The first episode of “The Mandalorian” is chock full of Easter eggs and callbacks to the rich history of Star Wars, and with Dave Filoni as the director, you can bet some of them are deep, deep cuts in the lore of that galaxy far, far away. Here are the ones I spotted during my repeated viewings of “The Mandalorian.”
1. That Guy in the Bar Looks Fishy
In the opening scene of the show’s inaugural episode, we get a look at a Quarren in a bar before he splits. The creatures share a home planet with Admiral Akbar’s people, the Mon Calamari, in what is described as “a tense, albeit peaceful, relationship.”
Their squid-like heads can’t be missed, and they made for intriguing action figures when I was a kid. A Quarren pirate is a main character on the latest Star Wars cartoon set between “Last Jedi” and the forthcoming “Rise of Skywalker.”
2. Is That Real Beskar?
Mandalorians’ armor is made from a special metal called Beskar, known for its ability to deflect blaster bolts and even take a glancing blow from a lightsaber. At the beginning of “The Mandalorian,” the title character’s armor is a mismatched collection of different pieces, some that seem to be made of Beskar (like his helmet and right shoulder pauldron), and some that aren’t.
Beskar armor was known to last hundreds of years in the Star Wars universe. The armor worn by Mandalorian Sabine Wren in “Star Wars: Rebels” was in fact more than 500 years old, and had been passed down within her family for generations. That illustrates why the prospect of an entire haul of the rare and valuable metal is enough to get our titular bounty hunter working for an ex-Imperial.
3. Once a Spy, Now a Steward
When Mando wants to catch a speeder back to his ship with his new bounty in tow, he goes to a “cab stand,” and a Kubaz calls him a ride. A Kubaz was once known as a powerful spy: Mos Eisley in the first Star Wars movie. He was the one who radioed to the local stormtroopers to let them know where to find Luke, Obi-Wan, and the droids they were looking for aboard the Millennium Falcon.
This Kubaz has a decidedly less exciting gig. It is cool that he calls for the Star Wars version of a cab with a flute, not a whistle.
4. Wipe Out
If Star Wars movies are known for one editing trick, it’s the “wipe” transition. “The Mandalorian” uses wipes well to give it that signature Star Wars feel. With the film expertise of Jon Favreau, and the Lucas-trained creativity of Filoni, it’s no surprise they threw in this great homage to the original films.
5. The Mandalorian’s Shocking Rifle
This is a great nod to the origins of Boba Fett, in the quickly forgotten “Star Wars Holiday Special” (something “Mandalorian” creator Favreau has expressed interest in redoing). In the now-jettisoned-from-canon special, Boba Fett had a rifle with prongs on the front that could administer a shock. The gun, officially called an “Amban phase-pulse blaster,” is the perfect insider Star Wars reference.
6. Heading Home for ‘Life Day’
Another reference to the “Holiday Special,” this is the official Star Wars holiday, their version of Christmas, maybe? Here the Mandalorian’s bounty indicates he wants to make it home to celebrate the holiday with his family. Then he ends up on ice.
7. Bounty Popsicles
In “The Empire Strikes Back,” Darth Vader uses carbonite to freeze Han Solo for transport to Jabba the Hutt via Boba Fett. We get the sense it’s not a common practice to freeze people like that in “Empire,” but a few years later, our show’s hero seems to have adapted the process to freeze feisty bounties on his ship. Pretty handy, really.
8. Full Sabacc
The Star Wars version of poker is Sabacc, a complicated card game in which players tried “collecting a hand with an absolute value closest to 23, but no higher.” It settled many debts and is famously how Han Solo won the Millennium Falcon from Lando, as portrayed in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”
In “The Mandalorian,” we see people playing the game as Mando heads into a cantina to meet Greef Karga, head of the Bounty Hunters’ Guild.
9. Greedo’s Gone Orange
Among the bit players in Karga’s cantina, we spot an orange Rodian, the same alien race as the famous bounty hunter Greedo, whom Han Solo shot in the Mos Eisley cantina in 1977’s original Star Wars film. Greedo was a pretty terrible bounty hunter. Mando seems to be better at the trade.
10. Jawas, Disgusting Creatures
As Mando moves throughout the market on one of the planets he visits, we see a couple Jawas scavenging for junk and droid parts. Does this mean the meet-up with Karga happened on Tatooine, since that’s where we first met Jawas in the original trilogy? Not necessarily, but it will be interesting to see if we get more information about this planet as “The Mandalorian” progresses.
11. An Obnoxious Gatekeeper
When Mando goes to meet his mysterious client, he’s greeted by a droid on a stick that juts out of the wall. Children of the ’80s will remember this droid from Jabba’s Palace, where he treated C-3PO. Technically called the TT-8L/Y7, this glorified Ring doorbell was commonly called the “tattletale droid.” I wonder if one of these at my house would keep away those annoying door-to-door salesmen?
12. Gonk. Gonk.
Upon entering the office of Werner Herzog’s character, Mando meets one of my favorite droids in all the Star Wars universe: the GNK power droid, commonly known as the “gonk droid,” for the sound it made. We first glimpsed these waddling, square droids in the original Star Wars film in 1977, but they’ve made numerous appearances since then and have become well-loved characters — and hilarious costumes for Comic-Con.
13. Monkey Kababs
Another original trilogy reference in the early scenes of “The Mandalorian” is a shot of two Kowakian monkey-lizards, one roasting on a rotating spit, and the other sitting in a cage bemoaning his coming fate. Kowakians were ugly little beasts that often served as pets for wealthy crime lords, including Jabba the Hutt and Hondo Ohnaka. Jabba’s Kowakian had one of the greatest names in all of Star Wars: Salacious B. Crumb, a nom de plume I have been known to use when reserving tables at restaurants.
14. ‘Boba Fett? Where?’
When “The Mandalorian” was originally announced, everyone, including the actor who plays the character Pedro Pascal, assumed he was playing the most famous man ever to wear Mandalorian armor in Star Wars, Boba Fett. As every Star Wars fan remembers, Fett bit it in “Return of the Jedi” when he was eaten by the Sarlacc.
Many fans never really liked that ending for such a bad-a character, though, so they often assumed he would have blasted or rocketed his way out of the beast. We’re reminded multiple times that Mando is not the same man who captured Solo, but as he walks into the Mandalorian hall where he eventually meets the smith who makes his new piece of armor, in the background shadows is someone who looks an awful lot like Boba Fett.
There’s no way that character was dressed like that, placed in just the right semi-hidden spot, if it wasn’t on purpose. Favreau and Filoni wanted to get Star Wars fans talking again about their favorite original trilogy bounty hunter.
15. That Skull Looks Familiar
Seconds after the is-he-or-isn’t-he-Boba-Fett moment, we see one of the symbols that has graced his armor and other Mandalorians throughout the Star Wars saga, the skull of the Mythosaur, enormous dragon-like creatures that once roamed the planet Mandalore. These beasts get mentioned by name later in the episode when Mando is trying to learn to ride a wild Blurrg for his trip to his bounty.
16. Of What Purge Do You Speak?
When Mando heads to the Mandalorian armor smith and presents his piece of Beskar, she notes it likely came from the “Great Purge.” This could be a reference to one of several things in Star Wars lore, or it could be something new. Order 66 illustrated in “Revenge of the Sith” was known as the “Great Jedi Purge,” but I’m not exactly sure how that ties into Beskar armor pieces.
What it likely refers to is the Imperial occupation and destruction of Mandalore that is portrayed in several episodes of Filoni’s “Rebels” cartoon show. That occupation and destruction of their society may be known as the “Great Purge.”
17. It’s a SUPER Battle Droid
Glimpsed during Mando’s flashback to his youth is a super battle droid from the prequel series destroying his village. Disney has made a point to distance itself from much of the prequels during its tenure of Star Wars. Might this be a sign (along with the Ewan McGregor-helmed Obi-Wan series) that some aspects of the less-than-loved prequels will be working their way back into the new Star Wars content?
18. It’s a Blurrg!
This is the ultimate deep cut in Favreau and Filoni’s Mandalorian playbook. When Mando arrives on the desert planet Arvala-7 to seek out his special bounty, he is attacked, and then later rides a Blurrg. These are the perfect Star Wars stand-ins for a horse in this decidedly Western-themed show. Blurrgs have appeared before in the now no-longer-canon Ewok TV movies.
They also appeared in cartoon form in Filoni’s “Clone Wars” and later on “Rebels.” The females also apparently eat the males after mating. Bet there’s not a Blurrg Bumble.
19. The Ugnaught Has Spoken
Mando is rescued from the attacking Blurrg by Kuiil, an Ugnaught vapor farmer. Ugnaughts were first introduced in “Empire Strikes Back” on Bespin as weird, little, pig-like creatures that worked behind the scenes of Lando’s operation.
They’ve made numerous appearances in Star Wars lore since then, including multiple episodes of “Clone Wars” and “Rebels.” The fact that they got Nick Nolte to play an Ugnaught is absolutely perfect. No man could be better suited for the job.
20. Screaming Nikto
As the Mandalorian finally reaches his bounty at the end of the first episode, he finds that the target is heavily guarded by an army of Nikto. These creatures had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role at Jabba’s Palace in “Return of the Jedi” but really made a name for themselves in the later cartoon series. They served the Hutt Clan for centuries, and after Jabba’s death, finally broke apart and formed their own government and crime cartel.
21. ‘Oh No, a Bounty Droid’
Mando finds he’s not the only bounty hunter searching out his target. IG-11, a bounty hunter droid, is also in pursuit. In “Empire Strikes Back,” a similar bounty hunter droid, IG-88, was among those “scum” hired by Lord Vader to search for Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon.
When Favreau leaked that director and actor Taika Waititi would be voicing an IG droid in “The Mandalorian,” all of Star Wars fandom assumed it was IG-88, but honestly, after seeing Waititi’s portrayal of IG-11, I’m so glad he was a new character. He stole every scene he was in, until he blew his top.
22. Were My Ears That Big as a Baby?
When we finally meet the bounty that Mando and IG-11 track down, it’s not at all what everyone expected. Instead of a 50-year-old guy, it’s a baby “Yoda.” Now, at this point in the timeline, which is several years after “Return of the Jedi,” we know that the baby Yoda can’t actually be the Yoda we know because Yoda died well past 900 years old. George Lucas never revealed the name of Yoda’s race, on purpose.
We’ve only ever seen one other of his kind, Yaddle, in “The Phantom Menace.” This baby demonstrates all the exciting potential of “The Mandalorian.” I can’t wait to see what else we’re going to learn about Yoda’s species, this particular baby, and why so many ex-Imperials wanted it dead or alive. Also, this is the cutest Disney baby since Baby Groot.