Star Wars streaming (and Disney Plus) began with The Mandalorian in November of 2019, a perfect storm of the holidays and new Star Wars content between Jedi: Fallen Order and The Rise of Skywalker. The show, unsurprisingly, was a success ratings-wise and social chatter (due to a large part to the introduction of Grogu). But it was also a critical hit, getting an Emmy Nomination for Best Drama Series.
Almost four years later, we have two more seasons of The Mandalorian, The Bad Batch, Star Wars Visions, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Tales of the Jedi, and Andor in the books. Visions 2 and Star Wars The High Republic: Jedi Adventures releases today.
Continuing my positivity in Star Wars for Star Wars Day (check out my canon rankings from last year, which included films), I rank my favorite series, highlighting my favorite part of each.
Note: This only includes series that started on Disney Plus, so The Clone Wars season seven is not a part of this ranking.
**Spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi and Tales of the Jedi**
7. Tales of the Jedi: We Learn What Happened to Yaddle
Naming a short series, Tales of the Jedi (after a popular graphic novel series from Legends), already raised the expectation of Dave Filoni’s return to animation (he was only the Executive Producer on Star Wars Resistance and The Bad Batch). And most people were happy with the six-episode series. My problem was that it focused on two of the most prominent characters of The Clone Wars, Dooku and Ahsoka, in an era where there were so many Jedi we could have learned more about, even with limited time.
So the best thing about this series is that we learned the fate of Yaddle, who went out like a champ against Dooku. We also learned that her mysterious species is not chained to Yoda’s object-subject-verb (OSV) speech (what will Grogu sound like?). I will also no longer be on edge with every new series of films waiting for her to make her glorious return to the screen since this shot:
6. Star Wars Visions: How Japanese Culture and Star Wars Meld In Themes
While Star Wars Visions’ first season was my least favorite, I have revisited some episodes regularly. And watching these six episodes back-to-back, you CERTAINLY recognize threads that reveal the appeal of some aspects of Star Wars in Japanese pop culture. And Japanese pop culture IS pop culture. And Star Wars has taken a lot from Japanese culture. However, from a birds-eye view looking at these shorts, there are a few insights that appear:
Most of the shorts avoided the intricacies of the Empire, opting to focus more on Jedi and spirituality.
The one major exception is Lop and Ochō (my personal favorite), which tells the story of a family over seven years as the Empire industrialized their homeworld. Lop and Ocho are sisters who fall on different sides of the Rebellion and Empire.
It is fascinating, given that there was an Imperial Japan for almost 100 years until after World War II. There was an opportunity for commentary on Japan Imperialism vs. American and British Imperialism that the Original Trilogy Empire was modeled after.
Still, there are stories of smaller communities resisting a local threat, like “The Village Bride” and “Akakiri.” But there are also Space Operatic melodramas that have unique premises, like “The Twins” (an over-the-top style telling the story of twins born of the dark side) and The Ninth Jedi (which includes lightsabers that can sense the wielder’s intentions).
Overall it is an excellent snapshot of Star Wars infused with modern anime storytelling. Check out my rankings from Star Wars Visions here.
5 Andor: Oppression From Every Side
Andor season one occurs during the Galactic Empire’s prime, but before Palpatine dissolves the Imperial Senate. As such, we get the perspective from both ends of the early Rebellion. From on-the-ground fighters like the Aldani team to the middle-man with two faces, Luthen Rael, to the upper echelons of society with Senator Mon Mothma.
The Empire has transformed all three differently, causing them to become different people to fight back. Cinta has become unyielding in her dedication to fighting at the expense of her relationship with Vel Sartha. Luthen has come to view people as expendable as the Empire does, and Mothma is distancing herself from her husband and daughter.
And for the first time in live-action, we get a perspective inside the heart of Imperial command with the Imperial Security Bureau and Dedra Meero. It is not necessarily a positive portrayal (she is one of the main antagonists), but showing the point of view of an Imperial officer has only been present in the novels until now. And Dedra herself is limited by the rules of Imperial command, as the series hints that being a woman has limited her advancement (another aspect explored in the novels with Rae Sloane).
So, while Andor is not a series I revisit often, it is a critic favorite for a reason taking the best development of this era from the novels and bringing it to the screen.
4. The Book of Boba Fett: Finding Your Second Act
During the release of this series, many Star Wars fans were busy joking that Boba Fett was a secondary character in his own show to notice a profound theme that has popped up surrounding the Clones (lest we forget that Boba Fett is a Clone): How long does one continue to fight as they age?
We will talk more about identity crisis for another show, but The Book of Boba Fett shows us that Boba Fett’s story is still being written. We thought he had perished in Return of the Jedi, but he survived and reinvented himself in a post-Imperial era. And, even though it was a surface-level exploration, I appreciate that Boba Fett mentions the unfavorable parts of being a bounty hunter: working for incompetent mob bosses who consistently put your life in danger.
So while the structure of the series is disjointed, The Book of Boba Fett does introduce some new themes to Star Wars that also involve an age group often ignored in these types of stories.
3. The Mandalorian: Bridging the Gap Between the Original and Sequel Trilogies
How does a galaxy so quickly fall back into the hands of a fascist entity run by the same people who have rebranded themselves? The First Order (aka Empire 2.0) came and went within The Sequel Trilogy, but they were secretly developing in the Unknown Regions and under the New Republic’s eyes for years. The New Republic’s willful ignorance of what was happening caused Senator Leia to leave and help start the Resistance. But for many, seeing Palpatine somehow return was a big eye roll.
Now with three seasons in the books, it is clear that The Mandalorian is meant to explain how that happened, how the Empire returned as something, supposedly, much worse. It did not happen overnight, but over many years of New Republic neglect of the outer rim, ignoring the warnings of some New Republic officers, and even infiltration.
The show exploded into pop culture with Grogu and has also been a launching pad for several spin-off series. And it was announced at Star Wars Celebration that all these series would build towards a film directed by Dave Filoni.
But The Mandalorian has started to fill in gaps left by Lucasfilm and the era of the First Order, so changing hearts and minds about the Sequel Trilogy could be the show’s most significant legacy.
2. Obi-Wan Kenobi: Breaking the Cycle of Abuse
I am glad that Obi-Wan Kenobi ended up being a six-part series instead of a movie. If it did make it to the big screen, there is no doubt that a significant part of what I found enjoyable would be sacrificed to the cutting room floor.
Lost in all the Vader worship, which has become a pretty insufferable part of the fanbase, is that Vader projects his trauma onto others to gain some control in his life. Yes, Anakin Skywalker was targeted by Senator Palpatine and slowly groomed to be his next apprentice right in front of the Jedi Council. And Vader puts most of his current situation on Kenobi, who physically damaged him, instead of Palpatine, who has emotionally damaged him.
In the series, this manifests in the Third Sister (Reva) arc. As a child, she watches Vader kill her fellow Younglings during Order 66. She survives after being stabbed with a lightsaber by playing dead. Understandably, she has a lot of pent-up rage about that, but it is directed not at the Empire but at the Jedi Order and leaders like Kenobi. Perhaps hunting down Jedi survivors is her way of trying to gain some control. We learn she is also attempting to get close enough to Vader to kill him, avenging her fallen Younglings.
Obviously, it does not work out well, and she gets stabbed and left for dead again (Vader does not learn his lesson). Having lost the opportunity to punish Vader directly, she decides to go after Luke, threatening to continue the cycle of emotional trauma on Vader’s son. Obi-Wan, realizing he can’t save Anakin, successfully saves Reva, giving him hope for the future by breaking that cycle. It’s a powerful story in a series that is, in my opinion, quite underrated and gets a lot of unjust hate (and is the target of flat-out racists). Like other Star Wars content, there is no doubt that time will be kinder to Obi-Wan Kenobi, but I am happy to be ahead of the curve in the meantime 🙂
1. The Bad Batch: Tackling the Clone Identity Crisis
I cannot stress how shocked I am that The Bad Batch is my favorite Star Wars series of the Disney Plus era. Their arc in The Clone Wars season seven was my least favorite, but that left the bar for this series so low that it could only surpass it. And fans didn’t want Clone stories (The Clone Wars had plenty of that). But The Bad Batch has shown us a period in the Star Wars timeline we have not seen: the very beginning of the Empire. The series starts with Order 66 and follows the rogue Clone Force 99 as they face an Empire that no longer needs or wants them.
Previously, we had just accepted that the Clones were gone by the time of A New Hope without considering what happened to a whole army of men decommissioned by the Empire, who had no identity outside of war. Veterans in the real world can have difficulty adjusting to civilian life but imagine being created with no expectations of seeing the end of the war and then suddenly facing that reality. The Bad Batch also shows that the Clones did feel regret after Order 66 and started questioning the Empire’s orders, and many were imprisoned. And the Empire’s regard for the Clones as expendable property is as dehumanizing as their lack of representation in the Imperial senate.
Does it have episodes that some would consider “filler”? Yes, although I only use that term because that’s what grown people call the episodes that lean more toward kids because, you know, kids are the target audience. But there are also more stakes in this show than in The Mandalorian, whose season three aired simultaneously with The Bad Batch season two.
I am not including spoilers here because I want to encourage those who haven’t given the show a shot to check it out. Seeing a group of Clones come together to care for each other when very few allies are left is some of the best Star Wars on your screen.