NICK EICHER: Today is Friday, March 24th.
Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
BROWN: And I’m Myrna Brown.
Coming next on The World and Everything in It: we travel to a galaxy far, far away. Here’s WORLD Arts and Culture Editor Collin Garbarino to talk about what’s new this month in the Star Wars universe.
MUSIC: [THE MANDALORIAN THEME]
COLLIN GARBARINO: Disney’s Star Wars films have been on hold for a few years. But the studio has been pumping out a steady stream of series for Disney Plus. March has proved to be a televisual bonanza for Star Wars fans with new seasons of both The Bad Batch and The Mandalorian. But is more always better? Or are these new episodes just good enough?
The Bad Batch is an animated series that takes place between the fall of the Republic and the destruction of the Death Star. It features a group of rogue clone troopers who refuse to support a totalitarian regime.
ECHO: But there are others out there who need our help. We’ve seen what the Empire is doing throughout the galaxy. We should be doing more.
This series is for the die-hard fans. It chronicles the rise of the imperial bureaucracy, connecting the dots between the prequels and the original films.
COMMANDER CODY: Tell me something, Crosshair. This new Empire… Are we making the galaxy better?
CROSSHAIR: We’re soldiers. We do what needs to be done.
COMMANDER CODY: You know what makes us different from battle droids? We make our own decisions. Our own choices. And we have to live with them too.
I’m going to keep watching this one. I appreciate how the series emphasizes personal responsibility and contains an implicit distrust of big government.
Season three of The Mandalorian is also airing this month. This season begins where the 2022 show The Book of Boba Fett left off. The Mandalorian, also known as Din Djarin, has been excommunicated from his people for violating the Mandalorian Creed.
ARMORER: Din Djarin, have you ever removed your helmet?
DIN DJARIN: I have.
ARMORER: Then, you are a Mandalorian no more.
DIN DJARIN: How can I atone?
ARMORER: According to Creed, one may only be redeemed in the Living Waters beneath the mines of Mandalore.
DIN DJARIN: But the mines have all been destroyed.
ARMORER: This is the way.
Right from the start, they’ve got my attention. Atonement? Redemption? Being baptized in Living Waters? Well, this is an interesting development.
The Star Wars franchise usually subjects fans to the Jedi’s hokey religion that feels like a cross between eastern mysticism and Roman stoicism. This Mandalorian battle creed emphasizes adoption and redemption. Those ideas might sound vaguely Christian, but it’s different because Mandalorians imagine redemption and atonement as things they must accomplish for themselves. They save themselves.
This Mandalorian view of atonement actually seems to reflect Rabbinic Judaism more than Christianity. Much of the Star Wars mythos mirrors the Roman Republic’s transition to Empire. I’m wondering if the destruction of the Mandalorian homeworld is meant to mimic the Roman destruction of the Jewish Temple. In both, an empire destroys a homeland cutting a people off from their faith.
DIN DJARIN: The Creed teaches us of redemption.
ARMORER: Redemption is no longer possible, since the destruction of our homeworld.
Another fascinating aspect of this third season is watching the interaction between the Mandalorian fundamentalists and those who have a more liberal interpretation of the Creed. Perhaps this sensitive approach to religion shouldn’t surprise us. Showrunner Jon Favreau was born to a Jewish mother and a Catholic father. I’m really interested to see how this plays out.
Even though I enjoy these series, I have to admit the franchise has seen better days. The Mandalorian especially has some structural problems in the storytelling. The first season was phenomenal—a dusty space western that felt both familiar and entirely fresh. That first season was so good as a complete story, I sort of wish Favreau would have let Mando retire.
GREEF KARGA: Now as I was saying there’s a beautiful parcel available right down here by the flats.
DIN DJARIN: I appreciate the offer, but I have some matters to look after.
GREEF KARGA: Oh, I’m confused. I thought you had completed your mission, but you’re still running around here with the same little critter.
DIN DJARIN: It’s complicated.
It’s not really complicated. Disney needs to keep churning out hits. What better way than to add more seasons of its most popular TV show? But as the show drags on, it loses some of what made it special.
Mando’s not really a loner anymore and most of the dusty space westerness has disappeared. Instead of being a self-contained story in a different corner of the galaxy, Disney has succumbed to the temptation to integrate the series with the Skywalker Saga. I like Star Wars, but I’m pretty tired of Skywalkers.
DIN DJARIN: Being a Mandalorian’s not just learning about how to fight, you also have to know how to navigate the galaxy, because you never know where you might be headed next.
Wherever Star Wars is headed next, it needs to be somewhere new. Viewership for each series has dropped since 2019 when the first season of The Mandalorian became must-see TV. It’s hard to say how much is franchise fatigue and how much is fans simply not being able to keep up with the glut of new shows.
One thing is clear from Disney’s financials. These series aren’t paying the bills. Expect CEO Bob Iger to slow down on Disney Plus shows and prioritize getting Star Wars back in theaters. But Disney has nothing in the theatrical pipeline, so don’t expect it to happen soon.
MUSIC: [THE MANDALORIAN THEME]
I’m Collin Garbarino.
WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.
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