Here at Esquire, my Wednesdays usually look like this: I wake up, make some coffee, and park my ass in front of the newest episode of The Book of Boba Fett. Approximately 45 minutes later, I try—read: struggle, writhe, cry, and fight—to write something about the newest episode of The Book of Boba Fett. I understand that the show is supposed to be a slow burn. But Boba has to get out of the bacta tank every once in a while. There's a whole galaxy to see out there, man.
Wouldn't you know it, yours truly perked up when Episode Five was a backdoor episode of The Mandalorian with Boba Fett nowhere in sight. Probably searching for space coconuts or whatever the hell. In a single episode of television, I feel like I lived through another season of The Mandalorian all over again. I bounced between planets with Mando. Jumped in the droid port of his new ship and raced through the sands of Tatooine. My heart melted like molten Beskar when he longingly looked at his present to Grogu on the commuter ship. That's when it hit me, like a Darksaber blow to the gut.
The Mandalorian is the mainline Star Wars story now.
Let me start with a brief State of the Union. (But for, you know, Star Wars.) We already talked about The Book of Boba Fett, which is hardly the display of badassery that '80s kids expected, given that the bounty hunter has been a fan-favorite since, well, the '80s. The Skywalker Saga ended with a whimper, giving Rey her own lightsaber—and then metaphorically taking it away with zero plans to let her ever use it again. We still feel bad for Alden Ehrenreich's Solo. Patty Jenkins's Rogue Squadron film was delayed. What else? There are the hundred-some Disney+ shows on deck, including Ahsoka, Andor, Obi-Wan. Sure, any of those series could immediately make The Mandalorian look like it has the stakes of a battle between a toddler and his Star Wars toys, but after Rey almost Force-oopsied Chewbacca to death, I'm not going to give them the benefit of the doubt. We should always celebrate the great animated series (Rebels, Clone Wars, The Bad Batch, Visions) whenever we can, but none of them will ever be a blockbuster with the power of selling millions of Baby Yoda plushies.
Like it or not, you can understand why picking up with Mando's adventures felt like a return to the main Star Wars story. Even though Star Wars fans love to throw tomatoes labeled FAN SERVICE at The Mandalorian (probably the same ones who soiled their tighty whities when CGI Luke Skywalker returned), the series is a masterful work of television-making. While Boba Fett struts around the streets of Tatooine, readying to fight some kind of war (?), Mando is learning the ways of the Darksaber. He's now looking for redemption within his people. He might even save his home world. All the while, his heart is stretching across the galaxy, to a lovable foundling who might have to forgo all attachment to him in order to be a Jedi. Those are stakes.
I'll put this in another language we may share: the verbiage of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Right here, in 2022, what is the MCU story? The one where Kevin Feige put all his eggs in the proverbial superhero basket? It's the multiverse of madness. Phases Four and Five of the MCU's grand, sprawling story will show Kang the Conquerer and his many variants battle main players like Doctor Strange and Loki for the stability of time itself. That's why Loki felt more essential than The Eternals. You might say that Star Wars will forever belong to the Skywalkers. But I'd argue that—in the wake of the increasingly-maligned sequel trilogy—that lightsaber (or any space totem of choice) is slowly coming into the possession of our favorite father-and-son duo. It's only a matter of time before we see them on the big screen.
Fast-forward 30 years. Imagine all of the 10-year-old kids who grew up watching multiple seasons of The Mandalorian, now in their forties. Who is their Luke Skywalker? Maybe it is Luke Skywalker, if their parents force-fed them the original trilogy. Or it might be Rey, if Disney dares to pick up where the sequel Skywalker films left off. Maybe it's someone we haven't met yet. I'd bet that hero—the one the next generation will synonymize with the very idea of Star Wars—is Mando or Grogu. In fact, I'd put all my credits on it.
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