s armor, which later becomes Boba’s, is not even made of the traditional material. The Fetts’ armor is durasteel instead of the culturally significant beskar. In what is the final blow to the notion that Boba and Jango are Mandalorians is the official word of Filoni, who stated definitively in The Clone Wars season 2 DVD special features that the Fett family are not Mandalorians.
What’s in a Name?
Why does it matter if Boba Fett is a Mandalorian or not? Well, for starters, the show is called THE MANDALORIAN. The concept is central to the show. And while it’s entirely possible that the title is all part of a ruse, the fact that Lucas and Filoni both spent several story arcs on multiple television shows proving that Mandalore and its culture are far deeper than some admittedly sweet-looking armor suggests otherwise. What I expect is that this show is ultimately the end of Filoni’s work on the story of the Mandalorian culture, finishing what he started with George Lucas over a decade ago.
There also exists a very good chance that making Mandalorian culture even more prominent in the public consciousness is part of a larger plan. I’ll avoid any idea of rumors and conspiracy theories, but it is widely expected that the next wave of Star Wars films will head far into the past of the Star Wars universe and explore an era where at times the Jedi and Mandalorians were at war. Star Wars has always been about showing us the end before we see the beginning, so seeing the last remnants of Mandalorian culture before we see how it starts actually makes a lot of sense.
Why Will it be Okay?
The 2018 film Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t perfect by any means, but it gets far more hate than it deserves. There are a myriad of reasons for that, and we’ll debate those at another time, but suffice to say the movie is much better than its reputation. Solo suffered from a lot of the same issues of fan expectations that I’ve outlined above, and perhaps more so because it was the origin story of the most beloved character in the Star Wars universe outside of Darth Vader. The Mandalorian could very well be walking into that same situation.
Fans were upset that Boba Fett wasn’t included in Solo, as the Fett/Solo rivalry was a very popular storyline from the Legends/Expanded Universe era of Star Wars. As far as the canon is concerned, that rivalry just doesn’t exist, much to the chagrin of those same fans. Boba Fett’s continued exclusion from the larger Star Wars story could ruffle those same fan feathers once again.
We also don’t even know for sure that Boba Fett is still alive. Lucas has indicated, at least to staff, that Fett somehow survived being eaten by the sarlacc in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, but that story hasn’t been told. According to the New York Times, the show features “…a dramatic “Star Wars”-universe spoiler in the first episode…“ that is heavily speculated and expected to be that Boba Fett is alive, but it is just that. Speculation and expectation.
What this all boils down to is that if you sit down on Tuesday morning to watch the first episode with the kinds of hopes and dreams I’ve laid out above, you’re going to be disappointed. The Mandalorian will most likely NOT be the show you’re looking for, largely because that show doesn’t exist and was never going to. This show is something new. Something different. A chance to tell stories in an era that’s only been touched on in one book trilogy, and was focused on a much larger scale. A chance to discover characters we never knew mattered, even if they only played a small part in the larger Skywalker Saga.
On Tuesday, check your expectations at the door. Appreciate The Mandalorian for what it is, not what YOU want it to be.
It’s going to be okay. In fact, I think it’s going to be great.