I mean, come on, there isn’t a face! If you want to say, “You’re the silhouette” — which is also a team effort — then, yeah. Can we just cut the s— and talk about the Child?-Pedro Pascal (Variety, October 14, 2020)
After I finished watching The Mandalorian Season 1, I spent some time learning about the Mandalorians who appeared in Dave Filoni’s Star Wars cartoons, and a lot of time learning about Pedro Pascal. I read about some differences between CGI Mandos and the ones in Din Djarin’s adoptive tribe, such as their willingness to remove their helmets around other living things.* I began checking out Pedro Pascal’s non-Star Wars works, and developing an appreciation for the charm his facial expressions and body language add to his performances and public appearances. In some interviews, Pascal confessed that – due to scheduling conflicts with Wonder Woman 1984 and the 2019 Broadway production of King Lear – Lucasfilm shot most of Din’s scenes in The Mandalorian Season 1 with a stand-in wearing the armor, but Season 2 would bring a larger number of scenes in which Pascal wore it himself. All of this left me wondering if he’d get to show his face more often; Season 1 never showed how Din looked after his bacta treatment. Well, even though S2 hasn’t ended yet, it’s already given Din’s visage more screentime than S1 did.
There is only one way. The Way of the Mandalore.-Din Djarin (Chapter 11: “The Heiress”)
Once again, The Mandalorian didn’t show Din’s face until very late into the season. In the meantime, Chapter 11: “The Heiress” (directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, written by Jon Favreau) helped confirm that not all of the show’s Mandos wear their helmets 24/7. When some Beskar-craving sailors attempt to feed Grogu to a sea monster, and drown Din inside the tank, a Mandalorian trio known as the “Nite Owls” rescues Din’s clan. To his confusion, the Nite Owls – consisting of Mandalore heiress Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff, reprising a role from Filoni’s Star Wars cartoons), Koska Reeves (Mercedes Varnado), and Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides) – casually remove their helmets in his and Grogu’s presence. Harshly, Bo-Katan explains that Din’s adoptive Mandalorian tribe, the Children of the Watch, comprised a “cult” of old-fashioned “religious zealots”. Despite their cultural differences, Bo-Katan eventually agrees to assist with Din’s clan’s search for another Jedi; after Din and the Nite Owls take down an Imperial Cruiser together, Bo-Katan rewards him with directions to find Ahsoka Tano. Other chapters use Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) as an unaffiliated example of a Mandalorian exposing his visage on The Mandalorian, both before and after he regains his armor.
Chapter 12: “The Siege” (directed by Carl Weathers, written by Favreau) implies Din’s temptation to remove his helmet near Grogu, when the two of them drink soup together. After nervously gripping his bowl, Din pulls his helmet up out of necessity. However, he doesn’t raise it high enough or long enough for Grogu to take a good look at him. (Surprisingly, this scene has Din played once again by Brendan Wayne with Pedro Pascal’s voice dubbed over him.)
If we don’t get those coordinates, I’ll lose the kid forever.-Din Djarin (Chapter 15: “The Believer”)
If I still thought harshly of the Way’s tendency to obscure Pedro Pascal’s ethnic features, I might have found it noteworthy that the first Mandalorian chapter to display them for longer than a minute – or without any attempt to hide Pascal’s attractiveness – also marks the first one written entirely by a person of color. After Chapter 14: “The Tragedy” saw Moff Gideon’s forces successfully capture Grogu, Rick Famuyiwa – the Nigerian-American director of Chapters 2: “The Child” and 6: “The Prisoner” – shared Din Djarin’s efforts to locate him in Chapter 15: “The Believer” (both directed and written by Famuyiwa). With help from former Imperial Sharpshooter Migs Mayfeld (Bill Burr), Din carries out a plan to infiltrate an Imperial mining hub on Morak, activate an electronic terminal, and save the coordinates of Gideon’s ship onto a “data stick”. The terminal ends up requiring a facial scan in exchange for the coordinates, but Mayfeld develops a fear of getting caught by his former officer, Valin Hess (Richard Brake). Din hastily volunteers for the terminal to scan his face, instead, as the Imperials wouldn’t recognize him as a threat without his Beskar armor. Hess catches him, but after Mayfeld ignites a shootout – killing Hess – Din and Mayfeld escape the hub with Gideon’s coordinates in hand.
I’ve already seen Din’s scenes as “Brown Eyes” – the alias Mayfeld improvises for him – more times than I have the rest of “The Believer”, so I hope it doesn’t feel too early for me to analyze them. I learned before watching the chapter myself that it would show his face. Once again, I made sure not to see it until playing the episode. However, I also came in unaware of the context or duration of his unmasking – or much about the episode’s plot in general.
For at least weeks, The Mandalorian has kept fans wondering if Din would defy the Children of the Watch’s creed to prove his love for Grogu. When Din exposes his face to the scanner, he proves that he values the Child’s safety over his supposed need to follow so-called zealots. However, the Imperials’ failure to recognize Din’s unmasked self as a threat also reinforces one lesson he learned from the cult: “Our secrecy is our survival. Our survival is our strength.” The success of Din’s sacrifice demonstrates that the Children of the Watch’s Way has some value; after all, their hospitality towards orphaned “foundlings” helped both Din and Grogu survive long enough to form and strengthen their own clan. Simultaneously, his need to shed his helmet to ensure his clan’s stability – and to foil Gideon’s master plan, but it doesn’t come up in “The Believer” – demonstrates that the Way could benefit from adjusting as society progresses.
Din nervously interacting with other “living things” sans Beskar required a more physical performance from Pedro Pascal, compared to lying on Din’s deathbed in Chapter 8: “Redemption”. Mayfeld does most of the talking for “Brown Eyes”, especially when they end up sharing drinks and an uncomfortable chat with the fascist Hess. Even when silent, Pascal aces the need to keep up his scenes’ suspenseful tone, with wary eye shifts, appropriately-timed gulps, and cautious head tilts.
My vast knowledge of Pedro Pascal’s career provided me with extra reasons to admire his depiction of “Brown Eyes”. I first watched “The Believer” a few days after revisiting the Narcos Christmas episode “Los Pepes”, and found myself awed over Pascal managing to shed Javier Peña’s imposing, conversational nature to portray the skittish “Brown Eyes” – never mind how many years passed in between the two performances. Additionally, the actor’s interviews don’t make it sound easy to wear Din’s helmet for long sessions – from the challenges Pascal experiences while acting with only his voice and particular motions, to the T-shaped lens hindering his vision. With this in mind, it impresses that he can pull off a character who suffers mental crises and social anxiety, rather than relief, when forced to spend at least a minute without a helmet.
He means more to me than you will ever know.-Din Djarin (Chapter 15: “The Believer”)
Din has his Beskar armor back on by the end of the episode, when he chillingly vows to Gideon via hologram that he will get Grogu back. If I knew Gideon would appear, I would’ve expected Din to keep his suit on when talking to him; how else would Gideon recognize him? I ended up also taking it as a sign of the Nite Owls and Boba Fett influencing Din not to take the Children of the Watch’s rules so seriously, due to a possible contradiction with Chapter 4: “Sanctuary”; that S1 installment had Din tell Cara that if he removed his helmet in public, he “can’t ever put it back on again.” Another viewer could resolve the contradiction with a loophole: everyone who saw “Brown Eyes” at the mining hub became either killed or declared dead afterwards, so Din can still claim that he hasn’t exposed himself to any “living thing”. Still, Din exploiting any ambiguity in the Way would also demonstrate a refusal to turn his acts of potential defiance into reasons to take away his Mandalorian status.
Din’s adventures to claim, then protect, Grogu have expanded his knowledge of the Star Wars galaxy, and opened up new interpretations of a Mandalorian’s most important qualities. While the Children of the Watch, the Nite Owls, and the Fetts have their differences, the warriors share desires to preserve their heritage, and fight injustice – neither of which necessarily require wearing a helmet literally all of the time.
With resonance, Din Djarin’s voluntary self-unmasking in “The Believer” demonstrates the sacrifices he’d pull to protect Grogu, his shifting ideas on what it means to be a Mandalorian, and Pedro Pascal’s versatility as an actor.
If you’d like a non-toxic place to further discuss Star Wars, join the Star Wars Television Discord server, which I help moderate: https://discord.gg/7cGUdCz
*Even though I already saw Jango and Boba Fett show their faces to Obi-Wan Kenobi in Attack of the Clones, they somehow lost their Mandalorian status since that movie came out – only to regain it in “The Tragedy”.