Caution: Spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian
The highly-anticipated first ever live-action Star Wars TV series, The Mandalorian, has finally arrived with the launch of Disney+ and the opening episode is full of Easter eggs and references that span the entire decades old franchise. Years in the making, Disney launched their own in-house streaming service on November 12th and The Mandalorian was arguably the platform's biggest draw, especially in terms of original content.
Borne out of the abandoned plans for a solo Star Wars movie starring Boba Fett, The Mandalorian follows Pedro Pascal's titular bounty hunter in the outer reaches of the galaxy, engaging in all manner of criminal activity and shady dealings. While The Mandalorian's plot has been closely guarded, the cast is rounded out by Gina Carano, Giancarlo Esposito, Werner Herzog, Ming-Na Wen and many more, as Star Wars begins its transition from the big screen to television.
As anyone who has kept a vague eye on Jon Favreau's (The Mandalorian showrunner) social media might've guessed, the series will be chock full of Easter eggs and references to the Star Wars movies, animated TV shows and other assorted media, from obvious continuations of certain themes to subtle nods towards deep lore. The premiere episode certainly did not disappoint in this regard.
Beskar Steel & Mandalorian History
Predictably, The Mandalorian delves heavily into the show's eponymous people and their history, as depicted mostly within The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. There are references to the Purge and signets, as well as familiar Mandalorian iconography scattered around the building Pascal's bounty hunter visits to have his Beskar Steel crafted into a shoulder plate. Several figures in the premiere episode also acknowledge the storied reputation of the Mandalorians and their formidable combat abilities.
The Mandalorian's debut episode features several examples of Beskar steel. This kind of metal appeared in The Clone Wars and was described as one of the most resistant and lusted-after metals in the entire galaxy. As in the animated realm, Mandalorian armor appears to be a significant component of their rich culture and wide renown.
Species & Droids From Star Wars History
With the focus firmly on bounty hunters, it's no surprise that The Mandalorian spends a lot of time in bars, and this provides ample opportunity for Mos Eisley-style collections of aliens and droids to scatter in the background. Episode 1 features plenty of familiar hidden faces, and also some more conspicuous returnees. In terms of aliens, the Mandalorian rents transport from a Kubaz, one Rodian can be seen frozen in carbonite and another milling around during the second bar scene, a Trandoshan is also propping up the same establishment, Jawas are buzzing around a pile of junk, an alien of Salacious Crumb's species is cooking on a spit, an Ugnaught guides the Mandalorian to his prize and Blurrgs make their return from The Clone Wars.
Recognizable droids are no less prominent in The Mandalorian's opening gambit. Herzog's unnamed character resides in a den guarded by an eye-stalk droid as seen outside Jabba's palace in Return of the Jedi, a GNK droid then guides the Mandalorian inside, Taika Waititi voices an ill-fated IG droid and an R5 unit makes an appearance after Jon Favreau posted a photo of one such droid on his Instagram page previously. The second bar scene also includes a humanoid character dressed in armor similar to that worn by Jabba's guards.
Clone Wars Era References
The Mandalorian's premiere includes two major references to the pre-Empire Clone Wars era of Star Wars mythology. The first is the title character's Razorcrest ship, which is said to be a classic model from an earlier period. More overtly, the episode includes a brief flashback to the Mandalorian's childhood, in which the youngster and his family are seemingly caught up in an attack executed by droids and gunships from the Clone Wars. This sequence was first teased in The Mandalorian's final trailer.
The 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special is derided by fans in a "so bad it's good" kind of way, but The Mandalorian includes several festive Easter eggs regardless. The first, blue-skinned target collected in the episode mentions "Life Day" when skulking around the Razorcrest's hull, which is George Lucas' allegory for Christmas in the one-off special. Additionally, the Mandalorian uses an electric prod similar to the one seen in that best forgotten yuletide travesty.
In a fairly obvious reference to The Empire Strikes Back, the Mandalorian encases his prisoners in carbonite, just as Boba Fett famously did to Han Solo in the original Star Wars trilogy. The episode also appears to include carbonite keys, establishing the procedure as more of a temporary freezing process than the permanent torture it almost became for Solo.
When the Mandalorian collects his first bounty, Carl Weathers' Greef Carga initially offers Imperial credits, claiming that they still spend despite the downfall of the Empire. Pascal's bounty hunter refuses, clearly anticipating that the currency will soon become invalid after the Emperor's death and is handed Calamari money instead, which he accepts despite receiving half the amount. In Star Wars mythology, the Mon Calamari are a race that includes the likes of Admiral Ackbar and hail from the planet of Mon Cala.
The Bounty Hunter's Guild
The Mandalorian's lead character is a member of the Bounty Hunters' Guild, as is Waititi's IG-11, and this is not a new addition to Star Wars canon. Through comics and novels, organizations of bounty hunters have appeared or been mentioned both in the original expanded universe and in Disney's updated canon. Most notably for The Mandalorian, the Bounty Hunters' Guild is introduced in the first installment of Chuck Wendig's Aftermath book trilogy, which takes place almost five years prior to The Mandalorian. This explains why the Guild wasn't a feature of the first 6 Star Wars movies, but feels fairly established in the new TV series.
Original Trilogy References
Jon Favreau has scattered a number of references to George Lucas' original Star Wars trilogy throughout the premiere episode of The Mandalorian. Werner Herzog's mysterious client refers to Parsecs, a unit first mentioned by Han Solo when boasting about the Millennium Falcon's speed in A New Hope, the location of the episode's climactic Butch and Sundance-style shootout features several moisture vaporators, the likes of which Luke Skywalker worked with at his aunt and uncle's farm on Tatooine, and the camera direction employed when the Mandalorian is being attacked by a Blurrg directly mirrors the Tusken Raider jump-scare from the first 1977 Star Wars movie.
The Mandalorian also borrows several visual effects and motifs from the original trilogy. The binoculars used by both the title character and the speeder pilot create the familiar binocular- view camera shot design seen in previous movies, and the episode also makes use of Lucas' trademark wipe transitions with a circular cut to move between scenes.
When Pedro Pascal's character enters the Mandalorian clan hall hoping to have his Beskar steel smelted, a mysterious figure can be seen lurking ominously in the background. While Mandalorian armor does share a number of consistencies between members, the suit worn by this warrior looks suspiciously like the one Boba Fett made famous. New Star Wars canon has hinted at Fett's survival following his dive into the Sarlacc Pit, and The Mandalorian is obviously inspired by that character's popularity. Has Favreau bravely included the iconic character in the show's very first episode, or is this merely a lookalike with similar taste in armor design?
When Nick Nolte's Kuiil is attempting to teach the Mandalorian how to ride a Blurrg, he claims that someone of such a reputable tribe should have no problem learning to tame the beasts, since his ancestors famously rode the "Mythosaur." These native Mandalore creatures first appeared in the 1980s Star Wars comics and have continued to feature in the likes of The Clone Wars and Age of Rebellion ever since, albeit largely only as passing mentions or clan symbols. The Mythosaur's mention in The Mandalorian firmly establishes the monster as part of the current canon.
Undoubtedly The Mandalorian's biggest shock and its hottest point of discussion is a baby member of Yoda's previously unnamed species. Aside from being a fairly clear callback to the Yoda character from all three movie trilogies, this scene represents The Mandalorian taking Star Wars into bold new territory, and opens up a number of doors for future episodes. George Lucas previously stated that Yoda's heritage should never be revealed, and that may remain the case. However, this pint-sized 50-year old green bundle also has the potential to change the landscape of the Star Wars universe.
The Mandalorian continues November 15th on Disney+