Admit it, you’d totally watch a show called The Adventures of Baby Yoda and Space Dad. If you haven’t guessed yet, there will be minor spoilers for The Mandalorian.
It’s been awhile and I’m thoroughly in love with Baby Yoda, so I thought I’d take a dive into the world of Star Wars with Disney+’s attempt to get everyone to sign up for their streaming service (and damn if it isn’t working).
I’ll begin by stating that while I am aware of many pieces of the expanded Star Wars universe, I don’t delve into a lot of the side content aside from the non-trilogy movies. I wasn’t very interested in The Mandalorian from the trailers I’d seen, so—full disclosure—I didn’t care to watch it until pictures of Baby Yoda started appearing all over Facebook. He was so damn adorable, I had to find out what he was all about, and the show has proven to be very different from what it portrays itself as. And all for the better.
Anytime you have a story in an existing world you have to look at whether it can stand on its own or it requires the viewer/reader to know the world to understand what’s happening. Side stories that do not involve any of the main story characters really ought to be able to hold their own and not rely on established content to be understood. On this count I’d say The Mandalorian succeeds. Not perfectly, but enough not to fuss much.
What it could do a better job on is establishing when in the Star Wars timeline the story takes place, since that explains the general loss of rule of law with the end of the Empire combined with a weak Republic government. It also relies on you understanding how the original trilogy has influenced the overall world, but for the most part those are minor and the show’s target audience is Star Wars fans who would have that general knowledge.
The one place where exceptional knowledge is required is in Baby Yoda. In fact, the character of “The Child” relies entirely on reference to Yoda, as his fandom name suggests. His species is never named, his character is never named, and that he is able to use the force—an aspect of the universe that is never explained or otherwise mentioned—is all designed to bring back the nostalgia of Yoda. The fact it works completely is beside the point. If you don’t know Yoda, a great deal of the importance behind the Empire wanting him is lost. But, even this I am willing to let pass, because Baby Yoda is meant to invoke this in Star Wars fans, so in this way he fulfills his purpose in the universe.
With the cinematic quality of the show, The Mandalorian begins in a portrayal of the Star Wars universe more akin to Rouge One than the trilogy movies. It’s a darker, grittier world of killers and bounty hunters with no real sense of the rule of law. The person with the biggest gun or most lethal skill is the one who gets what he wants, and if fatal battles happen in the middle of a bar, that’s just par for the course.
The world building of The Mandalorian also relies heavily on themes and visuals more than direct explanation, especially in the world it wants to present. This is a world that can’t be trusted. In the first episode, the Mandalorian himself is often (a little too often) walking in solitude, and when he receives help it is not because he asks for it, but because it is forced on him. This first episode especially appears to be a show created for those who criticize the new trilogy of being too feminist or progressive. Its faceless main character is his own law and faces the cruel world in his own way—a man of an endangered race standing against the rest of the universe. Thankfully, that’s not the world we get.
The beauty of The Mandalorian is that this original presentation is the opposite of the world that ultimately unfolds in further episodes. I’m a sucker for movies and shows that turn expectations on their head and The Mandalorian delivers in spades. It manages this in large part because of Baby Yoda. In the first episode we see the world of The Mandalorian through its title character. The rest of the episodes we see the world through Baby Yoda’s eyes, even when he isn’t a part of the scene.
The Mandalorian isn’t alone against a cruel world looking to destroy anything that doesn’t fight back. The Mandalorian is a protector in a dangerous, but ultimately good world. When he is outnumbered saving Baby Yoda, his people risk their collective security to come to his aid. When he is treated with respect, he is polite and respectful back. His sanctuary, however temporary, is a place of people willing to stand together and accept both him and Baby Yoda without question. In this way, The Mandalorian is closer to the hopeful universe of the original trilogy than the gritty desperation of Rouge One.
You didn’t actually think you’d get through a post of The Mandalorian without me gushing over the superb relationship between Baby Yoda and the Mandalorian. It may not be world building, but I adore it, so let’s dive in. Pedro Pascal gives an excellent performance using only body language to convey an enormous amount of emotion and intention. The lack of facial expressions is moot, especially once Baby Yoda is introduced to provide all the visual emotion necessary in the show.
The best part of their relationship is revealed in episode four. Everyone the Mandalorian meets refers to Baby Yoda as his boy or his child, and not once does the Mandalorian try to deny or explain it as anything else. The solitary bounty hunter doesn’t fight against his unexpected place in Baby Yoda’s life or try to qualify it as just not being willing to leave Baby Yoda to the Empire. He accepts the fact he’s claimed responsibility for this child and understands what that means not only to him but also to Baby Yoda. He wants what is best for Baby Yoda, but he never denies that he cares for him, too. As a friend of mine put it, the Mandalorian is anti-toxic masculinity and that is utterly refreshing in a show I didn’t expect it from. Baby Yoda drew me in, but it’s Baby Yoda and Space Dad that makes this a show I can’t stop re-watching.
Leave a comment and tell me what you think of The Mandalorian so far.
Obligatory pictures of Baby Yoda!