“We don’t serve their kind here!” the bartender shouts at Luke Skywalker 45 minutes into the first Star Wars movie ever, pointing wildly at C-3PO and R2-D2. Thus began the legacy of droid discrimination that continues 42 years later in The Mandalorian. Since A New Hope, droids have been portrayed as slaves available for purchase that casually get their memories erased on the whims of their masters, all despite them having programmed sentience, but The Mandalorian adds an intriguing new wrinkle to this long-running class commentary baked into a sci-fi space opera for kids.
Major spoilers for The Mandalorian below.
Solo: A Star Wars Story grappled directly with droids’ status as a manipulated working class, and their subservient role in the galaxy is prominently featured in the first episode of The Mandalorian. The series goes out of its way to explain several times that the titular armored hero doesn’t like droids one bit — but why? Well, it might be because his family was killed by droids.
The Mandalorian spends his first action-packed scene in a bar capturing a blue-skinned criminal. Then he goes outside to an alien with a flute, asking for “passage to the yards” where his ship is parked. The alien whistles a tune, and a sleek speeder whips around with driven by R2-D2-style droid. “No droids,” Mando grumbles.
The Mandalorian decides to pay extra credits (money) to send the shiny new speeder packing, and he instead settles for a human-driven old clunker. Why?
We don’t get any explanation here, but Mando comes across as a bit racist against droids. Are they a security risk somehow? Can enemy bounty hunters hack into droids and use them to spy on Mando? Closer to the episode’s end, we get a hint as to what might bug him so much.
The Mandalorian gets a high-profile contract to capture an “asset” that is said to be 50 years old, but while conducting reconnaissance on a compound where that asset is located, an IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi) bounty hunter droid approaches directly and opens fire.
“Droids,” the Mandalorian says with a loud, exasperated sigh. The two briefly team up, but Mando grows quickly frustrated with the droid, who has more of a robotic personality than the likes of other robots from Star Wars history.
When the odds seem overwhelming, IG opts to self-destruct, which would kill the Mandalorian too. Their comical dynamic feels like a silly buddy cop partnership — sort of like Rush Hour meets Star Wars — but how many times has IG-11 or a similar bounty hunter droid interfered in the Mandalorian’s work?
After IG-11 almost sacrifices himself so that they can defeat all of their enemies in an epic shootout, the Mandalorian admits that he’s not so bad after all … “for a droid.” (Classic racist phrasing!) Their growing camaraderie feels like something that might last for the duration of the series, but when IG-11 tries to kill the asset, the Mandalorian makes the snap decision to shoot IG through the head instead. But don’t count the lanky droid out just yet.
For an organic being, a bullet through the head would usually mean certain death, but as long as his memory core and his “central wiring harness” are intact, then IG can be repaired and/or rebooted. The Mandalorian would know this, and he may have chosen to simply disable the droid rather than destroy him.
Why does The Mandalorian communicate multiple times in the first episode that the protagonist is pointedly anti-droid? Is this a cultural perspective that most Mandalorians of this era believe? Or does this particular Mandalorian have some specific reasons from his past to explain it? A flashback could hint at another explanation.
Earlier in the episode when the Mandalorian visits the blacksmith to have a piece of armor forged, we see a memory of him as a child orphaned by war. There’s blaster fire and explosions, but we never clearly see if it’s stormtroopers attacking or someone else. During this same scene from the trailer, however, Super Battle Droids can be seen in the background.
Was this late during the Clone Wars? Or during the Empire’s rise to power following Revenge of the Sith? Was it a civil war on Mandalore? We don’t know how old the character is precisely, but it seems like some kind of droid army is responsible for killing his family. That’s one way to make someone anti-droid, and it kind of makes you feel bad for the badass warrior, doesn’t it?
We’ll hopefully learn more about why the Mandalorian hates droids as the series progresses and get confirmation on this, but know that it seems like it’s more complicated than generic droid racism.
The Mandalorian’s first episode is now available to stream on Disney+.