MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, November 20th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio. So glad to have you along today!
Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.
Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Megan Basham catches up with the most popular series in the galaxy. And she says it continues to be surprisingly countercultural.
MEGAN BASHAM, TELEVISION CRITIC: If you’re anything like our family, you were counting the days until The Mandalorian returned to Disney Plus for its second season. That finally happened on October 30, and three episodes in, I’m happy to report that, so far at least, it hasn’t departed from the spaghetti-Western-in-space formula that made it a galactic success.
CLIP: This here is a Mandalorian. You know what that means? Well, we’ve heard the stories. Then you know how good they are at killing.
The show remains family-friendly entertainment, with the exception of a few scary monsters. Even better, it offers a counter-cultural worldview in almost every respect.
To start, it begins with a surprisingly conservative political perspective: The inability of even the most well-meaning government to create a utopian ideal for all.
There isn’t a Star Wars fan in the world who doubts the galaxy is better off under the Alliance. Yet, in episode two of this season, we see that the fallout that followed the Empire’s defeat created its own set of problems. Problems the Rebel-forces-turned-government-leaders are ill-equipped to solve.
CLIP: You don’t understand what it was like. The town was on its last legs. It started after we got news of the Death Star blowing up. The second one, that is. The Empire was pulling out of Tatooine. There was blaster fire of Mos Eisley. The occupation was over. We didn’t even have time to celebrate. That very night, the mining collective moved in. Power hates a vacuum and Mos Pelgo became a slave camp overnight.
If local citizens of far-flung planets want safety and prosperity, they have to ensure it for themselves.
CLIP: A krayt dragon has been peeling off our pack animals, and sometimes taking our mining haul with it. It’s just a matter of time before it grows tired of banthas and goes after a couple of you townsfolk, or even, so help us, the school. As much as I’ve grown fond of this armor, I’m even more fond of this town…
In other words, The Mandalorian continues to be a space story William F. Buckley could love.
Then there’s the show’s pro-family, pro-life ethic. We all saw how many young people picked up on this theme at last year’s March for Life. The signs they carried, depicting Baby Yoda with the show’s slogans, “Protect the child; this is the way” demonstrate that they innately recognized how Mando’s code to protect young, innocent life even in a chaotic world dovetailed with their own mission.
This season advances that theme with a young amphibian family.
In the mother’s journey to rejoin her husband and hatch their eggs, we see the case for life encompasses more than just seeing children survive. It’s seeing families thrive. That means protecting them from threats within and without, including a callous little tyke’s ungoverned appetite.
Is Baby Yoda scarfing the eggs evidence of a sin nature? Is it a warning against gluttony? Is it just a joke in bad taste? The debate rages online. But what’s clear is that while the nuclear family may be much dismissed in our world, in the Mandalorian’s, it’s still an unequivocal good.
CLIP: I’m not a taxi service. I know, I know, I hear you. But I can vouch for her. What’s the cargo? It’s her spawn. She needs her eggs fertilized by the equinox or her line will end. If you jump into hyperspace they’ll die. She said her husband has settled on the estuary moon of Trask in the system of the gas giant Kol Iben. She said all that? I paraphrased.
Finally, through its exploration of religious themes, the show takes matters of faith seriously in a way almost no other popular entertainment does right now.
Last season we saw that when the code of his religion and the code of his profession came in conflict, Mando felt honor bound to stay true to his faith. This season digs into that further.
In the third episode he meets other Mandalorians who have adapted their belief system to modern customs by taking off their helmets.
CLIP: Where did you get that armor? This armor has been in my family for three generations. You do not cover your face. You are not Mandalorian. He’s one of them. One of what? I am Bo-Katan of Clan Kryze. I was born on Mandalore and fought in the Purge. I am the last of my line. And you are a child of the Watch. Children of the watch of religious zealots that broke away from Mandalorian society. Their goal was to re-establish the ancient way. There is only one way. The way of the Mandalore.
Mando is confronted with the question of whether wearing his armor is fundamental to his theology or simply a rigid and unnecessary burden demanded by tradition. The show hasn’t told us (yet). But that it uses this question to further plot and character development demonstrates that showrunner Jon Favreau understands the deepest questions that drive people and their cultures.
Christian parents will want to be cautious with this element, of course. We’ve yet to see how Mando’s religion will come into conflict with that of the Jedi, but the series continues to have a strong sense of spiritual mystery that provides launching points for discussions about real spiritual issues.
More than anything, The Mandalorian’s huge fan base continues to prove how hungry the market is for smart, moral entertainment for all ages. We can all breathe a sigh of relief that the series seems committed to feeding that appetite.
I’m Megan Basham.