What the Second Season of ‘The Mandalorian’ Teaches Us About the Jedi
Updated: Dec 22, 2020
The heartbreaking finale sheds a stark spotlight on one of the Jedi’s most fundamental and stringent rules, but how effective is it? [Spoilers]
Season two of The Mandalorian has come and gone, but not before cementing its place in Star Wars folklore as one of the most exciting, surprising and arguably rehabilitating (for the brand as a whole) storylines of all time. Stacked with stellar (or “interstellar” to be more accurate) guest appearances of franchise favorites like the bounty hunter Boba Fett and a live action Ahsoka Tano, the series opens the door for an endless number of canonical crossovers. However, nothing quite compares to the bombshell return of the digitally de-aged Jedi Master Luke Skywalker who, in an homage to Darth Vader’s decimation of the rebels in Rouge One, systematically takes out a squadron of the dreaded Dark Troopers—even force squashing one for final impact! It would be enough that the season ends with this thrilling sequence, but it’s the emotional gut-punch that follows that really hits the hardest. Mando is given the choice to either hold onto his little green companion Grogu (commonly referred to as “Baby Yoda”) or give the child over to Luke to realize his full potential as a Jedi.
It’s the strong paternal bond between Mando and Grogu that makes this moment all the more heart-wrenching. From a screenwriting standpoint, it’s the perfect succession from the want to the need. Mando, who begins his journey as a hardened outlaw whose ethics extend only as far as his Mandalorian orthodoxy, has since rescued, liberated and generally aided countless people and civilizations. From his time with Grogu, in other words, he has become a better person—going so far as to break his own code of conduct by taking off his helmet for Grogu in their final moments together. The father-son homages (in this case to Vader removing his helmet for Luke in Return of the Jedi) could not be more clear. And yet, there is more to be gleamed from this final decision—something endemic to the Jedi themselves.
Let’s first take a step back and look at the blooming relationship between Mando and his surrogate son. Season two does an excellent job of showing us just how much this lovable odd couple actually do belong together. Just look at the way Mando fondly crooks his head at Grogu following a game of “force catch” with the child’s favorite metal orb. Or Mando’s staggering walk to the summit of the Tython temple following Grogu’s kidnapping. That we feel these moments of connection is a testament to Pedro Pascal’s incredible acting even below his Beskar-coated mask. This is a man who has grown to love his “foundling” son, and as Ahsoka Tano observes, the feeling is more than mutual.
In the Star Wars prequel trilogy, we learn that attachments are forbidden, be they romantic (spouses or lovers) or familial (parents or sons/daughters). The idea is that fear for the well-being of your loved ones will translate into anger, which in turn leads to hate and suffering—the most notable example being Anakin Skywalker, who spirals down this very abyss following the loss of his mother and prophesied death of his wife Padmé to become the villainous Darth Vader. Even Luke finds himself skating along this same dangerous cliff in Episode VI of the original trilogy, taunted by Vader’s threats to turn his recently revealed sister (Princess Leia) to the dark side. In the light saber fight that follows, Luke hammers away at Vader with all his pent-up rage, but never fully turns. Evidently, Luke possesses the self-restraint that other Jedi-turned-Sith do not, from Anakin to Count Dooku to even Kylo Ren.
Yes, there is an obvious flaw in Jedi dogma: the notion that the best way to avoid seduction by the dark side is to free one’s self from all attachments. But if Mando’s deepening bond with Grogu in season two of The Mandalorian teaches us anything, it’s that attachments are often inevitable. Rather than leading a life of such unnatural restriction, perhaps the Jedi could adopt a strategy for coping with loss, a sort of Anger Management 101. Luke Skywalker is proof enough that emotions can be checked if the will is there. Instead, the Jedi have predicated their entire existence on the idea that divorcing one’s self emotionally from friends and family is the way. Is it any wonder that their order fell apart when, lo and behold, a few of them grew feelings for other people? And not just once, but twice! Twice a young man of stormy emotions slaughtered his classmates and burned down the Jedi Temple, leaving Luke to finally just close up shop and retreat to one of the most distant and deserted planets in the galaxy by Episode VII.
If a restored Jedi order is to ever come to be, it would first need to reckon with this immutable truth of the human condition—the need to connect emotionally with others—then workshop ways to both nurture those emotions and keep them at bay when worse comes to worst. Based on various scenes in the Jedi Temple from movies and TV shows, there are plenty of courses on meditation, light saber fencing, etc. Why not a seminar on emotional intelligence too?
For now, The Mandalorian has left us with a similar question: can Grogu grow as a Jedi Padawan even after coming to know Mando as a cherished father figure? As an audience, we’re really rooting for both outcomes. We want to watch Mando fly off with his adopted son into the stars as a glorious father-son pair, but we also want the child to thrive and learn his powers. Is a happy compromise possible where so many others have failed? In the season two finale, Mando does promise to see his little green buddy again, meaning it’s fair to assume that the final chapter on their relationship has yet to be written. And if any two beings in the universe can walk that narrow line between love and duty, it’s those two.
Thanks for reading! Agree or have a different opinion? Offer your thoughts in the comments section below.
(Fun fact: Ludwig Göransson who scored our movie FIG years ago also scored the amazing music from Chapters 13 through 16!)