There are moments that define a fandom and define a fan’s life. Luke Skywalker’s entrance into the story of The Mandalorian scores on both accounts, leaving Star Wars different forevermore. Yet, there is something familiar. There is something that makes it, beyond the Skywalker name, beyond the green lightsaber, beyond the epicness of the action, the Star Wars we’ve always known.
As the old cliche goes, “It’s poetry. It rhymes.” The reason the Din Djarin/Grogu relationship works, beyond the fantastic character development across the series, is because we’ve seen these family relationships, these found families, in Star Wars over and over again. Some have been for the good, some not so much. But that weight is there, reminding us of how such has shaped the galaxy we know already, tempting us to consider how these moments will shape the galaxy going forward. These echoes, these parallels, these rhymes and reflections, shape how audiences read the scene and the story.
Going all the way back to The Phantom Menace, the echo of Anakin and Shmi’s separation underlies the separation of Din and Grogu. In both, a Jedi Master (we’ll grant Luke that title for now, but don’t tell Anakin) with a green lightsaber awaits a youngling choosing between his parent and his potential. Even though life with the Jedi seems the route a prodigy should go, is it worth losing the one person who has ever loved you unconditionally? This question challenges both Anakin and Grogu, but it’s the one they are leaving behind that encourages them to go. When Anakin questions if he’ll see his mother again, she asks him, “What does your heart tell you?” to convey that this is not the end of their relationship; likewise, Grogu asks for Din’s permission to leave for Jedi training because he wants to do right by, and not lose, that relationship. Shmi, like Din, promises her child that she will see him again, but this doesn’t exactly go as planned. The last time Shmi sees her son, like the last time Anakin and Han Solo see their sons, is the moment of her death. Grogu would be wise not to make the mistake Anakin made by not going back, not reconnecting with the parent, before its too late.
The sacrifice to give your child that freedom, knowing that you lose complete control, is the greatest challenge a parent can face. When what is best for them is worst for you, are you willing to make that trade? All parents say they will, but when it comes down to it only the best will follow through. Shmi does. Din does. They do it because they want their child to be free (Shmi more literally because Anakin is a slave). But Din wants Grogu to be free too. He gives Grogu the choice and truly believes that Grogu learning to control his abilities is what is necessary for his child to live a full life. To be free.
Freedom, however, is not the ability to do whatever one wants. Freedom, in its truest form, is not being trapped by the expectations of others or by societal norms. Anakin gets trapped, becoming first a slave to the expectations of the Jedi Order, being the “Chosen One,” and later by Palpatine. Only when he frees himself from caring about what others expect or by his past failures is he able to embrace the love offered to him freely by his son. In that freedom, he does what his mother modeled for him decades before. He gives everything so that his child (children in this case) can live a better life.
“Help me take off this mask,” is the first request Anakin Skywalker ever makes of his son. “Let me look on you with my own eyes.” Standing there, looking at Din and Grogu, Luke has to hear the echo. This time, however, it’s different. This time it is the son who requests the father remove his helmet so the son can see his father with his own eyes. Grogu, consciously or instinctively, knows that this might be the last time he sees Din, and he doesn’t want to remember him as a mask but as a man. His right hand reaches up, as Shmi’s did to Anakin, to touch his face. Anakin’s path gets darker after that touch, whereas Ben Solo’s life moves toward the light after his father Han Solo touches his face. The difference is that Han touches Ben’s face with his left hand. Knowing that Din is going to face huge challenges now that he wields the darksaber and is thus the defacto ruler of Mandalore, could this difference between the association of the right hand with dark and the left with light foreshadow trouble for Djarin?
On the second Death Star, when Anakin asked Luke to help him remove his mask, Luke pleads, “But you’ll die.” Anakin knows that is inevitable, that his current form is but a vessel to his next form. Across this season, Din has died a death of his own, as a child of the Watch. Grogu pleading with his father to take his Mandalorian helmet off is the son once more helping set the father free. Both Shmi and Anakin look on their son as they die, being set free by the moment. Shmi’s captivity by the Tusken Raiders ends, as does Anakin’s captivity within his suit, but the emotional freedom, the peace brought by that moment, is what really matters. No longer trapped by the creed of the Way, will Din be able to recognize that freedom and be reborn in full? Will he be able to recognize the gift his child has given him, or will the mask once more consume the man? The answer to that question will decide his future, and could decide the future of Mandalore, Mandalorians, and the galaxy itself.
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