If you’re lucky enough to live in a country where Disney has launched its vast, occasionally breaking, and petrifyingly all-encompassing new streaming service today, you’ve probably watched the first episode of The Mandalorian by now. Shall we talk about it? Let’s talk about it.
What actually happens in the first chapter of Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni’s new Star Wars adventure is pretty simple: Our protagonist, the unnamed Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal), is given a bounty contract on behalf of the Imperial Remnant (fronted by Werner Herzog, Werner Herzogging about the place as a character referred to only in press material as “The Client”) to locate and procure a target that is roughly 50 years old—a target the Remnant would prefer alive, but is fine with it being confirmed killed. And so, the Mandalorian sets out to track the target and, one very good firefight later, finds them.
What happens next is where things get wild, so, if you’ve not been able to watch yet—like because, say, despite the House of Mouse’s vast reach, this streaming service has only legally launched in three countries so far!—this is the bit where you wanna back the hell out if you want to attempt to stay spoiler-free.
Because what the Mandalorian—and Taika Waititi’s self-destructive assassin droid IG-11, before the Mando scraps him—finds is that his 50-year-old target is actually an infant. And not just any infant. It’s green, got three fingers on each hand, and long, elf-like ears. We don’t know the species’ name. But we know it.
The identity of Yoda’s species has long been one of Star Wars’ most inexplicable mysteries, a tightly kept secret that George Lucas would only jokingly deflect about rather than ever explain. In a franchise that revels in eagerly over describing every facet of its most banal minutiae, that we don’t know a thing about this species, their homeworld, or anything beyond what we know of Yoda—and Yaddle, a female member of the species and a fellow Jedi Master glimpsed in the background of the prequel trilogy—is a truly remarkable feat.
It’s also what makes The Mandalorian’s reveal so potentially fascinating. What the hell do the Imperial Remnant want with this child? Given that we know so little about the species, it’s hard to make any particularly concrete assumptions.
Maybe, at a push, there’s an argument to be made that given that the only two members of the species we’ve seen have been powerful Jedi, Yoda’s species may be inherently strong in the Force. The Empire (and specifically Emperor Palpatine) has long been interested in abducting known Force-sensitive children for experimentation and potential corruption to the Dark Side. It’s an idea explored not just in both Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, which both featured storylines about abducted Force-sensitive kids, but also Marvel’s Darth Vader comic.
But while it would make some sense given what we know about how the Force works as a biological entity—and would at least explain why the Client is fine with the child being captured dead or alive—given what little we know of the species right now, it would also be like assuming every Rodian is a comically incompetent bounty hunter or that every Bothan is a spy. I dunno, maybe not all Yodas (Yaddles? There has to be a better way to talk about this damn race) are strong in the Force! Maybe some of them are just, like, I dunno, farmers! Or accountants! Very small and adorable green accountants!
But joking aside, maybe the real questions we should be asking about this moment aren’t really about the little green baby. Maybe the real question is about who wants said green baby captured or dead.
It’s important to remember the timeline context here. As far as we still know, The Mandalorian is set in 11ABY (that’s “After the Battle of Yavin,” for those not up to their Star Wars dating terminology or, more simply, “After the events of Star Wars: A New Hope”!), putting it roughly seven years after the end of Return of the Jedi. At this point in the rebooted Star Wars timeline, quite a few important things have happened. It’s been approximately five years since the Battle of Jakku, the final official engagement of the Galactic Civil War that first kicked off with the engagement over Scarif seen in Rogue One.
The New Republic’s victory at Jakku concluded with the signing of a peace treaty between the New Republic and what was now the Imperial Remnant known as the Galactic Concordance. But it also shattered what was left of the Galactic Empire into a series of subfactions, with detractors of the Empire’s acquiescence going their own ways. The most prominent of these splinters were the group of Imperial admirals, generals, and advisors—lead by Admiral Rae Sloane—acting upon posthumous orders from Emperor Palpatine himself, taking their ships and military forces and chasing a set of coordinates out in the Unknown Regions, beyond the chartered edges of the Star Wars galaxy. This faction would eventually, decades later, merge with secessionist member worlds of the New Republic Senate and become what we know of by the time of The Force Awakens as the First Order.
So, at the time of The Mandalorian—itself set on the fringes of the galaxy, far beyond the current capable reaches of the New Republic—there are technically two Imperial Remnants, the one official entity constrained by the punishments established in the Galactic Concordance, and the splinter that would give rise to the First Order. Which begs the question: which Remnant are the Client and Doctor Pershing (Omid Abtahi) actually working for?
We know that there are myriad Imperial factions at play in The Mandalorian—aside from the Client and Pershing, there’s Giancarlo Esposito’s mysterious Moff Gideon, who commands legions of Deathtrooper and Stormtroopers in an attempt to re-establish a sense of Imperial order in the Outer Rim. Is Gideon working with these Imperials who want the child, or is he his own force, one of the many remnants left in the wake of Palpatine’s death? Whatever he is, the idea that the Imperial Remnant wants to abduct or kill this child for some reason is interesting, given what little we know of the primary Remnant after the signing of the Galactic Concordance is that they maintained peaceful relations with the New Republic while rogue factions broke off.
So what if the Client and Pershing are working for the Remnant that would become the First Order? We know that the First Order abducted children for indoctrination into their Stormtrooper corps—Finn was just one of many—but considering that as with the Empire before it, it operated on a stance of human-centric xenophobia, it’s unlikely that this baby is being abducted for that purpose.
If the child does end up being a Force-sensitive, and this is the early versions of the First Order we’re dealing with, perhaps the origins could have connections to the Knights of Ren, the Dark Side acolytes that Kylo Ren would one day come to lead. We’ve long known they’ve existed in some form or another before Ben Solo fell under Snoke’s thrall, so maybe whatever Pershing wants the child for could be about researching the Force itself, if not actively attempting to recruit Force-sensitives into the fledgling order and Snoke’s regime.
Whatever it ends up being, the only thing that feels clear by the end of The Mandalorian’s first episode is that the Bounty Hunter is seemingly unwilling to let this child fall into the hands of whoever the Client and Pershing are working for. Or, is at least less concerned with bringing the child in dead. Beyond that? We’ll have to wait and see what ends up happening—and what Star Wars mysteries could be answered by this incredibly fascinating youngling.
Hopefully we’ll find out more later this week when another episode of The Mandalorian goes live on Disney+.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.