Unmasking The Mandalorian, Season 1

I kind of shot myself in the foot a little bit by saying that if the helmet does come off, it has to be earned.  Which, I think, sentenced me to being in it more than I expected.

-Pedro Pascal (Empire magazine, April 2020)

Every time so far that Lucasfilm and Disney+ announced a new season of The Mandalorian, I found myself wondering before the premiere, “Will that guy ever show his face?”  The creed Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) took to follow “The Way of the Mandalore” forbids him from removing his Boba Fett-like helmet in front of another living thing, as explained first in Chapter 3: “The Sin” (directed by Deborah Chow, written by Jon Favreau).  From a symbolic standpoint, an interview with Pascal compared Din’s faithfulness to the Way to people’s own tendencies to hide their emotions.  From a technical standpoint, the helmet makes it easier for Lucasfilm to swap Pascal for a stand-in or stunt double.  My inner cynic sometimes sees it as an attempt to keep The Mandalorian marketable worldwide, by hiding Pascal’s Chilean features.

Throughout The Mandalorian, Din Djarin demonstrates an impeccable ability to convey his emotions and thoughts to viewers, without removing his helmet.  On the rare instances he does show his face to us, the show “earns” it by signaling a milestone in Din’s evolution from a solitary bounty hunter, to the head (no pun intended) of a loving and helpful “Clan of Two”.  In this side project from my main blog, I’ll discuss those milestones by recalling when each season of The Mandalorian displayed Din’s unmasked face to the viewers.

Seasons 1 and 2 didn’t show Din’s face until very late, so these articles will boast more spoilers than usual.

How long has it been since you’ve taken that off?

-Omera (Chapter 4: “Sanctuary”)

The Mandalorian teased looks at Din Djarin’s face in Chapters 1: “The Mandalorian”, and 4: “Sanctuary”.  Chapter 1 shared his dialogue-free flashbacks (directed by Taika Waititi, written by Favreau) of losing his parents (Alexandra Manea and Bernard Bullen) during a Separatist droid raid, allowing viewers to at least see how he looked as a child (Aiden Bertola).  Chapters 3: “The Sin” and 8: “Redemption” would elongate these flashbacks, to show Din rescued by a Mandalorian (Brendan Wayne) bearing the seal of the Death Watch tribe, and to draw parallels between his past and that of the orphaned Grogu.

Chapter 4 (directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, written by Favreau) boasts some scenes in which an adult Din (played by Brendan Wayne with Pedro Pascal’s voice dubbed over him) discusses his adherence to the Way with either Cara Dune (Gina Carano), or with his temporary caretaker Omera (Julia Jones).  One scene shows Din removing his helmet to eat a meal in solitude, but crops his exposed head out of frame.

I am not a living thing.

-IG-11 (Chapter 8: “Redemption”)

Viewers finally saw Din Djarin’s face in Chapter 8: “Redemption” (directed by Waititi, written by Favreau), thanks to a loophole in the Creed.  After Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) subjects Din to a fatal blow to the head, the nurse droid IG-11 (Waititi) privately offers to heal the Mando.  When the droid-hating Din reminds IG-11 of his oath, the robot contests with the aforementioned workaround.  IG-11 proceeds to lift off Din’s helmet, then spray some bacta on his face.  After what only feels like a few minutes, Din regains the energy to continue assisting his friends in the battle against Gideon.

Not long after I began watching The Mandalorian, I purposely spoiled myself on when and why I’d get to see Mando’s face.  However, I made sure not to see how exactly he looks unmasked.  On my first viewing of “Redemption”, I mainly admired the ordinary realism of Pedro Pascal’s appearance, from his scars – at least one of which I later learned Pascal developed from an accidental collision on his way to the set – to his disheveled hair.  The sight of an average person underneath Din’s helmet helped solidify this viewer’s ability to relate with him.

On subsequent viewings, I learned to appreciate the apparent shifts in Din’s attitude.  As the fully-armored Din lies on his apparent deathbed, he tries to tough out his suffering with such coldly-spoken pleas as, “Let me have a warrior’s death.”  When IG-11 removes Din’s helmet, the “warrior”‘s frightened expression betrays his unspoken anxiety at possibly reaching his end, and at coming unshielded-face-to-face with a droid possessing a murderous reputation.  By the end of the scene, Din even breaks his stern persona, by wheezing a laugh – possibly out of politeness – at an awkward pun IG-11 delivers.

The more often I’ve watched this clip of “Redemption” – both in and out of context – the metaphor of Din Djarin needing to let his guard down, to address trauma and close-minded beliefs, became increasingly obvious.  However, The Mandalorian delivers it in a manner that doesn’t feel too heavy-handed.


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