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Lyvie Scott

'The Mandalorian' Just Bungled A Crucial Plotline 4 Years in the Making

When the uber-evil Emperor Palpatine somehow returned in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, fans understandably had questions. Who wouldn’t? Palpatine seemed super dead when Darth Vader hurled him into the Death Star’s reactor shaft in Return of the Jedi — but as we’d all learn later, Palpatine had a contigency. His master plan involved cloning technology and a puppet leader that would rule in his stead until he was strong enough to return to a corporeal form.

Did that make even a lick of sense? Not really, but the sequels didn’t seem too interested in fleshing out the details.

Since the sequel trilogy came to a bewildering close with The Rise of Skywalker, it’s fallen to other Star Wars stories to clean up the mess they left behind. While The Mandalorian is (for the most part) its very own thing, it’s also become the unsung savior of the Star Wars sequel trilogy. The series is about 20 years removed from that era, but its position on the timeline makes it uniquely qualified to answer the questions that the sequels left dangling, starting with Palpatine and his puppet-clone, Supreme Leader Snoke.

Across its three seasons, The Mandalorian has been slowly setting up the backstory behind Snoke and the Empire’s cloning technology. It’s even roped majors characters, like Grogu and Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) into the narrative, positing both as instrumental figures in Snoke’s creation and Palpatine’s return. Season 3 especially felt like the culmination of an otherwise-vague subplot: with Moff Gideon poised to create his own Force-sensitive clone army, it seemed like The Mandalorian was finally ready to lay all the sabacc cards on the table.

Unfortunately, we got none of the answers we hoped for in the Season 3 finale. While Gideon succeeds in creating his very own army of identical clones, they’re destroyed before they can pose a real threat to the galaxy. Gideon himself also appears to perish in an explosion. For our good guys, this is obviously great news: Gideon was a ferocious adversary who was dead set on bringing the planet Mandalore under the shadow of the Empire. But from a narrative standpoint, it couldn’t be more frustrating.

In one fell swoop, The Mandalorian erased years of build-up for a character that never reached his full potential. More than that, we’re still no closer to solving the mystery behind Snoke. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if The Mandalorian was a self-contained story — after all, the series deserves to forge its own path. Like it or not though, it still has to honor its responsibility to the larger Star Wars narrative, and truncating promising subplots to make way for new ones is not the way to do so. In fact, it’s only the latest example of The Mandalorian’s most frustrating habit.

The Mandalorian has had an identity crisis from the very beginning. In spite of its simple, fail-safe premise, the series is consistently derailed by set-ups and tie-ins to peripheral Star Wars stories — and its cloning arc was top of the list. After a few growing pains though, The Mandalorian managed to fold its Snoke-related subplot into the larger context of the show. Fleshing out Moff Gideon and his master plan only strengthened The Mandalorian — but for all the progress made in Season 3, the series still doesn’t seem to know what to do with its most nuanced storylines.

Of course, there’s a chance that all this is but a misdirect. Gideon may very well live to fight another day; maybe a few of his clones survived the Mandalorian finale too. Either way, waiting for Mando to deliver the answers the sequels withheld is beginning to look like a fool’s errand. Perhaps the mystery of Snoke is meant to be just that. Again, it doesn’t make sense, but The Mandalorian is clearly trying to do its own thing.

All episodes of The Mandalorian are currently streaming on Disney+.

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