Star Wars Sandbox

The sixth episode of The Mandalorian’s third season is classic sci-fi nonsense. The titular gunslinger finds himself on a planet where, through the judicious use of repurposed battle droids, the citizens are able to leave a life of luxury, directly participate in democracy, and live lives of recreation and ease. But all is not well; some of the battle droids have been reverting to their prior programing, wreaking havoc and putting this utopia at risk. Din and Bo-Katan have to find the source of this problem if they want to meet with the other Mandalorians on the planet.

It’s very classic sci-fi; here’s this planet that’s become a utopia (by repurposing instruments of war, no less!) but something is wrong and it’s gotta be solved. It sounds like Star Trek, it sounds like Bradbury, and it’s fun to see it play out through a Star Wars lens. Of course, this being Star Wars, it’s not long before genres start colliding. Navigating through a few cyberpunnk-esque locales, the two Mandalorians find themselves in a police procedural. They follow clues, ask questions, and even visit the droid morgue. It’s decidedly unusual for Star Wars, but it’s also something that, somehow, feels at home.

Star Wars is odd when it comes to genres. Ostensibly, it’s science fiction — what with the laser and spaceships and all that. But from the very first one in 1977 it’s infused it’s sci-fi with tropes from other genres: Jedi Knights are basically samurai, much of Mos Eisley feels like a town from a Western (and Han Solo is a cowboy), the attack on the Death Star is a World War II fighter story. Attack of The Clones has a noir PI side plot, The Empire Strikes Back has the young hero seek out the old master to learn the secrets of kung fu the Force, Andor is a story about revolutionaries. Stuff just seems to fit into the playground that is Star Wars.

I think that’s part of the fun about Star Wars; there’s so much room for all sorts of stories to exist in the sandbox. Mixing genres is so ingrained in the world’s DNA (there with its used future aesthetic and it’s romantic, earnest heart) that when Din Djarin walks into a police procedural it’s as normal as when he went (dragon) hunting and cowboying. It all feels like Star Wars, though. Not because of the Mandos in their helmets, but because of its earnestness. No matter what genre it dabbles in it does so wholeheartedly without a hint of irony. Trench warfare against massive walking tanks is dire; a chariot race with jet engines instead of horses is a legitimate sport; the duel between Ashoka and Magistrate would look like a Kurosawa movie. So when Din and Bo-Katan find out that they’ve gotta go on an investigation side quest it’s just another part of this weird, wide galaxy.

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