Punch in the gut! At the end of last week’s episode (The Spies, S3E7/Chater 23) Big Viz, as Jason and Gabe of Blast Points Podcast call him, gives himself up for his fellow Mandalorians. Paz Vizsla, a committed member of the Children of the Watch, who vociferously accused Din Djarin of being an apostate and previously challenged Din for the Darksaber, gave his life to allow to escape a team of Mandalorians comprised of “both clans” – those who had walked the helmet-removing way of Bo-Katan, and those who walked with the Armorer, never removing their masks.
Paz Vizsla experienced significant transformation this season. He came to accept and embrace Din Djarin, and to unhesitatingly serve alongside people he would have considered enemies not long prior. I don’t want to call it an redemption arc – I’m not sure he needed redemption – but he certainly grew and changed.
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
Paz Vizsla sacrificed himself, gave up his life, for the lives and safety of his fellow Mandalorians. Nothing selfish here – all honor. He died defending Mandalore. This is the way.
Perhaps most notable in this episode, in terms of religious elements, is the conversation between Din Djarin and Bo-Katan. Bo-Katan laments that she can’t keep the different factions of her people together. “This blade is all I have to unify our people,” Bo-Katan says, grasping the Darksaber and revealing a central element of her Mandalorian faith. Din responds, telling Bo that the weapon means nothing to him or to his people. Unexpectedly, this becomes moment of ecumenical dialogue. Though they are all Mandalorian, each sect of Mandalorians has different priorities, different elements of their shared tradition that they elevate as essential.
The Children of the Watch prioritize a code of honor and strict adherence to a warrior ethos, uniform standard, and care for foundlings.
Bo-Katan and her band of followers are focused on the Darksaber, and the power that comes with its possession and use.
The survivors on Mandalore, who endured Moff Gideon’s bombings and have subsisted in a post-apocalyptic environment, seem committed to Bo-Katan for her royal title and station.
More subtle, perhaps, in that dialogue was an acknowledgement that Din grew up learning that “everyone but us had forsaken the Way.” He “had no idea” of the ordeal and difficult decisions Bo-Katan had to make when attacked by Moff Gideon’s forces. While there is much to commend about the discipline and honor fostered within the Children of the Watch, its closed community meant that Din only learned what they taught him. We notice throughout this show that there’s an almost Truman Show quality to the covert’s control over Din – he only knows what this small community has taught him. Charitably, we’d say he’s been sheltered. More honestly, he’s been caught up in a group – a cult? – that controlled his thinking and believing. Din never learned a different perspective – one that would have given Bo-Katan the benefit of the doubt, one that would make sense of different ways of living the Way of the Mandalore – until the events related to his quests with Grogu.
I’ve hesitated to label the Children of the Watch a “cult.” I’ve seen them as survivors and true believers, committed to a way of life that has allowed them to live in community and grow their numbers despite great traumas and trials. The helmet thing hasn’t bothered me. Religions have traditions – and some bizarre ones, at that (how “normal” is it to eat the flesh and drink the blood of a man-god on a weekly basis, after all?). Embracing a ritual practice that most of society does not accept is not a reason to dismiss an entire group pejoratively as a cult. Yet for all the reasons listed above, how they – how the Armorer – strictly controlled the narrative within the covert, we should be cautious. A key characteristic of a cult is the high degree of control it exerts over its members.
What do we make of the Armorer? She is the covert’s de facto leader, speaking cryptically and guarding her power carefully. She has no name. As leader, she is the one who teaches and enforces how they live the Way. She is unaccountable, never challenged or questioned. Watch out for religious leaders who match this profile. She had taught that Mandalore was cursed, all but preventing her people from even attempting to return. Was she giving cover for Moff Gideon to build his base there, and exploit the beskar ore? The Armorer’s helmet bears horns, not unlike the horns of the helmets of those who, in a prior generation, were loyal to Darth Maul. It also looks quite a bit like Moff Gideon’s new helmet. These are all reasons we should be suspicious of her.
Yet, the Armorer has guided Din Djarin on his quests with Grogu, received Din again into her covert after he proved that he had bathed in the waters of Mandalore, welcomed Grogu and Bo-Katan into their community, provided them with upgrades to their armor, and fought ruthlessly against the Gideon-aligned pirates on Navarro.
Is it possible that she was, at one point, aligned with remnant Imperial forces, a bad actor secretly supporting Moff Gideon? Perhaps. Some of her actions reveal, however, an authentic loyalty to Mandalorian faith, practice, and community. She is a complicated figure. I hope we learn her identity in the season finale.
Hearkening back to The Believer (S2E7, Chapter 15), some online commenters have complained about the inconsistency of the Mandalorian rules. When is a rule absolute? When can you set it aside? Who is in, who is out, and who makes that decision? What is most important – a helmet, a saber, a bloodline? Certainly this is baffling. Yet it is precisely that complexity which makes The Mandalorian so real from a religious perspective. Religion is messy. Religious people are inconsistent. Traditions legitimately change and adapt. There can be, at the same time, multiple legitimate ways to live within a particular religious tradition. And none of this variety, difference, and inconsistency takes away from the fact that the religion itself can be life-giving and transformative. Religion is not a monolith. Neither are members of any particular tradition, sect, or congregation.
Season 3 Finale Predictions
- Things get nuts.
- We return to the mythosaur. It’ll need to be summoned. It could be Bo-Katan, but I think it’ll be Grogu who ultimately calls to and rides the mythosaur. He has a connection with animals (recall how he calmed the rancor in Book of Boba Fett). However, he doesn’t know it exists … so probably Bo-Katan. When we last saw her, she’s already underground. It can’t take her too long to get to the Living Waters and summon the beast.
- There’s tension within the Shadow Council of the Imperial remnants. Moff Gideon thinks he’s pretty special with his Darth Vader cosplay. It is possible that Thrawn will get word that Gideon is full of himself, and Thrawn will squash Gideon. We’ll get a bit of intramural Imperial squabbling which will help, ultimately, the Mandalorians live to see another day.
- Alternatively, the often hapless New Republic forces arrive at Mandalore, ever since Carson Teva discovered the Mandalorian alloy on the destroyed shuttle from which Moff Gideon was freed. New Republic forces come, run into the Imperial forces, and we have an epic space battle.
- Personally, I’m hoping that the mythosaur destroys much of Gideon’s forces, akin to what the purrgil did to Thrawn’s forces at Lothal at the end of Star Wars: Rebels.
- I imagine someone else we like dies. Bo-Katan is my best guess, leaving Din Djarin as the most likely candidate to lead Mandalore, despite his reluctance. It could be the Armorer, perhaps after her identity reveal and some backstory on why she’s so sketchy. Does she sacrifice herself for her fellow Mandalorians, or, having proved herself a traitor does she die at Bo-Katan’s hand?
- Oh, and Axe Woves is a traitor (perhaps even the one who helped break Gideon out from New Republic custody). I think he is killed by Gideon, having served his limited purpose and been a useful tool for the Empire.
Finally, join me in rewatching Star Wars: Rebels between May and August in preparation for the August 2023 release of Ahsoka. Blogposts each week, starting May the 4th.