I’ve been a fan of Star Wars for as long as I can remember, but I’ve actually never been a fan of the Expanded Universe books and shows. Maybe it’s my character flaw, but nothing outside of the self-contained movie series has ever really captured my attention. I mean, I’ve read the Admiral Thrawn books and some of the New Jedi Order. The book Kenobi was decent enough, as have been some of the short story collections, but even those didn’t excite me the way the original trilogy did. People kept telling me to watch the CGI cartoons like Clone Wars and Rebels, but I can’t stand that kind of animation outside of video games. And, yes, I’ve played a lot of the games, but again they are sort of stored in a separate vault in my brain, alongside the tabletop RPG versions. They’re fun, but if they didn’t exist I don’t think I’d have a hole in my geekdom, whereas if Star Wars hadn’t been made there sure would be.
All that is to preface The Mandalorian, which is everything I wanted the EU to actually be. It keeps the tone of two-fisted pulp space-western from the original films and doesn’t crap on anything. The acting is superb, the CG is unobtrusive and blends pretty naturally, and the character development is justified and earned.
As if most of you readers don’t know…The Mandalorian traces the story of a bounty hunter after the Empire has fallen at the end of Return of the Jedi but before the New Order has arisen in The Force Awakens. The whole series starts off with the bounty hunter walking into a saloon, getting into a gun battle, and taking his bounty. It’s the clearest western influence seen in Star Wars since perhaps meeting Han Solo in the Mos Eisley Cantina, as later movies borrowed more heavily from Lucas’ Asian influences (I’m looking at you, prequels!) and the more recent Disney movies are trading much more heavily on Disney Princess storylines (orphaned castaways are secretly powerful Mary Sues) except in Disney Princess movies the writers are competent and actually justify the character development (I don’t think there’s any doubt how I feel about Rey’s character, is there?).
After that opening, the real meat of the series begins. The Mandalorian takes on a job, and is supposed to adhere to The Transporter rules (Never open the package), but circumstances interfere and eventually he has to choose between the bounty and doing what is right. Our hero does both. At this point the Western influence remains strong, but then the Japanese metaplot of Lone Wolf and Cub takes over for the rest of the first season.
I’m sure I can’t really spoil the series since most people here have probably watched it, but I’m still not going to say much more. Suffice to say I’m hooked in here. The Mandalorian is doing what the movies wish they could do – compelling, earned character development while honoring source and inspiration material, and somehow managing not to alienate huge sections of fandom in the process.