The Emperor’s Fist: Will Vader be in The Mandalorian?

The latest episode of The Mandalorian, “The Mines of Mandalore,” brought us back to—you guessed it—the home planet of our titular hero. But it’s not the Mandalore we know from The Clone Wars or even Rebels. It’s the Mandalore the Empire left behind: an apocalyptic landscape of destruction, monsters and lost memories.

We’ve caught glimpses of the Purge—the Imperial bombardment that made the planet all but uninhabitable—in previous episodes. We’ve heard whispers and rumors and laments from one Mandalorian after another.

But even now, walking the planet’s glassy terrain, we still know so little about what actually befell this warrior people.

And that’s why I’m wondering if a seemingly throwaway line of colorful dialogue is actually more important—more revealing—than we think.

Din Djarin, Grogu and Bo-Katan Kryze are making their way through the rubble of Mandalorian society, headed for the Living Waters in which Din insists he must bathe in order to find redemption. Bo-Katan is unconvinced, but she leads them there anyway.

She’s in an understandably reflective, somber mood. Din remarks how painful it must be for her to walk these ruins having once seen them in their full glory.

“What pains me is seeing our own kind fight one another time and time again,” she replies. There were so many Mandalorian sects and factions; Bo-Katan was as guilty as Din’s Children of the Watch in fragmenting Mandalorian society. Only in retrospect does she realize her mistake. “It made us weak. We had no hope to resist being smashed by the fist of the Empire.”

There it is—that’s the line. The fist of the Empire. Is she just using a metaphor? Or, is she describing a specific person, the man who was given the title, the Emperor’s Fist: Darth Vader?

In Legends, the Fist of the Empire was going to be an army of Sith. It was Count Dooku’s idea, his way of rebuilding a quasi-Jedi Order in the wake of Order 66. The Fist would serve the Empire, recruiting both surviving—and willing—Jedi, as well as other Force-sensitive beings. In Dooku’s plan, Anakin Skywalker would be the rallying point, a general in a new army.

Clearly, when Dooku lost his head, he also lost any hope of assembling such a force.

In Canon, the title Emperor’s Fist is established, used in Darth Vader-centric comics, as well as Cavan Scott’s entry in The Empire Strikes Back: From a Certain Point of View. The title confers upon Vader the role of commander-in-chief, even if informally. Which further supports the idea that Vader himself would be ultimately responsible for any sort of military operation that wiped out the entire Mandalorian civilization.

It would make sense, too, that Anakin-turned-Vader would see in the Mandalorian people a particular threat. He fought with them; he knew their skill. It’s also not out of character for Anakin or Vader to grow frustrated with ongoing diplomatic efforts and instead result to brute force.

Bo-Katan’s own words earlier in the episode further underline her distrust of lightsaber-wielding beings. “I knew quite a few Jedi you know,” she tells Grogu. “There was a time we actually got along quite well. Fought side-by-side.”

We know she has fond memories of at least Ahsoka Tano, Ezra Bridger and Kanan Jarrus. So, why this line underlining the more distant past when Jedi were Mandalorian foes? Unless, that past is not so distant, and she sees Vader for the fallen Jedi he became.

Do I think we’ll see Darth Vader in The Mandalorian? I mean, we’ve seen a lot of things that I never thought we’d see, so never say never. But I do think these throwaway lines, these little hints are important. These are the little winks at the truth buried in legend.