The eight-part documentary series about the making of the first season of The Mandalorian wrapped up today, and though I’ll review the series as a whole soon, I’ll say what I’ve been saying since the beginning: it’s one of the finest behind-the-scenes looks you’ll find.
That continued with the eighth episode of Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, this one about “Connections.” And there are plenty – making it the longest episode, and the most entertaining. The passion of Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni is really what carries the 37+ minutes, and it’s so cool to see just how excited the people making the show were and are about Star Wars.
The entire episode is about the connections that the series has with other Star Wars material, including some deep-cut references to the films, to the Ewok movie, to the holiday special, to video games, and so much more. Like I said, it was by far the most entertaining of the episodes, largely because of the passion of Favreau and Filoni, and so I thought that I’d use my review to highlight seven of my favorite connections pointed out here.
Before that, though, I think it’s important to listen to the words of Dave Filoni from this episode about doing this the right way rather than just forcing everything in:
“It has to work on a story level and a character level. And then the fan gets the little bit of gold in there and people [say], ‘what is that? Why are you excited?’ ‘Oh that’s because it’s this droid that was in The Empire Strikes Back that just stood there and never did anything and looked menacing, but I had the action figure of it.’ And you’re like, ‘what, it didn’t do anything?’ And you’re like, ‘no, it didn’t do anything, but it did something in my mind.’ And there’s many layers of that, but to me it’s just using the universe that was created. It’s not taking it in a different direction, it’s not just throwing a term in there for the sake of winking [and] saying, ‘see I get it.’ That’s something that takes practice.”
I think that’s what The Mandalorian did. And here are seven of my favorites:
7. Familiar creatures
There are a number of familiar creatures that have previously appeared in Star Wars before – including Blurrgs, Ugnaughts, and IG droids. In the show, Kuiil is an Ugnaught, an alien species first seen in The Empire Strikes Back on Cloud City. So they had their wise mentor figure from season one actually be an Ughnaught, and there’s a funny story told about how Favreau initially didn’t have Kuiil speaking english but instead subtitles appearing. So they had Dee Bradley Baker doing stand-in for the voice as he spoke Jawa, and Filoni knew it wasn’t working, which Favreau eventually realized too. But in the show Kuiil has some Blurrgs in his peaceful retirement on Arvala-7 – and Blurrgs first appeared in the 1985 film Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. They were then brought over into canon for the animated shows The Clone Wars and Rebels, and Filoni joked about how he just can’t escape them, as they’ve now appeared in all the major projects he’s worked on. And, of course, IG-11 is a bounty droid who Din Djarin meets on Arvala-7, and who later is nursed and reprogrammed by Kuiil. He’s modeled after the bounty droid IG-88, who appeared in the background of The Empire Strikes Back as one of the several bounty hunters Darth Vader sent in search of the Millennium Falcon. These three creatures – Ugnaughts, Blurrgs, and IG droids – have all appeared in Star Wars before, though with very little focus on-screen. But what this show did is take those familiar creatures and make them significant players in this show, and I think it worked really well.
I’ve written about this one before, but it was highlighted in this episode and is a particularly deep-cut that Favreau seemed excited about. In The Empire Strikes Back, there’s a background character on-screen for a second, as the citizens of Cloud City run through the hallways fleeing. There’s a person who has come to be known as Willrow Hood who is seen carrying what looks like an ice cream maker, and ever since he’s had a cult following. This episode highlights the fact that at every Celebration there’s a group of people who dress up as Willrow Hood, carry their ice cream makers, and run around. Filoni joked that Favreau is going to have to join them now, because Favreau wanted to have an ice cream maker in this show, just like the one Hood had. The canon explanation coming from the show is that it’s a camtono, and since the client uses it to keep the beskar and gives it to Djarin, it’s implied that it’s kind of like a safe to keep valuables. But the reference is one that few people would notice, though for those who do it’s a great easter egg.
5. The rifle
Like the camtono, we actually got a view of this rifle before the series even released, but the rifle that Din Djarin carries around is taken from another deep-cut Star Wars reference. The rifle is actually directly modeled after the rifle that Boba Fett carries around in his first ever appearance, in the Star Wars Holiday Special! That’s a great easter egg in its own right, but part of the reason it’s so high here is because there’s a great clip in this episode about Favreau’s excitement over it and George Lucas’s reaction. Lucas, of course, famously despises the Holiday Special and has tried to ensure that it will never let it see the light of day again. So anyway, when Lucas was on-set, we see a video of Favreau excitedly telling Lucas about the rifle and how Lucas had created it, so it must be canon… and Lucas shot it down.
Favreau: “Did you see the gun we have?”
Favreau: “Did you know that that was an homage to – that’s canon, right, because you wrote it?”
Lucas: “Not really.”
So George Lucas might not be as big of a fan, but it’s a pretty hilarious exchange, a cool design, and a fun easter egg.
Making an appearance at the very end of the final episode of season one, teasing what is to come in season two, is the darksaber. Moff Gideon uses the lightsaber to cut his way out of the crashed TIE, and that’s how the season ends. It’s really cool seeing the prop that was made of the darksaber, which Favreau and Filoni are seen holding and looking at, and it’s awesome seeing something that first appeared in animation now being translated to live-action. Both Favreau and Filoni have a connection to the darksaber; the famous Mandalorian lightsaber was used in both The Clone Wars and Rebels, which Filoni oversaw, and was wielded in TCW for part of the time by Pre Vizsla, whom Favreau voiced. It was a super cool easter egg that caused Star Wars fans to freak out when they saw it (I certainly did!), and I can’t wait to see it have what figures to be a bigger role in season two.
3. The 501st stormtroopers
The connection that perhaps received the most attention in this episode was something we had previously heard about, but it was really cool getting to see video of it and hear people talk about it: members of the 501st actually played the stormtroopers in the eighth episode! The 501st is a massive group of Star Wars cosplayers who build their own armor and make appearances all over, often at the behest of Lucasfilm for events. Realizing that they needed more stormtroopers than they had costumes for, Filoni called some people from the 501st and asked them to come down, not telling them that it was for shooting The Mandalorian. So these 501st members arrived in full costume (the ones that they had made) and were stunned to discover that they were actually going to be appearing on-screen in Star Wars – which, as Filoni points out, means that their armor is now screen-used props! It was cool getting to see these stormtroopers interviewed, acting, and enjoying being on-set. Filoni mentioned that, though they were given direction, these people know how to act like stormtroopers, so they didn’t really need it. I think it’s really awesome how many of the stormtroopers you see in the eighth episode are actually just huge Star Wars fans who made their own armor and were called in (unknowingly) to film the first live-action Star Wars TV series ever – and that Filoni and Favreau thought to ask them.
2. Two familiar droids on Tatooine
In the fifth episode of The Mandalorian, we return to Tatooine for the first time since Return of the Jedi (in-universe, that is), and we see the Mos Eisley Cantina for the first time since A New Hope. It’s changed a bit, specifically because droids are not only allowed now but are actually running the place! There’s a bartender droid whom Djarin speaks with looking for work – and we learn in this episode of Disney Gallery that we’ve actually seen that droid before! It is EV-9D9, who was the droid seen in Jabba’s Palace in ROTJ, overseeing the reprogramming of droids. She’s the one who assigned R2-D2 to Jabba’s Sail Barge, and C-3PO to be Jabba’s interpreter droid. Now, five years later, she is actually bartending at this Cantina! And as an extra fun fact, it was revealed in this episode that Mark Hamill actually voiced EV-9D9 in her brief appearance on The Mandalorian! There’s another droid we’ve seen before that appears even more briefly in the Cantina, and this episode confirmed that it is in fact R5-D4! This was the droid first purchased by Owen Lars from the Jawas in A New Hope, but due to a bad motivator, led the way to R2-D2 being bought by Lars and his nephew, Luke Skywalker. Filoni mentioned that he’s always thought of R5 never leaving the planet, and so Filoni brought the droid into this episode – even going so far as to tell the props people to scuff him up have oil residue where he blew his motivator.
1. The X-Wings
The final connection talked about in the episode is maybe my favorite, as there was a lot of talk between Favreau and Filoni about how it came about. In the sixth episode of The Mandalorian, three New Republic X-Wings show up, and their pilots are played by directors of the show: Dave Filoni (as Trapper Wolf), Rick Famuyiwa (as Jib Dodger), and Deborah Chow (as Sash Ketter). Filoni tells how he and the other directors were convinced to do it by Favreau, who wouldn’t let them out of it. Filoni jokingly talks about weighing how to get out of it, but then how actually going through with it helped him gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for all that actors go through to film a scene. It’s a great exchange, but there’s another easter egg revealed beyond just the three pilots: the X-Wing that was used is the very same X-Wing that is currently displayed at Galaxy’s Edge at Disney World in Orlando, Florida! They had the X-Wing brought to set, they modified it to be able to film in, and the three directors-turned-actors each got in the seat and filmed their scene. So if you go to Galaxy’s Edge in Florida, you can know that the X-Wing on display there is an actual screen-used prop that was the ship for three directors of The Mandalorian!