The Mandalorian: Pedro Pascal is engaging, even in a helmet

Pedro Pascal doesn’t take off his helmet in The Mandalorian, but his performance is still engaging regardless.

Disney took a bit of a risk by casting Pedro Pascal, an actor known for his charm, as the helmet-wearing lead in The Mandalorian. Pascal’s performance as Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones showcased the flair and intensity he could bring to any role. Coming into The Mandalorian, some were worried if Pascal could have the same impact stuck behind his character’s trademark helmet.

It’s safe to say that Pascal has risen to the occasion and injected personality into his stone-faced character.

The series premiere features Pascal deliver his character’s threat of “I can bring you in warm, or I can bring you in cold” in a strikingly calm but menacing way. Later in that first episode when the Mandalorian and IG-88 finally find Baby Yoda, we hear Pascal’s dismay at executing the child and can sense that the character already feels some sort of connection to it.

A highlight of episode 2 is the Mando’s interaction with the Jawas. After getting criticized for his grasp of the Jawa language, he barks back with “You understand this?” and attempts to fry the group of Jawas with his flamethrower — one of the funniest moments in a more serious show. Furthermore, when a pair of Jawas approach Baby Yoda, Pascal snipes “Get away from it!” as his usually cool character vocalizes his annoyance.

Episode 3 ramps up the emotion to 100 as the show explores the lead character’s budding connection with Baby Yoda. In a very relatable moment, Baby Yoda makes a toy out of something it shouldn’t (one of the ship’s throttles), which the Mando is unamused by. After dropping the child off at The Client, Pascal’s character returns to his ship to begin his next mission — until he reaches for the very throttle that Baby Yoda played with, reminding him of what he just did and prompting him to go back for the child.

When all seems lost as the bounty hunter is pinned down by a gang of guild members, he exchanges a long look with Baby Yoda. He doesn’t say anything, yet viewers know exactly how he feels. He’s disappointed. He’s worried about what will happen to the child. He’s given his all and he’s going to die protecting Baby Yoda.

It’s a touching, tender moment that anyone can relate to. Yes, we can’t see Pascal’s face, but we know exactly what it would look like, and it doesn’t detract from the scene just because we can’t see it.

To close the episode, reunited with his green friend, Pascal’s character voluntarily gives Baby Yoda the circle-shaped piece from the throttle to play with, a moment that seems to solidify his parent-esque role.

I haven’t felt at any point during the first three episodes that the show is lacking because we can’t see Pascal’s face. The Mando shows flashes of his personality in the moments that I pointed out, and the show knows it doesn’t have to force the issue. He’s a complicated bounty hunter just trying to survive, which can, at times, lead to funny reprieves like his run-in with the Jawas.

The addition of Baby Yoda has helped bring a cuteness factor to the show, but the emotional resonance that viewers feel is with the lead character. We can sympathize with a new parent. We can sympathize with a bodyguard protecting a child.

With Pascal’s character defying orders, it will only continue to push the character further into complicated situations, allowing viewers to see how he manages his protector role under immense pressure and threats.

Watch Pedro Pascal as The Mandalorian on Disney+.