This Star Wars article contains spoilers.
Although he never quite enjoyed the celebrity status of fellow bounty hunters like Boba Fett, Corellian mercenary Dengar is one of the original stars of Star Wars‘ criminal underworld. Movie fans might only recognize Dengar from the famous bounty hunter line-up scene in The Empire Strikes Back, but those who have delved into the Expanded Universe of books and comics have probably seen the character pop up a few times since 1980.
In the now non-canon Legends timeline, Dengar’s further adventures were explored in Marvel’s classic Star Wars comics as well as books like The Mandalorian Armor by K.W. Jeter, which shows how Dengar nursed a severely wounded Boba Fett back to life after the events of Return of the Jedi. But the character’s most lasting legacy is probably as the butt of the joke, appearing as a quirky and dim-witted villain in parodies such as the Robot Chicken Star Wars specials.
Dengar was not the galaxy’s funny guy within the Star Wars universe, though. In fact, he had a reputation for being even more ruthless than Boba Fett himself. Although his first chronological appearance in The Clone Wars (voiced by Simon Pegg) shows him as a cocky and flirty bounty hunter who thinks he has a chance with dark side assassin Asajj Ventress, an accident while swoop racing left him completely altered. Imperial scientists implanted cybernetic implants in Dengar to save what was left of his damaged brain, turning him into an emotionless killer. It’s this ruthless killer we meet in The Empire Strikes Back and follow throughout the Legends timeline, although he would eventually regain some of his old self in later adventures.
But Disney’s reboot of Star Wars continuity threw much of this history out. Although his appearances in The Clone Wars seasons 4 and 5 are still part of the official canon, stories like The Mandalorian Armor are not.
So who is the Dengar of the Disney canon?
Since he’s always been more a side character, not much has changed for Dengar as far as the Prequel and Original Trilogy eras go. He shows up in a few issues of Marvel’s Star Wars and Darth Vader comics as the bounty hunter you’ve come to expect, although the cybernetic brain backstory seems to have been excised. Dengar is also a side character in the Aftermath series of novels by Chuck Wendig. In those books, which are set a little while after Return of the Jedi, Dengar plays a part in the final battles between the New Republic and the Empire, witnessing another major power shift in the galaxy.
We’ve not seen much of Dengar since Aftermath, but a cryptic entry in the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary suggests that the bounty hunter is actually in the final chapter of the Skywalker Saga in hideously altered form and operating under the alias “Rothgar Deng.” Remember those cybernetic implants from Legends? Well, in the Disney canon, it looks like Dengar has taken the cybernetic makeover to the extreme in an attempt to live forever, and the result is absolutely grotesque.
You’re not ready for this cybernetic nightmare:
I warned you.
“Rothgar is an old and experienced Corellian bounty hunter, who is likely operating under an alias,” reads the Visual Dictionary’s entry for Rothgar Deng (via Slashfilm). “He has been subjecting himself to cybernetic replacements in a poorly planned bid to live and work forever. As age began slowing his reflexes and dulling his senses, Rothgar turned to black-market surgical clinics to replace damaged or wizened body parts with ones that will give him an advantage in his dangerous trade. Poor decision making has led to a ghastly appearance.”
While Rothgar Deng no longer wears Dengar’s iconic turban, the character still wears the rest of the bounty hunter’s beat-up metal armor, although his arms (and possibly his legs) have been replaced with robotic limbs. Why his face was so hideously altered is anyone’s guess. In the Legends timeline, Dengar was equipped with prosthetic eyes and ears that vastly improved his senses, which might be what’s happened here. It’s clear those “black-market surgical clinics” are no match for Imperial scientists, though. Yikes.
StarWars.com confirmed that the severely altered Dengar can be found in the Thieves’ Quarter on Kijimi in The Rise of Skywalker: “Hanging out in the lair of the ne’er-do-wells known as the Thieves’ Quarter in Kijimi City is a bounty hunter with many cybernetic parts…We get hints here of someone we ought to know. But I can’t seem to place a name to this now-hideous monstrosity of low-budget-augmentation who we might have seen during the Clone Wars and chasing the Millennium Falcon after Hoth. Deng it!”
Just how old would Dengar be at this point? The Clone Wars, which takes place between 22 and 19 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin), shows that Dengar is already an adult during the war, meaning that the bounty hunter could very well be in his 70s or 80s by the time of The Rise of Skywalker, far past his prime, especially for a contract killer who needs to be fast on his feet and with his trigger finger.
Why didn’t Dengar just retire and live out the rest of his days on a Scarif resort or something? We don’t know the answer to that yet, although there’s always a chance we might eventually see what happened to Dengar between the Aftermath books and The Rise of Skywalker. In fact, Simon Pegg recently told Collider that he’d love to return as Dengar in an upcoming season of The Mandalorian:
“I’ve mentioned it a few times, but surely, if Taika [Waititi, director] and [series creator Jon] Favreau decide to bring Dengar into The Mandalorian, then I have some form [of experience] in the past having played him in Star Wars Battlefront and The Clone Wars. So just saying. I heard they just employed Katee Sackhoff to play a character that wasn’t in the movies but she played it before in a different Star Wars thing, so just saying.”
The Mandalorian seems like the perfect venue for Dengar’s return to the screen, especially since Boba Fett himself is set to appear in the second season. Could Dengar follow suit in the already-in-development season 3? If so, it’d be interesting to see The Mandalorian bridge the gap between the Dengar we know and love and the monstrous Rothgar Deng. Seriously, what the hell happened to his face?