Spoilers below for Solo: A Star Wars Story.
The last Disney character I was genuinely excited about was Tessa Thompson in Thor: Ragnarok. I walked out of the theater satisfied with the movie, sure, but legitimately happy about this booze-swilling warrior who rolled her eyes at Thor and palled around with the Hulk. But once again, a smile crept across my face when Solo: A Star Wars Story introduced us to L3-37, the droid character voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. “Do you need anything?” her owner, Lando Calrissian asks her during Solo’s big, daring mission. “Equal rights,” she replies. (Her mind!) At long last, Star Wars has finally giving us the droid we’ve been looking for.
Lando gets all the Solo love — give him a spinoff, you say, this should’ve been his origin story, you protest! — and … fair. Donald Glover is suave, pulls off his facial hair, gets all the funny lines (he calls Chewy and Han “hairy and the boy!”). His Lando isn’t an impression or a new interpretation of the original trilogy character, but a natural extension of Billy Dee Williams. He wears capes and scarves and tacks on “baby” at the end of his requests, making him seem cool and cosmopolitan. But L3-37 is this movie’s saving grace. The female-identifying droid (Lando refers to her using “she” and “her” pronouns) is the best addition to the Star Wars universe since the Last Jedi’s sexual height differences, or whatever General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) uses on his eyebrows (is it intergalactic Boy Brow he’s copped? Or just plain old castor oil?).
After a scam gone bad, Han, Chewie, and Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) make their way through a seedy club, looking for a seasoned smuggler to help them steal coaxium. Lando gets a hero’s entrance, illuminated by a spacey chandelier as he holds court at the Sabacc table. After Lando’s win, he starts negotiating with Han and Qi’ra about coming on board their heist. Scamming, smuggling, price negotiations, blah blah blah. Offscreen, a voice: “No! Unacceptable!” The camera cuts to a lanky, long-limbed droid. “Stop exploiting droids!” This is L3-37, in all her glory! She’s post-woke Twitter, #resist, think-piece-slacktivism-bullshit. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, L3 was a revolutionary. She’s a dime, top of the line, cute face, slim waist, with a big behind! She has taken up residence in my heart: Call me by L3 and I will you call you by 37!
In all honesty, I wasn’t entirely certain who Phoebe Waller-Bridge was before I sunk into my seat, prepared to see Solo. (I don’t watch a lot of TV because it takes too long, but that’s a whole other thing.) But Phoebe Waller-Bridge didn’t even know what a droid was before auditioning for Solo. (Basically: fuck your canon, dude!) L3 is a injection of fun into a decidedly dreary Star Wars installment. Where nearly everything else in this movie feels either borrowed or stale, L3 is incandescent. She’s not an updated version of something from the original trilogy or an improved version of something from the prequels; L3 is an entirely new, wholly fun infusion of stubborn genius. She’s bucks against the demands of Lando, her “organic overlord,” but also whispers her suspicions that he’s in love with her. The very serious Solo is better with this wacky love story! This phony romance between Qi’ra and Han has no gumption: there’s zero chemistry, low stakes, and we already know he’s meant for someone else. The idea that there’s a droid toying with Lando’s heart is a jolt of pure joy!
As the gang carries out their plan to steal coaxium from the planet Kessel, L3-37 goes a little rogue. My revolutionary queen frees all of the droids from slavery, and encourages them to fight back for their freedom. There should be a Drake song for the tinge of loss that one feels when L3 is blasted in the crossfire of the uprising she began. But, alas, Star Wars is gonna star war. This is Solo’s movie, and Alden Ehrenreich is reportedly signed up for two more. With any star justice, we’d get a stand-alone Lando prequel with plenty more L3 scenes to go around.