Warning: SPOILERS ahead for The Mandalorian up to episode 4.
After four episodes, we have yet to see Pedro Pascal's title character in The Mandalorian without his signature helmet. In the show, it's said that Mandalorians cannot remove their helmets in front of other people, and if they do so (or if someone else removes their helmet), their life as a Mandalorian comes to an end. This creates a plot hole within the Star Wars universe, however, since we've seen Mandalorians remove their helmets without issue in both Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels.
Set after the events of Return of the Jedi, The Mandalorian follows Dyn Jarren a.k.a. Mando, a Mandalorian bounty hunter on a mission to retrieve a package for a mysterious client. When he discovers that the package in question is actually a baby from Yoda's species, he decides that he can't leave it to its sinister fate, and breaks all the rules of the Bounty Hunters' Guild to retrieve the child. In The Mandalorian episode 4, "Sanctuary," Mando and Baby Yoda (as fans have dubbed him) attempt to hide out on a backwater planet called Sorgan, only to get dragged into a Seven Samurai-style defense of a fishing village that's being attacked by raiders.
While hosting Mando, Baby Yoda, and former shock trooper Cara Dune (Gina Carano) in the village, widow Omera (Julia Jones) takes an interest in our hero and asks him about his helmet. Mando elaborates upon the rules introduced in episode 3, "The Sin" - and moves The Mandalorian even further away from previously established Star Wars canon.
The Mandalorian's Helmet Rules In The Disney+ Show
When Paz Vizla (Jon Favreau) calls Mando a coward in "The Sin," the clan's armorer ends refutes the insult by saying no coward would choose a Mandalorian's way of life. She asks Mando if he has ever removed his helmet, or if anyone else has ever removed it, and he replies in the negative to both questions. She declares, "This is the way," and the sentiment is echoed by the other Mandalorians. In "The Sanctuary," Omera asks Mando when the last time was that someone else saw him without his helmet, and he replies that it was when he was still a child. He further explains that if he were ever to take it off in front of another person, he would not be able to put it on again.
Mando does take his helmet off to eat and (hopefully) to wash, but he can only do so when alone. This is emphasized when he goes to a tavern and declines to order any food or drink for himself, and again later when we see his helmet removed while he eats a meal. During this scene he is looking out at Baby Yoda playing with the local children - the removal of his helmet symbolizing a possible future in which he leaves his Mandalorian way of life behind and retires on Sorgan, embracing Omera and the baby as his new family. Of course, the end of the episode effectively kills that fantasy, but still leaves behind the question of why Mando has to lead such a lonely and restrictive life.
The Mandalorian's Helmet Rules In Clone Wars & Rebels
The big problem with The Mandalorian's strict helmet rules is that we've seen Mandalorians without their helmets before. Sabine Wren, one of the main characters in Star Wars Rebels, regularly goes without her helmet when not in combat. When Sabine goes to visit her mother's clan in the season 3 episode "Legacy of Mandalore," Ursa Wren is not wearing a helmet and other Mandalorians are seen without their helmets as well. Similarly, Star Wars: The Clone Wars depicted Mandalore as a place where most people don't even wear armor, let alone helmets. Even the Death Watch, an extremist group who fiercely embraced their heritage as savage and feared warriors, were known to remove their helmets. Both shows establish Mandalorian helmets as generally only being worn for fighting, not a permanent fixture.
What Does The Mandalorian Contradiction Mean For Star Wars?
The Mandalorian's strict new rules about helmet-wearing seem like a plot hole, given that they contradict what we've seen of Mandalorians before. Though the show is set after the events of both The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, Mando stating that he hasn't removed his helmet in front of another person since he was a child makes it clear that the rule was in place during the events of those shows - at least, for him. However, rather than being a retcon, the helmet rules could be part of The Mandalorian's unique world.
One possible explanation for why Mando cannot remove his helmet, but Sabine and the other Mandalorian characters we've seen can, is that the rule is specific to Mando's clan. Mandalorians are extremely tribal, and Mando's clan in particular have the air of religious extremists, especially given their frequent recitation of the mantra, "This is the way." With their numbers having been decimated by the Empire, they have been forced into hiding underground, and also have a rule that only one of them can be above ground at any given time (though they quite thoroughly break this rule at the end of "The Sin").
"The Sin" and "Sanctuary" revealed some of Mando's backstory: that his parents were killed by a Separatist battle droid when he was a child, and the Mandalorians took him in and began training him shortly afterwards. However, there's still much we don't know (the show hasn't even officially confirmed his name yet), so we may well learn more about Mando's tribe in the episodes to come. Both Star Wars Rebels and The Mandalorian are overseen by the Lucasfilm Story Group, whose job it is to maintain Star Wars canon across the various properties, so it's likely that there is an explanation for this contradiction in Mandalorian lore - even if it hasn't been revealed yet.