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Unmasking the Mandalorian’s religious parallel

Contains spoilers for seasons one and two of The Mandalorian.

The Mandalorian is a Star Wars spin off TV show whose main character is a part of an ancient warrior culture that believes in a religion called the ‘Way of the Mandalore’. This faith glorifies war and fighting for what you believe in, with peace seen as a sign of weakness and sloth. So as expressions of their faith, each ‘Way of the Mandalore’ tribesperson is a skilled fighter who wears sacred armour and never takes off their helmet in front of anyone.

Meet ‘Mando’, The Mandalorian‘s bounty hunter protagonist, who’s a devout follower of ‘the Way’ when we meet him in episode one. The show follows Mando as he starts to stray from the rules of his job, his religion and his moral code to save an innocent child Baby Yoda from its captor.

Very quickly this highly reserved, untalkative and dangerous masked man is uncovered to be a loving and protective father figure. The Mandalorian masterfully plays with this father-son dynamic to clue us into who Mando is beneath the helmet and why he believes the things he does.

Now it’s clear that within this fantastical galactic adventure lies a powerful parallel between The Mandalorian universe and ours. I’d go as far as to say it’s not even deeply hidden, it comes at face value- literally.

Mando follows a religion that asks him to cover his face around people- this mirrors the real head covering practises of religions around the world today. But this isn’t an accident. Star Wars creator- and creative consultant on The Mandalorian- George Lucas has never shied away from citing ancient and current religions as inspirations for his universe.

So even though The Mandalorian‘s creator Jon Favreau has not credited any specific religions as inspiration for his spin on the warrior culture it’s easy to see this parallel with our society. The resemblance between Mando and the Jewish, Christian and Muslim women who wear headscarves speaks for itself.

But obviously there is a lot more to each religion mentioned than just their head covering practises. Especially Islam, as some people continue to use the wearing of a hijab or burqa as a way to oversimply a Muslim woman’s faith, devotion and experience. So when I say The Mandalorian shares this religious parallel, I exclusively mean how similar each religion’s head covering practises are to Mando’s. It’s my opinion that by him sharing this one parallel with religions today, it makes The Mandalorian more meaningful, impactful and necessary for diverse representation in Hollywood stories.

Maybe Star Wars is slowly on its way to giving its fans what they’ve been asking for, like a Muslim character in the sci-fi universe. Since I think the first season of The Mandalorian does something no pop culture show has done as effectively and that’s give us a main character who can humanise religious people who cover their faces.

By the second season I know Mando so well that I see his helmet as an extension of himself. I believe the audience doesn’t need to see beneath to gauge his reactions, because we’ve come to learn how to understand Mando as he is. Everything makes sense and this is the life he chooses to live, so we the audience support him.

But then, we- and Mando- find out he’s actually in a cult.

Avid Star Wars fans would have known before the season 2 plot twist that typical Mandalorians can take their helmets off whenever they want. It is actually just Mando’s tribe- being religious zealots known as the Children of the Watch- who follow the outdated ‘Way’ and its custom.


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But I really enjoyed not knowing this detail as I watched the show since I got to see Mando’s faith as he does, as totally normal and sensical. So when the truth is revealed in episode 3 of season 2, I- along with Mando- was shocked and disappointed.

Of course this is where the real religion parallel stops. I severely doubt the show catered for this allusion, and then chose to double cross it so objectionably. But I do believe that they had unconsciously set up such a good thing before this.

The Mandalorian had created this wonderfully easy-to-consume and exciting character study exploring the perspective of someone who carried out religious customs. Intentional or not, it had provided a platform for people to sympathise and understand someone who, for all intents and purposes, could be a Jew, Christian or Muslim.

The show even charts the positive character development of Mayfeld, a crook from the heist in episode 6, and how he comes to treat Mando’s helmet wearing. In season 1, Mayfeld relentlessly taunts Mando for his helmet, and even has his minion try to remove it by force.

“I wonder what you look like under there…You gotta show us something. Come on, just lift the helmet up. Let us all see your eyes.”

In the second last episode of season 2, Mando is forced to remove his helmet while he and Mayfeld are disguised as Imperial officers. But after the coast is finally clear, Mayfeld- without a blink of an eye- offers Mando the helmet back, saying:

“You did what you had to do. I never saw your face.”


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Mayfeld doesn’t joke about it, or even look inquisitively at Mando’s face he just looks away like he truly never saw a thing. It’s a beautiful character arc which I think serves as a relevant precedent that people’s non-acceptance can change into understanding.

I believe labelling this helmet custom as primitive cult behaviour does The Mandalorian a great disservice. While Mando does make the conscious decision to keep wearing his helmet after he discovers the truth, a seed of doubt is sowed, and it changes everything.

Throughout the series, Mando takes his helmet off three times. The first two were in dire circumstances where he needed to protect or save Baby Yoda. But the third time in the season 2 finale Mando does it by choice.

In the emotional scene, after the captor is defeated, Mando and Baby Yoda must part ways. So to say goodbye to the child he’s come to love as a son Mando takes off his helmet to embrace him. It’s as if Mando is saying: ‘I want you to see me, and for me to see you, so you know that I truly care about you’.

As beautiful a sentimental as that is I think it really belittles Mando’s devotion to what he believes in. It dismantles his whole essence as a resilient, religious protagonist. As much as the cult twist should mean we don’t care anymore, and Mando should be free to take his helmet off whenever, I believe deep down it’d be harder for him to discard this part of himself. The entire show builds Mando’s character on the back of his helmet and his religion. To abolish that makes him hollow.

If we put any real religion in its place the meaning of this scene turns sinister. I interpreted this season’s finale to be saying that in order to genuinely communicate with people, in order to be fully ‘seen’, you have to give up the head covering. It’s like Mando stopped seeing his helmet as an extension of himself and instead saw it as something in the way.


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The Mandalorian wonderfully shook the worldview of its characters like Mayfeld but I wonder if Mando needed to be rattled in this way too.

In saying that of course I understand why Mando does it, and why Jon Favreau wrote it that way. The Mandalorian before anything else is a story about loneliness, vulnerability and love. Showing that journey through the unmasking of a guarded warrior is just good cinema.

Nevertheless, if the show was done a little differently it could have preserved this religious parallel in an invaluable and ground-breaking way.

But maybe there’s still time to do that. Season 3 of The Mandalorian is set to premiere this Christmas and I’m hoping to see as little of Mando’s face as possible.

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