The Mandalorian season 2 has brought the deep cuts pretty much every week. In Chapter 15, “The Believer”, a certain Operation Cinder was namedropped by an Imperial officer. Some will have caught the reference, others might not have.
Whatever your knowledge of the history of one the Empire’s darkest days (which is saying something), we’re here to clear everything up. Here’s what Operation Cinder is and why it was so important in the Star Wars universe.
What is Operation Cinder?
Like most Empire plans, this one is the brainchild of a certain Sheev Palpatine. The Emperor had a contingency plan – literally called The Contingency – put in place should he ever perish. The Emperor’s plan was incredibly cold and calculated. Through a series of operations, he felt that, if he died, the Empire should be destroyed and be rebuilt from the ground up.
That’s where Operation Cinder (which takes place in the same year as Return of the Jedi) comes in. In terms of specifics, the operation focuses on the Imperial planet of Vardos, Naboo, and a handful of other planets with allegiance to the Empire. Each one was to be effectively destroyed by a series of strikes from the Empire’s satellites. After the destruction, those who remained loyal to the Empire were tasked with rebuilding it in the Unknown Regions in preparation to reclaim power in the galaxy.
Its first target was Vardos, homeworld of Iden Versio, the Imperial pilot who is the protagonist of the Star Wars Battlefront 2 campaign. When Iden discovered the true intentions of Operation Cinder, she defected to the New Republic – but not before the Empire massacred many of Vardos’ citizens when they tried to escape.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the case on Naboo. With Iden’s help, Leia Organa was able to beat back the Imperial forces and force them to surrender. The New Republic then used the information received from Iden to halt any further attacks on other planets in the system and, thus, Operation Cinder was scuppered.
Why is Operation Cinder important in The Mandalorian?
In The Mandalorian season 2, the reference to Operation Cinder is significant for three main reasons.
Firstly, it contextualises just how far the Empire has fallen and how far the New Republic has to go to rebuild trust. The Mandalorian timeline means the events of “The Believer” takes place five years after Operation Cinder. Now, the Empire are seen in retreated bases and refineries and very much operate on the fringes while the New Republic take charge. That’s both a gift and a curse for the Republic, who has seemingly struggled to pick up the slack after the Empire’s defeat – as seen by the rundown villagers on Morak.
Next, it also provides some much-needed depth to Bill Burr’s Migs Mayfeld. The former prisoner, is it revealed, served the Empire during Operation Cinder, which led to thousands of his unit being wiped out and Mayfeld completely losing trust in the Empire – as Iden once did.
Finally, it continues The Mandalorian’s main mission statement: everything in recent wider Star Wars lore matters. Whether it’s Ahsoka Tano’s epilogue in Rebels, an EA video game, or even the Dark Troopers, a remnant of the 1990s, there’s something for every Star Wars fan imaginable. Operation Cinder, though, matters more than most – and you can even play through the entire experience in 2017’s Star Wars Battlefront 2.