Surprise cameos and special guests have been a staple of The Mandalorian since the beginning. The show’s first episode featured Werner Herzog as an Imperial officer. Since then, a long line of famous faces and voices have followed him to the Disney+ series. Taika Waititi, Bill Burr, Jason Sudeikis, Ming-Na Wen, Clancy Brown, Timothy Olyphant, Titus Welliver, Richard Ayoade, Amy Sedaris, and many more have turned the show into television’s preeminent fictional hangout for celebrities. However, no single installment of The Mandalorian had as much star power as the cameos found in “Chapter 22.” The episode introduced three A-Listers to the galaxy far, far away: Jack Black, Lizzo, and Christopher Lloyd.
These Star Wars guest stars weren’t just there to there for a good time, though. All of these cameo characters contributed to one of The Mandalorian season three’s most important themes, an idea that has always been a core part of the franchise. Because no matter who you are, in Star Wars no one can ever escape their past.
Jack Black, Lizzo, and Christopher Lloyd each played a character fundamentally affected by major historical events in Star Wars. In The Mandalorian, Lizzo played the Dutchess, a noblewoman of Plazir-15. The planet “suffered greatly” under the Empire. But rather than try to restore her familial power after the fascist government’s collapse, Lizzo’s Star Wars Dutchess worked to bring “a new age” to her planet. That meant holding “direct democratic elections for the first time” in the world’s history. It also meant letting go of any anger she might have held. Both for her former status and those who took it from her.
That’s how Lizzo’s cameo character ended up remaking her home world with someone who once aided in the planet’s oppression on The Mandalorian. Jack Black’s Captain Bombardier served as an Imperial facilities planning officer on The Mandalorian. But not only did the Dutchess accept his help as part of the New Republic’s Amnesty Program, they fell in love. Clearly, there is “room for a little bit of forgiveness in a galaxy so vast” and so splintered. Some want to focus on making a better future together. They’re not interested in vengeance or dwelling on the things that once drove them apart.
That isn’t possible, though, when not everyone wants to forgive and forget. And we don’t just mean people naturally wary of how sincere a noblewoman and her former Imperial officer husband might be about democracy. Christopher Lloyd’s Commissioner Helgait never gave up the Separatists cause he first took up a mere 30 years ago.
Lloyd’s Commissioner Helgait stood against both the Old Republic and the Empire, institutions he believed were corrupt. He continued his fight against the new way of life on the pampered Plazir-15. Clearly, he did not think it was “time” for his planet “to move on” the way his elected leaders did. Why would he? Is hedonism and idleness not another potential path toward corruption? Plus, he never learned Count Dooku was a Sith rather than a visionary and beacon of democracy. That old lie, which helped send the galaxy to war once, never stopped misleading Helgait.
Despite her best efforts to look forward on the Star Wars show, Lizzo’s Duchess was forced to look back. She couldn’t convince her fellow countrymen to let go of his old grudges to help build a better and more equitable world. Meanwhile, the shadow of her spouse’s sins haunted a man genuinely trying to atone for past transgressions. How could he earn both forgiveness and acceptance in his new life when he knew others would always doubt him? And finally, Commissioner Helgait tried to stay true to the cause he dedicated his life to. That stopped him from accepting new possibilities. All three couldn’t escape the past no matter how much they tried, whether they wanted or needed to. They had to face theirs directly because no one can escape their past.
That’s an idea that has permeated season three of The Mandalorian. It’s also one Star Wars has explored from the very beginning when an old desert hermit told a kid about his late father. Where we come from, what we’ve done, and who we were are always with us. That’s true whether we’re Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, Rey, Finn, or some random political figure on a planet few have ever heard of.
The inescapable way our past shapes our future has been especially true of Bo-Katan this season. Her previous failures hang over her story and drive everything she does. Just as Grogu’s experiences at the Jedi Temple shape his life and battle droids destroying Din Djarin’s childhood does with him. From Dr. Pershing and Elia Kane, to Moff Gideon and the shadow of the Empire, to the mythosaur and Mandalorian civil war, to Greef Karga’s previous profession and Palpatine’s eventual resurrection, the show has consistently reminded us this year that the Force flows through everything. That includes the past, present, and future alike. They are all one.
“No one’s ever really gone,” either, including the people we once were and the enemies we once had. But like the Force itself, which can be used by both Jedi or Sith, light and dark, the past is neither inherently good or bad. It’s what we take from it, what we learn from it, and what we do that defines us.
That’s a powerful idea. It’s also been one of Star Wars most important since the beginning. What would have happened to the galaxy if Luke Skywalker had not refused to let his father’s past failures determine his own future? And what happened if Anakin had let go over the old fears that haunted him?
Did The Mandalorian need three super-famous people in small cameo roles to reinforce this central theme? No, and that’s probably not why they were cast anyway. (If you could hang out in the galaxy far, far away with Jack Black, Lizzo, and Christopher Lloyd wouldn’t you?) And yet, it was strangely appropriate for The Mandalorian season three cameo characters’ most important theme. It doesn’t matter who you are, even if you’re one of the most famous people in this galaxy. You can never escape your past. Nor should you want to.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.