One downside to the streaming wars is that it often feels like there’s just too much TV to keep up with. On the other hand, there’s now a Star Wars live-action series—the first of its kind—about a Boba Fett–looking bounty hunter. Maybe it’s all worth it. On the eve of the release of The Mandalorian, the Ringer staff is doing a temperature check, reviewing Fett’s influence, and hyping up Werner Herzog’s introduction into the Star Wars universe.
1. What are you most hyped for heading into The Mandalorian?
Ben Lindbergh: As I wrote in response to The Mandalorian’s first trailer, Star Wars fans have been waiting a long, long time for a live-action show, and also for a film or TV series that would wallow in what Jon Favreau called the “darker, freakier side of Star Wars.” From all appearances, The Mandalorian is the chosen one. As Qui-Gon said, “You must see it.”
Miles Surrey: Seeing a Star Wars project that isn’t, in theory, tethered to the Skywalker saga. Finally getting to explore new ground in a galaxy far, far away—and doing so successfully—is how Star Wars can replicate its success in the 2020s. Also: Werner Herzog in space.
Michael Baumann: One of the things I loved most about the now-defunct Star Wars expanded universe was that it took advantage of the incredibly large and rich world (or worlds) the original trilogy built to tell smaller genre stories. The Skywalker family’s been done to death—tell me about the hundreds of other cultures and billions of other people and how they live. This is—near as I can tell—the first time Disney’s taken advantage of that opportunity.
Justin Charity: Though I know The Mandalorian isn’t about Boba Fett, I’m curious to see how Disney, following George Lucas in Attack of the Clones, will continue to over-embellish and thus ruin Boba Fett’s mythology with this series.
2. Is The Mandalorian alone enough to get you to fork over $6.99 for Disney+?
Charity: Yes—that’s about how much I would have paid in 1999 for one of those Star Wars paperbacks.
Gruttadaro: Literally yes. Speaking of forks, though, don’t think I won’t watch Forky Asks a Question.
Lindbergh: I’m recapping the series for The Ringer, so, um … I can expense this, right? But even if I couldn’t, this would be a bargain on an hourly basis, at least by Star Wars standards. I paid more each time I saw The Phantom Menace in theaters in 1999. And I’m pretty sure I saw it six times. (I was 12; back then you couldn’t just rewatch the lightsaber scene on YouTube.)
Surrey: No, but unlike the early shortcomings of Apple TV+, a Disney+ subscription also gives you access to all things Marvel, Pixar, Disney Animation, Star Wars, and Jeff Goldblum ASMR. The last thing is worth the price alone.
Baumann: You know what fucking owns? That 10 years ago we had a large subscription service in which All of Television came together to offer every channel at an affordable rate. Then people were like “Wait, I don’t want to pay for things I don’t use” and decided it’d be better to pay for each discrete channel, even though they ended up forking over more money to get less stuff in the long run. That absolutely kicks ass, in my opinion. Very well done by American capitalism.
3. If one thing about The Mandalorian worries you, what is it?
Baumann: The fact that I might forget to cancel my Disney+ subscription once it’s over.
Charity: The Disney+ brand imbuing such a rugged setup with a Kim Possible vibe.
Gruttadaro: Disney’s batting average with extensions of the Star Wars universe has been … fine, so far. The additions to the Skywalker saga have been successes, and Rogue One was pretty good, but Solo was a flop over-reliant on its own nostalgia factor and full of miscastings. The Mandalorian certainly doesn’t look like Solo—the cast alone, filled with character actors, has to make you feel better—but the fear of a Sololike disappointment still lingers.
Surrey: That widening the scope of Star Wars on screen will have the unintended consequence of highlighting its deficiencies. I love Star Wars, but unlike Game of Thrones, I’ve never been totally sold on the world-building (or its strange preponderance of desert planets). And if Solo’s lackluster release proved anything, it’s that there might not be a huge appetite for Star Wars products when they aren’t billed as epic events. Does The Mandalorian count as one?
Lindbergh: Jon Favreau directed Cowboys & Aliens.
4. Which actor are you most looking forward to seeing in the Star Wars universe?
Gruttadaro: Pedro Pascal was born for this; please don’t poke his eyes out.
Lindbergh: If there’s any combination of actor and role more riveting than Werner Herzog as an ex-Imperial fugitive, it’s Nick Nolte as an Ugnaught.
Baumann: I’d watch Giancarlo Esposito work the pharmacy counter at the Meijer down the road. I’m so excited to see him in a Star Wars series.
Surrey: Werner Herzog, Carl Weathers, and Nick Nolte are the most exciting Big Three since the LeBron-era Heat.
Charity: OK, but where is Temuera Morrison?
5. Will The Mandalorian be a hero’s story or an antihero’s story? What should it be?
Surrey: Ignore Jon Favreau’s boasting that The Mandalorian will explore the “darker, freakier” side of Star Wars. Anakin killing younglings notwithstanding, this franchise rarely skews toward “edgy” material—this is not a complaint; Star Wars is great as is!—so I doubt Disney would want something truly “dark” and “freaky” to be the crown jewel of its new streaming service. I’m sure our Mandalorian will be a reluctant hero, in a Han Solo–with-a-dope-helmet type of way.
Gruttadaro: Because it’s about a bounty hunter, it should be a story about a character who does heinous things to survive a dangerous, unstable world. Because it’s from Disney, we’re probably going to get a story about a character who gets in trouble because he begins to have second thoughts about doing heinous things.
Baumann: I have a hard time believing Disney will produce an antihero story, and that the Mandalorian won’t end up having a heart of gold somehow. And that’s kind of fallen out of style culturally, anyway. Either way, I care less about heroism than I do about the story being interesting.
Lindbergh: Star Wars has enough hero’s stories and, for that matter, enough descents into darkness by villains who hate their former masters, sand people, and sand. Give me the gray area Star Wars hasn’t had. We’re happily past the heyday of “difficult men” on TV, but I can live with one more as long as he wears a sweet suit of armor and is played by Pedro Pascal.
6. Finish the sentence: “Boba Fett was …”
Lindbergh: … indigestible.
Gruttadaro: … actually kind of a nerd.
Charity: … cool until Star Wars fans learned his canonical backstory.
Surrey: … nowhere near as awesome as his dad, who headbutted a Jedi.
Baumann: … not as cool as Bossk or IG-88, but it’s OK. The Beatles weren’t as cool as the Rolling Stones and are still the most popular band ever.
7. Do you think The Mandalorian will have any impact on the movies’ Skywalker saga? Do you want it to?
Baumann: I hope not. It’s a big galaxy, and I’m going to be quite disappointed if I see Mickey Mouse’s little white gloves playing with a Han Solo figurine in the background.
Charity: Rian Johnson’s smartest idea in The Last Jedi is his insistence that Rey’s family doesn’t matter. It’s Star Wars. There’s an evil empire, there are virtuous rebels, and there’s a vast wasteland between them. Let’s explore it!
Lindbergh: I’d rather it didn’t. A truly stand-alone Star Wars series would be a refreshing reprieve from the pressure to weave every piece of IP into a more expansive tapestry. But Disney is in the universe-building business, and more familiar faces means more marketing opportunities, so I’m guessing we’re going to see some crossover episodes. And odds are we won’t have to wait long: The New York Times reported that the first episode “contains a dramatic Star Wars universe spoiler.”
Surrey: It shouldn’t, so that The Mandalorian can be considered on its own cool bounty hunter merits—but seeing that there’s a “dramatic spoiler” for the larger universe somewhere in the first episode, a tie-in is, like Thanos, inevitable.
Gruttadaro: I would really like Star Wars to not F this up; and by “F this up” I mean “Feige this up;” and by “Feige this up” I mean “make watching every universe extension a requirement to understand any of them at all.” That said, Fing things up is very financially viable, so I basically expect The Mandalorian to contain hints about Rey’s true parentage.