(LOS ANGELES) — On Nov. 12, Disney+ officially launches, and with it one of its most-anticipated series: Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorian.
That might not be news even to those who don’t consider themselves part of the worldwide legion of Star Wars die-hards, so in case you’re in that boat, let’s start with the basics.
Iron Man director, Marvel movie actor, and Star Wars fan Jon Favreau co-created the series with his “Star Wars: The Clone Wars collaborator and Star Wars creator George Lucas’ protege, Dave Filoni. The series centers Game of Thrones and Kingsman 2 star Pedro Pascal as the title character, a bounty hunter and gunslinger operating in the far reaches of the galaxy.
OK, the trailer hints at that, but what is a Mandalorian? There’s a short version and a long version. A very long version.
While much of the history of the Mandalorians was detailed in books and comics as part of Star Wars‘ so-called “E-U” or “Expanded Universe,” much of that history wasn’t considered “canon” — that is, George Lucas official.
Short version: The name refers to a race whose history spans thousands of years in the Star Wars universe. The fearsome people are known for armor that shares their race’s name and which was spawned from the planet they initially conquered, Mandalore. Mandos, as they’re sometimes known, waged wars of conquest throughout the galaxy, establishing outposts on the planets they conquered.
The armor has become synonymous with the bounty hunter Boba Fett, who made his first appearance in animated form in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special.
1980’s The Empire Strikes Back solidified Fett’s fan-favorite status, despite his only having four lines of dialog — and short ones at that. His battered, olive-drab, weapons-strewn armor stood in stark contrast to the white-and-black color scheme usually favored by the Empire, for whom he tracked Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon, leading to the capture of Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and their pals.
Fett eventually captured his nemesis Solo in a frozen carbonite slab, which was delivered to noted gangster Jabba The Hutt.
1983’s Return of the Jedi saw Fett meet an inglorious end. In an escape attempt, an unfrozen but vision-impaired Solo accidentally activates Boba’s jetpack, and he slams into Jabba’s floating yacht and falls into the toothy maw of a sand-pit-dwelling creature known as a Sarlacc.
Years later, Lucas joked he should have shown Fett clawing his way out — as he did in unofficial comics and other portrayals. The “Star Wars” creator admitting he’d underestimated how popular Fett would be.
That was partially responsible for Boba’s return — as the cloned child of his father, Jango, in the Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones. The film, which took place decades before the original Star Wars trilogy, explained Jango Fett, an outstanding warrior and bounty hunter, was commissioned to be a clone template for a Grand Army of the Republic, which fought for — and eventually against — the Jedi Order.
Despite his skills, Jango Fett was decapitated by Samuel L. Jackson’s Jedi Master Mace Windu at the movie’s end, though his son is shown picking up Fett’s helmet.
With the creation of the Clone Wars series, Lucas and Filoni streamlined the Mandalorian history. Their years of conquest remained, eventually leading to a peaceful society on New Mandalore. However, they were eventually torn apart by in-fighting, with hardliners, led by a group called Death Watch, led by Pre Vizla, advocating for a return to their people’s warlike ways.
A civil war erupted, and years later, when the Empire came to power, their planet found itself occupied — and later razed when the Mandalorians rebelled. Some of that struggle was detailed in the series Star Wars: Rebels when Clone Wars‘ run ended.
That series is how Favreau and Filoni met, back in 2007. Favreau was working on Iron Man at the time, and, after bonding over Star Wars, Filoni even hired him to voice Mando rebel Pre Visla over multiple episodes.
Clone Wars even suggested that for all their history in Star Wars lore, Jango wasn’t ethnically Mandalorian after all — he’d just stolen the armor, which, apart from being some handy blaster-proof kit for bounty hunting — what with rope shooters, flame throwers, knee darts and the aforementioned jetpack — it inspires fear in the hearts of those come across it.
Which brings us back to The Mandalorian.
As of yet, we don’t know who Pascal’s character really is. All we know is that after the fall of the Empire — the series takes place after the events of Return of the Jedi — that galaxy far, far away is a lawless place. Perfect for a mercenary bounty hunter.
“Going back to the roots of what inspired George, originally like the old Westerns and the samurai films,” Favreau explained over the summer at the fan expo D23. “[Y]ou know, back … around the time of Seven Samurai, where the age of the warrior was just starting to end or post-Civil War in the Old West when everything had to be order had to be brought to the universe.”
“I always loved … in the first ‘Star Wars’ film, the cantina — and the smugglers and the ‘scum and villainy,’” Filoni added, quoting Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Filoni said of the time period of The Mandalorian that “Next year it will be 15 years of working on Star Wars … but this area is so unique that we’re playing in, with these characters. It’s fun.”
Of those characters, we know that former MMA fighter Gina Carano will play a former solider-turned-Merc Cara Dune. She called her character “a loner,” adding that’s “isn’t a far stretch” for her, with the Deadpool star adding that Cara is “learning how to have a bit of trouble reintegrating myself into society.” She added: “I don’t think I’ve done a better job than I’ve done on this show.”
Carl Weathers, best known for playing Apollo Creed in the Rocky franchise, plays Grief Karga, a bounty hunter guild leader who hires the title character for a job because, he says, “The Mando is a guy who he figures can get the job done.”
We’ve also learned that Ming Na Wen will play an assassin known as Fennic Shand. “We got our inspiration really from the name. The idea of a fennec fox came to mind,” she told Vanity Fair. “She’s tricky, and yet she’s able to maneuver and survive, and be stealthy — so very graceful and agile. I just love that whole image with the name.”
The Mandalorian will also star the voice of Nick Nolte, as a member of the pig-faced species called the Ugnaughts — the same aliens who helped freeze Solo at the close of “Empire.”
Playing the apparent heavy is Werner Herzog, though not much is known about what part he’s playing.
For his part, Pascal said of his “mysterious” character, “Some might say he’s of ‘questionable moral character,’ which is in line with some of our best Westerns. He’s a badass!”
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