This season of The Mandalorian has been full of great moments, fantastic storytelling, and layer upon layer of meaning that has been absolute Star Wars gold. The success the show has had, including the retention of viewers from season one to season two (a critical marker of streaming show success) is reminiscent of the fanfare around the original Star Wars.
Where season one got audiences acquainted with the character of The Mandalorian, season two is challenging Din Djarin’s identity, including what it means to be a Mandalorian. The idea of identity crises is not new to Star Wars nor fiction. But to do so on an institutional level is something that harkens back to George Lucas and the prequels. The prequels are an identity crisis en mass for the Republic, as Lucas ventured to show how democracies fall to facism. Being so intertwined with the Republic that the line of distinction was non-existent, the Jedi are also drawn into this identity crisis. Audiences and even some of the Jedi begin to ask, “What is a Jedi?”
While not in the prequel films, Ahsoka Tano is a prime example. After being framed for multiple crimes she did not commit, including the bombing of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, Ahsoka is excommunicated by the Jedi, kicked out of the order so she can be judged in the courts of the Republic. Few believe in her side of the story and zero council members come to her defense. When her innocence is proven and she is offered her position back within the Order, she walks away because she has seen that the Order no longer is what it should be.
While her popularity makes it easy for viewers to focus on Ahsoka here, as it regards the question of what a Jedi is, the focus should be on the Council. The Council does not know what a Jedi is, but they certainly seem to know what a Jedi is not. That’s a huge issue, as it forces one to look for the flaws in others rather than the good. Imagine if everyday you went to your job and they were just there waiting for you to step out of line so they could shun you in order to raise their own sense of self-worth. Actually, I’m sure some of you have been in exactly that situation and know how counterproductive it is.
Palpatine is able to use this against the Jedi because it is a flawed ideology. Anakin Skywalker comes from a completely different background than the rest of the Order, and is told since day one that he is the Chosen One who will bring balance to the Force. But again, they focus on what he is not. He is not a baby. “Too old to begin the training.” He’s not free of attachments. “Your thoughts dwell on your mother.” He doesn’t fit the narrow, dogmatic view of the Jedi, thus he is other.
There is an argument to be made that the Jedi are a cult, which is what Bo-Katan refers to Din Djarin’s clan of Mandalorians as. While there is not a singular figure of worship, they have come to worship the Republic, making it impossible to see the flaws until it’s too late. Even Yoda, the wisest of the Jedi, falls into this trap. One thing that traps cult members is being too deep into the “religion”, so much so that one cannot find one’s way out. Essentially being unable to see the wampa through the snow.
However, there is always hope in Star Wars. When Luke goes to Dagobah and meets Yoda, it is a very different character from the one who tells Anakin to, “let go of everything you fear to lose.” That Yoda told, this Yoda shows. Take the classic moment of Yoda raising the X-Wing. He’s showing Luke how to be a Jedi, where Yoda simply told Anakin, for all intents and purposes, to get over it. That shows quite a bit of humility and character growth for our “little, green friend.”
It is not accidental that Din Djarin has his own little green friend as he goes on his quest. The creators want the audience to think about Yoda and the journey he went on because Din will face similar challenges. The Mandalorians, at least as far as Din knows them, have become so centered on the Creed and the Code that Din was not even taught about other Mandalorian factions. They aren’t us, they are other.
This warring between factions has been the Mandalorian way for generations. In Clone Wars it was Death Watch vs. Satine, but even before that Mandalorian clans were always fighting for supremacy. It brought such destruction to their planet that they had to build dome cities for it to even be inhabitable. Bo Katan, however, wants to bring all the Mandalorians together, and to do so they will need a central figure.
Din is uniquely positioned to be that figure, the way Katniss was for the world of The Hunger Games. Like Katniss, he knows what he believes in but is still able to be flexible and adjust based on the need in front of him. He cares about people. To take it back to the Jedi, in Master and Apprentice Qui-Gon tells Obi-Wan, “If our beliefs tell us one thing, and the needs of real people tell us another, can there be any question of which we should listen to?” Not doing this is what corrupted the Jedi, and it seems to have corrupted at least part of the Mandalorians as well.
Season two has been all about Din having to confront that ideology, manifested in the inability of The Children of the Watch to remove their helmets. Din’s first reaction is always to fall back on the Creed, but when the push comes to shove he has the back of the people. He did with Cobb Vanth. He did with Bo Katan. This empathy is impossible when Creed usurps everything. That is not The Way.
Din Djarin will be The Way.