I've just seen the new trailer for The Mandalorian Season 3, and by the Force it looks good. There's some proper Star Wars spaceship action, Din Djarin being a badass, Grogu getting better with the Force, a bounty of locations, more Mandalorians and even a few Jedi sprinkled in for good measure.
It looks epic. Din Djarin seems to have dropped the pseudo escort missions of looking after Baby Yoda, to go on a form of redemption arc by looking to reclaim Mandalore. He's even probably got the Darksaber at hand. In short, it looks set to be one of the most exciting Star Wars series and a panacea to the plodding and padded Book of Boba Fett.
That said, I feel you can sense a disturbance in the Force, with a 'but' coming. Well my padawan, you'd be right. And that's thanks to Andor.
I genuinely think Andor was one of the best bits of Star Wars content Disney's produced; even in the face of the triumphant Obi-Wan Kenobi. But I hope the team at Lucasfilm really draws inspiration from what they just did with the tale of Cassian Andor.
A place in a galaxy far, far away
Andor utterly nails the sense of place in the worlds it depicts in a galaxy far, far away — in it does so in triplicate fashion. The combination of Cassian seemingly just trying to get by on a backwater planet mixes wonderfully with the portrayal of a rebellious senator (Mon Mothma) living the highlife under the yolk of Empire politicking, and then you've got the clean, crisp and clinical life of the Empire's equivalent of the KGB or Gestapo (Syril Karn and Dedra Meero).
There's a real sense of people trying to survive, or even thrive, in radically different situations, while being ruled by an almost inscrutable organization. Unlike Obi-Wan, where the Inquisitors are clearly wrong 'uns, the members of the Imperial Security Bureau could be seen as ambitious loyalists working to protect the empire from terrorists, rather than abjectly bad people.
Mixed in with this, we see Andor’s excellent locations as more than just 'junk planet,' 'sand planet' and 'kinda-frontier planet.' It all helps Andor express the Star Wars world as one populated by more than just enigmatic warriors and space wizards with very nice glowsticks. That's not to say The Mandalorian didn't mix things up. But there were a lot of rugged planets and Tatooine, rather than more of the cyberpunk locales Din visited briefly.
Rather, the planets in Andor tell the story of the people in them. Cassian’s adopted home of Ferrix is home to a blue-collar community many of whom eschew tech for a call to work in the mines hailed by the rhythmic banging of a Beskar anvil. This structured schedule and a co-operative work ethnic communicated the sense of community the inhabitants of Ferrix have, which basically accumulated in one major funeral progression and ceremony that has a direct influence on the story of Andor’s first season.
Similarly, the Imperial-occupied planet of Aldhani, which looks a little like rural Ireland, has a small community of local Dhanis who gather to see the Eye, an astrological event every three years that fills the sky with speeding colorful meteorites. This rubs up against the Imperial facilities on the planet, which has seen a lot of Dhanis drop tradition for Imperial life. That’s some great world building, there already.
But what Andor does brilliantly is to weave in the 'Eye' event as a core part of the story; in this case a plot to rob an Imperial base. And there are at least two other settings that do this equally well in Andor, but I don’t want to digress.
In comparison, the places Din, Grogu and the audience visit in The Mandalorian are interesting, but never feel quite tied to the main story. Now that’s arguably down to the ‘mission of the episode’ approach The Mandalorian takes, meaning you don’t get too immersed in the setting, as Mando gets around.
Conversely, there are arguments that Andor is too slow, with too much time spent in a limited clutch of locations, as characters debate goals or the ideals of rebellion. But I’d retort that this pacing, which is a slow build up to a set piece then a crescendo of tension and action, and then a similar cycle in the second half of the season, gives Andor the scope to really define it’s characters and the hight stakes of their missions; I found Andy Serkis’ Kino Loy to be far more engaging than Katee Sackhoff's Bo Katan, who popped up in The Mandalorian more as fan service than a crucial character... though she seems to be back and ready for a greater role in the trailer.
Inspiration... this is the way
Do I think The Mandalorian needs to ape Andor’s pacing? Well no. And given the action going on in the trailer, I doubt that’ll be the case. But I'd like to see it draw inspiration from Andor's world building and sense of place, with planets and locations influencing the story not simply being a backdrop.
With a return to Mandalore, this very much could be the case. My hope is we get a real sense of what Mandalore is about and how it’s influenced the rise of an enigmatic race/gathering/creed of space warriors.
Added to that I’d like to see a deeper and more forced theme than ‘get this kid to a Jedi’ while blasting creatures and cretins. Andor delivered, as my good pal and steaming Editor Henry T. Casey put it, “Rebellion as a concept." And I feel The Mandalrian season 3 could deliver “Redemption as a concept.” It could tackle the idea of what redemption means and how much of it is self-imposed or pressed upon one by society or creed.
If it does that, and nails all the action we’ve seen in the trailer, then I think The Mandalorian could be another much-needed Star Wars success; all without requiring a cameo from a big bloke in a black breathing apparatus to conjure excitement.
We’ll see if this is the way starting March 1st on Disney Plus.