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How The Mandalorian could unravel The Rise of Skywalker’s biggest mysteries

It’s a good time to be a Star Wars fan.

Jedi: Fallen Order is the best Star Wars video game in years. Comics and spinoff novels like Doctor Aphra and Resistance Reborn are introducing all kinds of fun new characters and expanding the Star Wars mythos in interesting ways. The Galaxy’s Edge theme park is everything we hoped it would be. There’s more Clone Wars on the horizon. And Obi-Wan. And Cassian Andor.

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And then we’ve got The Mandalorian and Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker.

The Mandalorian is Disney+’s flagship title, the first live-action Star Wars TV show, and a groundbreaking technological achievement. The Rise of Skywalker is the final chapter in the Skywalker Saga, the story that began way back in Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope and has propelled Star Wars forward ever since.

Together, they mark a massive shift for Star Wars — and following 2019, the franchise will never be the same. But what if, in Star Wars’ new “everything counts,” Disneyfied-canon, they’re linked more than that? What if The Mandalorian sets up some of The Rise of Skywalker‘s biggest plot twists?

It’s more likely than you may think. (Warning: Potential spoilers await ahead.)

More than just an Easter egg

The Mandalorian‘s breakout star is “Baby Yoda,” a green-skinned, 50-year-old infant who seems to be, at the very least, the same species as Luke’s old Jedi master. It’s easy to see why he’s so popular with the show’s characters and viewers alike. The little guy is cute as a button, he’s the key to one of the Star Wars Universe’s biggest mysteries, and his Force abilities are already extremely formidable.

So far, The Mandalorian hasn’t explained what Werner Herzog’s ex-Imperial warlord, known as the Client, is planning on doing with Baby Yoda, but the third episode dropped some hints. When the Mandalorian is surveying the Client’s hideout, he overhears the Client talking about harvesting the baby’s genetic material. More importantly, Herzog’s assistant, Dr. Pershing, has a patch on his costume that looks like the symbol of Kamino, the cloning facility featured in Attack of the Clones.

The Kamino backstory gets a little convoluted, but basically, the facility’s scientists were creating a secret clone army when they were discovered by Obi-Wan Kenobi. Soon-to-be Emperor Palpatine tricked the Republic into deploying the clone forces against the rebel Separatists, then used his new army to decimate the Jedi and establish the Galactic Empire.

However, clones soldiers had some problems. Because every member of the clone army came from the same genetic template, they were all susceptible to the same diseases. Palpatine also considered clones inferior, and preferred “pure” human soldiers act as the Empire’s representatives. Over time, the Emperor phased out the clones and replaced them with normal human Stormtroopers.

Still, The Mandalorian implies that not every member of the Empire agreed with Palpatine. If the Client is making clones a few years after Return of the Jedi, who knows how far the technology has gotten 25 years later when The Rise of Skywalker is set? If clones are still an ongoing concern, they could answer two of The Rise of Skywalker’s biggest mysteries.

Not one clone, but two

Going into The Rise of Skywalker, there are two big questions: Why is Rey so skilled with the Force, and how does Emperor Palpatine come back from the dead? Could The Mandalorian’s dabbling in cloning be implicit confirmation that, indeed, Rey is Palpatine’s clone?

There’s a precedent for this kind of thing. In the old Expanded Universe, which Disney deemed non-canon after it bought Lucasfilm in 2012, Palpatine cheated death via cloning in the Dark Horse comic book series Dark Empire. In that story, Palpatine reveals that he’s gained immortality by transferring his consciousness to a series of clones, although his new bodies wear out quickly. Palpatine decides to possess Han and Leia’s third child and make its body his new, permanent form, but is defeated by Leia.

The Rise of Skywalker won’t repeat the same beats, but it could borrow Dark Empire‘s general concept. Clones are already a fundamental part of Star Wars lore, so JJ Abrams and his crew wouldn’t have to invent anything new to explain Palpatine’s return. The heavy lifting is already done.

Similarly, Abrams remains evasive when asked why Rey is so talented. Recently, Rolling Stone asked Abrams how Rey learned to use the Force so quickly.
“Spooky, right?” Abrams replied. “It’s not an accident.”

Could Rey go dark in Star Wars Episode 9?

Abrams’ teases hint that there’s more to Rey’s background than The Last Jedi let on, and if Rey’s a clone of a powerful Force-user, it wouldn’t violate anything established in Episode VIII. Technically, Star Wars’ clones don’t have families. They’re born in labs. Rey’s parents could literally be “nobody,” and as a clone, she could still be related to one of the most important characters in the galaxy.

We’ve already theorized that Rey is a clone of Palpatine. The Mandalorian‘s Kamino references back this up. Rey was born about 10 years after Return of the Jedi, and five years after the first season of The Mandalorian. That gives the Client and Dr. Pershing five years to perfect cloning technology and bring the Emperor back from the grave. If they’ve already cloned (or tried to clone) Baby Yoda, then they have experience working with Force-sensitive subjects. Bringing Palpatine back — maybe in a few different forms — seems like the next logical step.

This could all be a red herring, of course. Maybe The Mandalorian‘s clone references are just a nod to Star Wars history and nothing more. Still, The Mandalorian‘s release schedule hints that the new show and movie might be further connected.

Under Disney, everything Star Wars is carefully coordinated. The second-to-last episode of The Mandalorian drops on Wednesday, December 18. The Rise of Skywalker debuts on December 20, with preview screenings on December 19. Don’t be too surprised if the penultimate episode of The Mandalorian‘s first season contains a big, clone-related reveal.

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