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[This story contains spoilers for The Mandalorian “Chapter 24: The Return.”]
On Wednesday, The Mandalorian season three finale wrapped up Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Bo-Katan Kryze’s (Katee Sackhoff) journey to reclaim Mandalore for the displaced and scattered Mandalorian people. In the process, it helped drive home that the series is bringing a narrative focus to Star Wars as it plots its return to the big screen in coming years.
In an action-packed 40-minutes, Din and Bo-Katan defeat Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), who was revealed this season to have escaped capture, while also effectively cloning himself to create an unstoppable force-sensitive clone army. The season’s penultimate episode also revealed Gideon’s involvement with the Shadow Council, a group of Empire loyalists that are working to overthrow the New Republic.
These are developments that not only serve Din and Grogu’s storyline, but also drive forward to support a greater Star Wars narrative as a whole. Spin-offs might feel like studio cash grabs, particularly when tied to massive franchises. But Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian balances nostalgic moments for fans, while still managing to enrich the franchise stories that came before it.
From the first look at Baby Yoda to Moff Gideon’s brandishing of the legendary Dark Saber in season one, The Mandalorian set the tone for the nostalgic deliverance to come throughout the rest of the series.
Season two shocked audiences with a finale appearance of a de-aged Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, a bittersweet moment as Grogu left Din to train with the Jedi master. Similarly, the appearance of Clone Wars fan-favorite Bo-Katan Kryze last season connected Din’s seemingly independent tale to deeper Star Wars lore.
And season three incorporated elements of all three Star Wars film trilogies, along with the canon events of the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. From flashbacks to Order 66 to recent appearances of Republic-era battle droids, The Mandalorian also leans heavily into its prequel-era histories, despite the fact that the Force is few and far between in Mando’s corner of the galaxy.
Most importantly — and perhaps what ultimately solidifies The Mandalorian’s place in the Star Wars timeline — the third season drops more than just hints to the Disney-era sequel trilogy. Despite the sequels’ box office success, response to the films among fans were mixed, as some pointed out plot holes that didn’t coalesce with the events of George Lucas’ original trilogy. Two big ones come to mind: the sudden emergence of the First Order, not long after the Empire’s downfall, as well as Emperor Palpatine’s shocking return in The Rise of Skywalker. For fans and critics of the sequels, the Palpatine of it all felt strangely out of left field, and was never fully addressed.
As for how this could potentially play out in future seasons of The Mandalorian, Gideon’s interest in cloning Grogu led fans to speculate that the storyline may lead to an explanation for Palpatine’s survival. Mando season three inches closer to supporting that theory, as Gideon is seen discussing “Project Necromancer” with his Shadow Council, a name that suggests communicating or reviving the dead.
Also, in what appears to be the early days of what will become the First Order, The Mandalorian introduces Commandant Brendol Hux (Brian Gleeson), the father of First Order leader Armitage Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), an imperial villain of the sequels. Meanwhile, Mando’s most obvious callout to the sequel trilogies occurred in the last two episodes with cameos by the red-cloaked Praetorian Guard, last seen in Episode VIII: The Last Jedi under command of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).
Announced at this year’s Star Wars Celebration, executive producer Dave Filoni is bringing this New Republic era to a close in an upcoming feature film, which likely dive even further into the rise of the First Order. Filoni and Favreau’s “fill in the backstory” approach is built into the structural DNA of Star Wars stories — a franchise that has long gone the prequel route. Almost 20 years after Return of the Jedi, Lucas returned to tell the origin story of redeemed villain Darth Vader. Then came the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, another prequel to the already released Revenge of the Sith. And so on. Star Wars always finds a way to explore character backstory with projects like Rogue One, Solo and most recently, Andor and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
But the formula isn’t fool proof. While audiences yearn for nostalgia in their Star Wars content, it’s a tricky balancing act. If left to stand too independently, a story can feel out of place, or like “filler” content, in an ever-connected galaxy. With a dedicated fan base prone to turning against the franchise, a Star Wars universe with a clear timeline amidst its many moving parts, characters and storylines is a Star Wars universe best primed for success.
Filoni’s movie was one of three films recently announced, along with another from James Mangold that will go all the way back to the dawn of the Jedi and one from Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy that will bring back Ridley as Rey for Disney’s first ever post-sequel project. And with The Mandalorian as its driving force, it would seem that Lucasfilm is finally prepared to dive back into the sequels, as they set the scene for a new era of Star Wars to come.
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