The obvious question Chapter 3 raises is: What is “The Sin” the title refers to? Plenty of actions in this episode could qualify.
Is the sin all the killing that goes on?
I admit this seems the least likely answer, given that killing has been part and parcel of the Star Wars franchise since its beginning. The Mandolorian is a violent show, but no more so than most Star Wars productions, and it doesn’t revel in gore or excessively linger over lurid blood and guts.
Some of its more violent moments are startling because we haven’t seen moments like them in the franchise before—in this episode, for instance, Mando strangling and stabbing Stormtroopers. But even The Mandaolorian at its most brutal is far from the stomach-turning shockers much other pop culture serves up (witness Joker).
But graphic or not, Mando’s body count testifies to a willingness to shed blood that could be called sinful. Mando has chosen (presumably—we don’t know his full backstory) a violent way of life, and killing seems an inescapable part of it.
Is the sin Mando’s handing over Baby Yoda to The Client and Dr. Pershing?
Going into the episode, I didn’t think Mando would hand over the child. But within the first few minutes, we’re watching an inversion of the scene from The Force Awakens in which Unkar Plutt offers Rey 60 portions of food for BB-8, not to mention an echo of the Gospels’ accounts of Judas betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. For 20 bars of beskar steel (by my count), Mando betrays Baby Yoda, the very one who so recently saved his life. (For more on the child as a source of salvation, I again commend to you David Atwell at the “Reel World Theology” blog.)
It’s pretty devastating to watch Baby Yoda, the series’ breakout star and last week’s breaker of the internet, crying out for Mando as the child is being taken away to Dr. Pershing’s lab. And later, in the Razor Crest’s cockpit, as Mando contemplates what he’s done (in a scene that reminds audiences just how much acting really can be done behind a mask, with some assists from camera work and musical score), he seems devastated by what he’s done, too.
We don’t know any more than Mando does what The Client and Dr. Pershing want from the child, but Mando feels convicted enough by his conscience to go back and rescue the infant. He changes his mind—the literal definition of metanoia, “repentance.”
Is the sin whatever The Client and Dr. Pershing have planned for Baby Yoda?
Even knowing that Disney is now rolling out Baby Yoda merch, I feared we might have seen the last of the child. Whatever vital material The Client wants extracted (perhaps sky-high midichlorian counts are characteristic of Yoda’s whole species?), Dr. Pershing, while surely no moral paragon, still has enough pangs of guilt or remnants of decency to want to protect the child through the process. “He’s only alive because I protected him,” he tells Mando. “He’s only a child!”
It’s possible, I suppose, Dr. Pershing is only saying what he thinks will save his own skin. But remember: In Chapter 1, The Client told Mando he would have found “proof of termination” acceptable. Dr. Pershing objected. Were his reasons only scientific (i.e., whatever nefarious experiment he has planned won’t work on a corpse), or does he have some misgivings and qualms about what he’s up to? Does he actually think he’s doing what little good he can in the midst of a sinful situation?
Is the sin Mando’s acceptance of ill-gotten beskar for his work?
The heavy infantry Mandalorian is offended by the sight of the Imperial hallmark on the bars of beskar Mando brings to the Armorer. He accuses Mando of being a “coward” who “shares tables” with Imperials. But the Armorer accepts what Mando has done as being consistent with “the Way of the Mandalore.”
I confess I’m not fully up to speed on Mandalorian mythos, neither the vast body of lore built up in the “Legends” novels, comics, and games, nor what’s been established as canonical via The Clone Wars and Rebels. But based on how it is invoked in this episode, the Way of the Mandalore is a radical path of total commitment—symbolized by never removing one’s helmet—to one’s people.
When the Armorer talks of how Mando’s leftover beskar will support Mandalorian foundlings, Mando affirms, “The foundlings are the future,” to which all present respond, “This is the Way.” The Way entails a dedication to the community’s future, embodied in its orphans, some of its most vulnerable members.
And later, after the Mandalorians have emerged from their hiding to rescue Mando—jet-packing over the horizon when he needs them most, like a Star Wars version of the Riders of Rohan—Mando tells the heavy infantryman, “You’re going to have to relocate the covert,” to which the heavy infantryman responds, “This is the Way.” The Way entails a commitment to each other.
Mando’s acceptance of payment is probably not “the sin” in question, since the beskar truly belongs to the Mandalorian people in the first place (which raises questions about why Greef Karga feels justified in keeping some of it for himself), and since Mando uses it not just for a full cuirass that will “draw many eyes” but for the good of the Mandalorian community, as the Way of Mandalore dictates.
Following the Way
Christian viewers may remember our faith was first called “the Way,” and also entails a radical commitment to each other, especially the community’s most vulnerable members, and to the future—in our case, the future God has promised to bring about.
But the Way of God is not solely directed inward, to the community’s own good, as (at least to this point) the Way of the Mandalore seems to be. Undoubtedly, the Mandalorians suffered a great sin and injustice in the Great Purge. But God’s people have suffered sin and injustice also, but the calling to be a community that exists for others beyond its own borders remains.
Most likely, Jon Favreau titled this script “The Sin” knowing full well the title could have multiple interpretations. And this is a hard truth about life, both in the Galaxy Far, Far Away and in our world: When it comes to sins, we have, unfortunately, no shortage of examples to choose from. Our task, like Mando’s, is to follow a Way that allows us to do good in the midst of a sinful world.