*** Be warned that FULL SPOILERS ARE AHEAD, so if you haven’t watched the most recent episode of The Mandalorian, don’t read this article. Trust me, you really want to go into this one without spoilers. ***
So that season finale of The Mandalorian was INCREDIBLE!
There’s a lot that happened and a lot to discuss, but I wanted to point out something that will probably go a bit unnoticed but that I thought really helped strengthen so much in this episode: The Dark Troopers.
We were first introduced to the Dark Troopers at the end of Chapter 12, and then we first saw then in action at the end of Chapter 14, when they took the Child. But their biggest role was saved for Chapter 16, when the crew boards Moff Gideon’s cruiser in an attempt to rescue Grogu. And there were two things that were set up early in the episode that saw a HUGE payoff at the end. In fact, I would argue that without the prior setup, what happened at the end wouldn’t be as epic and powerful.
1. The Dark Troopers are droids
The first of these two big setups was the revelation that these troopers are actually droids. When Doctor Pershing reveals that there are Dark Troopers aboard Gideon’s cruiser, Din Djarin asks, “How many troopers do they have armed in those suits?” To this, Pershing responds, “These are a third generation design. They are no longer suits. The human inside was the final weakness to be solved. They’re droids.” As a bit of a side note, this was really cool to hear that they’re essentially “Phase III” Dark Troopers, as in legends the Dark Trooper project had multiple phases as well. And this ‘final’ phase is that they are fully droids, having improved upon prior designs and eliminated the need for humans to be in the suit.
So when we see these troopers, we now know for sure that they are droids.
2. The Dark Troopers are tough to beat
The second setup is when Din Djarin confronts a Dark Trooper. Djarin shuts the door to prevent them from leaving, but one stops the door and gets through. And this Dark Trooper, to put it simply, kicks Djarin’s butt. Mando throws everything he has at this droid, and nothing seems to work: he tries his blaster, the whistling birds, and the flamethrower, and none of them do anything. All series we’ve seen Djarin able to handle his foes with these tools… and now they don’t do a thing against Dark Troopers. He gets destroyed, but finally manages to kill the trooper with the beskar spear.
So we see that these troopers are nearly impossible to kill. That’s why Gideon’s taunts on the bridge later are so terrifying: we as the audience know that this group of heroes standing on the bridge with blasters stand no chance.
But then comes the pay-off to these things that have been setup, because another figure boards the ship and approaches, drawing the attention of the Dark Troopers: Luke Skywalker.
And for as easy as the Dark Trooper made it to beat Mando, Luke makes it look even easier to beat them. He slices through them like they were little more than thin air, making quick work of them using both his lightsaber and his mastery of the Force. We have a much deeper appreciation for what the heroic Jedi Master is doing here because we already saw our main protagonist have such difficulty handling one of these troopers – and now Luke takes on wave after wave of them and wins easily. Because we had already seen the setup with Djarin, it makes Luke look even more powerful.
But that’s not the most important reason for the show to setup the Dark Troopers. See, this comes to a foundationally important aspect of the Jedi that is so easy for people to miss. Remember, a Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense – but never for attack. It is totally antithetical to the Jedi to pursue violence and attack, and should only be seen as a last resort. And it would seem particularly out of place for Luke Skywalker to be doing this, because we have seen that he may be the greatest of all the Jedi precisely because of his ability to balance these things.
The end of Return of the Jedi is the best known example. I’ve written about this before, so I strongly encourage you to check it out. But basically, in ROTJ, Luke gaining the upper hand over Vader actually brings him to the edge of defeat, to the edge of the dark side. It is only by throwing away his weapon and refusing to fight any longer that he can truly say, “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” The brilliance of George Lucas in that moment is that he subverts everything we thought we knew about what a hero should do: by defeating the bad guy, our hero actually nearly succumbs ot the evil himself. But by refusing to fight any longer, he proves that he’s the true hero we knew he could be. This is crucially important to understanding both Luke and the Jedi. I dare say that if you miss this, you’ll probably miss a whole lot else regarding the Jedi throughout the saga.
So that’s in ROTJ, and we flash forward three decades and we see that Luke still knows this and has grown all the more powerful. Because in The Last Jedi, he manages to halt an entire enemy army in their tracks and save the entire Resistance (what’s left of it) without so much as laying a finger on anyone. That’s the most powerful display of the Force we’ve ever seen, and it’s the most stunningly Jedi-like action we’ve ever seen. This is who Luke Skywalker is.
And so, here in The Mandalorian, we find him in-between those moments. It’s still far closer to ROTJ, set just five years after it, but it’s still incredibly important to bring the proper approach to the character. So here comes the ever important question: how do you let Luke Skywalker get his truly epic moment while still staying true to the character and the Jedi?
Bring in droids.
Because we know that these Dark Troopers are merely droids, it does not present anywhere close to the same problems that would arise if Luke Skywalker showed up and just started brutally cutting down stormtroopers, for instance. Like I said, there’s probably not a ton of people who care about this, but I feel it’s very important to honor the character and the Jedi in a way that is fitting. And I really think that they found the perfect way to do this.
I bet that Dave Filoni played a key role in this, as he understands the Jedi and the Force as well as anyone, and furthermore, I wouldn’t be all too surprised if a main part of the reasoning for bringing in the Dark Troopers was precisely because of this factor and the desire to bring Luke into play. I’m really glad that the show handled it as they did.
So yeah, to sum it up, having the Dark Troopers in this episode and setting it up as well as they did helped to elevate the aura of Luke’s power in this episode while guarding against Luke’s power being used in an un-Jedi-like way. It was very well-done.