The Mando-Verse Has Given New Life to Species Long Gone Stale

The Mando-Verse Has Given New Life to Species Long Gone Stale

10 min read

You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious. ~ Obi-Wan Kenobi

This quote occurs as Obi-Wan and Luke Skywalker stand on a rocky bluff overlooking Mos Eisley, a dangerous spaceport.1 The quote could just as easily apply to any place where Star Wars fans gather. As the phrase goes, "nobody hates Star Wars more than a Star Wars fan."

If only a long-eared frog-wizard had warned us about the dangers of hate.

I wish I could claim I was above the fray, but I too have seen my love curdle like months-old blue milk after being crushed by the latest Star War. I'm partly at fault–I give Star Wars too much power.2 I laughed when the Fast & Furious franchise started flying cars around outer space. I was disappointed when Thor 4 was mostly about orgies and screaming goats–though sadly not at the same time. I felt enraged when Game of Thrones threw all its careful plotting out the window to rush the final season, but not even that comes close to the utter bitterness when Star Wars sucks.

Luke Skywalker crying noooo
Me, after watching The Rise of Skywalker. Lucasfilm

Star Wars is different. I grew up with it. My life is inextroably intertwined with it, and trying to unravel that binding would make me less me. (Which honestly may be a good thing?) The downside is when Star Wars is disappointing, it feels personal. My accrued years of service to the Saga have given me a stake in the game, deserved or not, which is how I end up mourning the latest disappointment like I'm Vito Corleone.3

The best way to be a modern Star Wars fan is to not get your hopes up. I'm good at giving advice, not so great at taking my own. I'm livin' the vida de nerdo loco.4

I don't expect I'll get much push-back by saying Disney's Star Wars tenure has been uneven at best. Which actually is part of the tradition. George Lucas is a genius. The Prequels are bad.5 Both things can be true at the same time. Even if you love the Prequels, Lucas presided over the worst Star Wars anything that's ever been conceived, much less created: The Holiday Special.

The one thing Disney's Mando-Verse has consistently gotten right is its depiction of alien species.6 The films shunt 99% of aliens into the 'scum and villainy' category. They were either background extras to spice up the scene (scum) or mooks fated to die (villainy). A tiny handful became sidekicks: Chewie, Jar Jar, Nien Nunb. This law even applies to the alien Jedi that pop up in the Prequels (don't get caught-up on nomenclature, they are background characters). Ewoks complete the trifecta: they're scum & villainy sidekicks. Yoda, Grogu, and Ahsoka are the only exceptions to this rule.

That was how it was for nearly 40 years. And then The Mandalorian did the one thing nobody wanted it to do–it went to Tatooine.7 The desert planet is a black hole for Star Wars narratives–the story can't help but end up there, eventually. It's the one universal truth. But once Mando got to Tatooine, the show flipped the script completely.

Sand People have always fulfilled the villainy part of Star Wars' alien equation. They appear in A New Hope to give Luke a good thrashing, take a potshot at Anakin during the podrace in The Phantom Menace, are slaughtered off-screen by Anakin in Attack of the Clones, and... that's it.8 The very definition of one-note. But The Mandalorian said, hold on–there's something interesting about these fearsome desert nomads. Let's not do the easy thing and make them pointlessly antagonistic.