What does it mean to be a Mandalorian? Fans have certainly argued over the importance of the creed and who they deem to be a “real” Mandalorian over the years — but this season, The Mandalorian has given us a front-row seat into Din Djarin’s personal reckoning with what it means to be a Mandalorian.
The Mandalorian was sold to fans as a story about a lone gunslinger and badass bounty Hunter dedicated to the creed of the Mandalorian covert that he was raised in. Audiences didn’t even learn his name until Chapter 8, during the season finale. Up until that point, he was “Mando,” and audiences just had to work with the knowledge that Pedro Pascal was under all that beskar.
But that image of the Mandalorian wasn’t what was delivered. Instead, Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni gave fans a Din Djarin, a man grappling with what it means to be a Mandalorian while coming to terms with the fact that the kid he rescued in Chapter 1 is not just his foundling, but his child.
The true evolution of Din Djarin’s character started when he showed his face to IG-11 in Chapter 8. This was a monumental moment for him because not only was he breaking the codes he lived by, but he was trusting a droid. But that was just the beginning, and season two has ushered in a wealth of satisfying character development brought to life by the writers, directors, and the impeccably nuanced and astounding Pascal performance.
You can pay for every streaming service, binge every drama on TV, and you will not find another performer who can convey the emotions that Pascal does without audiences ever seeing his face. The raw talent that goes into Pascal capturing the perfect reactions through subtle head tilts, the right intake of breath, and the right vocal choices is one of the most captivating television performances.
Chapter 15 was the pay-off from Din Djarin’s encounters with Cobb Vanth, Bo-Katan, and Boba Fett over the past episodes, and watching him break, evolve, and come to terms with who he is has been nothing short of incredible.
Din’s proverbial armor's first fracture started with Cobb Vanth wearing Mandalorian armor when he wasn’t a Mandalorian.
Then the armor cracked when he learned the truth about his upbringing, how an extremist group of Mandalorians raised him, and that Mandalorians from Mandalore like Bo-Katan operate without their helmets on. There is a moment towards the end of Chapter 11 when Bo-Katan says, “This is the way.” For the first time, Din’s voice waivers as he repeats the phrase.
With the return of Boba Fett, Din was yet again faced with a Mandalorian who doesn’t cover his face. Boba’s father, Jango, was a foundling like Din. But this wasn’t the most profound part of the episode, at least not to me. What fully broke through Din’s armor was Moff Gideon destroying the Razor Crest and taking Grogu.
The Razor Crest was the last true symbol of Din’s past. That was the home that he had built for himself as a bounty hunter. The covert on Nevarro is gone. His people are gone. Now he's home — and his son — were taken from him. His armor may have remained on throughout this episode, but with one swift action, Moff Gideon stripped him of the proverbial armor he’d been clinging to.
Which brings us to “The Believer.” Not only did Din have his proverbial armor stripped away from him, but his beskar armor was removed as well. To get into the Imperial base, Din donned the armor of a Stormtrooper. This was a fascinating set up because, when faced with a physical fight, Din quickly learned that he couldn’t cling to his old fighting style. Stormtrooper armor doesn’t hold up against much, and it literally shatters on impact, causing him to be injured. Fighting like a Mandalorian caused Din to be injured. That allusion was certainly no accident.
Din quickly adapted his fighting style, narrowly fending off the pursuing Mad Max-type pirates with a little help from the Empire. Din Djarin has done a lot of adapting this season. He’s adapted to changing deals, changing ideals, and now he’s faced with changing his beliefs.
To retrieve Moff Gideon’s ship's location, where Grogu is being held, Din has to remove his helmet and show his face to everyone in the Imperial mess hall. At first, he tries to do the face scan with his helmet on, as if to give himself ten seconds to make one of the biggest decisions of his life and break with “the way.”
Stripped of his beskar armor, standing behind enemy lines, Din Djarin removes his helmet for one reason and one reason alone — to get his son back. At that moment, Pascal conveyed so many emotions through the same nuanced performances that he gives with the mask on. There’s fear, guilt, concern, and a myriad of emotions playing in his eyes. He doesn’t need dialogue to tell audiences what his thoughts are. For a Mandalorian, he’s just made the ultimate sacrifice by shedding the last vestiges of the code that he’s lived by.
A lot of credit is owed to the visuals that Rick Famuyiwa masterfully crafted into the episode. When I first theorized how Din Djarin would shed his helmet this season, I never expected to see it happen in such a revealing way. The way that this episode, and the entire season, has evolved Din’s character leads me to anticipate something even more profound to occur in the final chapter of the season. I am certain that Pascal will deliver an unforgettable performance.