When James Cameron was pitching his vision for Aliens, many believed that making a follow-up to Ridley Scott’s genre-defining sci-fi horror was the quintessential no-win scenario. The Terminator director did not share his doubts. He was so confident, in fact, that he made his point to studio executives in characteristically bombastic style, writing ALIEN on the back of his script, before adding an S and drawing a couple of lines to turn it into a dollar sign. .
Whether ALIEN$ was the reason the suits greenlit the iconic sequel is lost to history, but there’s no doubt Cameron lived up to his self-generated hype: he didn’t just pluralize the film’s xenomorphic menace original, but also delivered healthy returns at the box office.
Why mention Cameron’s trick here? the recent third season of The Mandalorian (opens in a new tab) seems to have taken a sheet from the same notebook. From the escalating scale of the narrative to armies of warriors in the familiar Mando battle armor, it feels like THE MANDALORIAN$ could have been a buzz phrase in the writers room. But, in stark contrast to Aliens, going big hasn’t necessarily been a recipe for success. Instead, this was the point where the show forgot why we fell in love with it in the first place.
Like the first live action Star Wars TV series (opens in a new tab), the stakes were high in The Mandalorian when it released in November 2019, both for the franchise and the fledgling platform Disney Plus. But, after the divisive The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the even more divisive The Rise of Skywalker debuting the following month, this show had the power to even out the fanbase.
All everyone knew about the show’s eponymous bounty hunter anti-hero was that he dressed a bit like Boba Fett, and wasn’t particularly concerned if he brought his targets in hot or cold. She operated in a time period previously unexplored by the franchise, five years after the destruction of the second Death in Return of the Jedi. His program also existed on the periphery of that famous galaxy far, far away, parsecs from any of the characters we’d met before; if there really is a bright center to the universe, as Luke Skywalker once mused, The Mandalorian inhabited the planets. he was further from.
Though the nostalgia was less in-your-face than The Force Awakens’ A New Hope tribute act, longtime fans were able to embrace a space Western vibe that harks back to the original film. The nods to what had come before—prisoners frozen in carbonite, stormtroopers becoming a nuisance—were also subtle enough that newcomers to the franchise didn’t feel lost.
But The Mandalorian didn’t become a hit because it showed us the state of the galaxy after the Emperor’s death, or even because Din Djarin (aka the Mandalorian) occasionally crossed paths with the New Republic, or familiar faces from The Clone. Wars and Star. Rebel Wars. The show struck a chord because it told a relatable story, about a loner turned reluctant babysitter, to a boy who bore an uncanny resemblance to a famous Jedi master. The supporting cast (friend and foe alike) gradually expanded over two seasons of predominantly stand-alone adventures, but the show never forgot that their evolving father-son bond was the energy field that tied everything together.
That version of The Mandalorian ended when Luke Skywalker showed up to take Grogu (as Baby Yoda was now known) to the Jedi school in the season 2 finale. Around the same time, we learned that The Mandalorian would be joining Disney. Plus with derived programs. Ahsoka (opens in a new tab), Boba Fett’s book (opens in a new tab) and the now-suspended Rangers of the New Republic, and that they were all gearing up for a climactic event. (We now know this will be a theatrically released film, with Lucasfilm executive creative director/Ahsoka showrunner Dave Filoni at the helm.)
The galaxy hasn’t been the same since, as it has become increasingly apparent that those glorious first two seasons of The Mandalorian were merely the first chapters in an amorphous mass of post-Return of the Jedi content. In fact, for all of The Book of Boba Fett’s efforts to carve out its own identity as a Tatooine-based crime drama, Jango’s son became a silent bystander as his show morphed into The Mandalorian 2.5, without even ride your little rancor through the streets. from Mos Espa was to compete with the tearful reunion of Din Djarin and Baby Yoda.
However, after their own big moment carried over to someone else’s series, the main duo suffered an equally ignominious fate when The Mandalorian returned for its third outing. No longer the most important Mandalorian on the show, Din Djarin became a mere sidekick as the focus shifted to Bo-Katan Kryze (opens in a new tab) (heir to the throne of mandalore (opens in a new tab)) and his efforts to reclaim his home world. Grogu, meanwhile, became a glorified comedy relief, either petting him or smashing stuff in a robot suit created from the remains of the IG-11 assassin droid. It was only in the season finale that the show was reminded of the importance of their central relationship, as Greef Karga gifted father and son a small estate in Nevarro.
The chances are high that Season 4 (as yet unconfirmed) will restore a degree of order to the galaxy, with Mando, Grogu and their friends fighting their way across the universe, potentially doing dirty work for the New Republic as an interstellar A-Team. . But with the upcoming Ahsoka and skeleton crew (opens in a new tab) (essentially The Goonies in space), both occupying similar points in the Star Wars timeline to The Mandalorian, this corner of the Star Wars universe is at a crossroads. Will each show maintain its own identity as part of a larger universe? Or will they be stepping stones on the road to an Avengers-style event movie?
After all they’ve done to reinvigorate the franchise, Mando and her little green son deserve better than to become a footnote in someone else’s story.