“This is the way.” Since the moment Din Djarin first declared that Mandalorians never remove their helmets, fans have noted that, well, actually we’ve seen plenty of Mandalorians remove their helmets. The record of The Clone Wars and Rebels both showed instances that contridicted the titular Mando. Now, we finally know the reason for this, and the ramifications are the most exciting thing The Mandalorian has done so far — and that includes Baby Yoda.
In last week’s episode, “The Heiress,” The Clone Wars and Rebels character Bo-Katan Kryze made her live-action debut by removing her helmet. Din Djarin, aghast, accuses her of stealing Mandalorian armor. In turn, she instantly recognizes Djarin’s behavior as belonging to the ways of the Children of the Watch, a group she describes as “a cult of religious zealots that broke away from Mandalorian society” whose goal is “to re-establish the ancient way.” Though we get no further explanation for what this group is, it’s easy to draw a connection to the Death Watch, a terrorist group from The Clone Wars that opposed the New Mandalorian government’s peaceful ways.
While this revelation hints at the existence of many more Mandalorian groups out in the galaxy, rather than the handful of warriors we saw in season 1, the more significant implication is what this will do to Din Djarin. Unlike Bo-Katan or Sabine Wren, our The Mandalorian wasn’t born into their faith, and has never seen the ancestral home of Mandalore. He was brought into it when he was taken by other Mandalorians as a child and taught that the Children of the Watch way was the only way. Now, he’s discovered that that was a lie, and who knows what he’ll do with that information — especially once he finds out that the cult he belonged to at one point allied themselves with the very people that caused the death of his family during the Clone Wars.
“The Heiress” is also the first we hear of Ahsoka Tano in The Mandalorian. If anyone knows a thing or two about being raised in a cult, it’s Ahsoka, who was also separated from her family at a very young age by a group of people that raised her thinking their way was the right one, and that everyone else was wrong. The main difference between the two is that Ahsoka got to see the mistakes in the Jedi way and managed to escape it. In season 5 of The Clone Wars, Ahsoka confronted the idea that the Jedi were not the peacekeepers she was led to believe, and had become a highly corrupted organization. Season 7 saw Anakin’s apprentice carving out her own path outside the Jedi cult, trying to live up to what the Jedi mean to the citizens of the galaxy but without the things that allowed the Order to fall.
The original Star Wars trilogy often referred to the Jedi ways as a religion, while the prequels went a long way to show us the many, many flaws of the Jedi Order, and how easily it brought along their fall. But now The Mandalorian has an opportunity to use the Mandalorian culture and faith to reinvestigate the faith by embracing what many fans have alluded for decades — that the Jedi are not entirely dissimilar from a cult, a cult that can easily turn dangerous and very violent. Han Solo once said of the Jedi, “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid,” and by now we’ve seen the ancient Mandalorian weapon, the Darksaber, and know that the Mandalorian way is pretty much a religion with many interpretations just like the Jedi Code. Baby Yoda may forever be the star of The Mandalorian, but now we finally have a storyline that can rival even the movies.
Unlike Ahsoka, Din Djarin is still following the strict rules of the Children of the Watch, allowing ideology to dictate his entire life. Twice this season, he’s reacted harshly and with anger whenever he saw people donning Mandalorian armor that he deemed were heretics — not because he recognized that they weren’t from Mandalore, but because he saw them take off their helmets. When he finally meets Ahsoka, The Mandalorian will have an opportunity to do something neither the movie, nor even The Clone Wars was fully able to do: a cult deprogramming story. Sure, we all want to see what Ahsoka might be able to say or do about Baby Yoda. More importantly, she might be the best option for our titular Mandalorian to start questioning what exactly makes a true Mandalorian, and set out to cave his own path free from the constraints of his faith and his cult teachings.