Star Wars certainly has some memorable catch-phrases. How many times have you heard “May the Force be with you” over the years? But with The Mandalorian Star Wars has another catchy jingle, “This is the way”, that gives fans a deeper look into an iconic civilization in that galaxy far, far away.
The Way of the Mandalorian
Of all the societies Star Wars has created, Mandalore is one of the most interesting. They wear awesome armor and jetpacks. They carry all kinds of weapons, from blasters to flame throwers to grappling lines to a portable missile. And they’re badass.
We were first introduced to the Mandalorian look in The Empire Strikes Back, with notorious bounty hunter Boba Fett.
(Well, technically we first saw Boba Fett in The Star Wars Christmas Special. My son recently wanted to watch that abomination and even found a video of it on YouTube, but I refused to watch it with him, since 40 years is still not enough for the nightmares to fade. He went to his room with his tablet… and returned about fifteen minutes later, declaring, “I’m emotionally scarred for the rest of my life” – so let’s not go there.)
In Attack of the Clones we learn that Boba is actually the cloned son of Jango Fett, and that Jango is the DNA source for the entire clone army. How cool is that? No wonder the Grand Army of the Republic fought so well – they were all freakin’ Mandalorians!
Losing the way
In the second season of Clone Wars we get our first look at Mandalore, but we see that things are not as simple as we might have thought.
Mandalorian society has embraced pacifism as a means to survive after their civil war. They’re led by Duchess Satine, the very image of the graceful ruler. But quickly we learn that not all Mandalorian people accept this pacifist way of life, and some are clamoring to return to the old ways.
The Mandalorian story continues to grow as the series evolves, as its characters continue to show up in the galactic drama. Maybe its just because the Mandalorian helmet plays well to the camera, but I think its more: as fans we’re drawn to the struggle between the absolutes of Mandalorian warrior culture and the noble efforts of Satine and the pacifists to change their way of life to survive.
Ultimately the pacifists lose the battle for Mandalorian hearts and minds. In the closing episodes of the Clone Wars series we’re treated to an epic battle for Mandalore. The forces allied to the Republic win, but I’d hesitate to call them the “forces of good” as they’re just as violent and vicious as the Mandalorian rebels they defeat.
Such is civil war.
The Mandalorian Delivers
Fast forward forty-five years in Star Wars time, and we learn that the Mandalorian culture has not fared well since the rise of the Empire. The Mandalorian TV series follows the adventures of Din Djarin, or “Mando“, a foundling who was raised by Mandalorian warriors and adheres to the strict code of conduct known as “The Way” as he makes his way in the galaxy.
We first hear the phrase “This is the way” in the third episode of Season 1, when we meet Mando’s community of fellow Mandalorian zealots. We learn that all is not well in Mandalorian culture, as this group is hiding out in the sewers of a backwater planet.
Another warrior challenges Mando and calls him a coward, but a mysterious character known only as the Armorer calms everything down, concluding her intervention with the phrase: “This is the way.”
The assembled warriors all stand down at this point, repeating as one, “This is the way.”
We don’t know exactly what all this means, but the powerful scene makes it clear that Mando and his group hold a religious zeal in their devotion to their way of life. This fits what we saw in Mandalorian culture during The Clone Wars.
Why do the Mandalorians say “This is the Way”?
It takes time for the story to unfold, and for the meaning of this phrase to become clear. It seems that the Empire punished Mandalore (likely for being hard to control) and much of this ancient civilization was destroyed or dispersed. Under the iron fist of the Empire small Mandalorian groups struggled to survive and to protect their ancient culture.
Does the Mandalorian say “This is the Way”?
Mando himself is as devout as the rest of his group, and “This is the way” becomes his frequent answer whenever he’s challenged about his life choices. He’s a simple man, with a simple way of life, the very image of the Mandalorian warrior.
But What About Baby Yoda?
But then everything changes when Mando meets Baby Yoda. (I know, I know, Grogu… Whatever.)
Mando breaks his bounty hunter code to rescue Baby Yoda and spends the rest of Season 1 (and possibly the entire series) suffering for his choice. Mando doesn’t abandon the phrase, “This is the way,” or the philosophy behind it, but by Season 2 we see that he’s questioning what it means.
He meets other Mandalorian warriors who don’t adhere to the Way, although Bo-Katan Kryze does get in a cheap shot when she throws the phrase out to justify her own treachery.
The Mandalorian Way
As the series develops, and Mando possibly gets more involved in Mandalorian politics, we’ll no doubt see what “This is the way” really means under pressure.
“This is the way” may become just an empty phrase, as he sees that there’s a wider Mandalorian culture. Or he may cling to his ideals tightly if the political games turn nasty. It’s clear from Bo-Katan that “This is the way” isn’t a phrase invented by Mando’s cult, but as to how much of the spirit behind it remains in Mandalorian culture remains to be seen.
No matter what happens when the camera starts to roll on Season 3 of The Mandalorian, we can rest assured that Star Wars fans everywhere will be riveted to their screens, and we will opine, debate and argue about what happens until we’re blue in the face.
This is the way.