HEAT VISION

The New Relevance of 'The Mandalorian'

The Mandalorian
Courtesy of Disney+
Showrunner Jon Favreau uses the latest episode to reflect on modern-day politics, just as 'Star Wars' always was meant to.

[This story contains spoilers for The Mandalorian, "Chapter 12: The Siege."]

It seems the Empire is not as defeated as once believed. In the latest episode of The Mandalorian, directed by Carl Weathers and written by Jon Favreau, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) lays eyes on an Imperial experiment that promises to hold no shortage of future peril for he and the Child. What began as a seemingly simple operation to destroy what was said to be a largely abandoned Imperial outpost on the lava fields of Nevarro, on behalf of Greef Carga (Weathers), culminated with a much larger battle that will have long-lasting ramifications for the fate of the galaxy.

While Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) displayed plenty of resources at his disposal at the end of the last season, “The Siege” really gives a sense that the Imperials are not a scattered coalition of radicals, but a serious threat to the New Republic with plenty of weapons, vehicles, and Death Troopers at their disposal. With Gideon’s interest in mysterious genetic experiments, and the New Republic’s cluelessness about what goes on in the Outer Rim, this week’s episode of The Mandalorian makes a clear case for how the First Order was able to gain the foothold it did in the events of the sequel trilogy.

While in the Imperial Outpost, Djarin stumbles upon a row of glass tanks, each one housing a deformed body, with obscured features. A holo-recording from Doctor Pershing (Omid Abtahi), who let Djarin escape with the Child last season, details plans to Gideon about reobtaining the “specimen” and using the Child’s blood to complete their experiment, despite previous failures. The shadowy villainy of their mysterious plan gives off Nazi experiment vibes, which fits quite well with the current Imperial regime of poison capsules and cult-like suicidal devotion seen in “Chapter 11: The Heiress.” While there have been numerous theories about what The Client (Werner Herzog) and Gideon wanted with The Child last season, including a possible means to mass-produce force abilities through a pharmaceutical means, the true reason may be something more specific.

The deformed bodies in tanks were immediately reminiscent of the bodies in tanks at the beginning of The Rise of Skywalker (2019). Those bodies, of course, belonged to Snoke, who was revealed to be just a vessel for Emperor Palpatine while he regained his strength after his seeming death in Return of the Jedi (1983). There are 25 years between when The Mandalorian is currently set and The Force Awakens (2015), the first appearance of Snoke. We already know that Palpatine was manipulating events from the shadows, leading to Ben Solo’s fall in the years before The Force Awakens. It seems entirely plausible that Gideon’s plan is to resurrect the Emperor and use the Child to do so. After all, the only thing that seems to be holding the Imperials back from doing catastrophic damage to the New Republic is leadership backed by the dark side of the force.

One of the big criticisms lodged at The Rise of Skywalker was that Palpatine’s return wasn’t fully explained. But, as I said in my analysis of Abrams’ film, Star Wars has always been constructed without a master plan and relied on further media: films, comics, television shows, to fill in continuity gaps and answer previously unanswered questions. The specifics behind Palpatine’s return always felt like something that would be addressed in another story. And it’s possible that The Mandalorian may hold the pieces to that story. And even if Gideon’s plan isn’t to resurrect Emperor Palpatine, but some other wielder of the dark side (Maul?), the technology and experiments being developed by him and the Imperials seem to at least suggest a tie between The Mandalorian, the Emperor’s return, and the complete unpreparedness of the New Republic to deal with that threat again.

What’s becoming increasingly clear through The Mandalorian is that the New Republic is already failing and falling into the same traps the Old Republic did. Outside of the Core, they have little knowledge about what’s going on or how people live. Carga has established himself as mayor on Nevarro and has had to use what resources he’s been able to acquire to better the world, set up a structure of law and order, and an education system. The importance of local government in the Outer Rim is becoming crucial to the survival of its people. But Nevarro is only one world, and the Outer Rim in which slavery was allowed to run rampant, and create enduring trauma that led to the galaxy’s greatest savior, Anakin Skywalker, become the galaxy’s greatest threat, Darth Vader, during the Old Republic seems like a scenario that could easily be repeated with the New Republic.

There is governmental failure at the highest levels within The Mandalorian, and their inability to devote resources to the Outer Rim, where the presence of Imperial extremists is becoming stronger, serves as a heck of a metaphor for modern American politics. People like Carga and Djarin are forced to take the law into their own hands, but there’s only so much they can do.

The Emperor and Kylo Ren certainly helped the First Order hold onto its power, but The Mandalorian seems to posit that it was the New Republic’s ignorance and disinterest in all of its people that led to its rise. As The Mandalorian goes forward, it’s apparent that Favreau has a lot more on his mind than Star Wars nostalgia, bounty hunting, and connections to previous events. He is laying the groundwork for the future, but perhaps more importantly he’s using The Mandalorian to reflect on the modern-day politics that gave rise to MAGA, cementing the fact that Star Wars is, has been, and always will be, bound to contemporary American politics.

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