Warning: Spoilers ahead
A funny thing happened on my journey through Star Wars fandom: it couldn’t compete for my attention after a while. Some of it was the proliferation of the media projects like the books, comics, and video games that I just didn’t have the time for because life needs living. Some of it was just lack of access, like having shows on platforms and networks I just didn’t have and was unwilling to adopt just so I could watch Star Wars. And some of it was the way the stories were told. I know the Star Wars cartoons contribute to canon and lore, but the way they presented the stories were so…cartoonish that I had problems taking them seriously. If this means I’m not the Star Wars super nerd I used to be, that’s okay.
There’s a growing trend with the Disney+ Star Wars shows that make me wonder what their overall strategy is, or if there’s a dynamic between the show runners, the grand timeline, and the fallout from cutting back on the Star Wars spinoffs that made The Mandalorian’s latest season a watered-down version of its original premise. If season 1 was Tex-Mex cuisine, and season 2 sizzling fajitas, Season 3 felt like a taco casserole of narrative threads. It kinda tastes okay, but it’s not what I walked into the restaurant for.
Here’s what I mean.
Let’s gloss over the fact that the bridge between seasons 2 and 3 were a side story in The Book of Boba Fett. (We’ll get to that later)
The promise of season 3’s opener is Din Djarin’s quest to bathe in the waters of Mandalore and restore his good standing with the Children of the Watch (this is the way!). Now more may happen as events unfold (this is also the way!), as we’ve seen in previous seasons, but I was expecting the redemption arc to take a while. Nope. This was not the way.
Three episodes later, Din Djarin has totally redeemed himself and we’re left with a “now what?” moment. Are we supposed to be interested in Bo Katan’s quest to reclaim Mandalore and unite her people? Maybe if I watched and invested in the cartoons, this would be interesting, but nothing within the Mandaorian’s narrative makes me care. It doesn’t matter to Din Djarin or Grogu, so it doesn’t matter to me.
Here’s the story telling reason behind that
We emotionally invest ourselves in the main character. Their goals are our goals, we feel what they feel, their focus is our focus. Sure, side characters are fun and we like to see things from the villain’s point of view for a few scenes so we can contextualize the forces at play and wonder how our main characters will deal with the coming surprises. But we always want to live through the main character solving their problem. That’s been lost in season 3 with the focus on a side character from the point of view of The Mandalorian, even if it’s a bigger deal in the larger canon and future of the Star Wars universe.
So What’s Going On?
What I suspect has been going on behind the scenes at Disney is a problem between the Star Wars roadmap and having to cancel shows that would have introduced or expanded canon to support future projects, especially the movies. Remember The Book of Boba Fett’s weird detour? I believe this is why they had to inject some Mandalorian plot points in to make room for important plot points in the larger Star Wars universe. If Dave Filoni is planning on an “Avengers-style” Star Wars movie that will bring order to the galaxy, you have to have all that groundwork in place and make it prominent enough for fans even more casual than me to absorb. The Mandalorian is probably the most accessible Star Wars show to the masses and the best chance to spread the message and set up future movie plots.
And yes, the irony is not lost on me. I was complaining about not wanting to watch the cartoons for canonical background, but I’m receptive to putting it in a show I’m already watching. Except rather than doing all this artfully, it comes across like a bullet-point list of objectives that were just assigned their own episodes.
- Have Din Djarin redeem himself in the waters of Mandalore
- Show the New Republic is a naïve, idealistic bureaucracy
- Flesh out Mandalorian history and culture in the canon.
- Have Bo Katan regain her life’s purpose, the dark saber, and the stolen fleet
- Unite the Mandalorian factions and retake Mandlaore
- Show the remnants of the Empire morph into the New Order
- Do a soft reboot of the series so we can go back to the formula of season one.
This is the flip side of not seeing the forest for the trees, it’s forest management forgetting to plant trees naturally, and ending up with a tree farm instead. It’s something that plagued Obi-Wan’s writers as well. Take another look at the bulleted list. How many points are personal concerns of Din Djarin or Grogu? I’d argue only the first. After that first point’s been satisfied, Din Djarin plays sidekick to Bo Katan as repayment for her saving his life, but he never seems invested in the season’s larger picture. Left on his own, he’s more focused on teaching Grogu life lessons and dealing with immediate concerns. I find it hard to watch a main character who is not the protagonist (the one who drives change in the story) because it feels second-hand.
We want our emulate our heroes in stories, ideally emulating *the* hero in real life. Bo Katan is a fine hero, but she’s playing catch-up in this series, which makes it harder to re-invest our emotions when we’ve already pledged it to those who have been there from the start. Sorry, Bo, I have already given my heart to Din Djarin.
I’ve joined another book promotion, this one focusing on dark villains. You all know the drill: click the button, look around, and if you find an interesting book, you can get it for free by sharing your email address. For many of you, it’s how you discovered Badlands Born, and it’s worked out pretty well so far, right? Take another chance and try it.