E30 -

We lined up a stellar Star Wars superfan panel to discuss the latest in the saga; The Mandalorian.

Hosts
Landry Ayres
Senior Producer
Guests

Nicholas Armstrong is an attorney and former hill staffer. Nick grew up in the chilly paradise of Grand Rapids, Michigan and came to D.C. to attend law school at The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law. He is the co‐​author of a 2015 report by the US China Commission titled Directed by Hollywood, Edited by China: How China’s Censorship and Influence Affect Films Worldwide. He enjoys talking policy, con law nerdery, and building pillow forts for his children, Eleanor and Julius.

Michael F. Cannon is the Cato Institute’s director of health policy studies. Previously, he served as a domestic policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, where he advised the Senate leadership on health, education, labor, welfare, and the Second Amendment. He holds a bachelor’s degree in American government (B.A.) from the University of Virginia, and master’s degrees in economics (M.A.) and law & economics (J.M.) from George Mason University.

Patrick G. Eddington is a Policy Analyst in Homeland Security and Civil Liberties.

Stephen Kent is a communications and public relations professional living in the Washington D.C. area. Serving as Spokesperson and head of PR for Young Voices, Stephen pitches and prepares young commentators and political writers for TV news and talk radio. He also serves as a Media Consultant for the District Media Group, providing media training for corporate, non‐​profit and government clients. Kent also hosts the popular Star Wars & politics podcast, Beltway Banthas.

Summary:

Michael Cannon, Stephen Kent, Pat Eddington, and Nick Armstrong join the show to discuss how The Mandalorian focused on character development. The show has let us discover much more of the galaxy and introduces even more opportunities for story‐​telling. Ultimately the show is about the travels of a lone bounty hunter in the outer reaches of the galaxy, far from the authority of the New Republic.

Transcript

[music]

0:00:00.0 Landry Ayres: Welcome to Pop & Locke. I’m Landry Ayres. Today, we’ll be soaring into the vast expanse of the galaxy’s outer rim, past to the reach of the New Republic, and among the decrepit, crumbling outlaw planets once under the yoke of the now fallen empire. We’ll be talking about none other than “The Mandalorian: This is the Way.” Joining me in this den of scum and villainy are an array of dastardly crooks including returning guest, Star Wars super fan, Nicholas Armstrong.

0:00:37.0 Nicholas Armstrong: Happy be here.

0:00:38.4 Landry Ayres: Cato Research fellow, Pat Eddington.

0:00:41.1 Pat Eddington: Greetings.

0:00:41.9 Landry Ayres: The Cato Institute’s Director of Health Policy Studies, Michael Cannon.

0:00:45.8 Michael Cannon: This is the way.

0:00:46.9 Landry Ayres: And host of the Beltway Banthas Podcast and author of the forthcoming “How the Force Can Fix the World,” Stephen Kent.

0:00:55.3 Stephen Kent: The force is strong on this call.

[chuckle]

0:00:58.5 Landry Ayres: Thank you all for joining me today. Sadly, Natalie could not be with us, but I think I’ll be able to handle this for today. When Natalie is away, the nerds will talk about Star Wars. [laughter] And I think, compared to some of our previous Star Wars episodes, I’m hoping that we’ll be in a little bit more consensus about how much we enjoyed this compared to The Rise of Skywalker, which actually happened just about a year ago today. The Mandalorian, which as of our recording has just finished season two, is pretty clearly even more so than previous Star Wars movies, a western, really. Even though it is in space, and a lot of the Star Wars movies have that western influence and they’re cowboy films, I think more than any other, it really tries to emulate that genre. Between the shoot‐​out on the main avenue, on Corvus with the Gunslinger, or meeting Marshal Cobb Vanth on Mos Pelgo, what does the stylistic choice of that genre, and really hammering it home, do for the setting and the characters that previous installments in these series have not done before or perhaps not done to the extent that The Mandalorian has?

0:02:20.9 Michael Cannon: I’ll jump in Landry. I think that what makes The Mandalorian work, from my perspective, is that it is largely character‐​driven. I think that Star Wars is always at its best when it’s character‐​driven. I think that’s what made episodes four and five work so well to a lesser extent… The rest of the universe. But the western genre with The Mandalorian puts Mando Din Djarin in these situations where he’s sort of wandering through this untamed wasteland of the universe, and all of these experiences that he’s encountering with different characters in different places, are having this slow transformative effect on his character. Certainly, the biggest transformative effect comes from Grogu and the attachment that he develops to Grogu. But there are others along the way that you can see reeking this change in his character that I think is what makes the Mandalorian compelling.

0:03:32.6 Stephen Kent: One of the things that I think about the stylistic choices with the Mandalorian… And I say this as a contemptible millennial who has never sat down to watch a Clint Eastwood western. I don’t care about its western appeal about how they sort of echo Samurai stories, and… There’s like all this film nerd criticism that goes into the movie reviewing industry. And they’re like, “Oh, well, you might have noticed in the episode with Ahsoka when she stands off with the lady of the ex‐​Imperial, and they have this moment in the garden that it’s like a nod to to Samurai films.” And I’m like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s just really beautiful.” And that’s what matters is that those genres make space for really beautiful cinematography and focus on landscapes.

0:04:21.3 Stephen Kent: And not just that, like, Michael noted, is moving between environments. Like you’ve got this character who is on an adventure. And then every episode is like a serial. Today, the Mandalorian is solving this problem. Tomorrow, the Mandalorian is three days later, and he’s solving this problem. And it’s like a comic book in some ways. And that storytelling works really well for Star Wars just like I think with George Lucas. He liked that about Buck Rogers and all that kind of stuff. That’s Star Wars format at its best.

0:04:51.7 Nicholas Armstrong: Yeah, I think that the beauty of it is it does let you explore so much of the galaxy. You get on your horse, the lamentably lost Razor Crest and fly around to a new town and new characters and… To meet weird, zany mechanics and interact with Tusken Raiders on one episode and meet a Frog Lady in the next one. It doesn’t interrupt the narrative, ’cause the narrative is, as Stephen said, hopping from place to place on your journey. I think that’s one of the beautiful things about westerns is it the sort of moving through the West. It’s not just one place and one person. It’s sort of the collection of the tapestry of the West. Which in Star Wars is a beautiful opportunity for storytelling as long as you can spread out a little, but keep focused on that character.

0:05:42.2 Pat Eddington: So as the oldest guy on this particular podcast, I’m happy to say that I fully appreciate the western angle of this. I have always been and remain a huge Clint Eastwood fan. I will say though, that this is not… It’s not exactly like, The Outlaw Josey Wales. Definitely, definitely not like High Plains Drifter.

0:06:06.5 Pat Eddington: But what I think is also a compelling for me, it’s not just this development… This character development that has been alluded to, but we are getting… For those who are listening to this, if you’ve seen everything, okay, if you have seen the Clone Wars animated series, if you’ve seen Star Wars Rebels animated series, if you’ve seen all the movies up to this point in time, then you are probably well aware that there are some massive spoilers and foreshadowing of things to come that have been sprinkled all throughout these first two seasons and that’s, I think, the part that has me really excited.

0:06:45.5 Pat Eddington: But my biggest complaint, quite frankly, with the movies, certainly this last trilogy, has been that they have had people at the helm who clearly did not understand Star Wars, at least to me. JJ Abrams is a great director, but the only guy that they’ve had helm a film, that’s known what the hell he’s doing, is Gareth Edwards and that’s Rogue One. Rogue One is my favourite film in the entire canon, in the entire series. And I think a big reason for it is because it has this grit that is in The Mandalorian and that to me, that’s what makes The Mandalorian feel so real. I think we all know that the very best of science fiction simply uses the future and any associated technology as a backdrop to actually tell real stories, real human stories and I think so far they’ve done a tremendous job with this series in doing that. I am not a fan, A, of the name Grogu.

[laughter]

0:07:49.0 Pat Eddington: It does not roll off the tongue. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t…

0:07:52.9 Nicholas Armstrong: It doesn’t begin with a Y.

0:07:54.3 Pat Eddington: It does not begin with a Y or at least doesn’t have a Y in it and then I am extremely enraged that they destroyed the Razor Crest. I am not okay with that…

[laughter]

0:08:03.7 Pat Eddington: That was becoming an iconic ship and I wanna see how that problem gets fixed anyway.

0:08:11.3 Landry Ayres: One thing that you raised, Pat, and also that I think was introduced by Cannon there was the idea that Rogue One and The Mandalorian have done an amazing job of creating even more complex realistic human stories set in the Star Wars universe. It uses that as a backdrop to tell really compelling stories about people or aliens, if you don’t wanna consider them people, but beings that are undergoing intense character arcs, like Cannon mentioned, in this wasteland, this vast expanse of unknowable… You could view it as the untamed West to sort of play into that mythos that they’re invoking, but its space and obviously, sci‐​fi and Western have always played with each other in those tropes in that way. But they do this, in a few different ways and I think it really is shown in the penultimate episodes of both seasons so far of The Mandalorian.

0:09:15.1 Landry Ayres: In season one, you have Werner Herzog’s The Client character who says The line at one point, “The Empire improves every system it touches. Judge it by any metric, safety, prosperity, trade, opportunity, peace. You compare Imperial rule to what’s happening now, look outside. Is the world really more peaceful since the revolution? I see nothing but death and chaos.” And entirely sure that is a highly biased, very one‐​sided way of looking at things, but it does raise the question that a lot of people seeing the fallout of the rebels and the blowing up of the Death Star might see when they look at what is left in the galaxy, especially when you go to places like the Outer Rim.

0:10:01.7 Landry Ayres: Greef Karga at one point… Carl Weathers at one point says, “I wish they would just leave the Outer Rim alone so that we can do this on our own.” It’s like an oddly libertarian moment for a Star Wars movie, so outright. But then also in season two, episode seven… Which is I think my favourite episode in the entire series so far. I think it’s got great action and amazing character arcs when you’ve gotten Mayfeld coming back and battling with his demons and what he’s done in the past, and how he changes. And Din Djarin, we finally see him remove his helmet in front of someone and he gives him a pass. He says, “Empire, New Republic, it’s all the same to these people. Somewhere, someone in the galaxy is ruling and there are others that are being ruled. It comes down to power and how it is being exercised.”

0:11:02.0 Landry Ayres: Does the Star Wars universe, in general, in your experience and maybe specifically, The Mandalorian, come down on either side about how it feels about… Not maybe just power, but state power and how it’s used? Is the New Republic any better than the Empire? Is what the Imperial guard on that ship, when they try and kidnap Dr. Pershing? Where he says, “It’s basically an act of terrorism that when they blow up the Death Star… ” I think about that conversation that happens in Clerks, when they’re talking about… In A New Hope, it was already built, it was staffed by stormtroopers and Imperials when they blew up the Death Star. So great, evil’s defeated. But in Return of the Jedi, it was still under construction. They must have had independent contractors there that are innocent and you blew them up, but it sort of celebrates everything. Does Star Wars come down on a side about that type of broad issue?

0:12:06.6 Michael Cannon: I think in the original trilogy, the answer was a clear‐​cut yes. What they have done with The Mandalorian especially, is they’ve muddied the waters a little bit. In the background, in the backdrop, I think the answer is probably still yes, but they’re doing a great job of showing the grey areas. And you see a guy like Bill Burr and what a tremendous addition to the cast. I’m hoping that they’ll actually make him a regular in season three because he has those terrific comedic chops but at the same time, he showed, in my view at least, an enormous depth as a serious dramatic actor, specifically, Landry, with that scene in the “Little Imperial”. I’ll put that in quotation marks.

0:13:00.1 Landry Ayres: The K&W Cafeteria.

0:13:00.4 Michael Cannon: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It was just a great exchange, a great set up, and then the way that he blew that officer away. And then the way that Pascal played that scene, it’s like you really bought that the Mando was thinking, “Holy shit, I can’t believe he just did that. We’re gonna have to really shoot our way out of here.”

0:13:33.5 Stephen Kent: He really had this moment of, I think, clarity and this is where Star Wars tries to do both things, and they’re both important. So Star Wars is radically committed from a certain point of view ideology of A New Hope put forward by Ben Kenobi. They have stuck to this, throughout their entire run. The very fact that you learn that you have an empire that was once a republic, that clone troopers are what become the stormtroopers, that you have heroes who become villains.

0:13:53.6 Stephen Kent: This is Star Wars constantly telling you that the path of good intentions, you’re always just one angry breath away from becoming the bad guy in this story, and they have stuck to that throughout. And if they wanted to have a message about good intentions and government naturally leading to good outcomes, they would have had the New Republic be successful, and they didn’t. They blew them up. They blew them up as soon as they canonized the New Republic, and it’s because Star Wars is constantly driven by, I think, the correct view of human nature, which is that it is more going in a circle and we’re not constantly just progressing and getting better.

0:14:35.6 Stephen Kent: I don’t hold that view. I don’t hold the human progress view [chuckle] of human kind. I know that’s controversial on a Cato podcast but…

0:14:45.3 Pat Eddington: I share it with you.

0:14:46.8 Stephen Kent: Star Wars, I think, gets that right but Bill Burr’s character has that moment of clarity listening to Lieutenant Hess talk about Operation: Cinder and lives that need to be taken for a greater good, and he shoots the guy in a moment of anger because there is evil. Not everything is subjective, not everything’s grey. Star Wars tries to tell you like, “Look, everybody tries to do their best but you can be evil.”

0:15:11.2 Nicholas Armstrong: Yeah, I think that’s interesting ’cause to me, the fundamental statement in Star Wars is that power is dangerous and that too much of the power can lead you to the dark side. That thirst for power is the fundamental conflict in Star Wars. So as it applies to governments, it’s the same thing. You have the sort of “Don’t Join” from DJ and The Last Jedi that echoes the same conflict posed in the penultimate episode of season two from Mandalorian that, “Hey look, everyone is doing bad things. What are you chasing? What are you going after? Don’t be part of this.” To me, I think we’ll actually see more of this in one of the new series, the Rangers of the New Republic, CB space caps, it sounds like, [laughter] which is where I suspect we’ll find more Bill Burr for Goneril depending on where you fall on that. [laughter] But he just implies the existence of Space Boston, which [laughter] blows my mind. But I think that quest for power is one of the… The interesting thing for me is, can states be good?

0:16:24.1 Michael Cannon: And I think I agree with what everyone has said about the Star Wars universe’s view of human nature. What made the original trilogy so compelling from a character development point of view was you had this cartoonishly evil Lord Vader, who then you find out that he’s Luke’s father, then he turns away from the dark side to the light. And there was a tension and expectation that the original trilogy built up that this was actually a good person all along, and it left us with this question, “How did he become so evil?” And that’s why we nerds who were in the theatres in 1977 were dying for the Phantom Menace to come out, dying for this story to be told about how a good person… As George Lucas even put it in interviews, how a good person thinking he’s doing good ends up turning toward evil and becoming so just inexplicably evil.

0:17:31.7 Michael Cannon: And then the prequels came along and completely botched that. It was totally unconvincing; the performances, the writing. It was not a plausible conversion from this cute little boy on Tatooineto this Dark Lord of the Sith who’s slaughtering padawans. The things that we’re seeing now in Rogue One, in The Mandalorian, where they are consciously trying to explain from the perspective of these people who you may think are evil, why they’re doing the things that they are doing really makes the series more compelling as a much more accurate statement of human nature and is therefore a more accurate reflection of politics. Because even the fascist, even Nazis, even the communist thought that they were doing good. [0:18:31.0] ____ says, “If you really want somebody to do evil, you gotta give him an ideology that tells him that that’s doing good.” And so I think that’s what makes this so compelling for me and the question of, “What does Star Wars say about the state and about state power?” I think it’s basically that power is dangerous.

0:18:53.0 Michael Cannon: The prequels hinted in this direction but again in a cartoonish way when Emperor Palpatine said, “The Jedi don’t wanna get rid of their power.” But I just wanna say that as an economist, one thing that bothers me about the Star Wars universe is, and what it has to say about state power and whether the empire is good for… Helps every place it touches is here, you’ve got a galaxy with how many systems? Thousands of planets and civilizations across this galaxy, okay. This is a fantastic opportunity for federalism to conduct experiments and have the economists measure what institutional arrangements produce the best outcomes. And we’ve see nothing of this. We haven’t heard from any of them. It’s always just fighting for power, power, power. So I guess what I’m putting in a plug for is that Star Wars universe needs more economists.

[laughter]

0:19:45.8 Stephen Kent: The prequels, I mean, the prequels touched a little bit, and we know this because of the opening scroll, like why we got into conflict in the first place, why a cycle of new governments and war was set off after a thousand years of relative peace under the Republic? Trade and openness and economic arrangements between all the planets of the galaxy was making things work, but corruption and opulence were festering on Coruscant. And one of the greatest installations to the new canon that I have picked out is right after the Return of the Jedi, well, I guess it takes place around the time of the Mandalorian when the New Republic is being built. The New Republic does have political parties, which the Old Republic did not, which is bizarre. You kind of… It’s easy to see how it just fell into oligarchy because nobody was there for anything but self‐​interest. But the New Republic had political parties, the Populists and the Centrists. Leia headed up the Populist Party, which was the equivalent of a states rights party. It was really adamant about local control. The New Republic, not dictating what sort of arrangements could be made between different planets and allowing planets to go their own way if they wanted to. And then you have the Centrists who really believed in the idea of the Empire and a unitary galactic government, but they wanted to do it right this time.

[chuckle]

0:21:12.4 Michael Cannon: Sort of like the federalists versus the anti‐​federalists.

0:21:15.6 Stephen Kent: Yeah, and it’s really, really cool that they actually built that out. And when I think about what went wrong with the prequels, I’m a little rebellious against the idea that they were a complete failure, but what Star Wars has always done is they’ve planted mile markers in the timeline and gone, “Alright, we’re gonna do the Galactic Civil War. We’re gonna do the Clone Wars. And then we’re going to do whatever the prequel trilogy or the sequel trilogy was, the battle against the First Order. And then we’re gonna fill in the gaps.” And they filled in the prequel gaps with the Clone Wars TV series, gave us explanations for how Anakin could have become so corrupt in dark and ready to kill younglings. And then they lay out the sequel trilogy. And now they’ve offered us all these new installations to help that make sense. Like the entire First Order thing didn’t make sense, now it does, and the Mandalorian is largely responsible for helping it, be clear.

0:22:10.0 Pat Eddington: And we’re getting some really obvious clues, I think, about where a lot of this is gonna go in seasons three and hopefully beyond. And we get that with towards the very tail end of episode 7 of season 2 after Ahsoka has defeated the former Imperial female. And we find out that the master that she’s looking for is none other than Grand Admiral Thrawn from Star Wars Rebels, which leads me to believe that what we have on the one hand is Moff Gideon clearly committed to resurrecting the Empire and possibly answering to Thrawn, we don’t know this yet. But then, on the other hand, we have this First Order thing, which is clearly a different faction. So I’m just wondering if this is going to become like a thing essentially where we begin to see these different dark side, for lack of a better framing, these different dark side factions essentially fighting it out to see who comes out on top.

0:23:21.3 Pat Eddington: I think that’s a great point. And it goes back to the old extended universe stuff, where you had different factions within the Imperial Remnants, and you had all these different Imperial officers vying for power in the post‐​Palpatine era, and Thrawn was a major player and ended up being like the guy who kinda won out in the Imperial Remnant wars. And I think that what they’ve basically now made room for is to rebuild that where the First Order is the Palpatine loyalist faction. They’re the people committed to the idea of the contingency plan, which Hess in episode seven mentions with Operation: Cinder. This is after the Emperor is killed, certain Imperial officers, only a certain core of Imperial officers have a mandate to start wiping out the Empire. If the Empire was not strong enough to protect its leader, it doesn’t deserve to stand. And so they open fire and blow up their own worlds and their own armies. And then those core officers are all to gather in the outer reaches and rebuild. And they’re a radical, radical group. That’s why they’re like so radicalized in the Mandalorian. They’re willing to kill themselves or take down their ship if Bo‐​Katan takes it over. Like they really believe in this. And so they are the ones who are gonna rebuild the First Order. Thrawn is out there doing something different, and we’re still gonna find out what that is. And I can’t wait.

[music]

0:24:46.2 Landry Ayres: This raises an important question that I think a lot of people are hoping is gonna turn out well, but we are obviously still waiting to see. As of right now, Disney has just recently announced another, I think 11 different series and movies as of recently, that we’ve brought up a few of before. Now, Star Wars, during the sort of prequel trilogy, and even before that, there was the sort of Star Wars Legends, which became the extended universe. And there was a huge amount of content that was being created, a lot of books and things like that, but it did not have the same spotlight on it that the Disney Plus series are going to have. And a lot of people I think are wondering, especially after the newest trilogy came out, and it did well commercially, but got sort of mixed feedback from fans and even some of the cast members, looking back on it. [chuckle]

0:25:53.3 Landry Ayres: Is Disney gonna burn everyone out on Star Wars or, is this going to, do you think, inject new life into it? Or, will Star Wars simply just become another backdrop that, eventually, loses meaning and it just becomes space because they’re like, “Okay, now we’ve got cops in space. Now, we’ve got cowboys in the space. Now, we’ve got… We’re gonna get Rogue Squadron and there’s gonna be Top Gun in space,” or something? What is this gonna do for the franchise and intellectual property like it in the future?

0:26:28.6 Nicholas Armstrong: I think it’s really important to keep in mind what niche each of those different projects lands in. There’s an anime anthology series that’s gonna come out that I’m gonna love, and my dad’s not gonna watch it. He’ll watch if I go over and make him do it. But to him, he’s like, “It’s a cartoon. I’m not watching that.” I’m like, “Okay, fair enough.” And there’s the Droids project that’s coming out from ILM, and it’s basically just about droids. It’s all we know. ILM wanted to draw some droids with some new technologies so, they’re making a droids show. I’m sure it’s gonna be for my kids. That’d be great. And there’s a new tie‐​in to their book properties, for the new High Republic Era, which is the Golden Age of the Jedi. It’s supposed to set up the fall from the prequels. You’d have the best, the best before you see the worst but that’s gonna be, I think, probably for kids.

0:27:28.0 Nicholas Armstrong: So then, you have these other properties that I suspect will be more like those Netflix Defenders series, the Daredevil, Luke Cage, where they tie in together. I think the Rangers will probably be something along that. You get Mayfeld and Cara Dune and maybe, a little [0:27:50.3] ____. He’s hilarious. It’s amazing. [chuckle] Even that way, it can avoid burn‐​out but I do worry with Ahsoka, The book of Boba Fett and Mandalorian, all running together. That’s a lot. While I think a lot of them can fit in niches, and I think you could probably do a movie or two a year. I do worry about the same season playing three adult‐​oriented or family‐​oriented shows. I think they can make it work but I think maybe they’re trying to make up for some lost time, and it will have some saturation.

0:28:29.1 Pat Eddington: I think if you look at the original trilogy, one of the big reasons that it was successful was you had the same team, basically, in place. Kazdan, of course, played an outsized role, I think, in the success of that. And that just brings me back to the point I made earlier, which is, I think that JJ Abrams is a great director but he doesn’t simply… He never channeled it the way that Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni channel Star Wars. These guys inhabited, especially Favreau, I think he just spent so much time learning from Lucas, being around Lucas, absorbing it all, that their success, so far, in my judgement at least, both from a critical standpoint but probably long‐​term also from a financial standpoint is gonna stand in contrast, in large measure, to the folks that were responsible for helming the last three trilogy movies.

0:29:35.4 Pat Eddington: So, on the one hand, I have some real hope for the series that are coming because they have spent a lot of time on the Mandalorian, really developing a lot of additional directorial talent, taking in a lot of folks who clearly also… I think Bryce Dallas Howard, Ron Howard’s daughter, a great actress in her own right, I think she actually has as much or more talent as a director, quite frankly. I love the episodes that she’s done. I like all of them. And I think, on the one hand, that’s what gives me some hope, that we may not have a burn‐​out or crash and burn situation. But on the other hand, it is possible to have too much of a good thing and you can go to the well too many times.

0:30:22.9 Pat Eddington: And I think Disney has probably felt a lot of pressure knowing that there’s going to be a gap between the end of the original trilogy, in terms of movies and the next whatever it’s going to be. It just seems, to me, that some of this stuff is rushed, and I’m hoping that we don’t have stuff, essentially, come out that people are gonna go, “Eh, maybe they shouldn’t have gone there ’cause you just… ” They’re on a roll. I would hate to see them crash and burn because they tried to do too much.

0:31:01.5 Landry Ayres: No, you wanna go out on a high note, if you can.

0:31:05.0 Michael Cannon: Well, I don’t know. If you do, you wanna get to the point of diminishing returns if you wanna maximize your profits. When I told my kids…

0:31:13.2 Landry Ayres: Oh, you damned economist. You’re always on about diminishing return.

0:31:17.7 Michael Cannon: When I told my kids that I was gonna be doing, for work, a podcast about Star Wars, they said, “Oh, come on. Come, let’s go watch the Mandalorian again so you can prepare. Let’s go watch Rebels. Let’s go watch Clone Wars so you can do your homework.” And the fact that I’m a middle‐​aged dad who loves Star Wars, and I’ve got these kids who love Star Wars, and as Nick says, there’s all this content for different market segments that like Star Wars, sort of appeal for them in different ways. But just the fact that I’ve got my kids dragging me to watch this thing that I love, suggest, “Of course, Disney is gonna milk this for all it’s worth. Of course, they’re gonna be putting out whatever they think they can make money on and of course, some of it is gonna be garbage.” Hopefully, what Pat says, about what their learning means that most of it won’t be and the stuff they don’t make money on is stuff that is good, but that people are just, “Oh gosh, I just don’t have time to… ”

0:32:22.6 Michael Cannon: “To devote that much of my week to Star Wars,” but some of it is gonna be, yes… We have to brace ourselves for some of it disappointing us, but as long as they keep putting out the Rogue Ones and the Mandalorians, then I’m all for this process.

0:32:42.4 Pat Eddington: We’ve got a buffet now, and buffets are good. There’s a lot of good stuff on there, and you can pick what is for you. The problem with the theatrical release model that Disney was locked into, because that was the pre‐​COVID world, was that when you put out a theatrical release, it is like a statement. It is saying, “This is the next chapter in Star Wars, like it or hate it.” And when you do that, like I felt… Like a lot of fans, I just felt a little overwhelmed. I was like, “Oh my gosh,” and taking this Rey story, and then there’s Rogue One, and then there was Solo, and it was just hitting you all the time, and theatrical releases are a lot more of emotional rollercoaster for the Star Wars faithful than series are. Series are like, “Which part of the story is it that you like, and where do you wanna learn a little bit more about the fun factoids of the galaxy?” And that’s what we have now. I actually don’t think that this counts towards over‐​saturation, because I felt very strongly that we were getting too much a couple of years ago. This new model, I think, will work, because it’s a new world now.

0:33:51.5 Landry Ayres: So COVID saved Star Wars?

[laughter]

0:33:57.7 Pat Eddington: Sure.

0:33:57.7 Landry Ayres: I eagerly await for Kingdom Hearts Four when Mickey Mouse joins the Star Wars world and summons his lightsaber key blade, along with the cast of Final Fantasy and Donald Duck.

0:34:13.9 Stephen Kent: We’ve already got the Elder Wand in the Mandalorian. But you bring up Mickey Mouse, and I wanted to say that the fact that I embrace Disney putting out all of this different Star Wars content should not be taken as an indication of where I stand on Disney milking the IP system to keep its copyright of Mickey Mouse immortal and doing the same thing for Star Wars and so forth.

0:34:44.5 Nicholas Armstrong: One of the interesting historical things in the franchise is the history of Star Wars, like Lucas Arts games. They put out a ton of games, and they were largely trash. I own all of them, and I’ve played all of them, but most of them are bad. They’re like half‐​conceived re‐​skins of all other games that are better, with some really, really good gems, and if that’s what we get, it’s fine, but, like I said, I always look at like my dad. He likes Star Wars, he made me keep trying Star Wars until he thought I was ready to like it or not like it for real, and I liked it. But he’s not gonna watch the Freemaker Adventures for Lego, like they’re a fun family show, just like he wasn’t gonna play Galactic Assault Battle Force Commander Battlegrounds re‐​skin of Red Alert.

0:35:38.8 Nicholas Armstrong: He’s not gonna… That’s the other stuff that’s always on the shelf. The big releases, the Knights of the Old Republic, things that have changed the franchise, that’s what we’re hoping for, but there is also that point where you’re like, “Oh, it’s a Star Wars game.” I don’t know, you need to keep having those big hits, and I’m hopeful that we can weather that the same way we weathered the video games, where like I’ll look at the demo. [chuckle] We’ll see what it’s gonna be, and I’ll check out the first episode. Oh, that’s a kid’s show, maybe I’ll just let it sit, but yeah, I think there is precedent for Star Wars thriving even in an ecosystem where it’s full of maybe stretched budgets, which we saw a little bit, I think, this season on Mandalorian, and maybe over‐​ambition.

0:36:27.8 Pat Eddington: Nick, I have a question for you. How do you think they’re going to make audiences aware of what projects are keystone projects? Because I think the series are now filling the roles that comics and books used to play for deep fans. “Oh, I know extra little things about the universe because I go to conventions and I read every comic,” and that’s different from your trilogy fans, the people who all love Star Wars trilogy movies. But how, in this model, do they make it known you need to watch this show, this is the next big thing in Star Wars?

0:37:05.1 Nicholas Armstrong: I think that’s my big concern because it’s all on Disney Plus. You can put it in different menus, and you can advertise, like Netflix does, like on boot up, if you have your kids account, it’s like, “Hey, the new Star Wars Resistance cartoon,” but I get the new Mando stuff. I guess you can do that, but historically, it’s like Cartoon Network plays the Clone Wars, and so you know who that audience is. It’s pre‐​teens and teens, that’s who it’s targeting, like Toonami or whatever, Adult Swim, I don’t know. I don’t watch it anymore, but when you’re a kid, you know the programming blocks, you know how to target, but it’s all one channel. I don’t know because Disney is such a monolith with its Disney brand, so I don’t know where the spaces fit in there, and it’s one of the things that does very much concern me. You can’t spin it off to Amazon Prime, like Lucas would have done. I don’t know, Amazon Prime gets some weird kid show, go make it, cool, we’ll take our cut.

[music]

0:38:08.0 Landry Ayres: What does the Mandalorian do about the theme of parenting and fatherhood that the previous installments have done? Because, obviously, fatherhood, specifically, is a huge cornerstone as a theme to this entire franchise with Luke and Anakin, etectera, and now we have this sort of found‐​family relationship between the Mandalorian and the Child, and it becomes this sort of strange… What was a bounty hunter bounty relationship grows into, I think, one of the more positive family relationships that we see in the franchise. What is the significance of that?

0:39:00.7 Stephen Kent: Fatherhood is a huge theme of the entire universe. I mean, most of your main characters are damaged in some way because they didn’t have a father, or because their father abandoned them in some way, or was separated from them. And Din Djarin is one of those. He lost his… His father was killed at a young age, and so it will be interesting to see how they develop this theme and maybe… I’m struggling to think of a healthy parent‐​child relationship in the universe. Obviously, Leia was raised by loving parents, but we don’t see much of them. We don’t see much of that relationship, so it’ll be interesting to see how they do that.

0:40:03.0 Michael Cannon: We’re talking about our first interspecies adopted family kinda situation here, right? And we also see some parallels, Michael alluded to the whole issue of violence early in Din Djarin life, and it’s literally in the last episode of season one where you get the maximum length flashback and you actually see that, oh wow, he’s rescued by Clan Vizsla. He’s rescued by Death Watch. This is like a major thing, so, okay, that’s a big deal, but then you see that it’s separatist heavy attack droids and separatist attack ships, so there’s your Clone Wars tie‐​in right there, and then you go back to little Grogu, and this is a little guy who is saved somehow during the purge. The most violent act to ever take place in the Jedi Temple, so you’re talking about two characters here from a young age who wound up being scarred by violence and having to deal with violence, and they’re still having to deal with violence literally in every episode, and how they come to terms with that, how they essentially watch each other’s back. And then at the end of season two, we get this break, and it leaves you wondering, okay, how is this relationship going to actually come back together? Because, at least I left that episode with a strong sense that Din Djarin absolutely did not really wanna let the kid go, and I had the sense the kid, himself, was like, “Okay, I have to do this, but… ”

0:41:57.5 Michael Cannon: So how are they gonna wind up bringing that back together? That’s what I… ’cause I can’t even conceive now of the Mandalorian going forward as a series without the two of them together. I have a lot of difficulty figuring out how that works.

0:42:15.6 Pat Eddington: Yeah, they’ll certainly have to sell us on it. I think season three, we’re going to Mandalore for the battle for the throne of that planet. But on fatherhood and parenthood, I wanna make a point, and it’s gonna be a weird arc, but with the Mandalorian, they were telling a story throughout about him conquering his dogma and realising that he was in some weird Mandalorian cult, and that there is a wider world and being a Mandalorian is this bigger thing than a religion, like a certain set of rules. And he doesn’t know why he’s doing it at a certain point, he’s like, “I was raised this way, but I have discovered this thing that matters to me, like I feel love, I feel obligation towards this other thing, and at some point, to save this thing and to love this thing, I’m going to have to give up my dogma. I’m gonna have to give up a certain belief I have about taking my helmet off.” And that was this message throughout the show about finding what matters in life, like what is your calling and what really makes your heart move, and my thing with Star Wars, and I know this is one of the last op‐​eds I wrote on Star Wars for the Examiner, was that Star Wars is begging its fans to grow up. Like, they’re telling all of us, “You need to grow up, you need to find a padawan, you need to share the force. You, yourself, have to also move on in life.”

0:43:43.3 Pat Eddington: And this show, I thought, did a really nice job of offering a story to people about the virtue of being a parent, sharing things that you love with people and finding your calling, because a lot of Star Wars fans, I think, need to realise that this is not for them at a certain point, it is for their youngling, and the force is meant to be shared. I’m glad Star Wars told another story about growing up and purpose and discovery, ’cause that’s what makes Star Wars powerful.

0:44:17.0 Nicholas Armstrong: I think that’s right, and I think the interesting thing of what your parents pass onto you is shown throughout, maybe with a few notable exceptions. But, as we’ve said, the parent‐​relationships are terrible in Star Wars. I mean, Saa raises Jin to be his best terrorist at 16, and then she’s like, “Well… ”

0:44:41.5 Pat Eddington: You dumped me!

0:44:42.4 Nicholas Armstrong: Terrorists might kill you because you know an Imperial, and like, oh well, great job, Saa. So I abandoned you on a planet to fend for yourself, and, of course, we have even Leia, Bail Organa, the King of Alderaan, I guess…

0:45:00.6 Michael Cannon: Senator.

0:45:01.1 Nicholas Armstrong: Yeah, see, he uses his daughter as a rebel agent to undermine the very dangerous government. We see her in Rebels running missions, we see her in Rogue One on a transport in the middle of a giant battle, and she’s 18. I mean, they’re not pulling punches with their kids. There’s one really positive relationship, and it’s Owen and Beru with Luke, and you see a glimpse of it at the beginning of A New Hope. He’s raised by loving adoptive parents who’ve given him boundaries and taught him morality, and it prepares him for the trials that he has ahead. It’s not Obi‐​Wan, it’s not Yoda who prepare him for that moment with his father, it’s his adoptive parents.

0:45:46.6 Pat Eddington: Never thought about that.

0:45:47.5 Nicholas Armstrong: It’s Owen and Beru, and you see in Mandalorian that Grogu has some real darkness. He lashes out like my four‐​year‐​old lashes out. If you don’t give her some candy and she really wants it, she gets mad, goes off the handle, you’re like, “Okay, wow. I guess so.” But you see Grogu not just force choking Cara Dune where she’s arm‐​wrestling Mando, you also see him fairly sadistically beating up those Stormtroopers in Moff Gideon’s cruiser. He’s not just throwing them to the side so they go away, he’s messing with them. He’s beating them together in the air, he’s screwing with them. There’s some darkness there.

0:46:29.7 Pat Eddington: Yeah.

0:46:30.0 Nicholas Armstrong: Not withstanding him eating the frog lady’s kids.

[laughter]

0:46:33.2 Stephen Kent: Cultural erasure.

0:46:37.6 Michael Cannon: Eggs.

0:46:40.0 Nicholas Armstrong: But as you see that conflict coming and you know the darkness that is gonna reach him at Luke’s academy, you see another solid parenting foundation for a potential redemption if Grogu does start to fall in with Kylo, or under Palpatine’s sort of remote control influence, however that is supposed to work. I don’t know. Rise of Skywalker was a mess, but there are a lot of implications for the darkness ahead and the darkness in Grogu, and the amount of healing he has to do. And I think this is the second time that we’ve seen a parenting relationship prepare you ahead of time for the ability to confront that darkness and maybe even overcome it.

[music]

0:47:30.2 Landry Ayres: And now for the part of show where we share all of the other things that we’ve been enjoying at home. This is Locked In.

0:47:38.1 Landry Ayres: So, in keeping with the theme of this particular episode, I note that on the day of the last episode, season two of the Mandalorian came out, Obsidian released on IOS Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, which I have been playing obsessively ever since. I’ve never been like a huge fan of controllers and all the rest of that, so most of my gaming takes place on my iPad. That’s probably because, also, I’m an old man, and I just don’t like messing around with the other stuff, but generally not considered to be quite as good as the original. I would take issue with that in some respects, but it’s nice now that after playing Knights of the Old Republic, the original, on my iPad, probably over a thousand times at this point, which tells you that I probably need some kind of help, it’s nice to have that extra little thing going on. And then a wide variety, essentially, of books that I’m taking a dive into, as well, that have absolutely nothing to do with a galaxy far, far away.

0:48:49.5 Pat Eddington: I just finished the book by Free Beacon Man of The Year, Matt Yglesias, “One Billion Americans”. I really enjoyed it. I wanted to pick up two books while I was in quarantine this fall and winter, one from inside my bubble and my idea circle, and one from out, and Matt Yglesias’ “One Billion Americans” was a really, really cool policy manifesto for why we should have a population of one billion and challenging a couple of narratives on the right, some narratives on the left that are doom and gloom about population size, and making an optimistic argument about why we should be the largest country and most populous country in the world to have an American century. And I never really thought about some of his arguments in the way that he made them, and it made me think and challenge some of my ideas, and I recommend anybody pick it up.

0:49:47.3 Nicholas Armstrong: I am working through “Whip “by David Bonner, which is pretty lengthy. I’ve been enjoying it, reading “A Little Blue Truck” to my son about a thousand times a day [chuckle], and for more fun for myself, I’ve been reading the Stormlight Archive books by Brandon Sanderson, which are sort of epic fantasy that’s really about learning to live with love and accept yourself and your flaws and sort of move through life. And they have magic and supernatural fun things, but really, there’s a very interesting psychological core to the books, and they’re also 50‐​hours on audio, or like 800 to 1000 pages each, so not a small undertaking, but they’re pretty wonderful.

0:50:50.8 Stephen Kent: I recently, and for the first time, I guess I just put it down, I just finished it, I read “1984” by George Orwell. I had bought… I had read “Animal Farm “and I bought it to read to my kids, and they enjoyed it. It was part of a set and came with “’84”, so I thought, “All right, I’ll go ahead and finally read this, belatedly,” and it was just fantastic. My main‐​takeaway from it is that so much of the desire to exert power over other people, even when you think you’re doing it for good or right reasons, because you’re trying to promote good in the world, at heart, a lot of it is just status. It’s just the desire to have status and to assert status by controlling other people. Not sure I’m gonna recommend it to the kids just yet. I’ve got an 11‐​year‐​old and 7‐​year‐​old twins, and I think the 11‐​year‐​old would enjoy it, except for maybe the torture parts. I think…

0:52:08.6 Stephen Kent: I think he may have a hard time sleeping after some of that, so I’m gonna hold off on recommending that to him. But now I see what all the fuss is about, and the larger framework around the boot in a human face forever, and other lines that I’ve been hearing about for so long. And now I’m looking forward what my next book is gonna be. As I was late to the game with “1984”, I was also late to the game with Schitt’s Creek, but I finished that recently. And, wow, that was amazing. I can’t recommend that highly enough. Talk about character development. I also… I guess it’s the first. So I’ve got a guilty pleasure, sort of, that I’ve been enjoying, which is Cobra Kai. If you’re a child of the ‘80s and watched The Karate Kid, [chuckle] you will find this ridiculous, and often hysterical, only sometimes painful. But also, I was really pleased with, I think it’s the third season of Big Mouth that just wrapped on Netflix.

0:53:17.3 Stephen Kent: I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Big Mouth. This is an animated series about pre‐​teens, and sexuality, and relationships, and so forth, and completely vulgar, [chuckle] and wanders just delightfully so. But was such a wonderful message about… Such wonderful messages for kids that age. Pity, I don’t want my kids to watch it at this point because it’s so raunchy. [chuckle] But the third season came out. I was anticipating it eagerly, a little worried that it might suffer from some burnout, but it just didn’t. I thought it was terrific. And so if you’ve seen any of the first two seasons, I think you’ll be pleased with the third.

0:54:02.0 Michael Cannon: I have been doing a lot of things in my free time over the holidays, especially. I just played a really great little puzzle game that you can get on, I think pretty much any platform. I played it on Switch, called Superliminal. And you are sort of in a dream, like a waking dream. You’re lucid dreaming in this world, where you have to go through these series of chambers that involve puzzles about forced perspective and weird, shape‐​changing blocks. And you’re solving puzzles by picking things up, and making them bigger by making them appear farther away. It’s very hard to describe, but it is brilliant, brilliant design, an interesting story, not overwhelming, challenging, and can be done in a day. So I played it in one day. I really, really highly recommend Superliminal.

0:54:57.1 Michael Cannon: And I also, for Christmas, got myself a couple role‐​playing game books. I got MORK BORG, which is like a really old school, brutal, think high‐​fantasy, Gothic role‐​playing game, that is influenced by Nordic black metal. [chuckle] So it’s really brutal, and I’m excited to play it, and just die over and over again. But what I really love about it is the book itself is so beautiful, and it’s like this mishmash of crazy graphic design, and is really amazing. And Kids on Bikes, which is a tabletop role‐​playing game, sort of in the vein of Stranger Things, where you play kids in the middle of a small town, in the middle of nowhere, who get into trouble with secret government bases and possible aliens. And you’re kids on your bikes and running around the middle of the woods in Indiana or something. So I’m excited to play that with some friends as soon as I can get some people in person, and we’ll be able to play some tabletop games again.

[music]

0:56:11.2 Landry Ayres: Thanks for listening. If you would like to tell us why we’re wrong about Star Wars, as is required when listening to anything about the subject, make sure to let us know on Twitter. You can find us at the handle @PopnLockePod. That’s Pop, the letter n, Locke with an e, like the philosopher, Pod. Make sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. We look forward to unravelling your favourite show or movie next time.

[music]

0:56:41.3 Landry Ayres: Pop & Locke is produced by me, Landry Ayres, as a project of lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org. To learn more, visit us on the web at www​.lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org.