Many questions have hovered over The Mandalorian since its launch, and the series doesn’t seem in a hurry to answer many of them. What was the Great Purge? What’s the Mandalorian’s name? How did the Client survive the fall of the Empire? What does the Client want with the Child? (We’re sticking with that name until we get the real one, since calling him “Baby Yoda” feels about as correct as using “Frankenstein” instead of “Frankenstein’s monster.”) But the central question of the series gets an answer this week: What kind of man is the Mandalorian? (Or, more precisely, what kind of Mandalorian is the Mandalorian, though that gets confusing.)
Specifically, is he the sort of man so committed to the code of the bounty hunter that he can deliver a helpless, big-eyed baby alien — one who just wants to play with the top of a lever he mistakes for a toy ball, no less — to some obviously evil customers and walk away without thinking twice? “Chapter 3: The Sin,” walks the Mandalorian up to the edge of being that heartless. As he lands, the Mandalorian has grown comfortable enough with the Child to gently shoo him away from his ship’s controls, even picking him up by the scruff of his cloak like a mama cat with a kitten. But their bond has a time limit, presuming the Mandalorian sticks to his word and delivers his bounty to the Client. But he can’t do that and still be our hero, right?
Yet he does — at least until a mid-episode change of heart. It’s a shocking, if short-lived, development that the episode plays for maximum pathos. Clearly distressed upon meeting his captors and being separated from the Mandalorian, the Child lets out a little cry as he’s carted away in his floating bassinet. It’s heartbreaking, especially since we still don’t know what the Client wants with the Child, only that he’s been getting “antsy,” per Greef Karga.
Later, Greef Karga will advise the Mandalorian to take it easy. Maybe he should relax with some spice and forget about his last job or take another job far, far away. (Maybe a Mon Calamari nobleman’s son who’s skipped bail. How hard could that be?) Sure, Greef Karga handed out a lot of bounty pucks in an attempt to track down the Child, but can you blame him? That’s just the way the business works, and it’s when bounty hunters get other ideas that things go awry.
The Mandalorian has other ideas — or at least he eventually develops some as he reflects on what he’s done. He brings back a small fortune in Beskar steel, enough to replace his damaged armor. But he can’t accept the Armorer’s suggestion that he make a signet of the Mudhorn he slew in the previous episode because an “enemy” helped. Yet the word “enemy” seems to stick in his throat. (So far Pedro Pascal’s found ways to convey a fair amount of emotion acting behind a suit of armor.) So he settles for some “whistling birds” instead, a powerful and rare defensive weapon. (It’s also one to which the principle of Chekov’s gun applies, and we don’t even have to wait for a later episode for it to go off.)
In the first half of this episode, we learn quite a bit about Mandalorian culture that the series had not yet touched on. The Mandalorians, or at least this refugee branch of Great Purge survivors, never remove their helmets or let others remove it. They also hate the Empire in large part because of the Great Purge, though working with surviving factions of the Empire apparently remains a topic of some controversy among them. One of the Mandalorian’s larger companions challenges him on this issue but backs down when the Armorer explains that the Mandalorian is still working for the greater good. (Giving so much Beskar to the still-unseen Foundlings probably helps shape her feelings, too.) Also, they have a motto as succinct as Kuliil’s “I have spoken.” When in agreement about their common purpose they say, “This is the way,” because apparently living in accordance to the way overrides all other conflicts.
Oh, and they stick together, as proven by the dramatic entrance of the other Mandalorians when the Mandalorian and the Child find themselves pinned down in a battle royale. Having chosen to snatch back the Child from the Client and his stormtroopers, the Mandalorian finds the bounty hunter has become the bounty hunted when all of his peers receive a notice that he’s broken the code and should now be captured or killed. (Star Wars already has a deep, rich lore taken from samurai movies, Joseph Campbell, Westerns, and old science-fiction serials, but there’s still room to borrow a little from the John Wick movies.)
It’s a thrilling battle — one that shows off the many weapons in the Mandalorian’s arsenal — as is the stealth mission to retrieve the Child that precedes it. And over the course of that, we learn a little bit more about the Child thanks to some high-tech eavesdropping and some words from Dr. Pershing. The Client wants to extract something from the Child, and the Child might not survive that extraction (though Pershing swears he’s trying to protect him). Also, we learn that the Child is a he, thanks to Pershing, who uses male pronouns.
But that’s pretty much it. For as much as “The Sin” clears up about the morals of its protagonist — turns out they only bend so far — we still don’t know much about what the Mandalorian’s protecting or what he’s protecting him from. We do know that his actions mean his fellow Mandalorians will have to find somewhere else to hole up, but they all seem okay with that. He’s made the right choice. This is the way.
• “The Sin” is the first of two episodes helmed by Canadian director Deborah Chow, who has directed episodes of Mr. Robot, The Man in the High Castle, Better Call Saul, and many other TV series. It’s a visually striking outing — love those behind-the-ears shots of the Child — that suggests why Lucasfilm has placed the entirety of the forthcoming Obi-Wan series in her hands.
• For a second it looked like Carl Weathers was dead. He’s not, which is welcome. Just the way he says “Mando!” is a delight. But did the Mandalorian mean to kill him? Or did he place the shot where he knew the Beskar would protect him?
• Jawas apparently live everywhere in the Outer Rim.
• This episode contains the first reference to the New Republic, but the Mandalorian scoffs at the idea of appealing to them to take down the Client. Is that because the New Republic lacks the power and authority, or are the Mandalorians as disliked by the New Republic as they were by the Empire?
• The most obvious movie reference this week is John Woo’s great 1992 film Hard Boiled, which features Chow Yun-fat fighting off armies of bad guys while holding a baby, just as the Mandalorian does here. Like many of Woo’s best films, it’s gotten hard to track down these days, but it’s worth the effort.