The Disney era of Star Wars has been a rollercoaster, but after eight years of divisive franchise flicks and a warring fanbase, The Mandalorian seems to be doing the impossible in Season 2 — winning back jaded Star Wars fans.
Disney has had a few more misses than hits since acquiring Star Wars for $4 billion in late 2012; no matter which side of the fanbase’s ‘civil war’ you sit on, that’s something everyone can agree on. No one seems to like every single movie.
For some, Rian Johnson’s subversive The Last Jedi was the greatest thing since The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. For others, only Rogue One holds a candle to pre-Disney Star Wars.
There have been a few releases everyone seems to agree on. Star Wars fans that watch The Clone Wars celebrated the show’s Season 7 revival — that Martez sisters arc aside — and The Force Awakens is still looked upon fondly.
Only one of Disney’s entries has truly landed with every fan of the mega-franchise: The Mandalorian. The story of Mando, Baby Yoda, and their adventures in a post-Empire world is doing the impossible: winning back jaded Star Wars fans.
I’ll be the first to admit Star Wars has been a mixed bag for me since 2015. I loved The Force Awakens, but had my excitement dampened by The Last Jedi in 2017 and all but flattened by the struggling ‘saga-ending’ Rise of Skywalker two years later.
Talk to die-hard Star Wars fans, and it was the same. The Last Jedi, Solo, Rise of Skywalker — a string of divisive Disney releases had torn the Star Wars fandom down the middle.
Except, come Oct. 30, as The Mandalorian Season 2 began, my living room was full. Equally, across Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube, social media was dominated by Baby Yoda, whispers Boba Fett may well return, and more.
The numbers don’t lie either.
The Mandalorian Season 2 premiere clocked in as Disney Plus’ biggest episodic premiere, blowing the last eight episodes out of the water. According to Disney, viewing metrics were up a whopping 5.7% over Chapter 8 in late 2019.
As chapter 9, “The Marshal,” played out, the internet exploded.
Take a look at /r/starwars, or the emoji-branded #TheMandalorian hashtag on Twitter. The hype machine is already churning up for Chapter 10, airing early on Friday, November 6, and at this stage, it’s pretty well deserved.
There’s plenty of reasons for this about-face. Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni — the latter of whom helmed the much-loved Clone Wars — have both proven masters of balancing nostalgic references with brand-new Star Wars storytelling.
You can rattle off the wink-wink references from Chapter 9 — the second Death Star falls, Krayt Dragons from Knights of the Old Republic. Anakin’s podracer made an appearance. Boba Fett’s armor, and the man himself, return.
None of it seems forced; it all makes sense for The Mandalorian’s story.
Then there’s the new stuff too. Baby Yoda, of course, is at the forefront; the little green fella has won over fans across the world. Pedro Pascal’s Din Djarin — the titular Mandalorian — is another big win. His character is riveting, but fun too.
It’s all a mix of one thing: Disney has found itself two showrunners who love Star Wars. They respect the series and want to keep telling its story.
There are no new Star Wars films on the horizon any time soon, so for now, The Mandalorian is the franchise’s flagship series. That isn’t a bad thing at all, especially not if Favreau and Filoni are spicing in big characters like Boba, and later Ahsoka Tano, Bo-Katan Kryze, and more.
As every episode passes, The Mandalorian Season 2 wins back even more jaded Star Wars fans — Disney has got a winner, and long may it reign.