It’s kind of incredible just how little we know about The Mandalorian, considering it’s one of fall’s biggest TV premieres. That’s beginning to change (slightly) as the press cycle ramps up ahead of the show’s November 12 release date. With just a few short weeks to go, Jon Favreau’s foray into the Star Wars universe graces the cover of Entertainment Weekly, complete with an in-depth cover story.
The piece is littered with great quotes, but none stands out quite like Favreau comparing the project to playing with old Star Wars toys. “I’ve always been curious what the other people in the cantina are up to,” he says, “We’re digging really deep in the toy chest and pulling out the action figures that people were always curious about and were not quite in the center frame, but have a lot of potential.”
Favreau’s sentiment is echoed by his collaborator on the series, Dave Filoni (who’s helmed most of the animated series in the Star Wars universe). “These are the [action figures] you got,” Filoni says, “Your older brothers have the ‘good’ ones. Somehow you got Boba Fett. And if you have Boba Fett, you could always tell a good story.”
Comparing a new scene or setpiece to the iconic cantina sequence in A New Hope is somewhat played out at this point, both in and outside of Star Wars. Both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi feature scenes that very clearly draw from this sequence. The showrunners’ observations about toys underscore how, for better or worse, Star Wars has always been intrinsically tied to the merchandise surrounding it. It’s crucial to the series’ appeal. Not only does it present young viewers with a fully realized world, it offers them the chance to explore that world themselves, using the toys as visual.
And speaking of those toys, there are SO many. Seriously, if a character has appeared in a Star Wars movie - even far in the background with their head turned down - there’s a good chance there’s been a toy made of them. And as Filoni clearly has experienced, playing with Star Wars toys in a group setting almost always means that somebody is going to end up with some penny-ante bounty hunter like Zuckuss instead of Darth Vader or Han Solo.
The idea of The Mandalorian being a show about the Star Wars toys nobody wanted to play with lends more to the idea of what kind of show it will be than any piece of promotional material we’ve seen so far. Speaking in cantina terms, this is going to be a show about Labira, Nabrun Leids, and Takeel, characters who can be spotted in the cantina scene but have little expansive lore beyond that single appearance.
We’re going to see the fleshed-out stories of the Bom Vimdins (a mercenary who appeared in the cantina with a history that includes escaping capture aboard the Death Star) of the Star Wars universe — heck, we see IG-88 himself firing off rounds in the trailer. It may also be time to learn more about the Ellorrs Madaks of the galaxy, characters who appeared in a single shot in a single film, to shine.
Maybe you recognize these characters from watching the cantina scene over and over again as the years have passed. Or maybe you know them from the toy aisles of Toys R Us and KB Toys, the action figures that were always passed over by kids desperately searching for an X-Wing or Yoda toy.
It’s doubtful that Favreau and Filoni mean these characters will return in a literal sense, most of the creatures we see in the cantina scene look like they could contain multitudes. Were any of them to show up in the show, they’d be a welcome addition to the cast of a show with the potential to finally build the corner of this world they’ve long occupied.
Just about every Star Wars fan has experienced the feeling of walking through the toy aisle of Target or Wal Mart four months after one of these movies has dropped and seeing the selection of available action figures is two dozen of the same three background characters and nothing else. And while not every Star Wars fan has said screw it and bought one, they all know that those characters are what make Star Wars so special. Every character, even the weird tertiary ones who lurk in the backgrounds of seedy cantinas and Jabba’s palace, has a story. That The Mandalorian looks to be a story that finally gives characters like those the spotlight feels special. It’s the first time we’re getting a real (live-action) look at the world outside of the Skywalker Saga in ways that, according to the showrunners, will not ultimately tie back into the events of the trilogies.
The Skywalker Saga ends with The Rise of Skywalker this December. But just a few months before that we’ll finally be seeing the far more crucial Rise of Snaggletooth (hey, we can dream).