It’s no secret that I’m a big Star Wars fan, nor that I felt extremely disappointed by The Rise of Skywalker. I’ve talked about it on blogs and podcasts already; I won’t rehash it here except to say that, as a fan of the Extended Universe, it frustrated me how much of the EU that film ignored or ret-conned.
However, season two of The Mandalorian started last week, and it was filled to the brim with great EU references (not the least of which was the appearance of Cobb Vanth, a bit player in a few chapters of a book that came out five years ago–if that’s not showing dedication to the EU, I don’t know what is!). That helped pull me out of a bit of a funk, to be honest; I’d never go so far as to say that Rise of Skywalker ‘ruined Star Wars‘ or anything silly like that, but it definitely put a damper on my enthusiasm for the EU. Part of the fun of big, expansive universes like Star Wars or the Marvel Cinematic Universe is seeing how all the little pieces of plot line up. I love seeing references to random EU stuff in films or games or shows (for instance, it was awesome when Admiral Rae Sloane briefly appeared at the start of Star Wars Squadrons). If the movies were just going to ignore or, worse, contradict the EU stuff, what was the point?
Luckily, The Mandalorian reminded me that there were lots of other Star Wars properties to enjoy and catch references in. That got me thinking about the future of Star Wars as a whole (and the EU in particular, now that the main Skywalker Saga is done). Overall, I think things are looking pretty good for the franchise. I’m going to talk a little bit about why I feel that way; just understand that a lot of this is wild speculation.
First and foremost, let me just point out that the EU is in a good place right now regardless of what else is going on. The comics have been stellar, The Mandalorian is excellent, even the video games have largely been good (Fallen Order had a few issues but I generally enjoyed it, and I’m liking my time with Squadrons). If the franchise just stayed the course, I think they’d be safe. However, that’s not what’s happening–instead, it’s branching out into something really exciting.
Early this year, a special project was announced: The High Republic. A series of novels, comics, and more set two hundred years before the films, The High Republic will explore a period of time that the new Disney canon has yet to touch. I find this thrilling for myriad reasons.
See, I have a bit of a pet theory about The High Republic. Like I said earlier, RoS ignored or retconned a lot of EU stuff, and the major damage done there regarded the Emperor and Snoke. The EU had been building up mysteries regarding Sith artifacts, mysterious beings in the Unknown Regions, and more since 2015; Rise of Skywalker squandered all of that by revealing that Snoke was a weird Emperor-puppet all along. Now, all these threads that seemed to connect to him are left hanging… but The High Republic might be the perfect way to resolve them.
We know The High Republic is set to introduce a few new villains to the galaxy, including the plant-like Drengir race and the mysterious marauders called the Nihil. Given that these stories take place hundreds of years before Palpatine’s rise to power, it’s possible that some of the plotlines obviously meant for Snoke (a cabal of evil somethings from before the Empire lying in wait in the Unknown Regions) could now be applied to them instead. What if the Jedi Order drives off the Nihil over the course of the High Republic stories, forcing them into the Unknown Regions, and only now–in the current ‘present’ of Star Wars, shortly after Rise of Skywalker–will they return? After all, if they were driven off by Force-users, what better time to strike than when both the Jedi and the Sith are at their weakest?
Regardless of whether or not that’s the approach this series will take, I still think The High Republic is something to get excited about. I love the idea of seeing the Jedi Order at its peak, exploring new worlds in a sort of ‘wild-west-but-with-space-wizards’ storyline. Plus, we’ll get to see a younger Yoda! How cool is that?
The bottom line is, Star Wars is in a really good place right now. The Mandalorian is knocking it out of the park; the comics from Marvel and IDW are tons of fun; and The High Republic publishing initiative has oodles of potential. It’s a really great time to be a Star Wars fan!