The Mandalorian is the perfect Star Wars for the holiday season. Around this time of year, people reach back into their nostalgia bags, pulling out traditions they love. Now, however, those traditions have evolved. They are the same, and yet they are new. Such is The Mandalorian. It feels old, like classic Star Wars, regardless of what classic Star Wars may mean for each individual. But it is also new, fresh, updated.
Chapter 15: “The Believer” is a testament to such an evolution. As the title alludes to, characters are coming to belief, as messy as it may be. One classic Christmas film, The Santa Clause, puts it perfectly, “Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing.” When that strict adherence clashes with the necessary good, what is one to do? “The Believer” says, “Become something new.”
REMOVING YOUR IDENTITY
This season has revolved around the idea of identity, how it is formed, and how it must change as one grows. All season, Din Dijarin has seen others in Beskar, be they Mandalorian like Bo-Katan, on the fence like Boba Fett, or not a Mandalorian but still one who lives with honor, and this has challenged him to think about who he is and who he is becoming. It is clear that he will become something new because the symbolism of death and rebirth has also been prominent as well. It is no coincidence that a quarter or more of the season has taken place on water-based planets, water being both creator and destroyer.
In “The Seige”, The Child struggles with red and blue wires, uncertain of where to place them. Din, however, knows. He has a belief that inserting said wires into their appropriate places will fix all their problems. The same seems to be true for his life. There is the Way, the blue, and there is the Not Way, the red. However, things are becoming a little more… purple. In the words of the rock band Icon for Hire, “Tell me, tell me; Tell me who I’m supposed to be now; Make me better. I can’t stay halfway dead forever.”
Chapter 15 forces two characters to confront their identity, Din Djarin and former Imperial, criminal, and troll Migs Mayfield. Mayfield goes through the most immediate transformation, starting the episode imprisoned in a scrap yard where he has to dismantle TIE fighters, symbols of the Empire he was once a part of. By the end of the episode, he has made the choice of who he wants to be, and because of that he is able to be free on a planet full of life, growth, and opportunity.
The beginning of the episode foreshadows this when his ankle bracelet is removed. What will he do? If his prisoner number is an indication, he will try to find some form of balance. Prisoner 34667 is unbalanced. In the middle of his number are two sixes; in the front are a three and a four, which equals the seven at the end. All the parts are there, but the balance is off.
As the team flies into Morak, the place where Mayfield will change, the Slave I revolves, thus changing its profile. Mayfield is clearly shown there, alluding to his change of profile, but when the full revolution is happening the focus is on Din Djarin, Mandalorian and cult helmet wearer. Being the protagonist of the show, Djarin’s change has been a slow burn, centered around the identity attached to his helmet.
When Djarin puts on the stormtrooper helmet it brings his faith into question. “So what’s the rule?” Mayfield asks of him. “Is it that you can’t take off your Mando helmet, or you can’t show your face?” Not even Djarin seems to know the answer, but he is going to have to figure it out and figure it out quickly. As pirates attack the transport Mayfield and Djarin have procured, Djarin has to face off with them sans beskar. The show has prominently displayed that beskar is nearly impenetrable, much like Din’s perception of the Way. But the stormtrooper armor breaks. It is but a shell, not an identity. It is fallible, as Djarin has become with the loss of Grogu.
Later, when it becomes a choice between the Way and Grogu, Djarin doesn’t even hesitate. He removes his helmet, knowing the risks, because that’s how much his kid means to him. He’s clearly vulnerable in this moment, like a child himself. Which, essentially, he is. He is reborn.
Part of Mayfield’s transformation comes in realizing, or maybe just admitting to himself, that the Empire and the New Republic are not the same. Operation Cinder, Alderaan, and a plethora of other atrocities attest to this. While no governmental system is perfect, there are absolute evils. The Nazis, for instance. Genocide, slavery, abuse. The Empire has it all. It removes choices, as the Imperial officer alludes to in saying, “Everybody thinks they want freedom, but what they really want is order.”
When audiences last saw Mayfield, his choice to go after The Mandalorian led to his imprisonment. But, as Chirrut Imwe says, “There is more than one sort of prison.” Mayfield has trapped himself by not facing his trauma. Until his trauma manifests in the Imperial officer. Mayfield chooses to blow a hole in his chest, and to later blow the stronghold all together. He has realized the truth of absolute evil, accepting that even the flawed can stand against it, as “we all need to sleep at night.”
This episode is so centered upon choices that even the choice of words is relevant. Multiple times throughout the episode, Cara Dune and others refer to Grogu as “his kid” in reference to Djarin. This may seem but a term of endearment had the entire series not so prominently utilized “the” as an article. The Child. The kid. It is everywhere. Or, it was. Now The Child has a name, and Djarin has a kid.
Din Djarin has to face his own choice as well, between the Watch and Grogu. To return to the aforementioned Icon For Hire song, “Supposed to Be,” “For years, this is all I’ve known, this has had my heart, this has been my home/And now I’m scared to lose myself, scared of letting go.”
While the entirety of the series would lead audiences to think this is a hard choice, for Din it’s not. After the scan of his stormtrooper helmet, a la his facade, fails, he immediately whips his helmet off. His child is more important than his faith. As Qui-Gon Jinn says in Master and Apprentice, ““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?” For Din, there is not.
EXPLOSIVE AND VOLATILE
The facility that Djarin and Mayfield must infiltrate holds an extremely “explosive and volatile” entity, rhydonium. Rhydonium has appeared in a few Star Wars stories to date, most prominently Star Wars Rebels, where Sabine and Hera used rhydonium to survive against a herd of fyrnocks, the manifestation of fear itself.
Rhydonium is extremely destructive, which is why it must be handled with care. It is also extremely useful as a fuel for starships. It can, quite literally, kill you or take you to a new life. Much like the water, it is creator and destroyer. It is also the perfect metaphor for Migs Mayfield, a volatile individual who becomes quite explosive by the end of it.
More importantly, however, it is a metaphor for The Mandalorian himself. This mission is the fulcrum upon which the entirety of his life will swing. It could destroy him and any future he considered with Grogu, or it could lead him to Grogu. The choice, as mentioned before, is quite clear and actually quite easy for Din. In parallelling the words of Moff Gideon from the end of season one, Din is declaring his explosivity, declaring to Gideon that he, Din Djarin, is going to be Gideon’s destroyer. He’s volatile, unpredictable, and will do whatever it takes to get back his child.
The only question left, then, is what? What will it take?
Check back Wednesday for “Faithlessness in the Age of Beskar”, a look into how Chapter 15 challenges The Mandalorian’s belief system and the cataclysmic crisis of conscience it creates.