After the Emperor "died," things got messy. But before he was reborn on Exegol and before the First Order or the Final Order, the Emperor's most extreme order was for the remains of the Empire to blow up their own planets.
In The Mandalorian Season 2 Episode 7 (Chapter 15, "The Believer"), former Imperial sharpshooter Mayfeld (Bill Burr) gets pretty pissed-off about something called "Operation Cinder." If you didn't know what he was talking about, it seems like run-of-the-mill Imperial cruelty; blowing up planets because being evil is their thing. But Operation Cinder was bizarre simply because it wasn't an Imperial attack against enemies of the Empire. Operation Cinder was an Imperial attack against other Imperial planets.
From beyond the grave, Emperor Palpatine ordered his loyalists to "cull" planets controlled by the Empire in order to launch a back-up evil plan called the "Contingency." Here's what "Operation Cinder" was all about, and why it seems to have been the event that made Mayfeld turn his back on the Empire, forever. Spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian Season 2 Episode 7.
After trying to double-cross Mando in Season 1, Mayfeld reappears in "The Believer" when Cara Dune releases him from New Republic prison to help with a very specific job. In Season 1, we had no real idea about Mayfeld's background, other than he'd been an Imperial sharpshooter before becoming an independent hired-gun. But in "The Believer," it's made pretty clear that Mayfeld lost faith in the Empire right after the Battle of Endor.
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What was Operation: Cinder in Star Wars?
Right after the defeat of the Empire at the Battle of Endor in 4 ABY (that's After the Battle of Yavin), holograms of the Emperor instructed his loyalists to begin a secret plan called "Operation Cinder." The Emperor believed that if the Empire was in trouble and he was "dead," it was time to get rid of the weaker Imperial planets. To be clear, this is some extremist stuff, even for Palpatine. We first learned about Operation: Cinder in the 2015 Marvel comic series Shattered Empire, which served as a way of explaining the political turmoil in the galaxy right after Return of the Jedi, and helped set the stage for The Force Awakens.
"Operation: Cinder" was revealed in even greater detail in the game Star Wars Battlefront II. There, it was explained that the Emperor used creepy holograms inside of droids to deliver his orders to his loyalists. The planets under Imperial control that were targeted included Naboo, Vardos, Candovant, Abednedo, Commenor, Nacronis, and Burnin Konn, where Mayfeld was stationed. In Battlefront II, we never really knew much about Burnin Konn, which makes Mayfeld's point-of-view from that planet somewhat unique and new for Star Wars canon.
Why Operation: Cinder explains Mayfeld's actions
When Mando and Mayfeld are forced to have a drink with Imperial officer Valin Hess, it's pretty clear Mayfeld is getting more and more riled-up about what Hess calls "a hard day." Because the various planets that were attacked during Operation: Cinder were loyal to the Empire, it's easy to understand why someone who worked for the Empire would be at first confused, and then, outright furious. Operation: Cinder would be like if nobody felt bad about the Bombing of Dresden in real life. For Mayfeld, seeing what the Empire did first hand was like his Slaughterhouse-Five moment, his own countrymen were dropping bombs on their own people.
This also makes it clear why Mayfeld downplays his Imperial service to Cara Dune, saying, "That was a long time ago."
Moff Gideon was probably part of Operation: Cinder
All the remnants of the Empire we see in The Mandalorian were almost certainly part of Operation: Cinder, and we know that because of Hess' fanaticism. If the Imperial Terminal that Mando hacked had the coordinates for Moff Gideon's ship, that means all these disparate parts of the Empire we see throughout the series are fanatically loyal to the Emperor. It's possible that everything Moff Gideon is doing could be 100 percent connected with the long-term plan to bring Palpatine back to life. We know that "somehow, Palpatine returned." But, the Imperials who carried out Operation: Cinder are almost certainly the first step toward the unholy resurrection.