The narrative within The Mandalorian Season 1 was pretty straightforward. Mando’s character arc was to accept his newfound role as the caretaker for Baby Yoda (avoiding the actual name of The Child for spoilers).
In Season 2, however, the character arc isn’t as straightforward. It’s a lot more thematic. The theme for Season 2 is about Mando’s own identity and what it really means to be a Mandalorian.
Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert in all things related to the Star Wars universe. Season 2 of The Mandalorian brought in a lot of characters from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels and other unexpected characters from the Star Wars films. What I want to focus on is how Mando’s beliefs in the ways of the Mandalore change throughout the season.
Spoilers for The Mandalorian ahead!
In Season 1, Episode 3 (The Sin), we are introduced to the people who rescued Mando as a child and raised him in their particular belief system. Mando’s family taught him to never remove his helmet in front of any living thing and that the Jedi were enemies of the Mandalorians.
In Season 2, Episode 3 (The Heiress), Mando finds out (from the titular Heiress, Bo-Katan) that he was essentially raised in a “cult” as a “Child of the Watch,” a group of zealots who follow what people who were actually from Mandalore would consider outdated beliefs. (The Children of the Watch would be the Star Wars equivalent of Puritans or Christian Crusaders.) Without going too deep into the expanded universe, all I’ll say is that Bo-Katan was originally from Mandalore and her plan is to restore Mandalorian society. She’s a lot more flexible about what rules Mandalorians should adhere to, as she frequently goes around with her helmet off. By the end of the episode, Mando also learns that in contrast to what he was taught, a Mandalorian was friends with a Jedi, as Bo-Katan was friends with Ahsoka Tano. In the following episode (“The Jedi”), Mando is willing to help Ahsoka out with her own agenda
In Season 2, Episode 6 (The Tragedy), Mando discovers that the armor he got from the episode “The Marshal” belongs to none other than Boba Fett. Initially, Mando questions whether or not Boba Fett is a legit Mandalorian. By the end of the episode, however, Mando allows Boba Fett to have his armor back as Boba’s father, Jango, was taken in by the Mandalorians as a foundling. On top of that, Boba and Fennec are willing to help Mando rescue the Child, who was sadly taken by Moff Gideon’s Darktroopers.
The biggest change in Mando’s character arc came in Season 2, Episode 7 “The Believer.” Mando’s former comrade turned “frenemy” Migs Mayfield questioned Mando’s beliefs constantly both in this episode and in the previous season. However, we quickly learn why Mayfield is so skeptical about belief systems in general. As it turns out, former Imperial sharpshooter Mayfield was essentially betrayed by his commanding officer, who left him and his troop to die in a scorched earth operation and didn’t even lose any sleep over the collateral damage.
It was in this episode that Mando is forced to show his face in order for a terminal to give him the code that will help him find Moff Gideon’s ship and, by extension, the Child. Kudos to Pedro Pascal for conveying Mando being so uncertain without his helmet. I also liked that Mando (and Cara who hated Mayfield at the start of the episode) allowed Mayfield to live at the end of the episode.
So what does it all mean?
Throughout The Mandalorian, Season 2, Mando had to figure out what was most important to him. I don’t think he completely abandoned the beliefs he grew up with, but he is learning (much like a lot of people this year) that there is a lot more to the ways of the Mandalore than what he knew growing up. Not everything is as black and white as it used to be, but what Mando held onto is knowing what was most important. That meant making sure he took care of The Child. Everything he did throughout this season was motivated by the desire to raise the Child in the best way possible and find the people who can help The Child learn how to hone his powers.
As amazing as the Season 2 finale was, especially given the fact that Mando finally took off his helmet in front of The Child, we don’t know where Mando’s character arc is gonna go from here. He fulfilled his mission of finding the right people to take care of The Child, but now he’s stuck with the Darksaber and the possibility of fighting Bo-Katan for the right to rule Mandalore. It’s also clear that his heart is broken at having to let The Child go.
My advice to Mando (and for Jon Faverau and Dave Filoni, if they ever read this) is that all you can do when you essentially lose your sense of purpose is to figure out what the next right thing to do is. I hope that in the next season of The Mandalorian, Mando can somehow get his Child back and ride off into the sunset with a Jedi tagging along. But that’s just me.