The Mandalorian and the Rise of the Bounty Hunter

by Eric Onkenhout

There’s only one person to turn to that will get the job done for the right price. A man in armor. A man who’s known only as The Mandalorian.

The battle between good and evil in the Star Wars galaxy is as clear as it gets. It’s full of heroes who fight for justice and freedom and villains who seek control and oppression. Among this struggle lie the bounty hunters, a faction that is neither good nor evil. It’s a dangerous profession for most, but for the best, a highly profitable endeavor. Only a few are good enough to make a steady living from capturing bounties, which begs the question: why is bounty hunting such a common profession in the galaxy far, far away? Are the credits the sole reason, or is the solitary lifestyle an attractive perk? Bounty hunters live a life without moral boundaries; not answering to anyone except who hired them. They take nothing personally as long as the job gets done—these are perks that some would find most agreeable.

Life in Times post Jedi

Before exploring these questions, a look at the galaxy post-Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi is necessary to get a better glimpse of the galactic landscape that is ripe for the picking for the best bounty hunter the galaxy has seen since Boba Fett.

Four years after the Battle of Yavin, the Rebel Alliance deals a crippling hand to the Empire, destroying the second Death Star, the Emperor dies at the hands of his former apprentice, and Anakin Skywalker redeems himself in death. Fast forward five more years. The Empire’s defeat is inevitable. The Rebel Alliance has delivered the final blow at the Battle of Jakku, loosening the iron grip of the Empire. Freedom has returned to the galaxy.

The MandalorianWith the defeat of the Empire and the death of Jabba the Hutt, the criminal underworld is a virtual free-for-all. The Empire’s “rule through fear” doctrine is a thing of the past, and crime is on the rise. The aftermath of any large-scale war is typically devastating for everyone—mainly the civilians (the less privileged especially) who are left to clean up the mess. The wealthy, however, have the means to recover the quickest, but hold a grudge against the Rebellion for the negative impact that the lack of control has on their lives and bank accounts.

Among the chaos, when the dust lifts, who’s left but the scum and villainy? Bounty hunters, who do what’s necessary to endure, are the strongest who survive. Business is good for bounty hunters like the Mandalorian during this era.

(One of) The Oldest Professions in the Galaxy

Bounty hunters have been a staple in the Star Wars galaxy ever since Greedo’s famous confrontation with the smuggler Han Solo in A New Hope, closely followed by Boba Fett’s first appearance in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. That number grew in The Empire Strikes Back when Boba was joined by Dengar, IG-88, Bossk, Zuckuss, and 4-LOM when the Empire hired the motley crew to find the Millennium Falcon. In later years the number of bounty hunters increased again with the likes of Aura Sing, who first appeared in The Phantom Menace, but was further developed in The Clone Wars along with Cad Bane, Embo, and Sugi. Jango Fett and Zam Wesell made their first appearance in Attack of the Clones. By the mid-1990s, Boba Fett had reached cult status and was reinserted in new/deleted footage for A New Hope Special Editions.

The role of bounty hunters enabled storytellers to branch out from the usual good vs evil trope. Characters like Aura Sing, who was only in The Phantom Menace for a split second during the podracing scene, got tons more attention in The Clone Wars and by Solo: A Star Wars Story it’s revealed that she met her demise at the hands of Tobias Becket. It also wasn’t unusual for Force-sensitives, like Asajj Ventress to turn to bounty hunting when their lives took a wrong turn. It was a way to make good money until something better came along.

Westerns in Star Wars

Star Wars is an amalgam of countless themes everyone can relate to in one way or another. It’s no secret that westerns like The Dollars Trilogy and the many films by acclaimed Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa were a significant influence on the creation of Star Wars. Toshiro Mifune’s portrayal of a lone samurai in Yojimbo was Kurosawa’s attempt at showing the west “just how western I can be.” Yojimbo went on to become Kurosawa’s most successful film in Japan, spawning the spaghetti western when Sergio Leone re-made it into a movie called A Fistful of Dollars starring a young Clint Eastwood in 1964.

In the mid 20th century, many young children dreamt of living a life without consequence, and the romanticism of dueling the man in black at high noon, then riding off into the sunset. Although times may be different, that same human need for self-reliance has not. There is no mistaking the influence spaghetti westerns had on future bounty hunters like Cad Bane, who’s wide-brimmed hat is a nod to Lee Van Cleef’s character, Angel Eyes, in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Things to Come in The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian

Being a bounty hunter takes an extra set of skills that are either passed down through the family like Jango unto to Boba or taught in a mentorship such as Aurra and Boba. Someone like the Mandalorian did not become the best without some help. In the time five years after Return of the Jedi, bounty hunting is as lucrative as ever which makes it a popular profession. Among the chaos and crime too much for local law enforcement to handle, bounties on targets (sentient or not) are numerous, and anyone willing to take on a job can get hired. Bounty hunting is such a large part of the Star Wars galaxy that it has its own Bounty Hunter’s Guild. Bounty hunters adhere to The Guild as a set of rules like a union. Deviation from the Guild rules can place an unwanted target on a hunter’s back. Hunters killing another hunter without reason is grounds for termination.

In the decades after the Empire’s defeat, relative peace has finally come to the galaxy. With the collapse of the Empire comes the reduced role of the bounty hunter—as the Republic typically does not deal with their ilk. Gangs like the Guavian Death Gang and Kanjiklub and agents like Bazine Netal have found more success working with the First Order on contract jobs. The Skywalker saga might be coming to an end, and the Sith have seen their reign fall; even the Republic and First Order will come and go, but through it all, bounty hunter’s like the Mandalorian will patiently wait for their next job.

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