We’re running a weekly recap of The Mandalorian on Disney+ for season two. There are spoilers, duh! You’ve been warned.
The kid is gone. This is bad.
Mortal danger grips Baby Yoda’s life now. Even more danger than all the way back at the beginning of the series, back when he was nothing more than a blip on Mando’s tracker. More danger, perhaps, than a generation earlier, when Grogu escaped the Emperor’s purge of the Jedi temple.
The stakes are raised higher than they’ve ever been, which is how this week’s episode, “The Believer,” tests our antihero’s most closely guarded convictions like never before.
Until now, every prior week has taken us from one mushy step to another, chasing after the moving target of finding Grogu’s home.
We’ve had to do what we’ve had to do, which meant saying goodbye, for a time, to the good things—even some of the sacred things—in order to survive.
It’s been a slog, hasn’t it? Mando and the kid have hyper-jumped from one random planet to another, searching for someone who knows a frog lady who’s married to a guy who knows where to find a Mandalorian. That’s so a Mandalorian can help them find a Jedi, so the Jedi can help them find the Seeing Stone, so the Seeing Stone can kinda sorta help another, different Jedi find Grogu. We think. Maybe.
But that ol’ chestnut is over now. Mando’s one and only remaining goal is to save the Child, his foundling, his son.
So he enlists the help of Migs Mayfeld, a veteran of the Empire and frenemy from season one who just so happens to have the Imperial clearances needed to find the coordinates to Moff Gideon’s light cruiser.
And that’s how Mando finds himself on the planet Morak, transporting a haul of volatile rhydonium, undercover and exposed in a storm trooper uniform, without his Mandalorian beskar.
For a religious devotee like Mando, it’s the most uncomfortable and vulnerable we’ve ever seen him.
Mayfeld sees it too. “It seems to me your rules start to change when you get desperate,” he tells Mando. Mando tries to argue, but it’s a lost cause.
“Everybody’s got their lines they don’t cross until things get messy,” Mayfeld continues. “As far as I’m concerned, if you can make it through your day and still sleep at night, you’re doing better than most.”
The truth is, Mayfeld is right.
Mando hasn’t been sleeping well, not since the kid was snatched from him.
If we know anything about Mando, we know he’s a man of conviction. Din Djarin is a pious man, a man who lives by the Creed. All for good reason, too. Mando’s piety has served him well. It’s given him a code by which to live, a place to belong, an identity to own.
So why can’t he sleep?
As Mayfeld says, a war-torn existence is filled with impossible choices and compromises, where the balance of power shifts between the Republic and the Empire and the lines between good and evil are increasingly blurred. All the while, the only constant in all that mess is how the lives of vulnerable, tired, and exploited men and women are caught in the balance, the inevitable collateral damage to someone else’s vision of what a free (or orderly) galaxy should look like.
Mando can’t sleep because the galaxy is a brutal place and Grogu needs his help.
Twenty-twenty is a bad year. Like you, I miss my family and my friends so much right now.
COVID-19 is the cloud hanging over all our heads, an ever-present menace, wreaking illness and death to those it infects, and seclusion and dread to the rest of us. Here in the United States, our commitment (or lack of it) to public health is the latest (and deadliest) casualty of a long, sad line of culture wars that have plagued our society for all our recent memories.
We add to this a painful new reckoning of racial justice that has captured our land since this summer, not to mention a bitter presidential election that, as of this writing, has lasted six weeks longer than it should have.
And to make matters worse, in one of the cruelest turns of irony, the pandemic stripped us of our simplest sources of comfort—the warmth of another’s presence, a meal shared with loved ones, and the weekly rhythms of the gathered church.
My body and yours, and our close proximity to the people we love, is the means by which our invisible enemy doles misery and death.
So we keep our distance.
We’ve had to do what we’ve had to do, which meant saying goodbye, for a time, to the good things—even some of the sacred things—in order to survive. In Mayfeld’s words, in order to sleep at night.
And yet, our Lord is so gracious with us.
Think back to the Gospels. Picture the crowds of wounded, worrying, self-doubting men and women who came to sit at the young Rabbi’s feet, who knew they had failed and fallen short to do all the things they were supposed to do.
You’ve felt that way, right? You know how the spiritual burden is made worse by the judgment of unmet expectations.
But what does Jesus say? “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Dear One, you are okay.
The sacred things are good, yet they are always a shadow of—and always in service to—the better things: Faith in God. Hope for the Kingdom. Love for one another.
“If we don’t get those coordinates, I’ll lose the kid forever,” Mando reminds Mayfeld.
Until now, Mando thought he faced an impossible choice. Yet when the moment demands it, even the zealot doesn’t hesitate. He takes off his helmet and reveals his face in the presence of his enemies, risking his life if it means saving his Child. For this one moment, he sacrifices the sacred.
The Creed was made for Mandalorians, not Mandalorians for the Creed.
Do you see it now? This is the way.