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'The Mandalorian': What to Know Before the 'Star Wars' Show

There's quite a bit of backstory to the title of the new Disney+ series, which launches Tuesday.

The Mandalorian is, in many ways, a new beginning for Star Wars — not just the first live-action television series for the property, but also one set during a period the movies have avoided to this point, and with an all-new cast of characters. It's also something very much taking advantage of mythology and ideas that have a long history in the 40-plus years of Star Wars stories that already exist.

With that in mind, it's worth looking back across what is already known about events in a galaxy far, far away, in case there are details about Mandalorians that could help understand just what Pedro Pascal's helmeted hero is up to in the new series. Keep reading for a crash course in Manda-lore, and yes, I'm as sorry for that pun as you are.

What Is a Mandalorian, Anyway?
In Star Wars history, Mandalorians are a warrior race with distinctive armor — that's why Jango Fett, Boba Fett and the star of the new series all look quite so similar — who have, historically, worked as mercenaries and bounty hunters.

The first mention of Mandalorians came in Marvel's first Star Wars comic book series, with 1983's No. 68 featuring a (non-canonical) backstory for Boba Fett that saw him as being one of a number of super-commandos protecting the planet Mandalore. That history was invalidated in 2002, with Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones introducing Jango Fett, Boba's clone father, who wore near-identical armor, with no mention of Mandalore or Mandalorians to be found.

The first canonical appearance of the Mandalorians as a culture came in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which created an entire history for the alien race — short version: they were an alien race driven from their home planet that, after going to war with the Jedi over the fate of the Republic, became a pacifist culture for the most part — as well as a significant storyline based around the planet as it was temporarily overrun by a violent separatist group led by Darth Maul.

By the time of the Star Wars: Rebels animated series, Mandalore was being occupied by the Empire, leading to a planetary civil war that involves both the Empire and the Rebellion before resulting in a free Mandalore that is, once again, united under one leader — or, as they call them, Mand'alors. Yes, really. All of that happened prior to the original trilogy, so just what has happened to the Mandalorian culture by the time the show takes place is an open question.

When Does This Show Take Place, in Comparison to the Movies?

The Mandalorian is officially set five years after Return of the Jedi, meaning that the Empire has fallen and the New Republic is in its ascendancy, even though things are far from peaceful throughout the galaxy. For anyone paying attention, and whether it matters, this means that The Mandalorian takes place 10 years after the end of the civil war on Mandalore.

Does Any of This Affect the Movies?
It's still unclear just what connection — if any — The Mandalore has with the storyline being told in the movies, in part because Lucasfilm and Disney have been very secretive about exactly what the plot of The Mandalorian actually is. It's known that the Mandalorian is going to be sent to retrieve a mysterious — and living — cargo by former Imperial forces, but just what that cargo is remains a mystery for now.

According to a New York Times report, there's a “universe spoiler” in the first episode, which would suggest there's something going on that will impact the movies, but just what it could be is being very deliberately kept under wraps.

A wild guess: Is the Mandalorian being sent to retrieve the still-living Emperor, ahead of his eventual return in December's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker? Surely not …

What Should I Watch Before Sitting Down With the Show?
In theory, everything anyone needs to know should be right there in the first episode, but for those looking for extra credit, try 1980's The Empire Strikes Back — which introduced the bounty hunters of the Star Wars galaxy, including Boba Fett, for the the first time — and some of the more Mandalore-centric episodes of the animated shows, especially Star Wars: The Clone Wars' “The Mandalore Plot” (season 2, episode 12), “Duchess of Mandalore” (season 2, episode 14), “Corruption” (season 3, episode 5), “Eminence” (season 5, episode 14), “Shades of Reason” (season 5, episode 15), and “The Lawless” (season 5, episode 16), as well as Star Wars: Rebels' “Heroes of Mandalore” (season 4, episodes 1 and 2).

All of this will be available on Disney+ when it launches, just to make your homework a little bit easier.

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