It’s become rather hackneyed to say that we live in divided times, to the point where one Vanity Fair journalist even referred to this while comprehending how the breakout character of the show The Mandalorian, the Child, has inspired so much devotion: “In an era of bitter division on nearly all matters, there is seemingly unanimous adoration for this tiny alien creature.”
The allusions to Brexit and Trump might raise eyebrows, but it does pose the question of why Yoda Mark II seems to enjoy a form of popularity that Yoda Mark I never quite managed in his 900 years of existence. By comparison, this ‘child’ has lived for a mere five decades.
Perhaps it’s how despite Yoda’s cultural impact, his origins have remained mysterious, even to the most hardcore Star Wars fans. The internet’s stubborn refusal to call the Child anything other than ‘baby Yoda’ seems testament to this, even though The Mandalorian is set in the world after the events of Return of the Jedi, one where Yoda has been dead for some time. It’s fair to assume he’s from the same species as the Jedi Master, but beyond his near-obliteration in the first episode, we don’t know who birthed him or why someone would want to kill anything so damn adorable.
Yet. It makes the wait for the next season even more agonising.
That brings me to the obvious: like the gorgons from Greek mythology in reverse, the Child seems able to melt even the stoniest of hearts. Maybe it’s the immense ears and beady, Bible-black eyes, often at risk of being drowned in a tiny Jedi-like robe, or how unlike most of those around him, the Child is watchful, empathetic, mostly silent, innocently unfazed with how many attempts have been made on his life while being savvy enough to use the Force in self-defence whenever he needs to. For many parents currently hemmed in with their children, the chance to see the world through the eyes of an adoptive parent whose only offspring doesn’t seem to eat much, cry or shit is probably sweet relief.
Despite his moments of intuition, some of the Child’s behaviours around the Mandalorian of the title are also a throw-back to lovable moments in the Star Wars original trilogy: the moment he randomly presses buttons in the pseudo-mercenary’s cock-pit, almost throwing the ship off course, has echoes of Luke Skywalker’s first, frustrating encounter with Yoda, who rummages through his possessions and insists on keeping some for his own. But like his descendent, Yoda’s eccentric exterior masks a quiet, righteous menace.
A cynic might call this a sly attempt to appease Star Wars purists after the slew of (mostly unfair) criticisms aimed at episodes VII, VIII and IX. It was also suggested by my so-called better half that the Child had committed war crimes due to his lamentable tendency to set people on fire or half-strangle them, in a way uncomfortably reminiscent of Darth Vader’s favoured tactics.
Details, details. I have few regrets about how my lockdown will be forever defined by how I continue to weep every time I re-watch (again, and again) the moment when the girl on the planet Sorgan sobs, hugs the Child and tells him, “I’m going to miss you so much.”
I do. So much. He has a dangerous character arc ahead, but long live the Child.