'Mandalorian' theory: 'TROS' clip may reveal stolen Mando jetpack tech
Poe and Finn are shocked to discover stormtroopers can "fly now."
Jetpacks are very hot right now. If you’ve seen “Chapter 3” of The Mandalorian, then you know Mando wants to get his hands on “one of those.” Now, in the first proper movie clip from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Finn and Poe are shocked to see a few First Order Stormtroopers take to the skies. “They can fly now!?” Finn says incredulously. Airing this new clip right after jetpacks featured so prominently in The Mandalorian feels a little pointed. Could the First Order have stolen jetpack tech from the Mandalorians? Here’s the evidence.
Speculation for The Mandalorian and The Rise of Skywalker ahead. Light spoilers for Chapters 1-3 of The Mandalorian
Real-world origins of the Mandalorian jetpack
From a Doylist point of view, the answer to the question: “Did the First Order/the Empire/the Sith kind of steal Mandalorian jetpack tech from the Mandalorians?” is a resounding “yes,” simply because the concept for a jetpacked group of super-commandos originates in the backstory for earlier versions of The Empire Strikes Back. According to visual effects artist Joe Johnston in Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, “Boba Fett was part of a force we called Super Troopers, and they were these really high-tech fighting units, and they all looked alike. That eventually evolved into a single bounty hunter.” Along with concept artist Ralph McQuarrie, Johnston helped create the look of Boba Fett and the jetpack. Thus, in the real world, the concept of the jetpack partially originates with concept art. (Funnily enough, John Johnston later directed The Rocketeer, which is basically, a movie about a guy who looks like a steampunk 1930s Mandalorian.)
The point is: yes, in our galaxy, one unused story element from The Empire Strikes Back would have seen a gaggle of folks wearing rocket packs, suited-up in what we now know as Mandalorian armor.
But what about in the Star Wars galaxy? Didn’t the Old Republic have jetpacks?
In terms of on-screen canon, the existence of jetpacks in Star Wars is shockingly limited. When jetpacks do appear, they’re almost always worn by Mandalorians. In several episodes of The Clone Wars — including “Lawless” — Obi-Wan Kenobi (along with nearly everyone else) gets a jetpack. Guess where Obi-Wan got his jetpack? The Mandalorians. All jetpack episodes of The Clone Wars and Rebels have a clear connection to Mandalorians.
So, does no one else in Star Wars have jetpack tech? In Revenge of the Sith, Clone Commander Cody wears what looks like a jetpack right before Order 66 comes through and he realizes he needs to kill Obi-Wan.
However, in a previous scene, when Obi-Wan’s troops arrive to back him up, they are repelling on ropes, not using jetpacks, which is strange, because clearly, jetpacks would be handy in this scene.
The Clone Troopers were 100 percent modeled on a specific Mandalorian: Jango Fett, who we know used a jetpack. However, jetpack use among the Clone Troopers was very rare.
Mandalorians who worked for the Empire obviously had jetpacks
In the series Rebels, which takes place about 11 years before the events of The Mandalorian, specific factions of the Mandalorians work for the Empire, which is basically a result of half of Mandalore being taken over by a Crime Syndicate led by Darth Maul during the Clone Wars. These Mandalorians had a ton of jetpacks, as did Sabine Wren, a Mandalorian who fought for the Rebellion in Rebels. So, during the Galactic Civil War, there are Mandalorians with jetpacks on all sides. But, relevantly, there were a ton of Imperial Supercommandos (a call-back to that early Empire concept art) who clearly fought for the Empire, and who very clearly had jetpacks.
This means jetpack tech was in the hands of the Empire twice: during the time the Republic becomes the Empire, and during the height of the Empire’s power just as the Rebellion is getting going.
The First Order isn’t the Empire. So did where did the First Order get its jetpacks in The Rise of Skywalker?
Obviously, the First Order has access to all the Empire’s remaining cool stuff. Kylo Ren mentions “the archives of the Empire” in a braggadocious way in The Force Awakens, and the entire aesthetic of the First Order is clearly connected to the Empire. But just like the Empire and the Army of the Republic before it, the First Order’s infantry doesn’t seem to have widespread jetpack use. After all, Finn was a First Order Stormtrooper prior to joining the Resistance, and if he’s surprised there are jetpacks in Rise of Skywalker, it stands to reason the tech is kind of rare.
So, where did the First Order get its jetpacks?
Maybe the First Order’s new jetpacks are connected to the return of Palpatine… which could be explained in The Mandalorian
Various fan theories argue the new First Order jetpacks are connected to the return of Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker. Here’s how to think about it.
- Palpatine’s comeback might be the result of cloners stealing DNA from Baby Yoda (AKA “The Child”) in The Mandalorian.
- If that same group of former Imperial jerks stole DNA from Baby Yoda, it’s not crazy to think they also stole some jetpacks from the Mandalorians we saw come out of hiding “Chapter 3: The Sin.”
- The remnants of the Empire are desperate for resources at the time of The Mandalorian, which means they would totally steal jetpacks and then repurpose those for mass production at some point in the future.
- The titular Mando does not have a jetpack, which reinforces the idea that this tech is rare.
This all leads to one possible theory: The First Order’s rise is possibly predicated on stealing tech from the Mandalorians. But, for some reason, mass producing jetpacks is difficult, and even after thirty-something years, the First Order has only just now gotten around to giving their Stormtroopers the ability to fly.
Will the scarcity of jetpacks ever be explained? Maybe, maybe not. But for the purposes of jetpacks being awesome, let’s hope that these are the new lightsabers of Star Wars and that less, is almost certainly more.
The Rise of Skywalker is out everywhere on December 20.