Warning: Spoilers Ahead.
The Star Wars universe is mind-bogglingly massive.
According to Swiss data scientists, there are a whopping 21, 647 named characters across 36,000 years of storyline. If you want to exclude minor characters, you're still left with a whopping 7,563 - a number that's steadily rising as the Disney-owned franchise releases more films, TV and video games than ever before.
This means that with every new iteration, there's an even greater wealth of references and carefully hidden surprises for fans with a keen eye for detail and droid-like memory for dialogue, and The Mandalorian is no exception. Just barely out the gate with two episodes, fans have exploded into a frenzy of speculation, theories and wishlists for the show. Just like them, I bought into the hype - and found myself standing at the precipice of a deep rabbit-hole full of callbacks to the Star Wars legacy. Here's my top picks:Baby Yoda & ET
In a twist that several fellow fans and I couldn't possibly see coming, the big cliffhanger/setpiece moment of Episode 1 wasn't some thrilling backstory or face-reveal for The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal), but a literal baby Yoda.
At least that's what fans have taken to naming this cute ball of green fuzziness. While we're certain that Disney executives are rubbing their palms in glee at projected merchandise sales figures, many of us sci-fi fans were pleasantly surprised with a reference to E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. One of Steven Spielberg's most personal, emotional and yet pathbreaking films, the creators of The Mandalorian paid homage to the classic in this shot.
© Amblin Entertainment/Universal PicturesCelebrating 'Life Day'
The Mandalorian's first bounty is an unassuming blue… person by the name of Mythrol. While in the process of being whisked away by the bounty hunter, he mentions wanting to be free for 'Life Day'. While in most stories you can fairly confidently chalk this off as lazy worldbuilding, this actually happens to be a reference - one that's nearly 40 years old.
'Life Day' is basically Wookie Christmas. A cringe-inducing 90-minute long holiday special was released in 1978 - while it hasn't aged well, it's nice to know that the series writers have a firm grasp on obscure memories such as these.The Mandalorian's Rifle
Whoever wrote this script really remembers 1978 well - 'Life Day' isn't the only holiday special reference in the pilot episode. In a segment from the special, an animated Boba Fett wanders around while the animators really went to town on colouring both him and his gear - just look at that rifle!
What's really cool, though, is that the design has been toned down somewhat, and provided to the Mandalorian to wield.
Not too shabby, writers.Beskar Metal
Also known as 'Mandalorian Iron', this fictional metal draws many parallels to GoT's 'Valyrian Steel' and the MCU's 'Vibranium'.
While being incredibly stronger than regular metal and being the armour of choice for Mandalonian warriors, one interesting aspect of this metal is that it provides protection even against lightsaber blows. Does this mean that The Mandalorian will come across a lightsaber user? We'll just have to wait and see.Dr. Pershing's Emblem
In the first episode, our antihero finds himself assigned to an off-the-books bounty, which turns out to be baby Yoda. During this briefing, he comes across a timid-looking scientist, which some eagle-eyed fans have been paying close attention to.November 13, 2019
The emblem fans have noticed belongs to Kamino, the planet where the cloning facility was featured in Attack of the Clones. This provides us with a useful clue as to why baby Yoda is the target of the bounty - Dr. Pershing seems to want baby Yoda back alive. Could this mean that the child is a clone of Yoda himself, who dies around 5 years before The Mandalorian's events?
So many theories, so little time. Stay tuned for more updates as we ride the hype train, all the way to the December release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.