'This is the Way:' New Episode Offers Glimpse into the Culture of 'The Mandalorian'
While the latest chapter of The Mandalorian does little to advance the plot – the story's arc really couldn't have gone any other way – it does offer a tantalizing glimpse at the Mandalorian's decidedly martial culture, which we got a taste of in the last episode wherein the titular bounty hunter declares that "weapons are part of (his) religion."
Having obtained his cache of Beskar steel – and being slightly pissed off that so many others were given license by the still-unnamed client (Werner Herzog) and Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) to actively compete for possession of the YodaBaby – the Mandalorian returns to the underground covert where, we find out, the warriors of Mandalore have lived in seclusion since the time of "the Great Purge" (possibly a reference to the Jedi purge that took place during Episode III: Revenge of the Sith), emerging one at a time to go to the surface.
The exchanges that take place in the Mandalorian hideout are some of the most interesting we've seen so far, triggered by the annoyance – and perhaps jealousy – of a Mandalorian referenced in the close captions as "Heavy Infantry" at the Empire-stamped horde of Beskar steel: a reminder of the regime's theft of one of the most prized resources in the galaxy and the fact that the Mandalorian in possession of it is working for some post-Empire warlord. The Armorer calms things down, declaring that "The empire is no more. When one chooses to walk the way of the Mandalore, he is both hunter and prey. How can one be a coward if one chooses this way of life?" It's an emotionless appeal to pure reason that immediately reminded me of a line from Tacitus: "We, the most distant dwellers upon earth, the last of the free, have been shielded till today by our very remoteness and by the obscurity in which it has shrouded our name." As exiles, the Mandalorians are shielded by their very mystery.
She then asks of the Mandalorian if he's ever removed his helmet or if anyone has ever removed it. When he answers no, the matter is settled: "this is the way," she says, with the others repeating the phrase in agreement. It's a laconic acceptance not just of things as they are, but of the culture and ethos that they follow, seemingly the core of their code as a people. You can forget about the Mandalorian removing his helmet – at least for now – for in this culture, like that of the Spartans, neither arms nor armor are surrendered except to Death.
When the Mandalorian is outnumbered and outgunned – with a John Wick-sized price tag hanging over his head – after returning to steal the YodaBaby, Heavy Infantry suddenly emerges with the rest of the Mandalorians to defend their brother, despite the earlier revelation that they essentially having to live in hiding. Told that they'll have to find a new place to live, his response is both noble and defiant.
This is the way.
New chapters of The Mandalorian drop every Friday on Disney Plus.