This is a review of the first five episodes of season one of The Mandalorian on Disney+ as well as some insane theories on what’s to come.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: “the Child” is way cuter than Disney ever expected. Bear in mind that when I say “Disney” here, I’m really talking about Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau, writers and show-runners for the first 2 seasons.
Don’t get me wrong, Jon and Dave expected us to have a reaction to him, just not like this. “Baby Yoda” memes are trending daily. Disney can’t block all of us — and I mean ALL of us. The whole world is united in love for the Child.
I think Jon and Dave expected us to think he was funny. This is evidenced by the way the Child appears to be waiting for a laugh-track after everything he does, and the fact that Disney didn’t have any merchandise ready for market when the episodes first aired. He is funny, no doubt about that, but he’s way too adorable to be taken as anything more than a walking, babbling baby Gremlin with force powers. I mean, what Star Wars fan isn’t asking for a Baby Yoda teddy bear for Christmas this year? (This is me asking for a Baby Yoda teddy bear for Christmas this year.)
Let’s crack this nut open. We are past the midway point in the first season and I feel confident enough with what I’ve seen to start reviewing it and then make some outlandish claims.
The basic plot is a deep-dive into the life of the mysterious Mandalorian: a gunslinger and bounty hunter who’s a member of the Bounty Hunter’s Guild and the Mandalorian Brotherhood. It’s a reintroduction to A Galaxy Far Far Away from a brand new perspective. Mando, played by the very well cast Pedro Pascal, is a delight as he uses his armor, weaponry, wits, and a series of unexpected allies, to best all manner of beings and beasts in a post-Return of the Jedi, Star Wars western.
Mando takes a high-price bounty from an ex-Imperial military commander known only as “the Client.” This bounty sends him to a Tattooine look-alike planet called Arvala-7, where he retrieves the Child, a 50 year old infant from Yoda’s species. Mandalorian turns in the bounty, but has a change of heart and saves the baby before the Client could harvest his DNA and kill him. Mando escapes with the Child and makes his way through the galaxy looking for safe harbor, trying to plan out his next steps while protecting this infant that’s probably about 20 years older than him.
The Bounty Hunter’s Guild is out to get him and it is safe to assume the Client will go to great lengths to try and retrieve his prize before the season is over.
Paired down, that’s not bad for the first five of an eight episode season, especially as Lucas Film’s first true foray into the material following the OT and a live-action tv show. Each episode has featured some neat new characters, locales and tidbits that are either nods to lore, or fun additions to the galaxy. The cast is great, with the exception of Carl Weathers (I keep waiting for him to say, “Mix it with some veggies, throw it in a pot, baby, you got a stew going,” whenever he’s on screen) and the world building is reminiscent of the OT sets. It’s wonderfully nostalgic while also giving you plenty of room to let your imagination wander.
Mando is a great, complex hero whose soft-spoken approach has me enjoying him a little more each time he shares. His common decency is made obvious through the first three episodes with his paternal treatment of the Child, his focus on making life better for the children of the Mandalorian Covert, and a series of flashbacks tied to his childhood. In episodes four and five, he’s more of a reluctantly decent guy who needs to have a personal stake in doing the altruistic thing, essentially reiterating the complex nature of a being a bounty hunter who desires to be a decent guy, who is also willing to do anything to protect the Child.
There is a lot of lore that gets a good, respectful approach in the show. The dirty, dingy Stormtrooper gear, the ex-Imperial who operates more like an independent warlord, the Mandalorian Covert is ripe with references and nods to canon, even the weaponry are recognizable from the OT. Things like this scores lots of easy points with nerds and has the benefit of actually being cool to begin with.
Most importantly, the series is returning the Saga to its origins: a mishmash of Samurai/Western film-making, with a thick layer of science fantasy painted over top. The show can be nerdy about gun modifications and ship parts, it can be warm and fuzzy with cute infant scenes and romantic innuendo, it can do combat that’s exciting, exhausting, brutal, inspiring, or even comical: all of this is only possible because at its core, The Mandalorian is recognizably Star Wars.
and you knew there was going to be a but…
I fear the series is suffering an essential flaw that crippled it before they even started shooting: different directors.
Each episode has come off as a mini-movie, a self-contained story in and of itself. Sure, the first 3 episodes had a basic plot that Mando had to advance through his actions, but he lacks agency because the director is in charge. The story is moving the Mando from place to place, not the other way around, and it is because each episode is being treated as an opportunity for a film-maker to make a 30 minute Star Wars story! I mean, who wouldn’t want to make the best possible self-contained story with the 30 minute window offered? It’s completely understandable, but it’s hampered the season as a whole.
You know how each episode seems to have a montage? How each episode has a long voyage bookended by complications? How each episode has a bounty hunter try to ambush Mando, and a reference to the Empire, and a reference to the Rebellion, etc… The list of similarities between these episodes goes on and on because each director is trying to do something special and interesting with their 30 minute slice of the GFFA, but in doing so they all ended up making the same thing.
Episodes four and five were major disappointments in this regard. Four was cute, and I have been a huge fan of Gina Carrano since she was in the MMA, but the episode essentially did nothing to advance the main plot. Episode five features a pathetic space battle that should have been cut, rather than used as the opening — the graphics looked like something from SyFy channel and was so trite, I had to skip the scene in my rewatch — and then goes on to basically just reuse the major plot points of episodes 2 and 4. I mean, I guess Mando learned that he can’t leave a baby alone on his ship? Is that all that episode five did to advance the main plot? Couldn’t that lesson have been tacked on to ep four? (Or just been common sense?)
But beyond just the similarities and pacing, there is also a disconnect in the existence of the Child. Before Mando could collect the Child, he had to fight through dozens of armed fighters, even an E-Web mounted gun. The assumption was that the little guy was rare, maybe invaluable, certainly worth sending dozens of people to their deaths to defend. Since then, only other bounty hunters have shown up looking for him, none of his original protectors are tracking him down.
What’s worse, Mando isn’t really even taking any precautions to keep him secret. The Child is out in the open, walking around, eating soup and hanging out with Amy Sedaris.
So what gives? It’s very hard for me to reconcile how Mando can be paternal and so well prepared, while also negligent and ignorant. I know they still have 3 more episodes to go, so they might be able to bring it all together, I get that!
That brings me to the question of how does the Child even exist? Like literally? I have to assume this show will give us an answer to that question before the end of this season.
Still, how is this little guy even alive? If he’s roughly 50 years old, that places his birth at around 40–35 BBY, which is a handful of years before the Battle of Naboo. Doesn’t that also mean that this little guy was alive throughout the events of the PT and OT, but was never mentioned or utilized by either side of the galactic conflict? Furthermore, if he has been around this whole time, how have none of the remaining force-users found out about him?
Well… I have a theory.
Bear in mind that this theory is based on an assumption that Filoni/Favreau have a plan for all of this, and that Disney allowed them to do whatever they wanted with these characters: assumptions that I don’t know to be realistic, let alone true. So, you know, grain of salt and all that…
But I think the keystone to this whole series is Count Dooku. That’s right folks, we’re going back to old Lord Tyranus to make this all make sense.
So it’s been pointed out a few times on the internets that Dr. Pershing, the Client’s assistant played by Omid Abtahi, has the crest of the Kamino cloners on his shoulder, and I do believe this was a part of his costume on purpose. Kamino is the world where the Sith cloned Jango Fett to make an army for the Republic, which would go on to help Palpatine claim absolute control over the Galaxy and wipe out the Jedi Order. Subtle interactions between the Client and Dr. Pershing reinforced the belief that the Child is the only successful product from a large collection of failures, which also points toward cloning.
So, what do the cloners on Kamino have to do with Dooku? Lots!
-He was the one who hired Jango Fett and brought him to Kamino in the first place.
-It is theorized that Dooku himself pretended to be Jedi Master Sifo Dyas when placing the order for the Republic Army, though there is reason to believe that was Palpatine.
Either way, Attack of the Clones made it clear that Tyranus had been involved with the cloners of Kamino since before the battle of Naboo, right around the time the Child should have been born.
Dooku is also pretty unique in the Star Wars galaxy because he is the only being we’ve ever met who was apprentice to both Yoda and Palpatine. That’s right folks, Dooku was once Yoda’s apprentice, which would put him in a unique position to oversee a project as intricate as cloning the Grandmaster of the Jedi Order. Not only did he have intimate knowledge of Yoda, but he’s also probably got loads of things with his DNA on it. Think about the sparring equipment, the gifts, the memoirs, weapons and tokens that have Yoda’s bio-matter all over them. Dooku might be the best person in the galaxy for the job of cloning Yoda.
Now, if you’re still with me and haven’t clicked away by now, you’re probably at least thinking I’m a little crazy. I mean, even if Dr. Pershing is associated with Kamino, and the Child was a product of a cloning experiment there, what connects Dooku to them? It could just be convenient that Yoda was his ex-master, and that Dooku had a functioning relationship with the cloners around the time the Child was birthed, right?
Well, I believe the answer to this question fills in the gaps created by the question of how this baby stayed undiscovered during the OT/PT and some other previously unfilled plot-holes. I believe that the Child — the one the whole world has been calling Baby Yoda — is a new Sith lord.
You read that right. Why don’t Jon and Dave think that the Child is cute even though he so clearly is? Because they know he’s a bad guy.
Why didn’t Palpatine or Yoda or Luke or Obi-Wan or Kanan Jarrus etc… ever find him? Because he’s been trained to hide his powers.
Why did forty people die defending him in episode 1? He made them.
Why did the Mandalorian take him and protect him even though he doesn’t know anything about children or how to protect them? He is a Sith thrall, enslaved to the will of his overlord.
Why would the Client want his DNA collected and then the child destroyed? Because he’s too powerful to be controlled now, he’s already 50 and there’s no way to guarantee his loyalty.
But wait, if all that is true, then how in the world did the Client even know about the Child in the first place? He’s an infant force-user whose last master was betrayed and murdered. You would think he’s positioned to stay hidden from anyone that isn’t a galactic-level force-user. Well the answer to that is simple: The Client is a relative of Dooku!
That’s right, I told you Dooku is the keystone. The Client is either a younger brother or cousin, nephew, something, some relation to Dooku, and at some point uncovered his secret files. Within those files was data about a top-secret plan to clone Yoda and make a dark side version of the Grandmaster of the Order. But the plan was fouled by happenstance, or maybe an unforseen byproduct of galactic civil warfare, forcing the baby into hiding.
The Client upon learning this would then act the same way his ancestor did: he hired a Mandalorian bounty hunter to take care of his problem. Heck, Werner Herzog looks like he could easily sneak into a Thanksgiving dinner at Christopher Lee’s house, right?
So follow me: The Child realizes at the very end of episode one that Mando is a better guardian than all of those guys that just died protecting him. He makes a snap decision and uses a Sith mind-trick to enthrall the Mandalorian to his will. He then reinforces Mando’s servitude by saving his life with the Mudhorn. That beast was extremely strong and the baby still managed to handle it on his own, that’s a significant accomplishment. Also, the baby aided the Mandalorian till the Mudhorn was dead, something that a light side user would never do. This baby has seen a lot of death and destruction at the hands of Mando, and has never shown distaste or fear, just smiles or giggles.
In the end of this season I hope we get a reveal that the Child has been a dark side user this whole time. Perhaps he’s been taking appraisal of Mando because he’s so conflicted between who he was, is and who he could be. The Mandalorian would be forced to confront the fact that instead of doing right by protecting the Child, he was actually ensuring the safety of a new Sith Lord. A microcosm of this character’s largest, most obvious conflict: Mando cannot strive to be a good Mandalorian, a good bounty hunter, and a good person all at the same time.
He has to choose, and by the end of season one, I hope that he chooses wisely.
Thanks for reading and feel free to respond or reach out to me and let me know what I got right and wrong. Check out some of my other pieces, and make sure to check back here after the season ends for a final wrap-up!