The Mandalorian: Why It Works

Since Disney has taken over the Star Wars universe, there has been a lot of polarization between the fans. Solo, Rogue One, the three sequel trilogies, Resistance, The Mandalorian, and Clone Wars: Season Seven are the creations so far from Disney. Of these, the last two are the most undisputedly beloved and admired. Clone Wars Season Seven is of little surprise, as that show already had a strong fan base and was already considered a good show at that point. But The Mandalorian is a different thing- a new show started from scratch, which has made its way into both the hearts of the nerdiest Star Wars fans and regular average joe fan. But why should this be?

  1. It is different. This show focuses on the bounty hunters and non-force users apart from “Baby Yoda”, and the only other show or movie that comes close to this is Solo. But this show is more unique in that it focuses on completely new characters and worlds for the most part. And the two main characters are a baby looking version of Yoda who can’t talk and a Mandalorian whose face we have only seen once. This is a new and interesting dynamic in Star Wars, and also it is set in a time period we have never explored before on film. We see the New Republic at work, we see lawlessness as the result of loss of Empire control, we see remnants of the Empire that will presumably become the First Order. There are several questions left unanswered by the Sequels that could be subtly answered in The Mandalorian.
  2. The meme potential. While this may sound like a strange quality you would want to have in a show or movie, it is actually in a serious sense very useful. I can’t tell you the number of Baby Yoda memes I have seen. Some of them are terrible and have nothing to do with Star Wars. But it does spread the popularity and knowledge of the show’s existence and characters. Things like that make it appeal to outside groups of people who have never before cared about Star Wars. The memes make it both mainstream for people who never watched it before, and even more beloved for those who already were fans- just look at Prequel memers. Quotable movies and shows tend to be more iconic, because they are more relatable and more well known thanks to their lines.
  3. The right amount of fan service. The Mandalorian is a breath of fresh air because as noted previously, it is different both in terms of characters and time period. However, a bit of nods to other events or characters in Star Wars is not only a good idea but much appreciated. It is fun being surprised by familiar faces. Bo Katan shows up for an episode, and is portrayed well. But she does not steal the Mandalorian’s thunder, because she only has a limited amount of screen time. Other well-played fan service does not just show characters from other time periods but events as well and their legacy. One episode sub-plot discusses the ramifications of the loss of Empire control in Tatooine- and it turns out to be a bad thing. The different perspectives on events we already know that happened is a refreshing take.
  4. The plots are imaginative and rightly paced. The Mandalorian does not magically beat one bad guy and then find Baby Yoda’s family in the next episode. There are several obstacles- often unforeseen ones- that take entire episodes to resolve so that he can continue on his main objective. This premise of one show-long theme or objective while the hero also faces several subplots is not at all a new concept, but is a very tried and true one that is a great formula for TV. It is what has helped shows such as The Avatar or Breaking Bad be so universally acclaimed. If it ain’t broke done fix it.
  5. It is a classic genre recreated. Westerns used to be a very popular genre but have mostly fizzled out in the recent years. But this is a mixture of a Western with Sci-Fi and a bit of comedy and action thrown in, which is a very good mix. It is essentially a Western but with the updates that make it appealing to the newer generations.
  6. There is ample violence and maturity in the show. There has been a growing number of Star Wars fans who have been wanting a rated R Star Wars movie, citing that there needs to be darker themes and action. While this is certainly not rated R, I think it strikes the perfect balance that can be served to the greatest possible audience. It has several characters die or kill other people, often in savage fashions (Mando shanks a animal to death as one example) but it is not over the top and gory, it just happens. Star Wars has intrinsic themes that by its very nature make it childish, so I feel like taking it very seriously is something that would be hard to pull off in most contexts unless it was something like a Darth Vader movie. In this context for a Mandalorian who is a father figure to a child, it makes sense that he would be both a sympathetic and even sentimental character while also resorting to violence at a moment’s notice when necessary.
  7. The main character is a believably cool and strong person. The Mandalorian not only looks cool, he is cool. We see him do several cool feats and acts (taking out multiple monsters on Tatooine, taking out several bounty hunters when defending the Child, as some examples). But we also see him get backed into several corners that require help from his friends or unexpected sources, and is also oftentimes hampered by events and temporarily loses. In other words he does not simply beat the bad guys every time because he is a good guy, which is a theme that has frustrated fans in others Star Wars media such as Rebels or the Sequels.

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