[Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian's first episode.]
Let's get the basic plot setup out of the way.
Tired of discount bounties paid in Calamari Flan, the Mandalorian takes a chit to a new client offering a full camtono of beskar -- but instead of a typical Bondsman Guild puck and full chain code, he's only given the target's tracking fob and age: 50 years old.
Phew. Ok, the jargon of this profession is... complicated. But the bones of the story are simple. The titular bounty hunter gets hired for a very special and mysterious bounty. He wrangles, rides, and shoots his way to the target -- who turns out to be a baby of Yoda's slow-aging species. Cut to black.
That reveal sets up numerous intriguing questions for the rest of the series to explore. And with so many mysteries looming over the story, what are we to make of the show's overload of lore references: mere Easter eggs or real clues? Well, that's what we're here for. In each weekly TV Guide recap of The Mandalorian, we'll be digging for clues -- fragments of the extended canon that could help explain what's going on in the show, or major threads that might meaningfully connect to the broader franchise.
The final reveal, of course, prompts a fair few questions. Why do The Client and Doctor Pershing want the baby brought back alive? Who has been sending all those other bounty hunters like IG-11 to kill it? What's the baby's relation to Yoda -- a child, a clone?
And -- checking the timeline -- why does the baby apparently have the same birth year as Anakin Skywalker? Could we be getting into weird force prophecy territory, like a "chosen one" or a "vergence in the force"? Because Palpatine is technically Anakin's father (via a special Sith power), could he similarly be this baby's father? And could this power somehow tie into Palpatine's apparent return this December in The Rise of Skywalker? We may be going down the wrong rabbit hole, but right now with so little information, any crazy theory feels possible.
We're never given the names of the planets The Mandalorian visits -- just visuals of ice, volcanic rock, and sand. Is the desert planet supposed to be Tatooine (Anakin and Luke Skywalker's home planet), or Jedha (from Rogue One), or Jakku (from The Force Awakens)? If it turns out to be Tatooine, that's another potential link to the Skywalker history. It's unclear why Lucasfilm is playing coy with this info (especially since, come on, that's totally Tatooine on the poster, right?)
Here's a bit of unprecedented Star Wars worldbuilding detail the episode finally dumped: starship commode terminology and visuals. You "evacuate your thorax" with a "vac tube" that flushes to the "grey hold." But no, they won't tell us if this episode takes place on Tatooine yet.
The motivations of the various factions we see in this episode are as murky as a grey hold. There are quite a few: the post-imperial faction of the Client; the strictly-codified Bondsman Guild of bounty hunters; the orphan-adopting tribe of Mandalorians; the babysitting band of Nikto mercenaries; the peace-seeking settlers on the desert planet. In the coming weeks, some of the lore may help clarify what some of these groups want and what they might do next.
One key element of Mandalorian culture stands out as particularly relevant: Individuals may become Mandalorians either by birthright or by adoption. Flashbacks suggest that the protagonist himself was inducted into the tribe as an orphan "foundling" after being separated from his parents during a battle. Apparently taking in foundlings is a major part of the tribe's life -- the Armorer refers to using surplus income from the beskar haul for that purpose. And we see children in Mandalorian helmets run past Boba Fett in the background inside the tribe's enclave. (Boba Fett, where?! Go rewatch it -- that's definitely him.)
Because of adoption customs, Mandalorians are usually human but not always. After that instant connection between the bounty hunter and the baby Yoda, who knows what lengths he will go through to protect the child? Might he defy the code of the Bounty Hunters guild? Could he double-cross The Client and his creepy ex-imperial doctor? Could he somehow protect the child by adopting it into the tribe? Could the Armorer make it a helmet? Could the title The Mandalorian actually refer to -- the baby Yoda?
The Mandalorian's first episode is now streaming on Disney+. New episodes are released Fridays at 12:01 am PT.