Is this the way? "The Mandalorian" depicts struggling belief more realistically than that last Jedi
Pedro Pascal as "The Mandalorian" Disney +
This article originally appeared here on Salon.com
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Until "The Mandalorian", the main universe of "Star Wars", recognized only one spiritual truth, The Force and the two religions dedicated to it - that of the Jedi, an order devoted to light and justice, and the Sith, the Servant of the Dark Side. Anything in between are good people who wish the power to be with their allies or villains, the rebel scraps or the stormtroopers. But what about the jawas? Do the Tuskens believe in something greater than themselves? We still don't know.
But through the adventures of Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) we have now seen a different belief system: The Creed, followed by the Children of the Guard. The warrior sect that Din Djarin raised and hardened him in battle pits is committed to following the way of the Mandalore and its many rules.
The second season of "The Mandalorian" shows Din Djarin breaking the strictest of them all when he takes off his helmet and allows a room full of Empire officers and grunts to see his face, a no-go at the highest level. According to the Creed, once a Mandalorian takes off his helmet in front of another living being, he can never put it back on. It's a break with faith.
But it had to happen if he had any hope of saving Grogu, also known as The Child or Baby Yoda, from the Imperial officer who had kidnapped him. He can also have other reasons. In "The Believer," the penultimate episode of season two, Mando recruits two-time former crime partner Mayfeld (Bill Burr) to help him break into an Imperial mining facility - which they do once they secure a pair of soldiers -Outfits. Remember, these have helmets too.
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The real obstacle waits inside, where a simple visit to a terminal Mayfield can download makes the ship's coordinates with Grogu impossible, as Mayfield's former commanding officer happens to be in the room where the terminal is located.
After a tense exchange, Mando decides to go to the facial recognition scanner, takes off his helmet, and reveals his face. He fulfills the mission, but also realizes that there is no going back.
The timing of this hugely impactful decision has been questionable in the eyes of some people, and when you think beyond the scenario there are other problems as well. But we're not here to discuss weak plot details.
Instead, the importance of Djarin's exposure sparked hours of reflection on how this relates to how films and series treat beliefs and identity versus strict religiosity.
In the context of an individual's negotiation with the role religion plays in him or her, there is a necessary definition of belief, how to interpret it. Mayfield concludes when he informs Mando of the flawed rules that apply to any type of belief system during their mission.
"It seems to me that your rules change when you are desperate," he says. "I mean, look at you. You said you couldn't take your helmet off, and now you have a stormtrooper on. So what's the rule? Can't you take your mando helmet off or can you?" Aren't you showing your face? Because there is a difference. "
At that moment, Din Djarin is not responding to Mayfield, and that could be because he really doesn't have an answer. Showing his face a few scenes later might have been his way of looking for those answers within himself, a very "Star Wars" way of dealing with difficult questions.
One reason I still find Star Wars and other epics adorable after all these years has to do with the strict religiosity I've programmed since I was born. I am sure. I renounced Catholicism a long time ago, but this wiring to receive the secrets of the Faith is still very much intact. I suspect that many people who have lost their religion still feel some version of it. The power of power is less burdened than organized religion. George Lucas' version of the monomyth never started wars or resulted in persecution on earth.
Anyone can step behind the space opera's lasting stories of good and evil that revolve around arcs of redemption and forgiveness. But it all comes from the Jedi mythology brought to life by the Skywalker saga and if you really dig into what it means to be a Jedi. . . Honestly, it looks like some real resistance. No wonder Luke finally turned his back on that sound.
However, the belief as presented by the hero's journey in "The Mandalorian" is achievable. In the scene described above and other points from last season, Din Djarin acts according to the higher laws governing how to treat others and protect the innocent, contrary to the beliefs of his sect.
The power is exhilarating and all, but if you want to emulate a character who acts disciplined and adheres to morally high principles, Din Djarins is the way to go. And this includes his decision to free his fate from the rules of who he is and what value he has, as prescribed by others, what is the essence of a spiritual journey.
The show's creator, Jon Favreau, has chosen to cross Din Djarin's path with that of Star Wars' favorite son in the season finale is not a coincidence or a bad decision. But on the contrary. Let's call it the culmination of an inevitability.
We know from the movies that Luke eventually loses his faith only to find him one last time before joining The Force. But the Luke we see in the finale is to a large extent a Jedi standard bearer, one of the few left and probably the most powerful.
From the moment the bounty hunter was asked to reunite his community of Grogu, The Child, with "his kind", a race of what Din’s superior, the armourer, calls wizards and enemies of their sect, the Mandalorian's obligation To "follow" the "path" had to falter.
In season 2, Favreau and the show's writers are steadfastly advocating Din Djarin, who grapples with what it means to be Mandalorian, which is believed to be an important subplot of the third season.
Odysseys of Identity are at the core of all the great Star Wars stories, bringing characters into a confrontation between their idea of who they are and the truth about it. With Luke, Leia, Rey, and even Kylo Ren, tests of faith are always associated with questions about family heritage.
Din Djarin is not haunted by such questions because he knew his parents and remembers their murder. Instead, his spiritual examination could look at what he was led to believe by The Watch, the militaristic zealots who raised him, and how that belief reconciles with being in the universe and refusing to hide.
Until he meets other Mandalorians led by Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff), a dethroned queen, he believes that all true Mandalorians obey the Creed. Then she shocks him by taking off her helmet and declaring that she's not the weird one - it is him.
The watch, she tells him, is a cult. And we can only assume that afterwards a lot of thought was given under this helmet, as Din Djarin exposes his face not just once but twice before the end of the season. For the second time, Grogu is supposed to finally see who he is before they split up in "The Rescue," the season finale written by Favreau. Earthlings could describe this as the beginning of his deprogramming.
Hopefully Grogu will come back. I also keep my fingers crossed that Din Djarin's relationship with his helmet persists, for reasons other than looking at Pascal's fine, fine face more than once or twice a season - but not much more. From a business perspective, we understand why Favreau may be tempted to serve fans who passed out at the sight of the actor. That's surface attraction, and even that has limits. (Ergo: It is better to keep people thirsty than to weaken the attraction by being over saturated.)
Deepening the character's mystery as they find out who they are can bring higher returns in the long run because we get it. At some point we have to decide what to believe about ourselves and our place in the universe. And for me this is a much more fertile ground for story development. There's a lot about this quadrant of the galaxy and this gunslinger that we haven't discovered yet.
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The force will always be with us and as long as "Star Wars" burns brightly in the entertainment galaxy. But at the end of a rousing and provocative second season of "The Mandalorian", I'm delighted and relieved to know that his Jedi fascination is definitely not the only way to go.
All episodes of "The Mandalorian" are currently streamed on Disney +.
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