The first episode of The Mandalorian doesn’t waste much time setting up the drama, and between The Client, blurrgs, and mysterious bounty targets, it’s easy to miss the way the show brushes against Star Wars history. One of the best details comes when the Mandalorian shares a quick exchange with his fell Mandalore resident The Armorer about culture and armor.
While the show itself doesn’t provide much in the way of explanation, past bits of Star Wars Expanded universe, including Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Rebels, shed light on the cryptic importance of Beskar metal and the event known as the Great Purge.
[Ed note: this post contains some light spoilers for the first episode of The Mandalorian]
Mandalorian armor is famous in the Star Wars universe. The armor plates themselves can withstand blaster shots, as we see in The Mandalorian, and can even protect the wearer from the glancing blow of a lightsaber — which can be seen in the Legacy of Mandalore episode of Star Wars: Rebels when Gar Saxon is disarmed. Despite this impressive protection, the armor also remains surprisingly light, allowing the wearer to remain agile and maneuverable. In some cases, the strength of the metal could lead to sets of Mandalorian armor that lasted hundreds of years. In Star Wars: Rebels, Sabine Wren’s armor is 500 years old.
The unique properties of the armor are due in large part to the Beskar metal that it’s made with. Beskar, also known as Mandalorian iron, is one of the toughest and rarest metals in the galaxy. In The Mandalorian’s first episode, we get a brief glimpse of Beskar in the form of the metal bar that the Mandalorian hands the Armorer. The Armorer takes the bar and turns it into a new pauldron for the Mandalorian. With Beskar more rare, and many Mandalorians spread out across the galaxy, it seems that not even the Mandalorian’s armor is quite complete.
Beskar is extremely rare. While we don’t have the details in the official canon anymore, the pre-Disney “Legends” stories explained that it could only be mined on Mandalore, the home planet of the Mandalorians, or its moon, Concordia. According to the Armorer, the metal was likely taken during the Great Purge — also known as Order 66, Chancellor Palpatine’s directive to the clone army to kill all Jedi.
While the Armorer doesn’t mention who exactly did the stealing it isn’t hard to guess. Shortly after the Purge took place the Palpatine’s Empire took over control of Mandalore, likely taking the planet’s precious metal for itself.
Along with the passing reference to Beskar, the Armorer also asks the Mandalorian if his signet has been revealed. He says not yet, so she makes him a plain, pauldron. We don’t know exactly what this might mean; it seems possible that this refers to a personalized marking that Mandalorians may receive at some point over time, perhaps after a certain number of missions, or at a certain point in their life.
We know that personalized armor is very important to Mandalorians, so a valued signet would be make sense. In Legends, the Mandalorians would color their armor with either specific missions that were important to them — for instance sand-gold armor represented a quest for vengeance — or simply colors they liked. While this isn’t explicitly canon anymore, Sabine does exactly this in Star Wars: Rebels when she decorates her Mandalorian armor herself.
Speaking of personalization, the Armorer herself appears to have added a few accents to her armor. Most interestingly, her helmet appears to have Zabrak horns. These are likely a reference to Darth Maul, a Zabrak himself, who briefly became the ruler of Mandalore, and headed the Shadow Collective criminal alliance and the Mandalorian group, Death Watch, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
In just one scene, The Mandalorian dove deep into the lore of one of Star Wars’ most famous and feared races. Expect the series to sprinkle in details on a few of these things, and more about the Mandalorians as a whole, as it delves deeper into the more overt mysteries.