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The first season of The Mandalorian seems to have unnecessarily gotten my hopes up for the future of Star Wars on Disney+. Every Star Wars show since has been a disappointment to some degree, with the possible exception of The Bad Batch (which I never got around to finishing). At best, they have been watchably acceptable. At worst, they've been boring slogs.

Call in the fan service calvalry!

The 2nd season of Mandalorian falls into the "acceptable" category, though it was a substantial decline from the first season. I like Mandalorian's first season specifically because it felt new and fresh, and wasn't reliant on excessive fan service. It expanded the Star Wars universe, instead of making it feel like there's nothing going on beyond Emperor Palpatine and the Jedi. But we knew that Mando was looking to dump The Child off on a Jedi, so it was eventually going to intersect back with Jedi storylines eventually.

Mandalorian - Ahsoka
The Mandalorian © Walt Disney Corp.
Mandalorian - Luke
The Mandalorian © Walt Disney Corp.
It should have been obvious that Mando's storyline would eventually intersect with Ahsoka and/or Luke.

And that's exactly what happened in season 2. I was OK with the appearance of Ahsoka and Luke. Mando was, after all, looking for Jedi, and as far as Star Wars fans know, they are the only 2 Jedi left alive in the galaxy. So of course Mando was going to find one, the other, or both of them. Ahsoka herself was a really cool character who was well cast. Her cameo was about the only one that I genuinely enjoyed, in large part because the episode that she was in is one of the strongest episodes of the season. Luke showing up as a deus ex machina at the last minute to save the day was frustratingly cliche, but tolerably so.

And that wasn't even the end of fan service cameos in Mandalorian season 2. This one season also threw in R2-D2, Bo Katan, Boba Fett, and Dark Troopers. Forgive me if I missed anything. It was ... a lot.

On the other end of the spectrum, is The Book of Boba Fett, which is all fan service all the time. Boba's appearance in season 2 of Mandalorian was, in my opinion, the worst part of Mandalorian. When rumors of Disney wanting to make a show about a Mandalorian bounty hunter started going around, it was assumed that the show would be about Boba Fett. I hated the idea. Boba Fett should have stayed dead. When it was revealed that the show would be about a different, new Mandalorian character, I was less annoyed. I was relieved that it wasn't more Star Wars fan-fic circle-jerking.

And then Book of Boba Fett came along, and it was somehow actually worse than I thought it would be. Aside from the storyline about the Tusken family, the rest of the show is completely boring and borderline uneventful. Boba's character does a complete 180 from how he is depicted in his original appearances. Even though Boba's appearance in Mandalorian was one of the lowlights of that series for me, at least it was a version of Boba Fett that was merciless, callous, and (aside from being a bit pudgy around the waist) consistent with what I expected from the character.

Mandalorian - Boba Fett
The Mandalorian © Walt Disney Corp.
Boba Fett's appearance in Mandalorian was the weakest part of the series,
but at least his merciless, callous personality was consistent with his established characterization.

The version of Boba Fett in Book of Boba Fett is old, bloated, slow, and borderline unrecognizable as the character from Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It's hard to buy into him as a bad-ass, boots-on-the-ground mercenary or crime boss. Worse yet, this version of Boba Fett is soft. He's a goody two-shoes that makes him boring to watch. This was perhaps the worst mis-fire in the Disney+ Star Wars catalogue: an unnecessary piece of fan service that does disservice to the fan service character.

Disney wants Star Wars to be a chore

In fact, the only good episodes of Boba Fett were the 2 episodes that were basically just Mandalorian season 3 episodes, in which Boba Fett hardly appears at all. Though these episodes also frustrated me because they highlight the way that Disney thinks that its Marvel and Star Wars brands should be monopolizing our entire lives. When Samuel L. Jackson showed up in the end credits of Iron Man to ask about the "Avengers Initiative", it was an innovative, landmark moment in movie history. But now, the idea of these "cinematic universes" are completely ubiquitous. They've lost their novelty, and the fact that so many of them aren't even very good means that it feels like a chore to keep up with all these interconnected franchises. Disney just throws in these unnecessary cameos because no single product can be its own thing anymore. It all has to be part of the big picture, and every movie and TV show has to either tie in to the rest of the franchise, or it has to introduce a potential spin-off.

If I like The Mandalorian (which I do), I have to watch Book of Boba Fett in order to get Mando's complete story. Because Mando isn't just a simple cameo here. Significant pieces of development in Mando's story happen in these 2 Boba Fett episodes. The intent here is to try to make Boba Fett into essential viewing for Mandalorian fans, and it sets a precedent that viewers who like any one part of Disney's Star Wars canon simply cannot afford to miss any of these shows because they might be integral to the other storyline that you are enjoying.

Book of Boba Fett - Mando
The Mandalorian © Walt Disney Corp.
Like it or not, Book of Boba Fett is essential viewing for fans of The Mandalorian.

Ahsoka or Luke or both needed to appear in The Mandalorian at some point, for the reason I pointed out earlier. Boba Fett (and his armor) didn't. Boba Fett is only here so try to rope in Mandalorian viewers into watching another spin-off.

I specifically liked Mandalorian because it wasn't directly connected to the rest of the big picture Star Wars storyline. But now it is (in several ways), and it makes me not care as much. Book of Boba Fett, by its very existence, made The Mandalorian worse.

Bait-and-switch villains

Another frustrating thing about Book of Boba Fett is how it has a fan servicey cameo from a popular Clone Wars character, the bounty hunter Cad Bane. He is framed as potentially being a major antagonist, which will lead up to some climactic confrontation between these 2 elite bounty hunters. But no, he gets about 2 minutes of total screentime (between 2 episodes) before being unceremoniously killed. But whatever. If Boba Fett, and Darth Maul, and Emperor Palpatine can all come back from the dead, I'm sure Cad Bane can too, if Disney ever decides to dust off his corpse for another piece of stupid fan service in the future.

This same problem of unceremoniously killing off a fan-favorite villain carries over into Obi-Wan Kenobi, in which the Grand Inquisitor is killed off early in the show to make room for Third Sister to ascend to main villain status. It's fine. Third Sister is fine. I like her as an antagonist. But does the Grand Inquisitor really need to be killed off like that? Can't she just go over his head? Like, I'm all for shaking up the status quo and going off in new directions. But at least let these legendary bad guys go out with a fight! Whatever. He comes back to life at the end anyway, because apparently Sith villains all have plot armor as thick as any hero's so that Disney can keep pulling them out of the grave whenever it suits them.

Book of Boba Fett - Cad Bane
The Mandalorian © Walt Disney Corp.
Obi-Wan - Grand Inquisitor
The Mandalorian © Walt Disney Corp.
Cad Bane and The Grand Inquisitor are set up as major antagonists, only to be promptly, unceremoniously killed off.

Overall though, Obi-Wan falls into the "meh" category. Not as good as Mandalorian (either season), leagues better than Book of Boba Fett, but still leaving me wondering what the point of it all is. Obi-Wan is also a bit slow and runs around in circles, and is just retreading a lot of the same plot beats and ideas that we've seen several times in Star Wars before. But at least it's only 6 episodes, instead of 8 or 10, so it's over before it's overstayed its welcome too much. Basically, the fact that it picks up a lot in the second to last episode really saves Obi-Wan from feeling like a total failure.

But even then, because this is a prequel, we know the fates of all the key characters, so there's very little tension over what's going to happen. Like, obviously, Obi-Wan is going to save Leia. Third Sister isn't going to kill Leia or Luke. Obi-Wan and Vader aren't going to kill each other, even though whoever wins the duel should definitely finish the job and kill the other. Instead, they just kind of -- I guess -- forgive each other and then move on, which is about the only development that these 2 characters can possibly have to begin with.

Yet despite being limited by its location in the canon timeline, Obi-Wan shows that Disney has little regard for the canon of Star Wars, and is perfectly willing to throw wrenches into any backstory that has even the slightest bit of wiggle room. At least it is half-way decent TV. It has more going on than Book of Boba Fett, and despite its occasional logical holes, it never degrades to the thoughtless trash that is Star Trek: Picard's 2nd season. But I was still checked out for the entire middle half of Obi-Wan's 6 hours.

I could've done without Darth Vader being in the show at all, except maybe as a brief cameo. The original movie implied that Vader hadn't seen Obi-Wan since before he turned to the Dark Side, and it never implied that Vader harbored any kind of vendetta against his former master. But Revenge of the Sith already ret-conned that. Obi-Wan just takes it one step further.

Obi-Wan - Darth Vader
The Mandalorian © Walt Disney Corp.
Darth Vader just flat-out murders people to intimidate them into giving up Obi-Wan's location.

But at least Obi-Wan goes out of its way to depict Vader as truly villainous, even though he lacks the intimidating physicality of the original movies. This isn't about showing some secret soft side or sentimentality towards his old master in an attempt to make Vader more sympathetic, or to try to foreshadow his eventual redemption at the end of Return of the Jedi. No, Vader legit just murders innocent bystanders just for the heck of it. He toys with the people he fights with because he knows he way beyond their level. And he flat-out tortures Obi-Wan when he catches him. This is a version of Darth Vader that is as evil and cruel as he was in Empire Strikes Back.

This leaves the animated Bad Batch, which was also fine. I actually stopped watching it 3 or so episodes in. I didn't stop watching because I disliked it. I was just never into The Clone Wars, so Bad Batch just wasn't holding my attention, and I got busy with other games and shows. Maybe I'll go back to it at some point -- after I finish binging Breaking Bad and catching up on the other movies in my watchlists.

Waning interest

After initially being very excited by the prospect of Star Wars TV shows exploring new ground in the universe after The Mandalorian, I now have about the same energy for new Star Wars shows as I do for new Star Wars movies: which is to say, pretty much none. I still haven't bothered to force myself to sit through Rise of Skywalker because I just don't feel like wasting my time with something that looks so obviously bad. And I'm at the point now where if a new Star Wars show or movie is announced, and it takes place before Return of the Jedi or has any characters from the movie in it, I am just instantly checked out. Just like with all other nostalgia IPs, if Disney is just going to keep looking backwards at nostalgia, instead of moving the franchise forward, then I'm just not going to watch.

Bad Batch
The Mandalorian © Walt Disney Corp.
I don't mind Bad Batch, but I'm in no rush to finish it.

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