If you’ve been keeping up with Off Colour’s coverage of Star Wars, you’ll know that I’m an incredibly new fan of the franchise. The Mandalorian has been the perfect on-ramp to my fandom.
Read my Tales of the Jedi review for more context, but the TL;DR? At the insistence of my peers, I tried the first films in college and was bored. I tried again with The Force Awakens. But with Finn being underutilized, I had to put it down.
Yet, The Mandalorian successfully hooked me where so many other parts of the Star Wars universe failed. This show really got me. Why?
The first season showed me that this type of story, featuring flying, armoured cowboy superheroes rather than mystical samurai, was the initial appeal to my tastes. In the second, the show successfully leans into tropes that so many people enjoy in a way that still feels refreshing. Found Family, bounty hunting gunslinger, etc., are some examples of what I mean. The show even brought us the cutest mascot character Disney has ever created (Sorry, Baby Groot).
But this latest season is where I fell in love with this show for life.
In my review of the first episode of the season, I said I couldn’t wait to really dive deep into Mandalorian culture. I wanted to learn more through the lore and the retaking of Mandalore.
I was not expecting this season to deliver in ways that truly gave me chills.
There’s a lot of talk about this season’s pacing. Plenty of long-term fans take issue with how things played out. Beyond arguing about lore or referencing back to other Star Wars properties, this season spoke directly to my soul. My soul recognized this call as a new fan of this universe. As a queer Black femme and a person deeply invested in protecting as many people as possible in the face of increasing global fascism that endangers us all, I heard the call.
When episode 4, “The Foundling” came out, I sobbed in my living room. I was in awe of the Mandalorian culture’s centring on children in The Creed. The focus on foundlings, children who are orphaned or otherwise have nowhere else to go, is absolutely beautiful. I think we can all agree that it ultimately serves as the seed from which the entire series grows.
After watching the episode, I began daydreaming on Twitter about what it would be like to live in a collectivist society. A place where more of us could experience a childhood free from the things that harm us. Somewhere we’re fiercely defended and protected. Perhaps there could exist an America that truly, truly loves its children.
Instead, we have states like Iowa and Arkansas currently rolling back labour protections for children. On top of that, efforts to establish laws that make child labour easier. States passing legislation harming LGBTQ+ children and their families. How? By denying children gender-affirming care. By framing accepting parents as abusers for doing so. Passing initiatives banning books. Or even worse, looking away and/or twiddling our thumbs while children experience abhorrent violence.
The day after I daydreamed, another school shooting happened. This time in Nashville at The Covenant School, a private Christian elementary school. And in the month since, dozens more mass shootings have happened. We watched the gun control conversation spin around endlessly once again. We buried more people. More children.
No wonder seeing Mandalorian adults take decisive action when a child is in danger moved me to heaving sobs. Children are considered family, even if they’re not blood-related.
When I thought I couldn’t be more touched, the finale brought the entire series full circle.
The Mandalorian spent years trying to teach us: “Mandalorians are stronger together.”
What a deeply moving concept.
By way of their culture around foundlings, Mandalorians come from all races, ages, and circumstances. They hold tight to traditions and history. This season, Mandalorians also learned to embrace their differences and move together to forge a new future. This unity, aptly represented in characters like Bo-Katan, Din, and Grogu, is what ultimately unites them against their true enemy.
In fact, the key differences in expertise between the Mandalorian factions ends up being integral to the success of the reclamation of Mandalore. They are a society that leans into the wisdom of elders, the sacredness of indigenous tradition that prioritizes protecting children, and the true survival and equitable treatment of their people no matter the species, race, or, as we finally established in this season, cultural faction.
The collective trauma of losing their home changes the Mandalorians forever. Though horrified to discover their beskar, planet, and culture misappropriated by their oppressors in order to continue a cycle of war, no longer are they scattered. Broken and bruised through their individual trials, they are stronger together than they ever were on their own.
And this is all made possible by Din Djarin, a foundling, raising a foundling in turn. A foundling who ultimately is indispensable in defeating Moff Gideon, a character representing colonization and fascism. Gideon, who could not win despite his open theft of Mandalorian and Jedi culture. The Empire loses again.
I see so much of what we are and what we could be when I look at Mandalorians. I see so much of what collective action really could look like.
So many of us come from cultures and identities that have been abused, yolked, and displaced by colonization, war, and fascism. Many of us are scared, scattered, and do what we can to survive. We are new iterations of ancient culture. Moulded by the circumstances we find ourselves in post-displacement and under continued systematic marginalization. We are the Night Owls, the Covert. We are those who never left Mandalore but instead tended to its literal roots in hopes that someday change will come. Our children are a future represented by a special little foundling who is the best of both Jedi and Mandalorian.
We are living in a time where labourers across industries demand fair wages. Educators and parents fight book bans tooth and nail. Where LGBTQ+ people of all ages refuse to cower. People of all races reach across community lines to support each other. We refuse silence in the face of continued racialized injustice. It’s really us against The Empire.
And we are stronger together. This is the freaking Way.
Want to hear more of what Mars has to say? Check out this interview with Rick Famuyiwa and How the Mandalorian Stands Alone.