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‘The Mandalorian’ cliffhanger proves the future of ‘Star Wars’ is on TV

The Mandalorian ended with a massive twist that should be a sign of things to come in “Star Wars”

Pedro Pascal is the Mandalorian, Carl Weathers is Greef Carga and Gina Carano is Cara Dune in “The Mandalorian.”
Pedro Pascal is the Mandalorian, Carl Weathers is Greef Carga and Gina Carano is Cara Dune in “The Mandalorian.”
DTCI Media, Disney

“The Mandalorian” ended its first season on such a huge cliffhanger that will make fans wish they could use their jetpacks to fly into the future for another episode.

But the episode’s cliffhanger is a symbol of where the “Star Wars” franchise can go and the high potential of what might be in store as we move forward.

The final episode of the show’s first season — titled “Redemption” — saw the conclusion of events set up in the previous episode. Mando (Pedro Pascal) and his crew of IG-11 (Taika Waititi), Cara Dune (Gina Carano) and Carl Weathers (Greef Karga) make their last-ditch efforts to save Baby Yoda and avoid the clutches of the evil empire.

A lot happens in this episode. Multiple battles with stormtroopers unfold as Mando works his way to safety. He teams with his former enemy IG-11 to escape after Mando suffers an injury. The group ends mostly safe (save for one major death). Mando ends the season with the goal of bringing Baby Yoda to his own species and accepting him as one of his own.

But it’s the final moment of the episode that changes things forever. Moff Gideon (Gian Carlo Esposito) slices his way out of a TIE fighter using a glowing black blade. The weapon — as fans of “The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels” television shows will know — is the Darksaber, a legendary weapon with ties to the Mandalorian creed, the Sith and the Jedi.

It’s also a brief moment where we can see the future of the “Star Wars” franchise.

In many ways, the future of “Star Wars” is here. We saw the conclusion of the Skywalker saga with “The Rise of Skywalker” — a film that has divided fans, critics and super fans. But “The Mandalorian” has been genuinely well-received. Fans enjoy it, critics adore it and pop culture embraces it with memes of Baby Yoda. All signs point toward a positive reaction.

The positivity is similar to what we’ve seen with shows like “The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels.” These weekly “Star Wars” shows have excited fans to no end. Rotten Tomato scores show that all of these television products have been well-received. “Rebels” has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, while “The Clone Wars” holds a 94% score.

Darth Maul wields the Darksaber in “The Clone Wars.”
Darth Maul wields the Darksaber in ‘The Clone Wars.’
Screenshot, Disney Plus

It makes sense, then, for “Star Wars” to continue down this path. Movies aren’t fitting the bill. All the recent “Star Wars” films have had trouble succeeding in the eyes of critics and some of the public. Television may be the right path forward.

Television as a medium for “Star Wars” will allow the franchise to return to its roots. Each of the movies are literally titled “episodes,” which means each chapter in the trilogies is a piece of a larger puzzle. Moving over to the television medium completely — with the off movie here or there that might feature a crossover event — allows “Star Wars” to embrace that idea to the fullest. Week-to-week episodes would allow for better storytelling, a greater look at the “Star Wars” universe and a chance for producers to course correct if they see their story isn’t fitting the bill for many fans.

We’ve seen this with “The Clone Wars.” Before the animated show came out, our knowledge of what happened during that time came from “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones” and our imaginations. But the show gave us a wider view of the war, which expanded our understanding of the movies and gave us some new understanding of the “Star Wars” universe. We learned about Anakin Skywalker and his downfall, Ahoska Tano, the Darksaber and much more all because of the show. Some of the most important characters and moments in “Star Wars” — the return of Darth Maul and the major battles of the “Clone Wars,” for example — appear on that show. The show had the room to breathe. It could take its time to setup context and story arcs that a 2.5-hour movie can’t do.

“Star Wars” could become the face of the Disney Plus streaming service. We are due for some new Marvel Cinematic Universe content in the next year or two — shows like “The Falcon and the Winter Solider” and “WandaVision” will drop in 2020 — but “Star Wars” remains a little unknown. We know about an Obi-Wan Kenobi series. But otherwise, it remains unclear what’s coming next.

Moving “Star Wars” over to Disney Plus completely will allow us to see the moments we’ve only seen in cartoons in live-action. The Darksaber is a perfect example of this. The weapon only appeared in animated shows. It was known by only those who watched the cartoon series and read up on “Star Wars” lore. Now, a whole range of casual and hardcore fans can speak about the Darksaber and its implications.

The Darksaber merges the old with the new. It brings everyone who watched “The Clone Wars” together with those who are watching this live-action series. And this is a good thing. More shows like “The Mandalorian” with more references to past shows and animated show moments will only unite the “Star Wars” family.

And it will allow producers and creators to introduce even more lore and story into the public atmosphere. We could explore the “Star Wars” universe 1,000 years in the future or 2,000 years in the past. We could see the Sith and Jedi wars. We could see ships we’ve never seen before.

The “Star Wars” franchise can grow into something new, bold and unlike anything we’ve seen before. All it has to do is focus itself on being on television.

“The Mandalorian” is proof live-action “Star Wars” shows can work. It’s now up to Disney and “Star Wars” to see how far it can expand.