The Mandalorian season 2, episode 4 explored the Empire’s new plan to establish their power, and it’s the same plan they tried before: clones. When the Mandalorian and his allies attacked an Imperial base on Nevarro, they found a lab where the Empire’s scientists were using Baby Yoda’s blood to experiment with midichlorians, likely involving clones shown floating in the laboratory’s vats. The Mandalorian could be setting up the First Order’s origins with these clone experiments, but it also returns the Empire to the same basic tactics, showing why they never succeed despite the new twists in their plans. These new clones are indicative of a fatal flaw in the Empire’s strategies, throwing versatility aside in favor of a bigger version of the last idea that worked.
The Empire has a reputation for never abandoning their Plan A. The Death Star was a terrifying threat when first introduced as it succeeded in reducing Alderaan to debris, but then the Rebels learned its weakness and exploited it, destroying the superweapon in A New Hope. Determined the idea should still work, the Emperor constructed a second and more powerful Death Star, one with a similar weakness, but it wasn’t as serious of a threat since the Rebels had handled the same situation before. The First Order continued this grand tradition by constructing another planet-killing base that was again destroyed through a small weakness. The Empire’s return to clones leads them down the same path as the multiple versions of the Death Star.
The inclusion of both the cloning laboratory and Moff Gideon’s dormant Imperial army suggests another clone army. The Empire successfully used clones before, turning the Jedi’s clone army into their executioners with Order 66. The clone army worked the first time because it was unexpected, but the Empire would lose that edge with its second attempt at the same plan. Gideon would likely try to level up these clone troopers, possibly making them cyborg Dark Troopers like elsewhere in the Star Wars universe or even Force-sensitive clone soldiers, but he would quickly lose the advantage of surprise after the first time his clone army faced their enemies. The Rebels have faced clone, droid, and Force-sensitive threats individually, so it would just be a new combination of the same elements.
However, the clone laboratory may be focused on creating either Palpatine or Snoke instead. According to the novelization of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Emperor Palpatine was a clone that his real spirit was transferred into, and he would have needed a clone body capable of handling his dark power, so Baby Yoda’s genetic sample could help create that vessel. Snoke was also genetically created, and the music cues in The Mandalorian hint that the clone is Snoke because of the similarity with his theme from the sequel trilogy.
Palpatine and Snoke, though, are another iteration of trying the same plan again on a larger scale. Rather than adapting its tactics and pursuing new leadership with fresh ideas, the Final Order got caught up in Palpatine’s illusions of immortality and continued to bring him back into the picture. This came crashing down on them just as it did in Return of the Jedi because Palpatine was a familiar threat that the Rebels had already defeated.
The Empire had an opportunity to move on from their crushing defeat under Palpatine, but they instead seem to be returning to Palpatine and cloning using Baby Yoda’s blood. The Imperial forces could have outlived Palpatine and flourished in a way that looked much different, but they can never succeed for long when they are unwilling to give up the trappings of the Empire’s biggest successes in favor of a new strategy. Though Moff Gideon may still have surprises in store, it looks like he’s rehashing the greatest hits. The Mandalorian has interesting ground to cover setting up the First Order’s creation, but it’s a doomed and predictable journey unless the Empire finds a more unique way forward.