Star Wars fans, you can breathe a well-earned sigh of relief. Despite a Disney+ launch plagued by technical issues, The Mandalorian is finally here.
And yes, it was worth the wait.
The flagship project on Disney’s new streaming service Disney+, The Mandalorian debuted with an episode penned by series creator and showrunner Jon Favreau and directed by longtime Star Wars animation veteran Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels). Set several years after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI – The Return of the Jedi, The Mandalorian follows a bounty hunter (played by Game of Thrones actor Pedro Pascal) on the outer rim of the galaxy whose latest mission unearths a secret that could have major repercussions on the universe.
There’s a lot to absorb in the first episode of The Mandalorian, so here’s a breakdown of some of the key elements everyone is talking about from episode 1. (Note: There will be discussion of plot points from the episode in the following text, so consider this a spoiler warning.)
Keeping it classic
During early production on The Mandalorian, images from the series were released that featured a familiar weapon: The two-pronged Amban phase-pulse blaster wielded by fellow bounty hunter Boba Fett in 1978’s much-maligned Star Wars Holiday Special, which first introduced the character to Star Wars fans. As expected, the rifle turned out to be one of the main weapons used by the Mandalorian in the new series, offering a nice callback to a chapter in the Star Wars saga that many would rather forget — and it wasn’t the only reference to the Holiday Special.
Early in the episode, the blue-skinned alien played by Saturday Night Live cast member Horatio Sanz — known only as “The Bounty” in the episode’s credits — mentions that he was hoping to be home to celebrate Life Day with his family. That holiday was central to the Star Wars Holiday Special, which had Han Solo and Chewbacca trying to get back to the latter’s homeworld to be with his family for Life Day. Fortunately, Chewbacca and Han had better luck than Sanz’s character.
Beskar and The Great Purge
The mysterious, stormtrooper-protected character played by Werner Herzog is known only as “The Client” in the episode (we’re sensing a trend here), but he offers to pay the Mandalorian with a hunk of Beskar — something that makes him agree to take the bounty almost immediately. So what is Beskar? It’s a deep dive into Star Wars lore is what it is.
According to the sci-fi saga’s mythology, Beskar is the legendary metal used to create Mandalorians’ armor. Almost as famous as the warrior race from the planet Mandalore, their armor is known to be able to stop most energy blasts from traditional weapons and even protect against a glancing blow from a lightsaber. Beskar is basically the Star Wars franchise’s version of Marvel’s legendary fictional metals Adamantium or Vibranium, and given how closely the Mandalorians associate their identity with their armor, it’s kind of a big deal.
What isn’t explained in the episode, however, is the reason the Beskar isn’t in the possession of the Mandalorians. The female Mandalorian character known as “The Armorer” in the episode mentions that the Beskar he brings her was “gathered in the Great Purge” and somewhat less cryptically, that “it is good it is back with the tribe.” There’s no confirmation of what “The Great Purge” could be referring to, but its mention inspires some flashbacks for the Mandalorian.
It’s worth noting that one of the last major battles of The Clone Wars was known as “The Siege of Mandalore,” which had Jedi commander Ahsoka Tano attempt to free Mandalore from the resurrected former Sith Lord Darth Maul. (Yes, that Darth Maul.) As revealed in The Clone Wars animated series, that battle ended in defeat for Ahsoka when Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine issued the infamous Order 66 that turned the clone troopers against the Jedi. The subsequent massacre of Jedi around the galaxy became known as “The Great Jedi Purge,” and Mandalore became the location for an Imperial Academy and was occupied by the Galactic Empire for years.
Almost a year ago, Favreau revealed the IG-11 assassin droid that would appear in The Mandalorian, leading to plenty of speculation about how it might connect to the IG-88 droid that appeared in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. The series premiere didn’t offer any clues about a connection, but it did give us a great look at how ruthlessly efficient an IG-class droid can be (and a reminder of how much Taika Waititi brings to roles as a voice actor).
The Yoda in the room
So … how about that big reveal? It turns out that Yoda and the lesser-known Yaddle (who made her first and only big-screen appearance in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace) were not the last of their kind. The episode’s final revelation has The Mandalorian discover that the bounty he was paid to recover — known only as “The Asset” — is an infant of the same, mysterious species as Yoda (and Yaddle).
What can we glean from this cliffhanger? Given how much of Yoda’s species remains a mystery, not very much. Other members of his species have appeared in various tie-in projects and expanded-universe stories that may or may not be part of the current franchise canon, so it’s difficult to make any firm connections between the Yoda-ling and past Yodas (or Yaddles). However, given how strong the species’ connection to The Force has been shown to be and their typical, multi-century lifespan, the series is going to have to make some creative narrative decisions if Baby Yoda is somehow pushed out of the picture by the time we’re introduced to Rey, Kylo Ren, and the First Order in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
Disney’s The Mandalorian is available to stream on Disney+. The next episode premieres Friday, November 15.
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