Part of the first episode of The Mandalorian season 2 picks up exactly where Return of the Jedi left off. This is unsurprising, considering that the Disney+ intergalactic series falls chronologically between the original Star Wars trilogy and its sequels, but using the streaming show as connective tissue for the long-running franchise always manages to further expand the universe and its already-extensive canon.
The third entry in the original Star Wars trilogy saw the long-awaited victory of its rebelling heroes, whose actions on the Forest Moon of Endor (aided by the cute and crucially marketable Ewoks) led to the infiltration and ultimate destruction of Death Star II – a bigger and badder version of the New Hope McGuffin. With the Empire’s reign effectively ended, the survivors, including the series famed holy trinity of leading characters, celebrated their success while Force ghosts looked down with pride.
But a flashback from The Mandalorian season 2 episode 1 makes it clear that celebrations over the fall of the Empire were not limited to Luke and his friends. Seen through the eyes of newcomer Cobb Vanth (played by Timothy Olyphant), it is revealed that Luke’s home-world of Tatooine also watched Return of the Jedi‘s exciting final act unfold. Residents of Tatooinian mining settlement, Mos Pelgo, were shown watching the explosion of Death Star II via a detailed holographic projection in real-time. The fall of the Empire’s weapon of mass destruction was met with an eruption of cheers from the occupants of a local cantina as Vanth looked on. However, their joy was short-lived, as the bar was almost immediately attacked by opportunist bandits – who seemingly wasted no time at all to capitalize on the chaos brought on by the fall of the Empire – leaving lots of the settlers dead.
Though Vanth survived the experience and was able to reclaim the village from the bandits thanks to his repurposed Mandalorian armor (seemingly previously-owned by Boba Fett), the series makes it clear that the fall of the Empire was ultimately responsible for the violence on Mos Pelgo. In an earlier scene, Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) tells Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) that the settlement was quite literally wiped off the map after the events of Episode VI. This dark truth is in stark contrast to the rosier picture painted in the final minutes of Return of the Jedi, further complicating the idea that the Rebellion was completely victorious.
The Mandalorian has never been a series to shy away from the fallout and chaos stemming from the fall of the Empire – the more recent Rey-led trilogy notes that, years later, the First Order would arise to take its place. Early in season one, Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) tells Din Djarin that “The Empire is gone, Mando. All that are left are mercenaries and warlords,” making it clear that any existence in the Galaxy Far Far Away continues to be a turbulent one. The idea that darkness lurks beneath the light is not a new one for Star Wars, especially considering the Ying-Yang nature of the Force. In truth, the series’ rather bleak statement on balance and the cyclical nature of conflict is reflected both in the larger franchise and The Mandalorian‘s numerous Western influences. Vanth’s brief flashback is an effective reminder the Rebellion’s victory was, unfortunately, a pyrrhic one.
As season 2 of The Mandalorian continues, it is expected that many post-Return of the Jedi events will be seen with new and differing perspectives as the show creators attempt to bridge the old stories with the new. Exploring this part of the timeline comes with a slew of considerable challenges, but Jon Favreau (with the help of Din Djarin and his little green companion) may just be up to the task.