How lucky are we to have a new live-action Star Wars to watch every Friday!? Little geek me still can’t fully grasp it. Fortunately for us, we were gifted a double serving of The Mandalorian goodness this week and the two episodes perfectly complemented each other. If you haven’t read my light spoiler review of Chapter 1, I hope you’ll start there. Going forward, starting with this review, every review will be full spoilers because it’s unmanageable to talk about each episode while trying around that big reveal in Chapter 1. Again, full spoilers below!
Action-Packed – My only real criticism in my review of Chapter 1 was the there were large chunks of the story that were somewhat slow as Executive Producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni established the world and its notable factions and characters. This episode is thus a perfect complement as it picks up immediately after the end of Chapter 1 and is full of action and fighting until virtually the incredible concept art end credits. The story is intentionally much smaller in scale for this episode, with our hero (?) attempting to take his discovery back to his ship and get off the planet, only to find that the process won’t be as linear as he thought. In essence, this episode is an important side-quest. We know there’s a larger galaxy out there and that the Mandalorian’s cargo will have far reaching impact. But for this episode, we get to focus on the Mandalorian and his…baby.
Baby Yoda – By now almost everyone knows that the end of Chapter 1 gave us a little Yoda-species baby. We don’t yet know anything about it beyond its age (50 years old) and that compared to our venerable Jedi Master (who died at 900 years old in Return of the Jedi), this being is very young. At first I assumed the baby was newborn. But in this episode we see that it can walk, as it manages to get out of its floating crib and walk to the Mandalorian. Yet despite its surprising mobility, it doesn’t seem able to talk yet. Of course that could just be a quirk of the species, but that aside, it seems fair to put the human age equivalent at about 2 years old. In Chapter 2, we saw “Baby Yoda” use the Force to save the Mandalorian from getting impaled by a large rhino like beast. Baby Yoda adds so many layers to this already exciting show: 1) it adds a cuteness quality to the show that one wouldn’t expect in this lived-in world full of bounty hunters and thugs, 2) it potentially opens the door to giving us at least some answers to countless questions that Star Wars fans have had about Yoda and his kind since the character’s introduction in 1983 (these answers were also teased by the introduction of another of Yoda’s kind, Yaddle, in The Phantom Menace, but disappointingly very little came of her), 3) it gives The Mandalorian galaxy-level stakes as we go through the season trying to figure out why the Client wants this baby and what its potential is, and 4)…
The Force – Baby Yoda’s introduction immediately answers the question I always have when it comes to any Star Wars story- where does the Force fit in? There are of course many fans of Star Wars stories that don’t involve the Force, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a big selling point for many coming into this series was the expectation that the Force wouldn’t play a major role. However, for me, the fantasy element that the Force represents is vital to Star Wars, and I’m thrilled to see how it’s manifested here. Clearly these beings are uniquely attuned to the Force and we’re essentially guaranteed to see more Force use in upcoming episodes. In a shrewd move, Force-use by Baby Yoda is apparently quite taxing, as we saw it pass out after saving the Mandalorian. That’s a nice twist by the show’s creators, putting a natural cap on the one superpower in the show. This way, we’ll get to see the Force have an impact on the story, but it won’t be a constant cheat code.
Samurai Influence – Upon my first viewing of Chapter 1, I had mixed feelings on Baby Yoda. I didn’t really know where the show planned to take this story, and I was concerned that it was a bit too much fan service. After additional viewings and more consideration, I realized that this was a clear homage to one of the most famous samurai stories ever – Lone Wolf and Cub. For the uninitiated (and you really should initiate yourself), Lone Wolf and Cub is an iconic tale of a ronin samurai who is framed by his enemies and has his family murdered. With only his 3 year-old son remaining, the samurai goes on a revenge tour with son in tow that ultimately has a somewhat tragic ending. I won’t spoil it, but Dark Horse did some reprintings of the legendary manga tale and it’s worth picking up. While I don’t expect that The Mandalorian will follow the plot of the manga very closely, it seems clear where we’re headed. Several times during this episode, Nick Nolte’s character Kuill tells the Mandalorian that he hopes Baby Yoda survives. The seed is being planted both in the Mandalorian’s and our collective consciousness that Baby Yoda must be kept alive (as if there was any other answer after how cute they made it). I fully expect that we’ll see the Mandalorian realize that he cannot deliver Baby Yoda to the Client, causing both the Client and his imperial remnants and the Bounty Hunters Guild to hunt the Mandalorian down. The question remains then, where can the Mandalorian take Baby Yoda to keep it safe?
— POC Culture (@POC_Culture) November 13, 2019
Plot development – As Chapter 1 was somewhat weighed down by having to build its world and introduce some of the major factions, this episode has a bit of the opposite issue in that it’s light on plot development. It picks up immediately after the end of Chapter 1 and the plot is the Mandalorian trying to get Baby Yoda to his ship. That’s it. That’s why the two episodes together are so strong in that they’re great complements of each other. Having said that, this episode is a straight forward good time, and would be an enjoyable episode to watch even in a vacuum. The focus is clearly on showing the audience that Baby Yoda can use the Force, and that’s all you really need to know about this episode.
Dope! – The episode was directed by Rick Famuyiwa, best known for directing Dope. The Nigerian-American director’s episode represents the first time in Star Wars history that a person of color has directed a Star Wars story. That’s simply ground-breaking, and I don’t think enough has been made of that high water mark for this franchise. If you haven’t watched Famuyiwa’s Dope, I highly recommend it. It’s a story that’s both fascinating and hilarious about black teens in Los Angeles. I hope we get a chance to see more of Famuyiwa playing in the Star Wars sandbox.
Mando and The Child pic.twitter.com/q3uQeZ5KKN
— Rick Famuyiwa (@RickFamuyiwa) November 21, 2019
Rating -4/5 Pocky
Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture. He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.