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Spoilers ahead for Episode 4 of The Mandalorian Season 2, called "The Siege."
The Mandalorian reunited Mando with Greef Karga and Cara Dune in "The Siege" for what was supposed to be a straightforward mission for the good of Nevarro. Instead, Mando and Co. stumbled on a secret lab of the former Empire that seems to involve cloning, Baby Yoda's blood, and yes, the dreaded Midi-chlorians. Based on the big Moff Gideon reveal at the end of the episode, Mando is in some big trouble if he comes across the Darksaber-wielding villain in Season 2. Moff Gideon seemingly has an army of dark stormtroopers.
As if any episode of The Mandalorian could be as simple as banter while blowing stuff up and Baby Yoda stealing cookies! The end of "The Siege" revealed Moff Gideon on a ship that looked for all intents and purposes like it was staffed straight out of the height of the Empire's power, complete with underlings for the Moff and stormtroopers standing guard. Gideon was standing in a large room lined with what looked like a dangerous number of dark stormtrooper droids ready to be activated and deployed. So, what are these troopers, and what do they mean for The Mandalorian? Let's dig in.
Are They Dark Troopers?
The dark stormtroopers may well be Dark Troopers, which are advanced battle droids that were first introduced in the Star Wars: Dark Forces computer game. Dark Forces was released back in early 1995, so don't feel too bad if you didn't immediately recognize on sight the troopers that seem to comprise Moff Gideon's new army. The game was set around the events of the original trilogy, so the timeline is more or rless right for these to be Dark Troopers, even if they're potentially somewhat out of date in-universe due to the fall of the Empire.
That said, Dark Forces is part of the Legends continuity, and Dark Troopers didn't appear in current Star Wars canon until the Star Wars: Commander mobile game, which launched in August 2014, only to be shut down in June 2020. These canon Dark Troopers were experimental combat droids and were used during the civil war between the Rebellion and the Empire, although use of the droid troopers obviously wasn't widespread, as any Star Wars fans who have seen the original trilogy can attest. Taking both the Legends origin and the canon iteration into consideration, all signs seem to point toward Moff Gideon amassing an army of droid Dark Troopers.
What Will Moff Gideon Use Them For?
Moff Gideon's true motivations are fairly shrouded in mystery at this point, although it's quite clear that he needs Baby Yoda for whatever he has up his sleeve. He even cracked a smirk at the news that Mando still has "the asset" and a tracking beacon was placed on board the Razor Crest, then announced that they "will be ready" before giving a lingering gaze at the dark troopers. I think it's safe to say that he plans to use this army to go after Baby Yoda and Mando.
Moff Gideon didn't have Dark Troopers among his minions as of the end of Season 1, when he was flanked by stormtroopers and Death Troopers. Considering the failure of their grand mission to get their hands on Baby Yoda then, he may have come to the conclusion that he needed an upgrade to win the day. How that connects to cloning and Midi-chlorians remains to be seen, but I wouldn't want to bet against him when he has an army of soldier droids against one unlucky Mandalorian and an "asset" who only seems to use the Force nowadays when treats are out of reach.
How Are They Better Than Standard Stormtroopers?
Honestly, it's hard to be worse than standard stormtroopers when it comes to fighting in the Star Wars saga, with even The Mandalorian making fun of their terrible aim in the Season 1 finale with the two doomed Baby Yoda-punching scout troopers. Mando, Greef Karga, and Cara Dune didn't have much trouble with the troopers stationed at the Nevarro lab, and even the more elite Death Troopers that debuted in Rogue One didn't win the day for Moff Gideon at the end of Season 1. The Dark Troopers could have considerable advantages on standard troopers by virtue of the lack of human error.
Dark Troopers won't hesitate or face potential crises of conscience, and they can presumably power through the kinds of "injuries" that would leave troopers in too much pain to try and fight back. Also, depending on how The Force comes into play with Ahsoka on the way and Baby Yoda potentially flexing his Force muscles, they won't be susceptible to the good old-fashioned mind tricks of Force-users. Also, there's a reason why the Separatists of The Clone Wars were able to drag out the prequel trilogy-era war for so long -- droids can be replaced a lot faster than sentient soldiers.
Why Haven't We Seen Them Before?
Of course, all of this leads to an obvious question: where were these formidable combat droids when the Death Star was being infiltrated circa A New Hope, Rebels were escaping Hoth in Empire Strikes Back, stormtroopers were being felled by Ewoks wielding rocks in Return of the Jedi, and the Empire fell? Well, the straightforward answer is that nobody had created them for the Star Wars saga yet, and they weren't retconned into Rogue One or even Star Wars Rebels. The new canon reason may be just as straightforward -- perhaps the Empire just didn't like using combat droids.
Hey, a failed Empire experiment explained why the Rebels TIE Defenders weren't in the original trilogy, so why not have Imperial bureaucracy as the reason why Luke Skywalker and Co. weren't dealing with formidable combat droids on top of troopers and TIEs in the original trilogy? It also stands to reason that the plans for the Dark Trooper droids may have been left in a data bank of some sort after the fall of the Empire, and it may have been easier to build an army of droids than recruit a human army in the years that followed the Rebel victory.
Maybe the Dark Troopers were even Moff Gideon's special project during the time of the Empire, and it was only the fall that opened the door for him to use them again. Whatever the reason, this wouldn't be the first instance of The Mandalorian bringing back something that might have been buried in Star Wars lore forever to play a part in the live-action series, and the heroes battling droids would certainly bring Star Wars TV full circle from the animated series that started it all on the small screen.
All of this said, The Mandalorian hasn't confirmed that these droids are indeed the Dark Troopers of Star Wars lore, but they do promise to be very big threats. The Mandalorian actor Carl Weathers (who directed "The Siege") described them to Empire as "on uber-steroids" and "not just souped-up." Uh-oh!
Find out what Moff Gideon has planned with new episodes of The Mandalorian, releasing on Fridays at 12:01 a.m. PT on Disney+. The Disney streamer offers plenty of other Star Wars content as well to pass the time. If you're in the market for some current and upcoming TV options set elsewhere than the galaxy far, far away, be sure to check out our 2020 fall TV premiere schedule and our 2021 winter and spring premiere guide.