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The Mandalorian Chapter 15 continued the new Star Wars tradition of blurring the battle lines
Things used to be simpler in the galaxy far, far away. In Star Wars, we're used to dealing with firm lines of black and white, good vs. bad. The Empire is bad, the Rebellion is good. The Resistance is good, the First Order is bad. Such is the way of things.
In recent years, the stories have become a little more nuanced. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story showed the darker side of the Rebel Alliance. The new game Star Wars: Squadrons attempts to show that there are heroes on both sides. The Mandalorian has now gotten in on some of that storytelling, and it used an unlikely character to do it. It also had that character reference events that happened in an iPhone game that isn't even being updated anymore.
**WARNING: From this point forward, there will be spoilers for The Mandalorian Chapter 15, "The Believer." If you haven't seen it yet, get outta here, Dewey! It's the cheapest drug there is, but you don't want this!**
Migs Mayfield (Bill Burr) was brought back for "The Believer," and the reason was that he himself used to be an Imperial. It was a character detail that was brought up in the show's first season, but it proved pivotal for this installment.
Whether you're an Imperial, a Rebel, or a Mandalorian, it all really comes down to one thing: How far are you willing to go, and how will you be able to sleep at night?
Mayfield makes it clear in a talk with his former Imperial boss that the war was not great for all of the faceless Stormtroopers who we saw go down left and right in the original trilogy. Most of them likely did not have a choice — the Empire decided that they were fighting for them, and that was that. Having over 10,000 troops blow up in one battle is not glorious. It was not glorious for those that were killed, and it was not glorious for their families.
This discussion comes after both Mayfield and our main Mando (Pedro Pascal) are attacked by pirates while infiltrating a base run by the Imperial Remnant, and they themselves are saved by two TIE Fighters and a squad of troopers. For a moment, we're actually happy to see these guys, which is rather weird. Going into the base itself, we see that victory for them is almost as human as victory for the Rebellion always was.
It's uncomfortable to watch, made even more so by the fact that Mando is not wearing his trademark armor. He's wearing stolen Imperial armor, an Imperial helmet, and he's seeing the whole operation from that perspective.
Until he has to take the helmet off.
We know that he doesn't do this. We know that he doesn't show his face. It's a massive rule in the group of Mandos that he was raised in, which may or may not be a cult. The guy who we first met in Season 1 would never compromise himself by removing his helmet... but now? Grogu's life is on the line.
For his chosen son, he'll do whatever he has to do. The helmet comes off, and we see more of Pedro Pascal's face on this series than we ever have before. We don't get the feeling that he regrets the choice, either.
Mayfield, however, does have regrets. He regrets being a part of an Empire that has awful, planet-killing contingencies like Operation Cinder. He directly references this Emperor Palpatine contingency, something usually only referred to in books, comics, and games. He goes one further, making reference to deaths taking place on Burnin Konn. That location may not sound familiar, and that's because though it is canon, it was featured in the mobile iPhone game Star Wars: Uprising. They stopped updating that game years ago, but here's the reference anyway. All of that aside, Mayfield just wants to be able to live with himself and get a good night's sleep.
As he says to Mando: "We're all the same. Everybody's got their lines they don't cross until things get messy. As far as I'm concerned, if you can make it through your day and still sleep at night, you're doing far better than most."
The episode shows Mayfield being pushed to the point of choosing to do the right thing. It also shows Mando being pushed to do something very uncomfortable. It comes down to personal choices, whether you are Imperial, Mandalorian, or from a planet that has been entirely blown away.
The style of the helmet doesn't matter as much as the choices of the person who is wearing it. It's always risky when Star Wars ventures past "space fascists are bad, full stop" territory, but this episode manages to open lines of thought without fully answering anything. It's all gray, and as Mayfield says, it's all messy. Absolutes are a dangerous thing, after all.
It does what all good Star Wars storytelling does: It changes our point of view. That it used Bill Burr and an old mobile game to do it? A surprise, to be sure.