There’s a lot to unpack in the new Disney+ series The Mandalorian. From the spaghetti western and samurai influences to the deep Star Wars lore that’s on display, there is plenty to consider. A word we hear early in the first episode, as some unsavory thugs are trying to intimidate the titular star of the show is “beskar.” The early timing doesn’t feel like a mistake as it seems to be a key to understanding where this series is headed – and where we’re heading? Into…
In the Star Wars galaxy, beskar has always been closely tied to the Mandalorian people. Known alternately as Mandalorian iron, it is one of the most resilient metals in the galaxy, able to protect the wearer from normal blaster fire as well as provide some protection against lightsabers. This became important to the generations of Mandalorians who were at odds with the Jedi Order. In fact, much of the weaponry and fighting tactics that are commonly associated with Mandalorian warriors are meant to either mimic the Force powers of the Jedi or to counteract them. For instance, the Mandalorian vambraces contain a myriad of options meant to help neutralize a Jedi:
● repulsor to counterbalance their Force push
● paralytic darts and a grappling line to counteract Jedi speed
● a flamethrower, providing a weapon that the Jedi can’t deflect like a blaster bolt
And at the heart of the Mandalorian defense is armor made from beskar, providing the ability to deflect the Jedi’s prime weapon, the lightsaber. The Mandalorians being a warrior people who are technologically savvy feel protective of the metal in general. It represents their ability to face an unfathomably powerful foe and defeat them.
So it’s no surprise that when The Mandalorian is offered a bar of beskar as a down payment on his upcoming job in lieu of credits, he jumps on the offer. It’s stamped with the Imperial crest, a cruel reminder that his people had not fared well under Imperial control. Mandalore was under occupation while the Empire was in control of the galaxy and it became home to a cadet training facility.
Cadets in training, among them a native named Sabine Wren, created an Arc Pulse Generator specifically meant to target and destroy anybody wearing beskar armor. Thus, to The Mandalorian, capturing his bounty to recover the rest of the beskar from the hands of a remnant of the regime that subjugated his people is, thus, very important as a way to repair the damage done to Mandalorian culture. The Client ends their interaction saying,
“The beskar belongs back into the hands of the Mandalorian. It is good to restore the natural order of things after a period of such disarray. Don’t you agree?”
We next get scenes that are clearly meant to be a religious liturgy that may well be the beginning of restoring that natural order. He takes the ingot to The Armorer, they kneel and examine the bar of metal, which she forges into a pauldron, then reverently adds it to his armor. This scene is about more than just getting a new and shinier piece of body protection. The Armorer asks, “Has you’re your signet been revealed?” and when he says it hasn’t, she says, “Soon.” There is a sense that The Mandalorian is, thus, somehow incomplete and that beskar will help him become so.
The beskar, tied to the Mandalorian people as closely as it is but stamped with the Imperial sigil, represents their damaged culture. This ceremony of adding a newly forged piece of armor is a healing event. It helps The Mandalorian begin to restore the cultural heritage and honor of his tribe. It also ties him more closely to the tribe. He tells The Armorer that he was a foundling, which means he spent some of his formative years away from his people. This ceremony builds him into a being who is more completely Mandalorian.
The beskar also represents, on a more grounded level, his physical survival. His other armor, which appears to be made of durasteel and leather, is a constant source of trouble and aggravation. We see him in multiple scenes in the first two episodes sitting down to repair one piece or another of the portion that is not made from beskar and was damaged in combat. In the fight against the large hairy creature in the second episode, his breastplate is nearly ripped off his body but the beskar pieces – his pauldron and helmet – remain intact and conspicuously shiny and undamaged.
It feels like The Mandalorian is heading in a direction that will create dramatic tension by pitting the title character’s interest in cultural heritage, connection to a people that he lost by being separated from them, and personal safety against his desire to protect The Child. He’s already shot one bounty hunter partner in the head to save this little one, and his fights against both the Trandoshan bounty hunters and the large furry beast show that keeping The Child alive is important to him. They are both foundlings. It seems reasonable that alone would lead him to feel more deeply for The Child than he might for his other bounties.
Whether this is because he knows he will get more beskar if he delivers the quarry alive rather than dead is yet to be seen, but it seems clear that he knows that he owes The Child his life. The aftermath of the cutest outstretched hand in the history of Star Wars coupled with whatever feelings of compassion he might have for a fellow foundling may well overcome his feelings of duty to clan and perhaps even his need for armor that protects him more fully.
Although he appears not to connect The Child’s abilities to the Force and thus to the enemies of his people, the Jedi, one would think that has the potential to complicate his decision if he’s able to protect the young one long enough to have to choose between turning in the bounty alive, which means a fortune in beskar, the completion of his armor and perhaps the revelation of his signet, and the life of The Child to stopped him from being gored to death by a large, very angry furry creature.