After two seasons, Din Djarin has finally decided that he needs to take a bath. In the first two episodes, season 3 of The Mandalorian highlights something easily overlooked in all the Star Wars glare. Din Djarin, the Mandalorian, is a deeply religious dude with a very religious problem: he broke the rules of his weird cult and took off his helmet in front of others. And now he must pay for it by “bathing in the living waters beneath the mines of Mandalore.”
If you think about it, that’s a little weird The Mandalorian so far is about one man’s attempts to become Cultist of the Year. It isn’t apparent until the show’s second season, but the Mandalorians as portrayed on the show aren’t necessarily representative of all Mandalorians, but a kind of religious fundamentalist cult dating back to the earliest days of the now devastated planet of Mandalore.
The first season features Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), the hero of The Mandalorian, adopted by this cult as a child after his village was razed to the ground, indoctrinated into their weird religion which involves, I don’t know, hunting increasingly challenging bounties in exchange for increasingly sick armor? It’s very video game-like. While that season shifted to focus on Din’s Lone wolf and cublike relationship with Grogu, things took a turn for the worse in the second season (and, inexplicably, in Boba Fett’s book) while the show introduces other Mandalorians who are not in the same faith as Din, then also shows that Din regrets his decision to send Grogu to Luke Skywalker’s Jedi college and invites him to learn the ways of his religious order.
On the one hand, Star Wars already has a weird and morally dubious religion in the Jedi Order. While it’s conceivably good and interesting that there are multiple religions that creators are interested in in this fictional universe, so much of the Mandalorian creed that Din follows is poorly explained. We can conclude that Din feels loyalty to his cult after they saved him from certain death, but why does anyone else practice this belief? Why are the other Mandalorians in this sect? What are they talking about?
This is before you even start parsing all the rules we Doing know about. Like the helmet thing: If they can’t take off their helmets in front of others, is sex off the table? If that’s the case, how do they make more Mandalorians? Do they only take orphans? Are they kidnapping strong candidates? Or is it more of a gig you’re applying for? And Why would you apply? Din is not a native Mandalorian, and as he was raised by the cult, he believes all Mandalorians live this way – no one tells him he’s full of shit until he meets Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff), who has little patience for his weird cult.
For those who have the audacity to suggest that I might be exaggerating this, this is asshole Star Wars. We’re alone here because people have been thinking about shit for 50 damn years. These are questions that ostensibly have an answer in a vast universe that is constantly being written and rewritten just beyond the confines of what we see. The Mandalorian has a terminal case of Lore Brain, a syndrome in which a series is written in a way that not only expects the viewer to do their homework and know about the fictional history of their world, but also treats scenes like new wiki items in that history, which further complicate history without bothering to sit down and tell a story. Din Djarin hasn’t lived up to his beliefs, yes – but why does he care so much? Why did he finally accept the path he grew up on, and what does it do for him specifically? Why would he do anything to get back into good graces, and why is he determined to take Grogu with him? How is he process the knowledge of other Mandalorians living in what to him is apostasy?
This is an annoying number of questions, but they are indicative of the fertile soil The Mandalorian plays in. All of these questions are stories, and it’s frustrating to see the show’s writers so uninterested in telling them. The Mandalorian has proven to be able to stand on its own without feeling weighed down by Star Wars history; now it threatens to become the navelgazy, self-serving affair that bystanders might think it is. It’s a well-regarded hit in an era where Star Wars struggles to find what’s next, curiously getting bogged down in what came before. It would be refreshing – and much more enduring – if the series’ writers were more interested in exploring the characters more deeply than the world in which their stories take place. without both, the story languishes.
Instead the creators of The Mandalorian have chosen to weave together the lore from the (very good!) Star Wars animated series into a show that initially appealed for the clean slate it offered, a western set at the edge of a galaxy far away.
But sure, Mando. Take a bath.