"This is the way."
No, seriously. This is the way. This is the way to make Star Wars continue being Star Wars. This.
So I'm seven episodes into The Mandalorian, with one to go in the first season. What is The Mandalorian? Ah, well, okay.
Some time back The Mouse bought Lucasfilm. In so doing, they bought Star Wars. All of it that ever was and will be. In addition to doing the obvious and continuing the Skywalker Saga with the final(?) three movies, they also began to look for other ways to exploit their new money mine, and (to be fair) cater to fans. Some of those efforts resulted in movies - Rogue One and Solo, to be specific - but they realized that streaming TV was a whole new area to exploit, and so they did. Enter Jon Favreau, Star Wars fan, who is helming (as in writing and directing much of) an eight-episode season of the first live-action Star Wars television series (NO, THE HOLIDAY SPECIAL DOES NOT COUNT).
It is built on the Internet's love of Boba Fett, the never-see-his-face badass of the Star Wars universe (he caught Han, when nobody else could. Sure, he got dumped into the Sarlacc's gullet, but you don't think that stopped him, do you? You do? Look up a story titled A Barve Like That and then come talk to me). Boba Fett wears what we have been told is 'Mandalorian Armor' - relic of a culture that was feared enough that the Jedi went after them en masse - and badass enough that the Jedi didn't win that fight. It took a major multifront war along with internal fracture and unrest to take down the Mandalorians (were they a species or a culture or a movement or a tribe? Answer: yes) - who were known for acquiring and wielding high tech and high quality weaponry the way the samurai were known for their small interest in swords.
But was Boba Fett a Mandalorian? Or was he just someone good enough at his badass job to collect the pieces of a complete set of Mandalorian armor, relics of which from the past thousands of years are scattered around the galaxy? Well, the answer to that has morphed over time.
The answer also isn't important right here right now, at least not yet.
Sorry, back to the point.
The Mandalorian is an eight-episode TV series (well, Season 1 is) which was filmed to be the flagship show of the launch of Disney's streaming service, Disney+. In order to ensure people didn't binge, then cancel, it has been released weekly, like (gasp) old school TV used to be. And it helps. It's good to remember or be reminded that sometimes, the week in between episodes of a show was a critical rest period to permit reflection and more importantly build anticipation.
It's difficult to talk about what is going on in this show without spoilers, and I try very hard to avoid those. Let's just say this. Star Wars is based on Kurosawa, whose work can be said to be based on American Westerns. Well, this is a Western. Set in the Star Wars universe. So the circle is now complete.
The series opens with a classic Western trope. The first scene, prior to the credits. It establishes its space on the pavement as a Western, and indicates it is not about to take shit about it. It does this with authority.
At the same time, it anchors itself firmly in the Star Wars universe. This is not as easy a trick as it sounds.
In any case, this show may or may not answer some of the many questions about the Mandalorians that you may have. It may not answer many questions about the wider Star Wars universe. Despite having a huge budget for a television series ($15 million per episode or thereabouts) its six-ish hours of content mean that even with that budget, it can't look like a Star Wars movie. But that's okay, because instead of looking cheesier, it just looks ... smaller. And that's great! Because it is smaller. This isn't a story about the fate of Empires, or the destiny or worlds and races. It's a story about individual characters. The sets, settings, props and the like are to scale with that, and not only that, the story is - whenever the larger forces you know exist in the Star Wars universe show themselves, it feels like a tiny part of a huge offscreen thing. As befits a western, there is a lot of empty landscape and silence (albeit usually filled by score).
The cast doesn't hurt. So far, we've had appearances by Nick Nolte, Carl Weathers, Clancy Brown and I-can't-believe-that's-him Werner Herzog. No shit.
This is the story of a backwater part of the Star Wars universe. It is five years, approximately, after the events portrayed in Return of the Jedi - the Empire is defeated and the New Republic is busy consolidating its hold on the central worlds. The Rim area is left to its own devices. The only tenuous form of law enforcement is the Bounty Hunters' Guild, of which our protagonist is a member.
This is a series about small places, in a bad and lawless time, and one man who walks them. Not because he is a hero; not because he has a heart of gold in a scoundrel's body. But because he has a code. It is not a code he created; it is the one he lives by, like others before him. It is part of what makes him a Mandalorian. It is the way.
And that - like the throatcutters in Rogue One who made it more than another saccharine morality play - makes this better television/movie/visual drama. It's more interesting.
This series, viewed as a single piece of Star Wars, is rapidly approaching Rogue One in my ordered list of Star Wars by preference. And the only two things above Rogue One are Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.
As I said, I'm 7 of 8 episodes in. I'll report back after episode 8 either way. It's entirely possible it will collapse in the last one. But somehow, I don't think it will. And that will make me even happier.
"I have spoken."
UPDATE: Watched episode 8, the last of season one.
It did not disappoint.
This is the way.