Until Disney acquired Lucasfilm, every Star Wars movie was an event. Even after Disney resolved to crank out at least one new Star Wars movie per year from 2015 – 2019, those movies still felt like events; major cogs in a machine that if you wanted to know how it worked, you needed to show up on opening weekend to be part of the cultural zeitgeist. Whether you loved or hated The Last Jedi or The Rise of Skywalker, you still needed to see them because Star Wars movies were still relatively rare, and this was the big saga, the monomyth of our times.
The Mandalorian strips all of that pomp and circumstance away to simply exist. It’s obviously still for Star Wars fans, but it’s about as low stakes as the Star Wars universe can get. There are only two main characters—The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and The Child (aka Baby Yoda)—and they go on adventures. Neither one of them is going to die, and it’s not like they’re going to get into a big fight because The Child is non-verbal. The Mandalorian’s quest is to reunite The Child with its people and avoid all the people that are coming to kill him even though those people will inevitably fail. At best, they’ll separate The Mandalorian from The Child for a period of time, at which point we’ll be wondering when the duo will get back together to go on more adventures.
If this sounds like a criticism, it’s not. It’s my favorite aspect of the Disney+ show. While executive producer Dave Filoni is clearly working to include a lot of Star Wars mythology at the edges, you don’t really need it. When Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) busted out with a darksaber in last year’s season finale, you didn’t need to know anything about the darksaber. You could look online for a history of it and learn how it factored into Filoni’s Clone Wars saga, but at the end of the day, it’s a bad guy with a neat weapon, and he wants to take The Child away from The Mandalorian. The mythology colors the narrative, but it is not essential to understand the plot beyond what you’ve seen in the movies.
What’s more, The Mandalorian hasn’t really bothered with trying to construct its own mythology at this point. There’s a bit of the backstory of The Mandalorian and what happened to his people, and there’s the general Star Wars universe of the whole thing, but this is an aggressively uncomplicated show, and it’s all the better for it. In a time when genre TV demands either binge-watching or massive Wikis to decode exactly what’s happening, The Mandalorian comes along and allows you to simply enjoy some episodic television where everything is exceedingly simple.
This has made The Mandalorian the perfect way to kick off my Friday mornings. I take the dog for a walk, I make myself some breakfast, and then I watch The Mandalorian go on some standalone adventure for an hour before starting my workday. It’s light viewing that’s exceedingly rare in the era of the prestige drama where everything has to be life-and-death stakes with depressing subtext just beneath the surface. The Mandalorian is a reprieve from all of that, and while it may not be the most challenging thing Star Wars could do, it occupies a comforting little corner where I don’t have to worry about every single plot beat becoming fodder for a massive Twitter war.
Perhaps The Mandalorian will get more complicated as it goes along, and perhaps it will introduce consistent side characters whose fates are less certain than The Mandalorian and The Child. But until that time, The Mandalorian is something I never thought Star Wars could be: breezy.