Hello there. If this is your first time clicking on The Mando Rewatch, my name is Nate, and over the past several weeks I have been revisiting The Mandalorian, starting from the very beginning. This week, I will be doing a deep dive into the key moments and thematic significance of “Chapter 8: Redemption.” This is a spoiler-heavy recap. So, if you choose to read on, then I hope that you have not only seen this episode, but the rest of the series as well. It also helps if you have read my earlier reviews because I tend to circle back to previously established themes. With that out the way, let’s talk about Star Wars!
This episode is written by Jon Favreau and directed by Taika Waititi. Taika is one of my favourite directors working today, so it should come as no surprise that this happens to be one of my favourite episodes. It has elements of the director’s trademark humour, there are many exciting action set pieces, and quite a few interesting additions to the lore of the series – such as the real name of Mando – Din Djarin (I’m still going to be calling him Mando though). I also love the title of this episode, “Redemption.” There are a few different ways to define the word redemption. Yet, the one that interests me the most is, “the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.” Sin is the key word there, because it ties into the title of a previous episode, “Chapter 3: The Sin.” Significantly, that was the episode in which Mando chooses to make a selfless act by returning to save Grogu, and in doing so, he begins to change as a person. This change is signified with the forging of his new armour, after his old armour had “lost its integrity.” Indeed, from that moment on, Mando begins to question his own idea of what it means to be a Mandalorian. However, as we discussed last week, he still has doubts that one can truly change their intrinsic nature, and this is shown through his distrust of Kuiil’s reprogramming of IG-11. These doubts resurface in “Chapter 8” with a few key lines of dialogue. Before Moff Gideon reveals Mando’s real name, he calls him a “decommissioned Mandalorian hunter.” The word decommissioned points to the fact that Mando is no longer a guild member, and therefore, technically no longer a hunter. But, that also hints towards his change on a much deeper level. Furthermore, when IG-11 is attempting to heal Mando’s wounds, and Mando believes that the droid is actually going to kill him, IG says to Mando “I am no longer a hunter. I am a nurse droid.” Clearly, the reprogramming of IG-11 is meant to be parallelled with the change in Mando. IG-11 was once a hunter droid, whose sole purpose was to kill, now his primary function (hilariously) is to nurse and protect. This is in direct correlation to Mando, who also used to be a hunter, and now his primary focus is to protect the child. If the droid can change, then Mando can change. Thus, Mando finally comes to understand that it is possible for anyone to change their programming. This is certainly a redemption moment for droids in the eyes of Mando, but the theme of redemption extends well beyond droids here. This is a genuine moment of redemption for Mando because it signifies a moment of real change in his character. This change is the result of his selfless act from “Chapter 3,” and his sin eventually becomes fully redeemed by the Armourer in this episode. She tells Mando that he was right to do what he did, and he wasn’t actually breaking the Creed when he saved the child, he was following it. According to the Armourer, Grogu is a foundling, and Mando is therefore responsible for watching over him – which is what he has been doing all along. She says, “A foundling is in your care. By Creed, until it is of age or reunited with its own kind, you are as its father. This is the Way. You have earned your signet [as she welds the Mudhorn to his shoulder plate]. You are a clan of two.” Hence, his sin, and subsequent actions throughout the first season have been redeemed. He is not the Mandalorian he thought he was supposed to be, yet he still has become more of a Mandalorian than he ever thought he would be.
Side-note about myself – back when I was in university, I majored in Classical Studies (Ancient History), and I focused my studies on ancient mythology. So, I have to talk about the not-so-subtle homage to Joseph Campbell and The Hero with a Thousand Faces from this episode. Campbell analyzed the history of world mythology and he created a theory called the monomyth, based on the mythological structure of the archetypal heroic journey. He has a strong connection to the history of Star Wars because George Lucas famously took great inspiration from Campbell’s work. When honouring Campbell at the National Arts Club in 1985, George said,
About 10 years ago, I had an idea of doing a modern fairy tale, but I didn’t quite know what I was doing . . . I stumbled across The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and I said, ‘This is it.’ It was the first time I began to focus what I’d been doing intuitively. I wanted to distill everything down to basic plots about good and evil, death and life, and it was all right there – and it had been there for thousands of years.”
The Hero with a Thousand Faces helped George focus his thoughts, and having a better understanding of the archetypal heroic journey enabled Lucas to trim the story down to the essentials. Without question, Luke’s journey is very much part of the monomyth, and throughout these reviews I have tried to show the many ways in which Mando’s journey relates to Luke’s. Which is why I cannot ignore the obvious homages to classical mythology in this episode. For example, the boat ride on the river of lava is meant to represent the River Styx, and the heroic journey to the underworld – an important process in the hero’s transformation. Of course, it is not always literally the underworld, the underworld can often be as simple as a state of darkness within the hero. Which is exactly what was happening with Mando. Following his journey down the river, Mando emerges from the cave with the ability to fly (he has a jetpack now). This is clearly meant to symbolize his apotheosis – another stage in the archetypal heroic journey. Naturally, an apotheosis does not always entail the deification of the hero. It is often just as simple as a realization or understanding that enables the hero to become more resolved. The greatest example of an apotheosis in Star Wars, is Luke telling the Emperor, “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” In terms of this episode, Mando’s apotheosis comes from receiving his signet and jetpack, and finally belonging to a clan of his own. Previously, he never truly felt like a real Mandalorian. Now he genuinely is the Mandalorian, and taking flight with his jetpack further signifies his growth as a character.
Almost done, but we have to talk about Mando finally removing his helmet. This is an obvious callback to Darth Vader removing his helmet in Return of the Jedi, and there are many similarities between the two iconic moments. For starters, they are both breaking free from the prison of their armour, metaphorically and literally. As well, underneath the mask, they are both severely injured and frail men. However, they are also loving fathers who have made a tremendous sacrifice in order to save their sons. At the same time, it must be recognized that the love of the sons has also saved the fathers. Yet, perhaps the most striking similarity is the fact that the removal of Vader’s helmet represents the return of Anakin Skywalker, and ultimately, his redemption…
What an incredible first season. I love this show. I can’t believe we are already halfway through The Mando Rewatch. If anyone else besides my wife is still reading this, thank you very much. Please consider sharing it with your friends. As Yoda says, “pass on what you have learned.”
I have spoken.