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The Ending Of The Mandalorian Episode One Explained

Well, it's here at last, and the first episode of the Disney+ original series The Mandalorian has delivered more lore and backstory than we think anyone could have reasonably anticipated. We might have expected, perhaps, the moody ambiance and minimalist script, but we could not have foreseen the atonal, synth-and-wooden-flute score and the surprising amount of true and sympathetic heart that the titular character has already displayed in his own spartan way.

Though the pilot is paced slowly, with lots of long, luxurious, and atmospheric shots along with extended sequences wordlessly (and efficiently) establishing background for our hero, the major plot cogs of the episode mostly reside in the back quarter of its very tidy 39 minutes — and at the episode's conclusion it served up an exciting treat of a final twist. Let's dig into this twist, try to suss out what it means, and contemplate where The Mandalorian might take us over its next seven episodes.

Spoilers for episode 1 of The Mandalorian follow.

The mother of all last-minute revelations

Perhaps it's best to begin with the elephant in the room — or rather the baby, although this particular infant is 50 years old. Anybody who's seen a movie in the last four decades or so will immediately recognize the little tyke in the floating pram as being of the same species as Yoda, the inimitable Jedi Master who schooled Luke Skywalker in the ways of the Force. At the time in which The Mandalorian takes place, five years after the fall of the Empire, Yoda is of course dead, having passed away in the middle of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi when Luke briefly returns to Dagobah. 

Here's the thing, though: for all the decades of (non-canonical) expanded universe novels, comics, and encyclopedias, Yoda's species has never, not once, been given an official designation — at the insistence of George Lucas. You may recall that Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace briefly introduced another member of Yoda's species (named Yaddle) as a fellow member of the Jedi Council, but even at that time, the species wasn't given a name.

Lucas likely did this in the past to maintain the mysterious timelessness of Yoda's character, and as far as the narrative of The Mandalorian is concerned, this could turn out to be a wise choice in retrospect. Since Star Wars is transitioning away from the Skywalkers and their story, it feels like the right time to pull the curtain away from the mystery of Yoda's people — both for an interesting expansion of existing lore, and as a means of injecting some magnificently-timed hype.

The Mandalorian and IG-11 were not given the same instructions

The secondary surprise of this literal last-minute twist, is, of course, the fact that this target of bounty hunters across the galaxy is a baby kept on a craggy boulder of a planet in deep secrecy and under extremely heavy guard. Curious, too, is the difference between the instructions given to The Mandalorian and bounty-hunting droid IG-11 (Taika Waititi). 

The Mandalorian is heavily-incentivized to bring his bounty in alive (although "proof of termination is also acceptable for a lower fee"). But IG-11's instructions, he says, were explicitly to kill, no questions asked. They are members of the same guild, but were obviously contracted by two different parties with very different interests surrounding the baby not-Yoda (look, we don't have a species name to work with here, we're doing our best).

So, if the most evil entity in the galaxy, the Empire (or whatever is left of it), has wiggle room to permit not assassinating a baby out of hand, who could possibly want the tyke straight-up dead? Kuiil, the Ugnaught guide (Nick Nolte) whom the Mandalorian encounters in pursuit of his bounty states that the baby was brought to his godforsaken parsec to find peace. We can safely assume that its security has been established by the Republic (we assume the organization has not yet become the Resistance, as it is referred to in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens) although this is not made crystal clear. 

It's also possible that there are different factions of the remnants of the Empire vying against each other in the interest of either protecting or killing not-Yoda. We generally understand from the context of The Force Awakens that the Imperial command has become fractious and has different priorities depending on whomever is in command of one group or another, so perhaps that will come into play in future episodes. 

What are the Mandalorian's motivations?

The Mandalorian received a surprising amount of backstory right up front in this episode, but his motivations remain very murky. He refuses to take Imperial Credits as payment for a bounty despite the fact they are stated to still have monetary value — but he'll take extremely non-specific bounties from an actual former high-ranking Imperial officer, one who offers payment in the form of suspiciously-convenient steel of incredible cultural value to the Mandalorians as a people? Curious, indeed.

He is also clearly depicted as dispassionately hyper-competent, a ruthless warrior who always gets his man — but at the end of the episode, he's shown tentatively reaching out with a finger to catch the baby's attention, in much the same fashion that people casually stop to coo at babies in real life. (This, by the way, happens immediately after the bounty hunter mercilessly dispatches IG-11 with a shot to the droid's dome.) This character — all at once a killer, an orphan, and a man just trying to get by — has only just been introduced to us, and already, it's clear that there's much more to him beyond his capacity for hunting, catching, and killing.

It seems certain that discovering what lies underneath that helmet — both literally and figuratively — will be a major focus of the first season of The Mandalorian. With the first episode in the books, though, all we know for sure is one thing: if we're a helpless baby non-Yoda with half the galaxy out to capture us and the other half out to kill us, we're pretty sure that this is the guy we want as our protector.

New episodes of The Mandalorian will drop on Disney+ every Friday at 12:00 AM Eastern time.