One moment from The Mandalorian’s Season 1 finale felt like an accidental crossover between Star Wars and Stranger Things when former Rebel shock trooper Cara Dune mentioned something called a “mind flayer,” and even though Greef Karga claims they aren’t real, the Disney+ series may have just established a surprising connection to Rogue One.
Spoilers for The Mandalorian Episode 8 below.
Early in “Chapter 8: Redemption,” Mando is holed up in the Nevarro cantina with Cara and Greef, surrounded by a small army of stormtroopers outside. While they’re deciding whether or not they should surrender to Moff Gideon or go down fighting, Greef wants to barter with the Imperial warlord whereas Cara knows that if she surrenders in any way, she’ll be tortured and killed. (Rebels and Imperials hate each other that much.) But she’s specifically scared of something called a “mind flayer.” Here’s the full exchange:
Greef Karga: At least out there we’ve got a shot!
Cara Dune: That’s easy for you to say. I’m a Rebel shock trooper. They’ll upload me to a mind flayer!
Greef Karga: Those aren’t real! Those are just wartime propaganda.
Fascist regimes often spread fear through propaganda, and it’s usually difficult to tell what’s real and what isn’t. For Cara to say “they’ll upload me to a mind flayer” makes it sound like some kind of transhumanist torture machine where her consciousness is uploaded to a droid’s mainframe or something like that. But the specific term “mind flayer” is one adopted from the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons that was also used in Stranger Things.
In Stranger Things, the kids name a supernatural hive mind entity from the Upside Down (a dark mirror dimension) “The Mind Flayer” because of its psychic powers and tentacle-like appearance. In D&D, a mind flayer — or Illithid — is a powerful humanoid aberration with psionic abilities that allow it to control other sentient creatures. They also devour brains and have tentacle faces inspired by Lovecraftian horror creatures like Cthulhu. The overarching connections here are mind control, torture, and insanity.
Surprisingly enough, we’ve already seen a tentacle species with psychic powers in Star Wars. Saw Gerrera used a Mairan named Bor Gullet to torture Bodhi Rook on Jedha and learn the truth about his intentions.
Mairan’s aren’t quite sentient creatures, but their psychic abilities make them popular for torture by the Empire and some other extremists like Gerrera.
Gerrera mentions that most victims of Bor Gullet go insane (Bodhi is left a gibbering mess for much of the movie). So, in practice, these creatures do devour a person’s mind like an Illithid might. For “mind flayer” to be a casual moniker for these creatures makes a lot of sense given all of the facts we have about them.
“Bor Gullet can feel your thoughts. No lie is safe,” Gerrera says. “Bor Gullet will know the truth. The unfortunate side-effect is that one tends to lose one’s mind.”
Given the fact that Rogue One takes place around nine years before the events of The Mandalorian, it seems possible that Mairans and “mind flayers” are one in the same. They might be a rarity relegated to propaganda and legend for Rebel troops like Cara Dune.
The Mandalorian Season 2 might be released in fall 2020.