March 25, 2023

Warning! This article contains SPOILERS for The Mandalorian season 3, episode 3.

The Mandalorian season 3 just made Star Wars’ oldest meme canon. While The Mandalorian has grown to become an ambitious, high-stakes Star Wars story involving multiple Mandalorians, former Imperials, and even Jedi, the show continues to have a lighter, almost ludic tone. This approach of not taking itself too seriously continues with The Mandalorian season 3’s ultimate Admiral Ackbar reference.


Originally voiced by Erik Bauersfeld, Admiral Ackbar was introduced in Return of the Jedi as a prominent figure in the Rebel Alliance. Return of the Jedi spends significant time with Ackbar as he leads the Rebels’ attack on the second Death Star from his bridge, only to realize that it was a trap. With a unique delivery and a pair of quick cuts, Ackbar’s “It’s a trap” stood out from the rest of the film.

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Admiral Ackbar’s Trap Meme Finally Becomes Canon

Admiral Ackbar’s “It’s a trap!” line upon realizing that the Rebel Alliance was expected by Palpatine at the second Death Star can be considered one of Star Wars’ earliest memes, if not the first. Decades before any Star Wars movie or TV show line risked going viral just a few minutes after release, Return of the Jedi’s Ackbar was already being repeated over and over in the most different situations. From callbacks in other movies and shows to classic “reaction memes” found on Star Wars’ earliest online communities, Ackbar’s “It’s a trap!” line made its mark on pop culture. Now, The Mandalorian season 3 references it, in-universe.

In an unexpected Coruscant subplot, The Mandalorian followed Dr. Pershing’s (Omid Abtahi) rehabilitation process as the scientist wished to continue his cloning research. The Mandalorian season 3, episode 3’s big plot twist was that Elia Kane (Katy M. O’Brian) was setting up Dr. Pershing, helping the former imperial scientist restart his research only for him to be arrested by the New Republic. As he was about to be submitted to a mind flayer-like process operated by a Mon Calamari technician – the same species as Ackbar – Dr. Pershing pointed out that “it was a trap.” The scene then makes sure to focus on the Mon Calamari’s technician’s reaction.

The “Trap” Nod Is A Perfect Star Wars In-Joke

Admiral Ackbar saying it's a trap in Star Wars Return of the Jedi

With a 46-year-old legacy and counting, Star Wars has the perfect setup for meta jokes. From instant classic lines like Return of the Jedi’s “It’s a trap!” to relatively modern memes such as Obi-Wan Kenobi’s “Hello there,” the Star Wars universe has plenty to draw from when it wants to make in-jokes about the saga itself. As a sort of experimental Star Wars TV show, The Mandalorian seems to have even more creative freedom to play with the Star Wars universe and its characters. The Mandalorian season 3, episode 3’s “It’s a trap!” joke may be a bit too meta, but it works.

When Star Wars should incorporate humor – or if it should incorporate humor at all – is often a topic of debate when it comes to modern releases. Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s opening scene, for example, was criticized for the humorous, silly interactions between Poe Dameron and General Hux. That said, humor – including self-aware humor – has always been part of the Star Wars galaxy. Even the “I have a bad feeling about this” line can be considered a meta Star Wars trope that only really lands for those who are familiar with the saga. The Mandalorian’s “It was a trap” accomplishes something similar, although this Admiral Ackbar line very much transcended Star Wars.

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New episodes of The Mandalorian release every Wednesday on Disney+.

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