This is not the way.
There’s been a flurry of casting rumors swirling around Season 2 of the Disney+ mega-hit The Mandalorian in recent weeks, with numerous fan favorites purported to be joining the show.
Rosario Dawson will reportedly appear as Anakin Skywalker’s beloved former student Ahsoka Tano, while Temuera Morrison is rumored to be making a return to Star Wars as the enigmatic bounty hunter Boba Fett.
Now, Katee Sackhoff is reportedly set to reprise her character from the animated Clone Wars series in The Mandalorian‘s second season.
But fans shouldn’t be cheering: If true, these choices are an unwelcome sign that Disney is back to its old habits with Star Wars, dredging up old characters for fan service and making the galaxy far, far away feel so, so small.
Risk and reward
The first season of The Mandalorian was a triumph for Disney, a sharp departure from the rudderless sequel trilogy, the Han Solo prequel, and even Rogue One, which all peddled in nostalgia.
In fairness, The Last Jedi did dare to question the sanctity of the original trilogy by casting hero Luke Skywalker as a washed-up, broken man and suggesting that, hey, maybe the Jedi weren’t so great after all.
But the fan base ripped itself apart over the movie, with fringe lunatics even driving one of the film’s stars off of social media with constant harassment. Disney, shockingly, pulled an about-face and course-corrected hard with The Rise of Skywalker, a film slathered in fan service and nonsensical plot developments designed to cater to the so-called die-hards. (Why the Force did Chewie get a medal?)
The result? Rise of Skywalker now ranks among the worst-reviewed Star Wars movies of all time by critics and pulled in the least box office earnings of any in the sequel trilogy. Rise of Skywalker managed to do far more damage to Star Wars creator George Lucas’ legacy than a grumpy Luke ever could have.
Star Wars had become about Star Wars, a sort of meta-commentary on the franchise itself. The movies packed in more winks to classic moments than anything actually new. It’s as though someone at Disney heard Lucas’ infamous line — “It’s like poetry; it rhymes” — and took it to the farthest extreme.
Into all of this, The Mandalorian debuted and gave the franchise new life.
Mandalorian to the rescue
Marvel alum Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, steward of Disney’s animated Star Wars shows, seemed to finally grasp the essence of Star Wars.
At its core, the franchise is a bizarre mash-up of styles. It’s a pulpy, fantasy tale set in space that’s part western, part samurai movie, flavored with WWII iconography and lovingly adherent to the same storytelling roots used in great myth.
It shouldn’t work, but that’s the magic of Star Wars: It just does.
Favreau and Filoni understood that. Rather than base The Mandalorian off of previous Star Wars media, the show pulled from the same sources as Lucas’ original inspiration. There was a Seven Samurai-esque episode paying homage to Kurasawa and shots that seemed closer to a Sergio Leone spaghetti western than a typical Star Wars movie.
Best of all, there wasn’t a Skywalker in sight.
The Mandalorian seemed determined to tell its own story apart from the main saga. And it was all the better for it. The tale of a stoic bounty hunter and his adorable quarry-turned-ward traveling the galaxy together and dodging trouble made the Star Wars universe seem big again. It was Star Wars at its best.
As the feature films seemed intent on filling in every blank space and answering every mystery with canonical truth, The Mandalorian leaped outside the lines and braved a new path. We finally saw that there was more to this galaxy than Solos and Skywalkers and Palpatines.
And then came the rumors.
Old is new again (or not)
Fan service is apparently back on the menu, with Ahsoka and Sackhoff’s Mandalorian character Bo-Katan Kryze rumored to be making their live-action debuts.
Would these characters be in good hands? Of course. No one should doubt Favreau’s ability as a skilled producer and director, and Filoni turned a cartoon meant for kids into a vehicle for some of Star Wars’ most powerful moments. The new (and old) actors being brought in clearly have the chops, too. If anyone can be trusted to thread this needle, its the talented crew and team behind the show.
But the inclusion of iconic characters in The Mandalorian, a show that staked its reputation as a story set on the fringes of the galaxy, raises concerns about the Mouse’s vision for what Star Wars should be.
Star Wars is seemingly back to being about Star Wars again, with the same characters somehow bumping into each other despite a literal galaxy between them. Ahsoka, should she appear in the second season, will have had appearances in not just The Mandalorian and The Clone Wars, but also the Rebels animated series and even a voice cameo in The Rise of Skywalker.
Disney seems to be announcing that there are no other stories going on behind the scenes, that everything ties into the main saga eventually. It seems we’re doomed to see the same heroes and villains popping up again and again and again. After all, the fans love Boba Fett, right?
It makes the universe feel small again, and it’s a marked departure from the kind of inventiveness deployed by Lucas when he still ruled his Galactic Empire.
George Lucas’ much-maligned prequel trilogy may not have crisp editing, the snappiest dialogue, or bold cinematography, but he never lacked vision. Lucas’ worlds, creatures, and ships were always new and fresh, even if his storytelling was blunt.
He took risks with the prequels, some of which paid off and many of which backfired. But it was always a matter of execution, not of originality. Lucas — for all his faults — was never afraid to chart new territory.
Disney seems to have given into that fear. And we all know where fear leads….
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