The Empire has fallen but the First Order has not yet risen, so what are those black Imperial Death Troopers from Rogue One doing in the trailer for Star Wars: The Mandalorian, four years after the Battle of Jakku that marked the flight of the Empire into the Unknown Regions?
A little galactic context: The Emperor died without a clear line of succession, and only a handful of his aides were privy to the contingency plan that he had designed. The Empire had annexed the once-independent Republic planets that already had advanced forms of government (like Naboo, Coruscant or Chandrila) and for these, it was relatively easy to deal with the transition. However, for Outer and Mid-rim planets that were rich in resources and low in population, the Emperor deployed troops that forcefully invaded and established purely military control of the surface.
Although the ultimate goal of the Emperor was to exploit the natural resources, many Stormtroopers on the ground were convinced that they were bringing order to the galaxy, and in some cases they actually managed to slightly improve the security and quality of life of the invaded regions because they purged them of local warlords, slavers, bounty hunters, mercenaries and creepy cults (all religion was officially forbidden under the Empire.)
However, this also meant that when the Empire fell, the marshals and viceroys established on those planets were cut off from its resources without a clear action plan and left to their own devices to face an indifferent to hostile population. We can deduce what happened to the ground troops just by looking at the skull-white Stormtrooper helmets in The Mandalorian trailer.
Now, the black Imperial Death Troopers that we saw in Rogue One and now in this trailer are a completely different species: They were a lethal elite class of Stormtroopers specialized in counterespionage and stealth, and they were always assigned to high profile Imperial officials, like Tarkin, Krennic or Thrawn. Usually, they operated in small groups, with each of them specializing in a particular skill (slicing, infiltration, etc.) They were inspired by the real-world Navy Seals, and they were not as easy to kill as the regular run-of-the-mill Stormtrooper. Still, who was the official that this group was protecting?
At D23 Expo, actor Giancarlo Esposito, who plays Moff Gideon in The Mandalorian, offered some new information about his role that sheds some light on how these heavily trained Imperial Death Troopers will play into the series.
“Moff Gideon is very, very intelligent and very knowledgeable," said Esposito at D23 "He's very particular about his operation and what he does. He's certainly rising -- he was an Imperial soldier before the Empire fell. He uses all of what he's learned and has been risen from the ranks because he has some sense of order. But yet, he can be cruel, and he will not withstand fools. And he's a traveler. He gets around and knows everything, and no one knows why."
“And so, will he use his power for good or evil is still a question. And I like that. Because he could be a savior or he could be a conqueror. But in this world where the Empire has fallen, we need someone to believe in. We need order, somehow. So it’s a very exciting backdrop from which to place this particular character and all the other ones in the show.”
"In a way, you might call him an underworld character. You may also look at him as a savior, as someone who might bring back some order to the world after it’s all collapsed."
So, we have an extremely smart ex-Imperial marshal who used to rule over his own region as a moff, having to confront the reality of frontier law with no other backup other than his wits, strategy and the cohesiveness of his men. He sounds like the perfect foil for the more chaotic-neutral bounty hunters that carry the series. When he was asked about them, this is how he answered:
"The Empire has basically fallen, so their relationship with bounty hunters is a little tenuous. I think they want to extinguish them, because they create disorder. Bounty means money means it's not coming to them and we want to tax that a little bit. So it will be interesting to see what happens out of that relationship.”
Created by Jon Favreau, The Mandalorian stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Omid Abtahi, Werner Herzog and Nick Nolte. The series debuts Nov. 12 on Disney+, the same date as the streaming service's official launch.