The Mandalorian is exploring new stories outside the Skywalker Saga, finally bringing back the heart of the Star Wars Expanded Universe in a way that that material has long deserved. The rebranding of that library of stories – among them some of the best Star Wars narratives and characters of all – delegitimized them unfairly and Disney returning to that font of creativity is an inspired move that can make the Star Wars universe bigger.
Initially, of course, the EU included hundreds of stories fleshing out the vastness of the Star Wars universe and diving deeper into characters and story elements that the movies did not have time to cover. When the sequel trilogy went into development, Lucasfilm severed its canonical ties with the Expanded Universe, rebranding them as Star Wars Legends. This may have cut away interesting stories, but in marketing terms, it refocused canon on the Skywalkers and their biggest looming threats, which made sense for a company pushing a brand, but it was reductive. Now, though, The Mandalorian is reusing some of the EU’s best storylines and adapting them to fit the wandering plot of the Child to great effect.
The Mandalorian has already delved into Legends territory, such as revealing that Boba Fett survived the Sarlacc pit (though not specifically how yet). Such was his popularity that fans had long hoped that Fett could reenter canon as he did in Legends, and the show finally delivered with Din Djarin’s return to Tatooine on the trail of others of his kind. The plot of the second season has also expanded the worldbuilding in new directions, like developing the Tusken Raiders into a full culture, in the same way that the EU did. Ultimately, The Mandalorian doesn’t have the same narrow focus as the movies, and that allows the show to slowly reintroduce the best elements of Legends without sacrificing focus on the larger plot.
The timeline of the Disney+ series between the original and sequel trilogies makes it a perfect vehicle for Expanded Universe stories. Its proximity to the events of Return of the Jedi leaves room for the Legends’ old follow-up stories to the presumed end of the Star Wars series, but still sets up sequel elements like the First Order that are coming in the near future. The EU’s diverse branching plotlines made it a liability for the continuing development of the Skywalker Saga, but The Mandalorian combines just enough bridging plot for the movies to let a few of the EU’s more enticing branches grow from it.
Although The Mandalorian is covering similar ground to the Expanded Universe, the show’s version of events is likely to look significantly different from Legends. The Legends version of Boba Fett’s escape from the Sarlacc, for example, involved him discovering a telepathic connection with the Sarlacc’s first victim while in the belly of the beast, which would be a difficult story to translate to the screen. Fundamentally, while the show may be taking cues from the EU, the story will stray in different directions to fit the cinematic style and this is not a bad thing. Similarly, Moff Gideon’s Dark Trooper army draws from Star Wars Legends, but The Mandalorian’s version is set to take the Dark Troopers in a new and more canon-relevant direction. And that’s the crux of the appeal: though Din Djarin’s journey will create many opportunities to revive EU plotlines, they won’t just be a rehashing of the same stories.
The Mandalorian may be the start of a new era for Star Wars, on an expansive, rambling canvas on which to tell the post-Empire tales of people and places outside the orbit of the Skywalkers. It’s the natural successor to the Expanded Universe that had the same wide-ranging worldbuilding at heart and the approach to EU story cherry-picking finally shows some benefit to making the EU non-canonical in the first place. And given the success of the series, The Mandalorian may soon be followed by other EU-adjacent shows like a Boba Fett spin-off that could start filming soon. The Expanded Universe is gone from canon, but its legends can still live on and Din Djarin and Baby Yoda have shown the way.