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Chapter 6 of The Mandalorian is a Blast From Star Wars Past
Disney has not been too quick to acknowledge the Star Wars prequels. Ever since they purchased Lucasfilm back in 2012, the franchise has strayed away from any mention of the three films that lead up to A New Hope. It’s as if they’ve been trying to act like Episodes I, II, and III never happened–the planets from that trilogy were absent from the big Star Wars Battlefront reboot, there were no returning prequel characters in Rogue One or Solo (unless you count a few tiny cameos), and even major franchise actors like Ewan McGregor were completely absent from press panels during the release of The Force Awakens and Last Jedi.
Dave Filoni, one of the executive producers at the helm of The Mandalorian, however, has always been inspired by Star Wars’ rich history. The creator of Star Wars Rebels and The Clone Wars animated TV shows, Filoni was educated on the franchise by George Lucas himself. He’s been paying tribute to the early stories of the Skywalker saga for years now. And in Chapter 6 of The Mandalorian, Filoni and co-producer Jon Favreau show that they have no reservations about dredging up old memories–even if they involve Gungans.
“The Prisoner” is a heist story set in a New Republic prison ship. This time, Mando is thrust into a team of killers and assassins on a bleak mission to release an unnamed prisoner from jail. Other than Bill Burr’s wiseass human cowboy, each one of the bounty hunters is a recognizable species from Star Wars history. There’s a big red guy with horns named Burg–he’s a Devaron, which you might recognize from the Cantina sequence of A New Hope. We also meet a Twi’lek named Xi’an. Twi’leks have been all over the Star Wars franchise. In a variety of colors, they have long, skin-covered tendrils growing out of their craniums. One of the most notable Twi’lek is Aayla Secura, a blue Jedi master who’s slain during Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith. And of course, there’s a droid on the team (voiced by director/comic Richard Ayoade). The droid’s also got a look that’s straight out of The Cantina sequence of Episode 4.
Mando is not thrilled with his situation. Distrustful of the overconfident bounty squad, and wary of drawing too much heat from the New Republic, he soon becomes a contentious part of the team. The group begins to antagonize him, and as they try to rip off his helmet, Bill Burr cracks a meta joke that seems designed to amuse even the biggest haters of Disney. “I wonder what you look like under there,” he says. “Maybe he’s a Gungan. Is that why yousa don’ta wanna show your face?” Filoni’s new show has been very explicitly inspired by the decades of lore in Star Wars. But a Jar Jar Binks joke feels insane, even coming from him. Maybe Disney is alright with the prequels after all.
Aboard the prison ship, Star Wars fans are treated to a few more familiar species behind the doors of each cell. We’ve heard a lot about the New Republic in the recent Star Wars main saga films, but we haven’t really seen how it operates. After the prison ship goes on alert, Mando and the crew face off with a bunch of Republic guard droids. It’s odd to see the Republic–you know, the good guys–operate with such little reserve for the lifeforms aboard, but it just speaks to Filoni and Favreau’s deep understanding of the franchise. Last Jedi explained that the Republic was similar in militaristic design to the fascist Empire, so it makes sense that the droids on this prison ship would act so, well, Imperial.
The heist, of course, turns sour, with Mando ending up gunning down the team himself. He manages to escape, Baby Yoda in tow, and on his way out, a team of Republic sharpshooters fly in to take down the bounty hunters who invaded their prison ship. With Mando out of sight, three X-Wings emerge from hyperspace. It’s the first time we’ve seen these iconic ships on the show (they look cool as hell). Inside the cockpits are Dave Filoni (co-creator of the series), Rick Famuyiwa (a director on the series), and Deborah Chow (another director on the series). The cameo appearances speak to the larger joy of The Mandalorian, the franchise’s first live-action TV show. For years, we’ve waited to see Star Wars on TV. Finally, Disney has given us a live-action show that is a delight for viewers of all kinds. It’s being crafted with great care, by prominent directors who are paying tribute to the many Star Wars creators who came before them. But most importantly, The Mandalorian is being made by Star Wars fans. For people who’ve been following the franchise since their childhood, it feels pretty damn great to see fellow fans at the helm of a series of this scale.
The Mandalorian is set to air again on Wednesday, December 18, two days before The Rise of Skywalker debuts in theaters on December 20.
Dom Nero is a staff video editor at Esquire, where he also writes about film, comedy, and video games.