In the nineties, Star Wars gamers stole the Death Star plans. As Kyle Katarn in the LucasArts first-person-shooter Dark Forces, fans took their first steps into a larger world by uncovering a secret Imperial program all about developing something called the Dark Trooper. Although he was the Chuck Norris of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Kyle Katarn is sadly no longer a part of the contemporary Star Wars canon. But it now seems very possible that his earliest foes, the Imperial Dark Troopers, might be making a comeback on The Mandalorian Season 2.
Here's how Moff Gideon's mysterious new secret weapon in The Mandalorian, Chapter 12, "The Siege," could retcon a different Imperial secret weapon from the 16-bit generation of Star Wars gaming.
Warning! Spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian Season 2.
Although The Mandalorian Chapter 12, "The Siege," doles out some new clues as to what the Empire was actually doing to Baby Yoda, the episode also ends with a possibly much-bigger reveal. After an Imperial Officer tells Moff Gideon that they are successfully tracking Mando's ship, the Razor Crest, Gideon smiles an evil smile and says "We'll be ready." Then, he turns and starts to survey what looks like a room full of giant, troopers, clad all in black and seemingly being attended by one of Gideon's scientists.
Are these Death Troopers, like the ones he had in the Mandalorian Season 1 finale? No. These figures are much larger, and the scene in which they are revealed feels pointed and intentional.
Are Dark Troopers Canon?
So, what are they? Well, a good guess is that these are a new retconned version of Dark Troopers, which originated in the 1995 video game Dark Forces. Although this seemed fancy in 1995, the Dark Trooper was basically a glorified battle droid that was nearly indestructible. Essentially, it's the kind of thing that makes sense as the boss at the end of a video game level — but makes less sense once you start to really think about it in the Star Wars canon. But the Dark Troopers aren't canon, so this can't be them, right?
Well, although the Dark Troopers Kyle Katarn fought aren't canon at all, a version of the Dark Trooper is low-key canon. Although discontinued, the 2014 mobile game Star Wars: Commander did feature "new" versions of the Dark Troopers, and the armor of those was similar to what we're looking at here. This doesn't mean Moff Gideon's new "Dark Troopers" (assuming that's what they're called) will have anything in common with the Dark Troopers of old. In fact, there's every reason to believe they won't, and are instead connected to the new clues we got about Baby Yoda and the various "test subjects" Dr. Pershing was experimenting with in Season 1.
How the Dark Troopers connect to Baby Yoda
When Mando, Cara Dune, and Greef Karga uncover the secret hologram files in the Imperial lab on Nevarro, it becomes clear the Imperials took some of Baby Yoda's blood and tried to infuse it into someone else. Dr. Pershing mentions the need for a "high MC count," which can only refer to the midi-chlorians in the bloodstream of any person who has Jedi-potential. But who or what is Pershing harvesting these midi-chlorians for?
One good guess is that this is all connected to the long-game of trying to restore Palpatine back to his body (somehow, he returned!) but the more short-term plan could involve these mysterious troopers in Gideon's ship. Those floating bodies in the tanks in the lab might make you think of Snoke clones in The Rise of Skywalker, but what if those are just prototypes for those big Dark Troopers we saw at the end of the episode?
Assuming Gideon is a little bit Force-sensitive, maybe he wants an army of souped-up Stormtroopers that he can control through the Force. In this hypothetical scenario, Gideon could command his Dark Troopers sort of like Dark side Sith zombies. If this sounds a little far-fetched, there is another non-canon precedent. In the first Timothy Zahn trilogy of Star Wars books, it was made pretty clear that the reason why the Empire won so many battles is that the presence of a Dark Jedi (aka, Sith) like Darth Vader and the Emperor, helped to organize literal battle plans. This isn't to say that Vader was outright puppeteering Stormtroopers with the Force, but that maybe he did a little bit.
If Gideon's Dark Troopers are Sith zombies that can do his bidding, then the stakes for The Mandalorian may have just been raised exponentially. It also seems like the only way you're going to defeat an army of Dark Troopers is with an army of other Mandalorians. And maybe an exiled Jedi or two.
The Mandalorian is steaming now on Disney+.