For the 10th anniversary of the Lost finale, we spoke to writers and producers involved with the show about its origins. What we learned is that Lost‘s now famous flashback structure was a last-minute creation borne out of desperation. The show’s creators were in need of a way to color in our character’s backstories, connect to the greater mythology of the series, and cut away from the island from time to time. Deploying flashbacks unlocked the show creatively and allowed them to elevate it beyond a mere jungle survival story. It soon became the motif of choice for broadcast television and beyond, a narrative tool that is still often utilized today.
So give credit to Lost for introducing the flashback to blockbuster TV and give credit to Disney+’s The Mandalorian for being smart enough to buck tradition and make use of the technique. The Star Wars franchise largely eschewed live-action flashbacks for decades until Disney’s sequel trilogy and spinoffs. But Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau opted to stick one in the middle of the Season 2 premiere and while it’s mostly an effort in exposition, it also marks a creative highpoint for the episode.
The rest of this piece contains major plot spoilers for The Mandalorian‘s Season 2 premiere, “The Marshal.”
“The Marshal,” in which our hero Din Djarin (played by Pedro Pascal) teams up with a local Marshal (the great Timothy Olyphant, wearing Boba Fett’s armor) to kill a Krayt dragon (basically, the Tatooini take on a giant sandworm from Dune) to protect a small town on Tatooine, follows the Mandalorian template as a relatively standard self-contained episode, featuring yet another challenge-of-the-week. As we’ve previously written, we prefer the more serialized elements that carry over episode to episode, and were hoping to see more of that in Season 2. But the premiere’s flashback still illuminates some grander Star Wars details.
Boba Fett’s prospective return in The Mandalorian Season 2 has been a hot topic for months. But the conversation surrounding the character’s potential survival from the Sarlacc Pit in Return of the Jedi has been raging for nearly 40 years. In the Marshal’s flashback, we come to learn that Tatooine was thrust into chaos immediately following the destruction of the second Death Star. For all of the Empire’s faults, it did maintain a level of structured law and order. Without them, the galaxy descends into lawlessness and chaos, which have carried on for five years into The Mandalorian. This is what we call effective world-building.
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The brief scene of celebration seen in Mos Pelgo following the fall of the Galactic Empire helps to shade in a time period of Star Wars lore fans aren’t intimately familiar with. It’s effective in creating an even more lived-in universe, which fits nicely with The Mandalorian‘s grimier, underbelly setting. We understand how things came to be. These are the moments of authenticity that survive as connective tissue between Star Wars projects. You want to return to this brief snippet of history and learn more—that’s a sign of good storytelling.
It also helps that the flashback further supports Boba Fett’s survival. How could the Jawas come to own his Mandalorian armor if he was busy being digested for 1,000 years? This adds a layer of theory-supported mythos and well-earned fan service to an already compelling sub-plot. Sometimes, the only way forward in a story is to look back, and the mystery and excitement surrounding the character for decades begins to pay off with his official return at the end of the episode.
So let’s review this from a structural standpoint. The flashback succeeds in providing necessary in-episode exposition about the direct plot at hand; it further informs the audience of how the galaxy mutated following the fall of the Empire (and, indirectly, how the First Order managed to rise amid the chaos), and it manages to set up the reintroduction of beloved supporting player Boba Fett, who briefly appears in the episode’s final moments.
We’ll just have to keep watching to see where it leads.