The Mandalorian
Disney | LucasFilm

Is the Success of ‘The Mandalorian’ Enough to Save Star Wars?

Star Wars films have always been divisive, but the reception to the sequel trilogy has strained the reputation of the long-running sci-fi franchise. Can the success of The Mandalorian keep the franchise alive on the small screen?
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The first season of The Mandalorian was a huge swing for Star Wars. Mando’s first season released right as The Rise of Skywalker was hitting theaters, and the final entry in the film saga was even more polarizing than its predecessor. However, most fans are in agreement that the adventures of the stoic Mandalorian and his adorable little green ward were pitch-perfect Star Wars.

With the rocky box office returns of Solo and discussion about the sequel trilogy turning toxic on message boards, Disney’s first shot at live-action Star Wars TV needed to be a home run. It was, and now the show is hurtling toward a third season. But will the success of a lone live-action show be enough to carry the 40-year-old franchise into the next phase?

Spoiler warning: major spoilers for season two of The Mandalorian are below, continue at your own peril.

The Future Is on the Small Screen

A lot of ink has been spilled over how Star Wars fares better on the small screen these days than in theaters. The expectations heaped upon the sequel trilogy were simply too heavy for feature films to fulfill in normal feature-film runtime. In short, they could never satisfy everyone. For every fan that ardently defends Rey and Finn’s adventure, there’s another who insists that Rian Johnson personally ruined Star Wars with The Last Jedi.

The transition to the small screen has done the franchise a lot of favors. Weekly drips of content keep the community engaged online for months on end, with everyone hyping up the newest release and speculating about which fan-favorite characters will reappear next.

Din Djarin and Grogu
The titular Mandalorian and “The Child,” the internet’s favorite green alien | image creidt: Disney, Lucasfilm

But, perhaps more importantly, the series isn’t facing the same kind of pressure as the feature films of the franchise. Each new episode of The Mandalorian doesn’t need to be a huge war for the soul of the galaxy. Instead, the show’s team can craft another fun adventure for Din Djarin to embark on every week, with a few serialized narrative threads along the way to keep viewers engaged in the overarching story.

What’s Next for Mando?

With the arrival of Luke Skywalker at the end of the second season, Din Djarin is now riding alone. His tiny pal, the baby Grogu, is now training under the last Jedi Knight in the galaxy. Much of the show’s early success and online virality was entirely dependent on Grogu, who the internet affectionately dubbed “baby Yoda.”

Without the little green dude around to keep things adorable, will the show continue to have the impact it carried in its first two seasons? On the one hand, having Din free to pursue a more epic quest, like liberating the Mandalorian home planet, could be huge for die-hard Star Wars fans. On the other hand, what will the legion of Grogu fans think if their favorite little green alien barely appears in this season?

It’s very likely that we haven’t seen the last of Grogu on the show. Given that Luke’s temple is destroyed and all of his apprentices are slain by Kylo Ren before the events of The Force Awakens, it’s unlikely that the showrunners will leave Grogu in Luke’s care indefinitely. Something will probably cause Din to need to take his tiny pal back aboard the Razor Crest, unknowingly saving him from a grim fate at the hands of Luke’s nephew.

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When Will We See More ‘Mandalorian’?

As for when we can expect the third season of the beloved show, that’s still up in the air. If you’re looking forward to seeing the bounty hunter get back on the old dusty trail this year, though, you’re out of luck; this December, The Book of Boba Fett spin-off will air. Disney has confirmed that Mando Season 3 will not run concurrently with Boba’s show, so it’s unlikely that we’ll see Din back on the small screen before early 2022.

Ahsoka
Ahsoka, played by Rosario Dawson, makes her live-action debut in the second season of The Mandalorian | Image Credit: Disney, Lucasfilm

That being said, there is a lot of Star Wars content on Disney Plus right now for fans to dig into. The ongoing Bad Batch series follows the titular squad of clones as they navigate the earliest days of the Galactic Empire. The aforementioned Book of Boba Fett is also set to carry on the other Mando’s storyline that was set up in season two.

Other spin-off shows are also in the works: Rangers of the New Republic will follow the adventures of the X-Wing pilots who keep making cameos in Mando’s show. Ahsoka will follow the title character, a fan-favorite Jedi who was introduced in the cult classic Clone Wars animated show.

The Perfect Bridge Into a New Era

In short, it seems like The Mandalorian has certainly carried the franchise into a new era. Putting the divisive sequel trilogy in the rearview, for the time being, is clearly at the top of Disney’s plan for Star Wars. With their live-action Disney Plus show proving that Star Wars can be just as popular on the small screen, Disney seems more confident than ever in their galaxy far, far away.