The Mandalorian season 2 just dropped its penultimate episode, entitled "The Believer". The episode sees Mando/Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) having to compromise his rigid Mandalorian warrior code for a mission to infiltrate an Imperial base to get a location on where Moff Gideon is keeping The Child/Grogu. "The Believer" brings back comedian/actor Bill Burr as Mayfeld, the former Imperial sharpshooter who tried to betray Mando in the season 1 prison-break episode, "The Gunslinger". Well, Mayfeld's return to the Empire's fold is a cold one, it turns out, as the character has some serious PTSD from a major Star Wars battle... from the video games.
Warning: The Mandalorian Chapter 15 SPOILERS Follow!
Mando and his new crew (Boba Fett, Cara Dune, and Fennec Shand) retrieve Mayfeld from a scrap yard on Karthon, and head to their target: an Imperial base on Morak, where they can access a terminal to find the coordinates of Moff Gideon's ship. It takes some doing, but Mando and Mayfeld manage to impersonate two Imperial Transport Troopers and get inside the base.
That's where things take a turn.
The terminal that Mando and Mayfeld need is in the base's Mess Hall - but upon entering, Mayfeld realizes there's a big threat to the plan: Imperial commander Valin Hess (Richard Brake - aka Game of Thrones' Night King). At first, it seems Mayfeld is terrified of Hess (his former commander) recognizing him; however, when the Imperial officer invites Mando and Mayfeld for a drink, it quickly becomes clear that the reunion runs much deeper for Mayfeld.
It takes just a few rounds of conversation for Mayfeld to break from the plan in order to settle a grudge. Turns out, the former sniper had been part of "Operation Cinder," a bloody campaign that saw scores of Stormtroopers and native locals die in the battle. Hess had been one of the commanders that sacrificed many men that day - Mayfeld had been one of the soldiers lucky enough to make it out alive.
"Operation Cinder" was a plan that Emperor Palpatine devised as a contingency plan activated after his seeming death in Return of the Jedi. It was a scorched-earth policy that used satellites to destroy various locations across many planets - eliminating both factions of the Rebellion, The Empire, and everyone caught between. Palpatine's belief was that the Empire could not (or should not) go on without him. A small faction of Imperial die-hards loyal to the Emperor would be spared, in order to build the new Empire that followed.
Operation Cinder has been featured in several key tie-in stories to Star Wars New Republic era, first appearing in Marvel's Shattered Empire comic miniseries. However, the 2017 video game Star Wars: Battlefront II made Operation Cinder a major focus of one chapter of its storyline, which was set in the three eras of the Skywalker Saga.
The key point of the name-drop in The Mandalorian is to illustrate Chapter 15's theme of perspective; Mayfeld had been trying to convince Mando that the Empire could be as much a family as his tribe - at least from a trooper's point of view. However, Operation Cinder clearly didn't feel like a family affair to Mayfeld - or the troopers he served with that died on planet Brunin Konn. It ends up breaking the sharpshooter's steely resolve, as he guns down Hess and takes out the base with one badass sniper shot.
The Mandalorian will end season 2 next Friday on Disney+.