5 Details That Make 'Mandalorian' A Show All About Getting Old
As a franchise, Star Wars hasn't been particularly kind to characters over the age of 30. Rebellions may be built on hope, but they're staffed pretty much entirely by teenagers and twentysomethings. Older characters -- like Qui-Gon, Yoda, Alec Guinness's Obi-Wan, and the new trilogy's Luke -- exist almost solely as fonts of wisdom, there to be drained of knowledge by the new generation and then get cut in half or die of crippling old age.
Especially galling is the fact that the latter two withered husks were, canonically, only in their 50s when they decided that they'd lived long, full lives and ghosted off this mortal coil. Even the Emperor was only halfway through his 60s during Revenge of the Sith -- a.k.a. the movie where he was aged up to look like an awakened mummy because he might as well have been a thousand years old.
Obviously, some of this can be excused by casting and the inconsistency of George Lucas pulling story elements out of his ass as he went. But, even putting aside more overt ageism, Star Wars has never really given a fair shake to anyone old enough to rent a car while still being able to drive it at night. Characters are either young or old, and that's it, full-stop.
Until The Mandalorian anyway -- the blockbuster Disney+ space-western is almost explicitly about the liminal space of middle age, about getting older ...
The Cast and Characters Are All in Their 40s and 50s
Prior to The Mandalorian, the only 40-somethings with any significant screen time or characterization -- and we're talking across the entirety of the Skywalker saga -- were Lando Calrissian and Darth Vader. While Lando made it out unscathed, he did spend most of The Empire Strikes Back being hated as a traitorous sell-out who had the audacity to settle down instead of having internal debates about shooting Hutt henchmen in the dick. Meanwhile, Darthy-Boy magically turned into an eighty-year-old the moment his helmet was pulled off.
While "scoundrels" like Han Solo and Poe Dameron are allowed to hover around 30 -- most likely to make their flirtations with almost literal children more palatable -- Star Wars' roster of heroes generally skews younger. Luke, Leia, and Rey are all teenagers when they get sucked into their respective galactic wars; Finn, Rose Tico, and Rogue One's Jyn Erso are barely in their early 20s. Even the animated Rebels' wildly mature space parents, Hera Syndulla and Kanan Jarrus, are only within a decade of being legally allowed to drink.
Titular Mandalorian Din Djarin, though, is pushing 40; actor Pedro Pascal is 45. The two stunt doubles actually in the Beskar armor, Brendan Wayne and Lateef Crowder, are both in their 40s too. New characters like Greef Karga, Moff Gideon, and Fennec Shand are all played by actors 50 or older, while characters returning from the earlier movies and cartoons -- Ashoka Tano, Bo-Katan, Boba Fett -- have aged noticeably. Even though, by The Mandalorian's own admission, they're all aliens that could have stayed 25 forever. Even the familiar orange jumpsuit of the Rebellion's brash fighter pilots is filled by the fatherly figure of Paul Sun-Hyung Lee. Hell, Grogu, the Child, is 50 years old.
In fact, the only "young" person to show up on The Mandalorian was Jake Cannavale's bounty hunter Toro Calican -- a character that was regarded as obnoxious, annoying, and all-around a lot, before being unceremoniously murdered for his ambition and lack of grey hairs. No one on the show had the energy to deal with him. Which, speaking of ...
Everyone Is Just So Tired, All the Time
Look, things start to hurt when you get older, no matter how active and in shape you are. It is an unfortunate fact of the universe. You turn 40, wake up with a weird twinge, and, boom, now you just have a Bad Ankle forever.
While most action movie franchises starring middle-aged folks -- The Expendables, John Wick, anything with Liam Neeson -- make them seem like unstoppable killing machines, the truth is that everyone's probably wearing knee braces and slathered in Ben-Gay. Hell, Antonio Banderas hurt himself in his first take during The Expendables 3, performing the highly dangerous stunt of ... running on a flat surface.
But while Banderas was reticent to tell anyone of his injury, for fear of actually acknowledging that he ages linearly, The Mandalorian isn't hiding any of the gory details. Weariness and exhaustion are baked into every scene, every tired sigh Mando utters as some new side quest is given. Bo-Katan and Boba Fett are both scouring the galaxy for their stolen wares, cranky at having to travel so Goddamned far. It's not hard to imagine Din Djarin sliding out of his armor like Indiana Jones on the steamer ship, grumbling about every ache and pain before promptly falling asleep.
And it goes beyond just the characters -- the colors are faded, and the cities and towns are worn down; there's no Coruscant here, no verdant forests of Endor. Consider, too, the spaceships: the Millennium Falcon is a young man's rust pile, held together with duct tape and prayer. There's never any doubt, though, that Han and Chewie will fix it, that the ship will, once again, be the fastest hunk-of-junk in the galaxy. On the other hand, Mando's Razor Crest is a minivan that's continually being brought in for repairs, at literally any spaceport he can find. Because it's easier to just pay someone for the hassle.
There's a Reason the Razor Crest Has a Toilet
The Mandalorian was, famously, the first live-action Star Wars project to feature a toilet. Why? Because as a fortysomething, a clean and functioning and nearby commode is an important feature -- nay, a necessity. The Youth might be able to hold it all day or go in the woods like an Ewok, but not so Din Djarin. Nor, presumably, show creators Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau. (No offense, guys.)
You see, bladders and bowels age, just like the rest of the body. Despite often being seen as a problem for the elderly, prostate issues are actually most likely to start in one's forties and fifties, alongside the other old-age stalwarts, frequent urination, and nighttime whizzing. Constipation also becomes more of an issue the older you get, so it makes sense that Mando would want somewhere quiet and private to settle in and hunker down with the intergalactic equivalent of Candy Crush while he tries to crap.
Nevermind that we've all seen the way Baby Yoda eats. If the Jedi didn't already potty-train him, we can all but guarantee Din did. Because there's not a chance in Hoth's coldest corner that anyone wants to keep those diapers around any longer than needed.
Speaking of being disillusioned by horrible shit ...
No One's in This for Your Revolution
There's a noticeable lack of idealism throughout The Mandalorian. While the movies are all about the greater good and overthrowing evil, our Mando is, to paraphrase a popular Tumblr post, just trying to get his gremlin child into a good preschool. The grander dealings of the galaxy don't much matter.
When Han shrugged off the Rebellion in A New Hope, he was portrayed as a selfish dick who ultimately came around to the right side of things. That's not the case here. Everyone on The Mandalorian is monumentally out of fucks to give, almost as a defining trait. But their idealism hasn't been replaced with pessimism, greed, or nihilism, but realism.
To put it bluntly, they've all seen too much. Din's family was killed in the Clone Wars, while his adoptive order of Mandalorians has been decimated twice-over. Ashoka bore witness to the hypocrisy and fall of the Jedi Order, then watched her best friend genocide half the galaxy away. Boba Fett basically died and came back; Ming-Na Wen's Fennec Shand literally did.
By dint of being middle-aged, the characters have been around long enough to witnessed multiple wars in the stars, to have seen literal empires -- plural -- fall, and are now broken and jaded by it. In other words, The Mandalorian is a coda to all the movies and cartoons, the "ever after," and it is a graveyard of trauma and self-reflection.
This Is Your Father's Star Wars
George Lucas famously said that his Star Wars movies were for the children. J.J. Abrams, an architect of the new trilogy, seems to agree -- though, fittingly, since his sequels were largely soulless rehashes, he said it in the dumbest way possible. Nothing against Rey, Finn, and Rose, mind you -- they're all great characters deserving of better movies and novels and comics. This is just to say that Star Wars has, historically, skipped over the in-betweens.
Obi-Wan and Anakin are young in the prequels (and the Clone Wars cartoon), then old in the original trilogy. (Even though, again, they're only in their 50s.) Luke, Leia, and Han repeat the process, going from "young" to "ancient" in the span of maybe 30 years. Fatherhood is never actually shown, just regretted after the fact.
But the fans don't have blind spots; we, like Antonio Banderas, age like normal humans. And so, too, does the Star Wars franchise, now well into its fourth decade of existence. Everyone behind-the-scenes of The Mandalorian grew up with Star Wars. So it makes sense that creators Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni would want to see characters in that galaxy far, far away, growing up -- and grumbling at aching knees -- with them.
Top image: Lucasfilm