‘The Mandalorian’ will be just fine, even in the age of ‘Andor’


Is “The Mandalorian” still the way to experience the best kind of never-seen-it-done-before Star Wars storytelling? Or has a new contender changed what we expect from our far, far away galaxies?

Let’s be clear before we make the jump to hyperspace. There’s been something slightly different in the air during the lead-up to Season 3 of the Din Djarin and Grogu show, which debuted its first episode, titled “The Apostate,” early Wednesday morning on Disney Plus. That something different has been “Andor.” You know, the show that’s so good even Quinta Brunson tweets about it from time to time?

Tony Gilroy’s Star Wars thriller, dipped twice in espionage and sex appeal for extra flavor, immediately entered the conversation of Best Star Wars Anything the moment Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor had to take someone out for knowing too much in the very first episode. With Star Wars now flexing that edge, are we less excited about the once-mighty Mando?

How Diego Luna brought his Star Wars character back to life in ‘Andor’

Before playing the comparison game, the obvious should be noted. These franchises, both led by Latino actors, Pedro Pascal and Luna, are a part of the same team. This isn’t Kevin Feige vs. James Gunn: Dawn of Studio Masterminds. “The Mandalorian” creator Jon Favreau (honorary godfather of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) and the Star Wars whisperer himself, producer Dave Filoni, don’t have a picture of Gilroy in their trailers on set with darts in the eyes. “Andor” isn’t “The Mandalorian’s” Death Star. Disney didn’t pay $4 billion for Star Wars shows to beef with each other. The game has always been to better the Star Wars brand and make it stronger ever since Mickey Mouse swiped his debit card. You think the San Diego Padres care whether Manny Machado is better than Juan Soto? They’re just glad they’ve got them both on the roster. When you’ve got stars, let them shine. And that’s what the initial success of “The Mandalorian” has allowed “Andor” to do.

Season 3 kicks off with the titular character and his top toy-seller kid sidekick reunited thanks to some MCU-like interconnectivity with “The Book of Boba Fett.” What’s being explored this season is a prime example of where “The Mandalorian” can grow. Pascal’s warrior is reeling from his exile from the Mandalorians who raised him. But he broke the sacred rule. He showed Grogu his face. Why? Because he thought he’d never see him again and, simple enough, he loves the kid. But the Mandalorian has now taken a stubborn vow to reunite with his pack, which can only be done by taking a journey many have told him is not possible.

There are inter-helmeted rivalries. Former Mandalorian royalty Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) is still fuming from the outdated traditions that keep the Darksaber she needs to rule out of her hands. She sees Din Djarin, the current reluctant wielder of the blade, as nothing more than a religious zealot, part of the sect she feels destroyed her culture. When these two are together, it is tense. And their fractured relationship raises many questions. How long will the titular Mandalorian blindly follow his faith? Will we ever see his face again? Instead of “this is the way,” will he find another way? Seemingly even less likely, can he make Bo-Katan a believer? Will the Mandalorian ever love? (Remember Omera from Season 1?) Will Grogu ever talk?

Yes, “Andor” has raised expectations for what “The Mandalorian” can be in the future. But can “Andor’s” brilliance make “The Mandalorian” better down the line? One can hope. There’s nothing wrong with homegrown motivation. If Favreau and Filoni have drawn up some new plays in their playbook because “Andor” did things a little differently, that’s a win for Star Wars.

“Andor” is a star that is about to hit its supernova. The upcoming second season will be the show’s last. We already know what truly happens in the end because it’s a prequel to another prequel, the groundbreaking and top-tier next generation Star Wars film “Rogue One.” This window of comparison will soon fade away.

“The Mandalorian” is the opposite of “Andor”: There is no end in sight. Favreau has said as much recently, saying Season 4 has already been written and that he has not yet contemplated how the series will end because he’s just not there yet and, as is to be expected, he’s having way too much fun to think about stopping. Whenever “The Mandalorian” does end, it will probably be the longest Star Wars story ever told in front of a camera.

The differences between “Andor” and “The Mandalorian” are to be basked in, not picked apart. One show focuses on the beginnings of the end of the Evil Empire. The other navigates in the aftermath of that fall with a cute kid at the center of it. But everyone can relax. It turns out that based on the two episodes released for critics, the child and his armored babysitter are going to be just fine. There’s a lot to ponder. And even more time to figure it out.

“The Mandalorian” has yet to lose its luster. Even in this new and albeit temporary age of “Andor.” Beskar, it turns out, can stand up to any challenge.

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