The winds are shifting in the Outer Rim, where Din Djarin and his fellow Mandalorians make their home and seek The Way of the Mandalor. In S3E5 (Chapter 21, the Pirate) we see a surprising development as the Armorer establishes Bo-Katan as a kind of emissary who can unite Mandalorians of diverse paths. “Mandalore must all come together. You have walked both worlds. You are the one who can unite us.” She and Bo-Katan emerge from the foundry, Bo-Katan unmasked, to the surprise of the other Mandalorians.
The Armorer cites Bo-Katan’s experience of seeing a mythosaur for her elevation to this important role to unite all Mandalorians. According to her understanding of Mandalorian lore, the sighting of a mythosaur marks a new age for the Mandalorian people (akin, perhaps, to a messianic age in some western religions). That Bo-Katan is the one who saw the mythosaur, a Mandalorian who did not walk The Way with strict discipline and devotion until very recently, might be a sign to the Armorer that The Way must be open to Mandalorians of diverse religious practice. Over the course of this episode we certainly see the covert open up to a significant degree – from sending Bo-Katan on this mission to bring together other Mandalorians, to choosing to live in the open on Nevarro rather than to remain in hiding.
But is this really about opening up in a new way? I’m not so sure. It is possible that the Armorer is sending Bo-Katan on a mission to evangelize the other Mandalorians in order to bring them into what the Armor and her covert believe is the one and only true Way. She says, after all, “Our people have strayed from the Way and it is not enough for a few to walk it.” Nowhere in these words does she make an admission or confession that her covert has strayed or followed an unnecessarily narrow articulation of The Way. She seems to be blaming other Mandalorians for straying. To that end, her next lines ring hollow … or, they reveal her true intentions. “We must walk it together … we must walk the Way together. All Mandalorians.” Notably, the armorer does not take off her mask. She maintains the “purity” of The Way while she orders Bo-Katan to act otherwise. I’m left with many questions. Is she setting Bo-Katan up for failure? Is the Armorer interested in unity and “big tent” Mandalorianism with a diversity of practice? Or, is she only interested in bringing other Mandalorians “back” into her one and only true Way of the Mandalore?
When Paz Visla speaks after Din’s request that the covert fight the pirates on Nevarro, he punctuates his support for Din’s call to arms with the Mandalorian refrain, “The is the Way.” The entire covert responds, “This is the Way.” We’ve heard this refrain warmly welcome Din Djarin and Bo-Katan into the covert, as well as affirm the sacrifice Mandalorians make for one another. “This is the Way” is a kind of pious affirmation, a repeated refrain, that has a quality of sacred honor attached to it. It is not something these people say lightly. Yet when the Armorer and Bo-Katan emerge from the foundry and walk to Bo’s ship, Bo’s face exposed, the Armorer announces Bo’s mission. Noticeably, there is no united refrain affirming that “This is the Way.” Not from the covert. Not from Bo-Katan. Not from the Armorer. Does the covert agree with welcoming unhelmeted Mandalorians? Is the Armorer setting up Bo-Katan for failure and rejection? Is this really The Way?
Two other notes:
Legend? I was a little surprised, but then thrilled, to hear the Armorer tell Bo-Katan that she “was taught that the mythosaur existed only in legends. And yet, you saw it.” Beautifully, the Armorer does not doubt what Bo-Katan tells. The Armorer does not need to have seen it herself in order to believe. Nor does she let the idea that the mythosaur is a legend get in the way of her belief that now the mythosaur could be real. The Armorer demonstrates a way of thinking and believing that defies the simplistic yes/no binary of textual literalism, and instead embraces a transcendent truth of sacred story that can manifest in a variety of ways.
The Dark Saber In earlier Star Wars releases we learned that the Dark Saber, now held by Din Djarin, gave whoever held it power to unite and lead Mandalore. Yet since Din won the Dark Saber all we’ve seen of it is his awkward and ineffective use of the saber in combat, and very little talk of its symbolic importance to unite Mandalore. Why aren’t Din and the Dark Saber featuring more prominently in the discussions about uniting Mandalorians and reestablishing their society, if not even their planet? Why aren’t other Mandalorians looking to him to lead by mere fact of his possessing the saber? It’s almost as if the Dark Saber is now irrelevant, dropping a thread that had amazing story-telling potential.
I’m loving this season of The Mandalorian. It touches on religious faith in a way other series have neglected. I can’t wait for Wednesday, for my next dose of Grogu, Din, and The Way.