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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Baby Yoda gets caught in the middle as The Mandalorian picks a side

Illustration for article titled Baby Yoda gets caught in the middle as The Mandalorian picks a side
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Between the last time we all gathered here to talk about The Mandalorian and now, word got out about Baby Yoda. And now that “The Child’s” existence has become not only known, but extensively memed, let’s talk about the little dude for a minute. Baby Yoda doesn’t have a name; neither does his/her/their/its species, which is unusual for a Star Wars alien race. The only heretofore known examples of, um, Yodas (in the post-Disney canon, anyway) are Yoda himself and Yaddle, Yoda’s female equivalent who served on the Jedi High Council in Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace. George Lucas has always insisted on keeping the origins of Yoda’s species mysterious, which does fit in with the streamlined nature of The Mandalorian so far. (We don’t see the main character’s face; why should his sidekick have a name?) I suspect we may learn more about it later in the season, but right now Baby Yoda is the glowing briefcase from Pulp Fiction in a tiny brown overcoat, desired by all but understood by none.


In contrast, we learn quite a bit about Mandalorian culture in “The Sin,” including their social structure, religion, and a little bit of their history. Several of The Mandalorian’s fellows make reference to “The Great Purge” in this episode, an event that took place at the height of the Galactic Empire that forced the Mandalorian race underground by gathering up reserves of their sacred metal beskar and imprinting them with the seal of the Empire. One would think that the Mandalorians would be happy to get this beskar back, given that it’s used to make the armor that is so important to a Mandalorian’s sense of self. But the response to Mando showing up back at Mandalorian HQ with a small fortune’s worth of the stuff is revulsion from his comrades. They may be mercenaries and bounty hunters, but they do not collaborate with the Empire.

It’s presumably the threat of being shunned by the only family he’s ever known that makes The Mandalorian risk his life by going back to save Baby Yoda after initially turning it in for the bounty—although his dejected body language after finding the metal ball the lil’ goofball was trying to eat at the beginning of the episode also spoke to a less complicated, more selfless form of guilt. Either way, I wasn’t expecting Mando to turn Baby Yoda over to The Client for the bounty on its sweet fuzzy head, as he does at the beginning of “The Sin.” But once the act was done I had a feeling he’d go back and save it, because Star Wars never met a scoundrel it couldn’t turn into an unlikely hero. Every fob in the cantina lit up when Mando’s escape became known, and it’s safe to assume the twosome is going to be dogged by bounty hunters for the remainder of the season. I hope Mando’s boss Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) will be among them, as he was just great in this episode. Those Twi’lek healing baths* he likes so much won’t pay for themselves!

That brings us to the climactic shootout, as Mando and Baby Yoda are ambushed as they attempt to get the hell out of not-quite-Tatooine with a trail of dead Stormtroopers littering the dusty ground behind them. Each episode of The Mandalorian so far has contained a wink and a nod to an action classic, and the image of Mando with a blaster in one hand and a baby bundle in the other can’t help but evoke Chow Yun-fat in John Woo’s 1992 movie Hard Boiled. (If you haven’t seen that film, please do. It rules.) The deus ex machina aspect of Mando’s comrades popping up to save him and Baby Yoda from certain death once he proved he wasn’t a lily-livered Empire flunky kind of irked me, but I often have that complaint with sci-fi and superhero stories, both of which are prone to ending battles with an out-of-nowhere assist. Hell, Baby Yoda’s Force powers served the same function last week. It is me who is probably wrong here, is what I am saying.

One aspect of The Mandalorian I haven’t touched on much yet, but have really been enjoying, is Ludwig Göransson’s score. Its blend of organic and electronic sounds is a great fit for the show’s gritty “Space Western” aesthetic, particularly the distorted whistles and clanging metal of the show’s end music. It sounds like an Ennio Morricone theme being played by robots—again, perfect for the show’s tone. As Mando and Baby Yoda go off world and presumably into hiding, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of environments the show will explore—will they stay on desert planets? Crash-land into a swamp, for one of those fun little narrative rhymes Star Wars is so fond of?—and how Göransson’s score will reflect any changes in their surroundings. So far the show has been fast paced, wonderfully well-crafted, and full of detail that gets more intriguing as the plot thickens, and I’m on board for wherever they go next.

*Thanks to Tomi from Finland for pointing me to the correct spelling of this one. The Twi’leks are the Star Wars race with the long, fleshy appendages protruding from their heads; a Twi’lek dancer, Oola, does the sexy dance at Jabba’s palace in Return Of The Jedi, setting the precedent for that species’ reputation as one of the most seductive in the galaxy. Greef Karga is proposing that he and Mando should go to a brothel, basically.


Stray Observations

  • The white container full of beskar that The Client presents to The Mandalorian when paying his bounty is a deep-cut nod to Star Wars fan culture: A similar device appears in The Empire Strikes Back being carried out of Cloud City by an evacuee named Willrow Hood, a.k.a. Ice Cream Maker Guy. For decades, fans have asked, “why the hell is that guy holding an ice cream maker?,” and you’ll sometimes see cosplayers clutching kitchen appliances at cons as a nod to this particular moment. The old EU came up with a whole backstory explaining how it’s not really an ice cream maker, but none of that counts now.
  • “The Sin” was directed by Deborah Chow, the first woman to direct a live-action Star Wars property. And I gotta say—she killed it. Her resume is mostly composed of gigs on TV series like Mr. Robot and Better Call Saul; she’ll be back for The Mandalorian’s seventh episode, and is also on board to direct the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series with Ewan McGregor.
  • Consider this your Baby Yoda name thread prompt. Yoghurt is cute, or maybe Yindle. Yudu? Yabbie? Yomba? (I’m assuming that Yodas are like the Kardashians here, and all their names have to start with “Y.”)
  • One interesting theory about what The Client and Dr. Pershing want with Baby Yoda involves the Clone Wars. Pershing has a patch on his uniform that’s very similar to the ones worn by clones being trained on the planet Kamino in the buildup to that particular conflict, so the theory goes that he’s hoping to clone the lil’ dude and sell the clones at Galaxy’s Edge—sorry, harvest their midichlorians to either create a Force-sensitive super soldier or heal a weakened Emperor Palpatine, who we hear laughing at the end of the teaser trailer for The Rise Of Skywalker.
  • I know times are tough on the outer edges of the New Republic, but why would anyone keep being a Stormtrooper when they no longer had to? You’re cannon fodder, no one respects you, and the uniforms look really hot. I suppose it’s all they know.
  • This week’s drinking game: Take a shot every time someone says, “this is the way.”
  • The CGI in this series continues to be top notch, particularly in the wide shot of the remaining Mandalorians fighting in the street after Mando and Baby Yoda take off at the end of the episode. And how about those jet packs?!
  • I know I’ve given every episode of this show a B+ so far, but it’s just so darn consistent.