‘The Mandalorian’: Wait, So What’s the Deal With the Empire Now?

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This week’s episode of The Mandalorian, “The Heiress,” packed a lot of stuff in its swift 32-minute runtime. There was the reveal of fan-favorite Bo-Katan Kryze (played by Katee Sackhoff, who voiced the character on the animated shows Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and the somewhat surprising implication that our hero might be a religious zealot. Also, there was a giant sea creature that crushed Baby Yoda’s pram. That was so sad. But one of the biggest reveals was a fully functioning Imperial cruiser and scads of Stormtroopers, well-armed, looking spiffy in their uniforms and being commanded by a very imposing, unnamed Captain (Titus Welliver). It was a stark contrast to what we saw in the first season of the show, with grungy, battle-hardened Stormtroopers in Navarro (were they even Stormtroopers or merely militia donning their costumes?) And it was enough to wonder: what’s the deal with the Empire now?

Canonically, The Mandalorian is set five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The Empire has been defeated but, ahem, a peaceful transition of power hasn’t exactly been established. It’s a wonderful timeframe to set a Star Wars show because it’s so rife with drama – feuding criminal factions jockey for control of the galactic underworld, loyalists to the Empire and Rebellion continue with their faith, and scraps from the war that once was wind up in decidedly unsavory hands (see also: Bryce Dallas Howard’s first season episode). It’s conceivable, five years after the destruction of the second Death Star, that some far-off planets, hampered by inadequate communication, might not even know that the war is over and are still fighting. (Undoubtedly the extended universe content, much of it now relegated to “legends” status, and the newly formed canon has covered this time period and the political turmoil therein but we are blissfully unaware of it.)

Image via Disney+/Lucasfilm

Series creator Jon Favreau clearly has a thing for samurai films, considering how much of the show is an homage to Lone Wolf and Cub, a Japanese manga that was adapted into a series of successful films and television series, that followed a swordsman and his young charge. And the idea of feudal warlords attempting to assert their power over a land besieged with chaos is something that has come up time and time again in the show. In The Mandalorian, everybody wants to get theirs. But in this week’s episode, we saw something far more organized, militant, and committed, which made it much, much scarier.

Clearly, the Client (Werner Herzog) was loyal to the Empire, but perhaps he was underfunded and somewhat on his own. The introduction, towards the end of Season 1, of Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), showed us that there are some loyalists who command a much larger, more impressive army and who have access to seemingly endless resources and technology (keep in mind that Gideon was flanked by Death Troopers, described in the lead up to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as the Seal Team Six of the Empire). Where this funding is coming from remains to be seen. A criminal syndicate? The remaining Hutts? We’re sure this will be explored at some point but it is still worth mentioning now.

Instead of clinging to power, Gideon seems willing to actively rebuild the Empire. He isn’t just hanging on to the remnants of the old guard but is advancing the cause by maintaining the status quo and striking out towards bigger gets, like his endless pursuit of the Child aka Baby Yoda. It’s this kind of intense devotion and forward-thinking that could lead to the formation of the First Order, the Empire-like evil organization our heroes faced down in the sequel trilogy and whose origins still remain cloudy at best (at least to those of us not reading every comic book and tie-in novel). The Force Awakens is still 25 years away at this point, but could Moff Gideon be the architect of the new Empire?

This obviously has big implications for the rest of The Mandalorian and the Star Wars universe just beyond it and we cannot wait to see where this goes.

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