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Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for the first episode of The Mandalorian on Disney+, called "Chapter 1."
Disney+ went live on November 12 and gave Star Wars fans the opportunity to check out the first-ever live-action episode of a Star Wars TV show with The Mandalorian's "Chapter 1." The first episode was a visual masterpiece that took viewers to new corners of that galaxy far, far away, set five years following Return of the Jedi. In an unusual twist, the lead character never showed his face in the present, preferring to conceal his features beneath his Mandalorian helmet, and this seems to contradict a plot point from Star Wars Rebels.
The Mandalorian revealed that Mandalorians as of that time period never take off their helmets, meaning that viewers had to make the most of Pedro Pascal's performance from behind the mask. In Star Wars Rebels, however, one of the main characters was a young Mandalorian woman by the name of Sabine Wren, and she regularly walked around without a helmet. In fact, while most of the Mandalorians who appeared on the series had full armor, most of them also removed the helmet when not in a combat situation.
So, the final season of Rebels -- which began with a two-part episode actually set on Mandalore and packed with helmet-free Mandalorians -- was set less than ten years in-universe before the beginning of The Mandalorian. Did The Mandalorian, in one fell swoop, contradict four seasons of Sabine walking around without her helmet?
Pedro Pascal's Mandalorian wasn't the only one who was only seen in his helmet. Before he took off on the mission that would temporarily team him up with the IG-11 bounty hunter droid to go after a very unexpected (and pointy-eared) quarry, he visited a place packed with people wearing Mandalorian armor, featuring a Star Wars version of a blacksmith who melted down a piece of valuable Beskar steel, once unique to Mandalorians, to make a new pauldron for him. As if enough of him wasn't already hidden from viewers!
Is this a sign that something happened between the Mandalore two-parter of Rebels -- which seemingly revealed why there were no Mandalorians in the original trilogy -- to make the surviving Mandalorians cling to what remained of their culture? Beskar steel is immensely valuable in the Star Wars universe, and the first episode of The Mandalorian already showed it deflecting blaster fire.
According to Star Wars Rebels, Mandalorian armor made out of Beskar steel can be many centuries old, with Sabine's going back 500 years, and simply reforged to fit new warriors. For Mandalorians, the armor carries the history of previous owners and makes their legacy. In that Rebels two-parter, the Mandalorians refused to give up their armor even though the Empire had a device that specifically targeted Beskar steel and more or less fried the people wearing the armor.
Mandalorians before the war to take back Mandalore from the Empire (as established in Rebels) wouldn't give up their armor even though it could quite literally lead to their deaths if the weapon wasn't destroyed; if Mandalore was devastated during the timeline of the original trilogy, it stands to reason that the survivors could feel so attached and determined to preserve their legacy that they'd go so far as to never remove their helmets.
It's worth noting that Star Wars Rebels showrunner Dave Filoni, who is also bringing back The Clone Wars for Disney+, directed the first episode of The Mandalorian. If anybody knows the state of Star Wars canon immediately before the original trilogy, it's Filoni. For his part, Pedro Pascal weighed in on why The Mandalorian doesn't remove his helmet, saying this to IGN:
I love the way that they build sort of cultural stories in the world of Star Wars. And so every planet, every people, every creature, every droid has such a specific kind of origin story and background. So for the Mandalorians, we have a creed, and we don't show our faces. So get over it. I did! [laughs]
What led to this creed that prevents Mandalorians from removing their helmets? Was it the result of what happened to Mandalore during the original trilogy, or is this a direct contradiction of what happened in Star Wars Rebels? Will the titular Mandalorian ever show his face, like Sabine regularly did on Rebels? The first episode of The Mandalorian did technically show the leading man's face, although via flashback and played by a child rather than Pedro Pascal. Could Tiya Sircar get her wish and play Sabine in live-action herself?
One of the big Mandalorian trailers did seemingly promise an answer could be coming about what happened to Mandalore during the original trilogy, so hopefully answers will be forthcoming as the Mandalorian action continues on Disney+. New episodes of the first (although certainly not last) live-action Star Wars series will release on Fridays, with one week off for a pretty understandable reason.