We’re running a weekly recap of The Mandalorian on Disney+ for season two. There are spoilers, duh! You’ve been warned.
Last week, I came to terms with how The Mandalorian will only ever be a monster-of-the-week pulp series. And now, after shoving down my expectations of what this show would be in order to accept what it actually is, I can genuinely say that I enjoyed this latest episode, “The Passenger.”
This week started with Mando and the Child racing back to Mos Eisley on a speeder bike, having successfully slayed the Krayt Dragon, earned the Marshall’s respect, brokered peace between the Village People and Tusken Raiders, and collected Boba Fett’s armor.
But the word is out. This Asset is special, and some galactic brutes will pay handsomely to any bounty hunter willing to steal the Child from his Mandalorian protector.
And so, an ambush awaits them on their desert journey, reminding us anew that Baby Yoda is not safe.Look, I’m not a youth pastor, but if I were, I would tell you teens that just as the wages of sin is death, the wages of eating a Frog Lady’s eggs means getting eaten alive by a thousand baby space spiders.
The events of The Mandalorian’s first season may have unintentionally conditioned us to assume that Baby Yoda is never in any real danger. More than once, we saw how he could use his Force ability to protect himself and Mando whenever peril was upon them.
But this latest episode stresses the extent to which the Child is still, well, a child.
From the moment of the ambush, to when that scoundrel in the desert held a knife to Baby Yoda’s neck (the nerve!), we were reminded that this kid is downright dainty. Fragile, even.
And not to over-spiritualize the message here, but a Christic understanding of the world can form our enjoyment of this silly Star War.
We are people of the Cross, after all, and we believe the fullness of God met us first as a helpless Babe. And while the vast majority of everything we know of that Child’s life came from the years after he had grown in wisdom and understanding, we can never forget that he was never so unapproachable as to not need his earthly parents. He was a refugee Child under the protective care of parents fleeing from the jealous rage of a murderous, corrupt king.
In the thick of deepest menace, it’s enough to make you forget that within the form of this young boy dwelt the fullness and richness of God.
Similarly, “The Passenger” zaps us back to the idea that while Baby Yoda is powerful in the Force, he does not yet master it. To whatever extent the Force is uniquely strong with this one, at the end of the day, he needs Mando.
Mando is more than just muscle now, and he’s infinitely more than just a ride from one point to another. He’s a father.
There’s an intimacy to their relationship. “Wherever I go, he goes,” Mando says. If the Child isn’t in a satchel at Mando’s hip, he is floating within arm’s reach in his hover-bassinet. And when the Baby goes down for a nap in his adorable, little hammock, Mando takes the bottom bunk.
And so it is that Mando isn’t merely frustrated and bewildered when Baby Yoda starts eating that poor Frog Lady’s eggs. My sense is, he feels betrayed.
After all, don’t you know, Baby Yoda, that I agreed to protect this woman and her precious cargo, to provide them safe passage while flying sub-hyper to the next system?
Don’t you know, Baby Yoda, that these eggs represent the last of her lineage?
And yet, one by one, the Child can’t help himself. It’s horrible!
And it’s also hilarious.
The best Star Wars are always good for some laughs. But I can’t recall another instance when this franchise went for cringe humor.
Here’s the way this scene would normally play out. They would still have Mando escorting a Frog Lady because the plot requires it, but she would be the least sympathetic character of the episode. She’d be a jerk or maniac in her own right. One good way to make her an instant enemy? Maybe she’s mean to Baby Yoda. Maybe she smacked him or scolded him.
Either way, they would set it up so that by the time the Child starts picking off her lineage one gulp at a time, you’d still say, “No!” but you’d also know that it serves her right.
But instead, this poor lady did absolutely nothing wrong. She’s scared and desperate, and all she wants is to make sure her family survives to see another generation, while her hopes are diminished with each impulse of Baby Yoda’s ravenous, adorable maw.
It’s soooo bad. Which makes Baby Yoda horrible. And that’s why it’s funny.
Look, I’m not a youth pastor, but if I were, I would tell you teens that just as the wages of sin is death, the wages of eating a Frog Lady’s eggs means getting eaten alive by a thousand baby space spiders.
But here’s the cool thing about that super creepy spider sequence.
For once, the characters of this show were in real peril, acting in the way that people act when they’re in peril. Mando was scared in this one. And that’s a far cry from the cold stoic we saw last week who, upon witnessing a 10-storey dragon burst out of the desert in a ferocious roar, calmly observed, “There he is.” Blech. This show has rarely given us moments when it seems that everything has gone wrong for our heroes.
Safety is not guaranteed. Everything is precariously balanced, and everything is fragile. Thugs want to kidnap Baby Yoda. Baby Yoda wants to eat the eggs. The Frog Lady’s family is on the brink of extinction. And creepy space spiders want to eat them all.
And in the end, in the moment of defeat and despair, it’s a patrol of X-Wings from the fledgling, young New Republic who saves Mando and Co. from certain death.
Moral of the story: We all need each other, you guys.
Some final thoughts as I wrap this up:
When Mando tells the X-Wing pilots, “May the Force be with you,” one of them replies, “And also with you.” Is that officially a thing now? I knew we (Star Wars fans) often say, “And also with you,” because it feels right for those of us with a liturgical church background. But I don’t actually remember it being an official Star Wars-y thing. Someone tweet me what you think. A quick Google search makes me think this hasn’t actually been canon until now.
I’m not good at predicting these things, but I am starting to wonder what reuniting the Child with his kind actually means. Who are his kind? Other Yodas? The Jedi? Or maybe “his kind” were the people we met along the way. Maybe “his kind” is actually Mando. I’m an adoptee, so I think it would be pretty stinking cool if they make the father/son thing official. I doubt it, but one can hope!
That’s all for now. May the Force be also with you.