The old year is gone and a new year begins. The year 2019 was one of the richest in terms of Star Wars media being released. What were the highlights and what is the overall balance? Is the Star Wars universe that much richer for these elements?
1. The Rise of Skywalker
The most visible addendum to the Star Wars universe was undoubtedly the final part of the sequel trilogy. TRoS has concluded the tale of Rey, Kylo Ren, Finn and others, as well as the story of the Resistance and the First Order. And, most importantly, the Skywalker saga.
This is the ending of an era. While George Lucas had said “no more movies” already after the first trilogy and again after the prequels, this time, the story should be the absolute end. At least in terms of Skywalker legacy being the central theme. Even if, contrary to all promises, Disney decided in ten years to bring back some of the protagonists for another round, the plot would have to revolve around something else than the traditional “Chosen One and his legacy vs. the dark Sith-Imperial machinations”.
We can very well say that the end of this decade likely heralds the shift from the film trilogy format to the TV series format. And the first of these is…
2. The Mandalorian
The very first live action series started with a lot of expectation but also uncertainty as to how it was going to turn out. It, however, quickly conquered the hearts of fans with familiar atmosphere, tough protagonists, and most of all, the so-called “baby Yoda”.
Even from a sober and unemotional perspective, The Mandalorian is the prime example of “how to get from 0 to 100 in eight episodes”. If the first couple of episodes were, objectively, only a not particularly imaginative “space Western” showcasing easter eggs for the franchise fans, and if the continuation played on the effective, but cheap marketing trick of throwing a cute baby in your face, the series managed to deliver interesting characters and the finale set up massive expectations as well as connection to the rest of the universe at large. Dave Filoni’s hand is hard not to spot in this, and it sets up a big promise for the future of the series – which should get its second (hopefully at least twice as long) season during 2020.
3. Jedi: Fallen Order
Literally the first completely new Star Wars game since 2011 was more like a meteor. It stirred quite big reaction, burned bright, then quietly disappeared without much trace for the most part. It was certainly a great thing to happen in terms of Star Wars video gaming, if only for the reason that there has not been anything like that for years. While Star Wars: The Old Republic and multiple iterations of Star Wars: Battlefront have been providing certain amount of satisfaction to Star Wars gamers, basic single-player experience could do with a bit more attention in the 2020s.
4. Dooku: Jedi Lost
Amidst the traditional Star Wars novels, 2019 introduced a new media project – a full audio drama focussing on the life of young Dooku. It was certainly a fresh take on storytelling within the Star Wars universe. While I believe the story could have been published as a normal book as well, if only for the fans’ convenience, I certainly hope that this experiment will prompt Disney to continue with similar projects in the future. The format of fully-voiced audio drama works well enough and provides interesting variation.
5. Padmé, Thrawn And Others
The traditional SW novels released this year can be also rated above-average compared to previous years. The finale to Timothy Zahn’s new Thrawn trilogy supersedes its first part and is easily on par with its second volume. E.K. Johnston’s “Queen’s Shadow” offered a glimpse of so far neglected time period in Galactic history, in Padmé’s life and explored so far neglected characters (Naboo handmaidens). “Master and Apprentice”, the story of young Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon by Claudia Grey, visited a similar time period. All the books released in 2019 seemed to largely focus on filling in blank spaces in the Galactic history and lore.
6. Resistance Season 2
Last but not least, the Resistance animated series arrived with its second and final season. Overall, it remains rather on the casual, noncommittal side of SW universe. Even though – and that has to be pointed out – in that way, it does not differ that much from The Mandalorian (or at least from about 5/8 of its episodes). Had Resistance been a live-action series, I am pretty sure it would not be very far from The Mandalorian in popularity. Unlike The Mandalorian, however, it somewhat lacks in focus on “bigger things”. On the other hand, it has one unique trait – it shows the Galactic conflict from the perspective of the simple, common people.
This unheroic element brings a touch of realism that even the fringe setting of The Mandalorian cannot provide, because its protagonists are still heroic, “special” individuals. Kazuda Xiono, Tam Ryvora and others are average, “working-class” people and their dilemmas between Light and Dark show the mindset of 90% of the common Rebels or Stormtroopers. I very much hope that after Resistance ends, some other show is going to pick up this theme.