It’s not always easy being a Star Wars fan. There have been lean years, oh my gosh yes. The wilderness between Return of the Jedi and the prequels, when all we had were novels and video games. The wilderness during the prequels when all that we had were patchy movies. The point about halfway through The Book of Boba Fett when we realised it wasn’t going to get any better. The bleak moment of staring into the distance at the end of Rise of Skywalker where your brain switched back on, and you thought, “hang on…” Things are looking up, though, and right now, it feels like the most exciting time to be a Star Wars fan in years. This week The Mandalorian returns to screens, having been away for over a year while Pedro Pascal was busy gruffly escorting another extremely special child through a dangerous universe in The Last of Us.
It’s a welcome return indeed. The first two seasons were, for the most part, a joy. Cool, interesting, and with rich storytelling. Oh… and there was that little green surprise we all fell in love with at the end of episode one. And the black-clad, lightsabre-wielding one at the end of season two. Showrunner Jon Favreau absolutely knows how to drop those moments like depth charges.
Not that the Star Wars universe has been idle whileMando has been away. True, we had The Book of Boba Fett – which you’ll have probably forgotten by now, the best two episodes of which were actually episodes of The Mandalorian anyway – and that was a dip. Elsewhere, though, this has been probably the richest time for Star Wars fans in decades. 2022’s Obi-Wan Kenobi had its detractors, but all in all Ewan McGregor’s return to his most iconic role (or at least his most iconic role that doesn’t involve a Scottish toilet) felt like event television. It was exciting. Better still, we had Andor, and that’s a show no one saw coming. The lean, decidedly grown up and nerve-jangling tale of growing rebellion and the origin story of Rogue One’s Cassion Andor was arguably 2022’s best television show of any genre, and one that added a new texture to the Star Wars universe – one it badly needed.
And then there’s The Bad Batch, the second season of which is currently airing on Disney+ on Wednesdays. This animated sequel to the Clone Wars TV show, pitched younger than The Mandalorian and Obi-Wan and much younger than Andor sees a bunch of genetically abnormal clone troopers (essentially a very violent Raggy Dolls) doing their best to raise a young clone girl while the Empire starts to tighten its grip on a galaxy that’s just lost its Jedi protectors. It’s a visual delight, and the storytelling is genuinely great. If I was 10 years old I would be obsessed with it.
Mando season three marks the start of another wave of Star Wars on the small screen, feeding an appetite that the show itself triggered with its first season. It’ll be followed by Ashoka, a spin-off for Rosario Dawson’s former Jedi; The Acolyte, the first Star Wars TV or movie story to delve back before Phantom Menace to the era known as the High Republic; and another season of the animated shorts Star Wars: Visions. It’s a lot of content, and it’s very much the House that Mando built.
Can season three keep up the quality and avoid the narrative and stylistic pitfalls of Boba Fett and, occasionally, Obi-Wan? Can it bring new textures to a story that might have felt played out after the second season’s finale? There’s dangling threads to be pulled at (What did the Empire want with Grogu? What’s happened to Mandalor?) and a lot of potential to be fulfilled. This, after all, is the way.