The Mandalorian: Dark Troopers Explained

A reveal at the end of The Mandalorian episode "The Siege" could have some major implications for the future of Star Wars canon. Someone call Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors!

Star Wars: The Mandalorian Dark Troopers
Photo: Lucasfilm

This Star Wars: The Mandalorian article contains spoilers.

The Mandalorian may have just dropped a huge clue about Moff Gideon‘s plans for the Empire in “The Siege,” as well as re-canonized a surprising piece of Legends lore. We’re of course talking about those mysterious troopers teased at the very end of the episode.

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Throughout “The Siege,” which mostly takes place in an Imperial lab on Nevarro, we get more hints about the experiments the creepy Dr. Pershing was conducting on the planet and what he intended to do with Baby Yoda in season 1. At one point, Mando, Greef, Cara, and the Mythrol encounter failed specimens floating in test tubes. They kind of look like failed attempts at creating strand-casts akin to Supreme Leader Snoke, or perhaps new bodies for the Emperor himself, but that’s unclear. What we do know, thanks to a holo-recording of Pershing’s logs, is that these subjects were being injected with the Child’s Force-sensitive blood, which implies that perhaps the Empire isn’t interested in cloning Baby Yoda himself but using his undoubtedly midi-chlorian-heavy blood to imbue others with Force powers. (And there is a reference to “M-count” in the episode.)

Fast-forward to the final scene in which Gideon is inspecting a platoon of troopers with a sinister smile on his face. If these mysterious, black armor-clad Imperial soldiers have any connection to the experiments on Nevarro, they could be a direct callback to the Force-sensitive dark troopers who served the Empire in Legends continuity.

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Players of the classic Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series of video games starring former Imperial stormtrooper turned Rebel hero and Jedi Kyle Katarn, as well as readers of the seminal Dark Empire comics from Dark Horse, will undoubtedly recognize dark troopers. Two different types of dark troopers were introduced in 1995, although the Force-sensitive ones in Dark Empire debuted first by about a month. Deployed by the Dark Empire, which was led by a resurgent Emperor in a clone body (sound familiar?) six years after Return of the Jedi, these elite stormtroopers were trained in the dark side of the Force and used their powers to unleash terror on an unsuspecting galaxy. They participated in Operation Shadow Hand, a military campaign that Palpatine hoped would give him back control of the galaxy in the early days of the New Republic.

While certainly a major threat to the galaxy, these dark troopers only appeared in three issues of the Dark Empire storyline, but they did also inspire the shadow troopers, the lightsaber-wielding dark side stormtroopers that popped up two years later in the Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast game. This time serving the Empire Reborn, an Imperial insurgency led by a dark Jedi named Lord Hethrir, the shadow troopers were created by an acolyte named Desann, a former student of Luke Skywalker’s who fell to the dark side. With some help from the Valley of the Jedi, the site of an ancient battle between the Jedi and the Sith that became a nexus of immense Force energy, Desann turned regular stormtroopers into Dark Jedi hybrids and used them to attack Luke’s Jedi academy on Yavin 4.

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These different lines of Force-sensitive stormtroopers seem to be what “The Siege” is nodding at and what could be coming for Mando and Baby Yoda in the second half of the season. Of course, there’s that other thread of dark troopers that points to more of a stormtrooper-battle droid hybrid. Introduced in the game Dark Forces, the Dark Trooper Project was spearheaded by Imperial General Rom Mohc, who developed the program as a way to reintegrate Clone Wars soldiers into the ranks of the Empire. A series of grisly surgeries turned these veterans into half-man half-machine infantry units, their limbs and organs replaced with cybernetic parts. They were deadly and easily controlled by the Empire during the Galactic Civil War.

The way the dark troopers on The Mandalorian seem to be displayed in shipping containers, and the look of their armor, could point to more machine characteristics akin to Dark Forces‘ troopers. Perhaps these new stormtroopers are some kind ohybrid meant to combine Baby Yoda’s Force powers with the machine precision of a battle droid. We just don’t know for sure at the moment.

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That said, showrunner Jon Favreau and executive producer Dave Filoni already have quite the track record when it comes to reintroducing elements from Legends or Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art to Disney canon. However things end up going down on The Mandalorian, these dark troopers just made Mando and Gideon’s next showdown a lot more interesting.

Keep up with all of The Mandalorian season 2 news here.