Television

The Casual Star Wars Fan’s Guide to The Mandalorian

When does this show take place? What is Calamari Flan? Was that a … baby Yoda?

The Mandalorian aims a two-pronged rifle.
Pedro Pascal in The Mandalorian.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Lucasfilm.

This article contains spoilers for the first episode of The Mandalorian.

I just finished watching The Mandalorian. Is that a … baby Yoda?

Yes it is—at least, from a certain point of view. The baby (or “the Being,” as the cast has referred to it) is almost certainly of the same species as Yoda, going by its green skin and pointy ears. Plus, it’s 50 years old and still a baby, which tracks with Yoda’s long life span: He was 900 by the time he croaked in Return of the Jedi.

The baby is an exciting revelation because until now, we haven’t learned much about Yoda’s species, which doesn’t even have a name, a rarity for a franchise with such a rich web of movies, TV shows, books, comics, video games, and other lore. How many Yodas are there? Do they have a home planet? How come we don’t see more of them? Are they endangered? The doctor in The Mandalorian’s eagerness to have lil Yoda returned alive would suggest so.

OK, so it’s a baby Yoda. But is it also a baby Yoda, as in, the offspring of Yoda? Did Yoda have sex? Are there lady Yodas?

Yoda was a monk who dedicated his life to a religion that forbade romantic relationships—a policy that kinda contributed to the corruption of one of its members, the rise of a fascist dictator, and the downfall of an entire civilization—so it would be a real bombshell if it turns out Yoda was out there bumping green uglies with someone while telling Anakin Skywalker not to form any attachments. There is at least one female member of the Yoda species in the canon: Yaddle, who first appeared in the The Phantom Menace as a member of the Jedi High Council.

I think I must have misread that because I thought you said her name was Yaddle, which can’t possibly be correct.

It’s Yaddle, baby!!!!!!!

A green, Yoda-like creature with long brown hair sits in a round chair.
Yaddle, baby.
Lucasfilm via StarWars.com

Does the timeline even work out for Yoda to be the father? When does this show take place, exactly?

The Mandalorian is set about five years after The Return of the Jedi ends, and since the baby is 50 years old, that means it would’ve been conceived around the time the Clone Wars began, which is perfectly plausible. But that also brings us to another possible explanation for baby Yoda: We know that the Star Wars universe has cloning technology. Maybe it’s literally baby Yoda, a clone of the original. But that raises even more questions, too, like who cloned it? And why? Did Yoda know about his clone?

Speaking of clones, what’s the deal with Mandalorians? Wasn’t the prototype for the clone troopers also a Mandalorian? Are all Mandalorians clones?

A Mandalorian is simply someone who hails from the planet Mandalore (or, debatably, from one of its surrounding moons). Jango Fett, the bounty hunter used as a template for the clone troopers introduced in Attack of the Clones, used to wear distinctive Mandalorian-style armor, and he passed that armor along to his clone son Boba Fett, which is part of what made his character so distinctive in the original trilogy.

Mandalore has a troubled history. A civil war ravaged the planet and killed most of the population, and the rebels who refused to submit peacefully were exiled to the moon Concordia. The politics of the planet are explored in more detail in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. In fact, The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau voiced a Mandalorian terrorist on the show.

Mandalore has seen so many conflicts that when Werner Herzog’s character says, “It is a shame your people suffered,” it’s difficult to tell whether he’s talking about one conflict in particular or the whole sorry history. The planet has seen children poisoned thanks to illegal smuggling operations, corrupt politicians framing their rivals, gangsters seizing control of the government, and an Imperial occupation—and who knows what unseen calamities have been added to that list by the time of The Mandalorian?

What is this beskar stuff and why is it so important to Mandalorians?

It’s a kind of metal alloy used in making Mandalorian armor like Boba Fett wore and like the show’s protagonist wears. (That’s how so many strangers are able to tell where the Mandalorian is from before he even opens his mouth.) We see beskar steel in action after the blacksmith melts it down to make a shoulder piece for him. It’s incredibly strong and can even withstand a lightsaber.

It’s also highly in demand. After the former Sith lord known as Darth Maul improbably survived being cut in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi, he used his connections to the criminal underworld to create instability on Mandalore, used that instability to install a puppet government that would promote his interests, and in the process seized control of the beskar, too. That’s probably why Herzog says that it’s good that the substance will be returned to a Mandalorian, because it was taken from them.

So it’s like the Star Wars equivalent of vibranium?

Sure, but not as fun to say.

Why won’t the Mandalorian accept credits as payment when the guild leader offers them to him? Also, bounty hunters have guilds??

This is a classic Star Wars problem, especially in the Outer Rim. Credits, whether issued by the Republic or the Empire, are simply not welcome because their value fluctuates, so wheelers and dealers will often insist on being paid in spice or something else. In this case, the “something else” the Mandalorian accepts is Calamari Flan, which is an absolutely insane name for a currency, especially one used by squid people, especially one that jiggles when you touch it.

Bounty hunters do indeed have a guild, though to be clear, there are also plenty of freelancers roaming the galaxy. The gig economy is strong with this one.

I thought a bunch of actors were going to be in The Mandalorian, but I didn’t see them. What’s up with that?

You’re right. Some, like Giancarlo Esposito and Gina Carano, haven’t been introduced yet. Others may have slipped in right under your nose! Taika Waititi, for example, voices the droid IG-11, while Nick Nolte was Kuiil, the farmer who saves the Mandalorian from having his arm munched off.

So what now? We have to wait a whole week for the next episode?

Nope. While the first episode of The Mandalorian was released with the launch of Disney+, the next one airs on Friday. Future episodes will then drop every Friday.