With these recaps, I usually focus on how The Mandalorian ties into the Star Wars universe. For better or worse (mostly better!), episode six “The Prisoner,” didn’t have a ton of connection to the Star Wars movies. It was a mission first, and a “hey, there’s a Devaronian, like the one in the Mos Eisley cantina! And the X-wings! And that four-armed monkey thing voiced by Jon Favreau (I wonder how they got him) from Solo!” second. Did I half-expect a return from Space Herzog and Dr. Pershing, setting up a possible Force-heavy connection to Palpatine’s return in The Rise of Skywalker? I did.
But, we got something better instead.
You know who can’t catch a break in Star Wars? Droids. Mando, for one, is not a fan, but at least there’s good reason for his distrust. Wookiees are an easy target, too; even the Jawas made fun of them. The Jawas! But based on this episode, droids and Wookiees have it easy compared to what the Gungans deal with. The Gungans first appeared in The Phantom Menace, sharing the planet Naboo with the aboveground human inhabitants. (The Gungans are the natives, but the real-world comparisons here — the Naboo think the Gungans are “barbarians” — are too depressing to consider, so, uh, moving on.) The amphibious species help save the day against the droid army, led by Boss Noss and, accidentally, Jar Jar Binks, but to the wider Star Wars world, or at least former Imperial sharpshooter Mayfield (played by Bill Burr), that’s not known what they’re known for. They’ve been reduced to a stereotype, and mesa thinks that’s mostest unfair.
The Mandalorian has made nods to the prequels before, but I did not expect to hear a reference to the Gungans, no one’s favorite Star Wars aliens. Things got so bad for actor Ahmed Best, who played Jar Jar Binks (his role was dramatically reduced after the backlash to the character in The Phantom Menace), that he considered committing suicide. “I had death threats through the internet,” he once said. “I had people come to me and say, ‘You destroyed my childhood.’ That’s difficult for a 25-year-old to hear.” Things are better now for Best — he’s happy, he’s healthy, and he’s hosting a Star Wars game show — but I’d be curious to hear his reaction to the “maybe he’s a Gungan” jest.
I’m also realizing that Baby Yoda and Jar Jar have a lot in common. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? That’s right: Baby Jar Jar, coming to a store near you this never.