The six-hour movie continues, and we like where it’s going.
Having set out its stall with a cinematic first chapter that disregarded the normal structure of TV episodes and ended with a stunning character introduction out of left field, The Mandalorian continued defying convention with a mostly silent, simple and (dare we say) artsy chapter 2, released on Disney+ Friday.
If like me you’ve been haunted all week by the perfect closing shot of chapter 1 — the Mandalorian, having just shot his temporary partner IG-11, lifting a finger out to touch the finger of Baby Yoda like a confused version of God with Adam — then you were no doubt delighted to find chapter 2 offered plenty of that mood.
We may not have much more info on who or what Baby Yoda is, other than confirming its extreme Force abilities. (Oh yes, and it has spent the first 50 years of its life learning to walk, which probably means it has learned to go to the bathroom on its own, thus we will not see any scenes of the Mandalorian changing diapers.)
But we do have a hell of a lot more perfect shots of the little green one over which to lose our collective sh*t.
It bears repeating just what an incredible achievement the child is. Those ears! The furrowed brow! The wispy little hairs! It’s like 96 years of Disney knowledge on how to make characters memorably cute has been magically distilled into one being. Showrunner Jon Favreau may be kicking himself at the fact that none of the ultra-realistic creatures in his Jungle Book and Lion King movies were this compelling.
It’s not as if a whole lot actually happens in the episode — which clocks in at 10 minutes shorter than its predecessor. Nor does it really need to. The Mandalorian (Daddylorian? Papalorian?) takes his new charge out in its space stroller. Bad guys jump them; the Mandalorian fights them off but is injured. Baby Yoda tries to heal his new guardian’s wound, but the Mandalorian (like many a new parent) misunderstands the intent and puts the kid to bed instead, so he can get on with the serious business of self-repair.
The lone metalworker.
The next day, it turns out Jawas have dismantled the Mandalorian’s ship. Hold up: Jawas? Here, on a random planet known as Arvala-7? Yep, this is the first time we’ve seen them outside of Tatooine, to which Arvala-7 bears a suspicious resemblance. And they have the same kind of Sandcrawler, too, albeit a souped-up Sandcrawler with all kinds of janky weaponry up top.
So do Jawas travel through hyperspace too, setting up home on any desert world where there’s good stuff to scavenge? In which case, surely they would have been all over Rey’s scrap metal-filled planet, Jakku, in The Force Awakens? This is just one of many Jawa mysteries into which the episode inducts us, another being “what the hell is it about that furry egg that tastes so good?”
Ah, poetic mysteries, the life blood of Star Wars.
Curiously, the Mandalorian is treated as a figure of fun by the Jawas even after he has vaporized three members of their party. (This is why it’s essential to practice the accent when you do your Duolingo; you may end up sounding like a Wookiee.)
Maybe they knew that sending him after a Mudhorn egg wasn’t necessarily a good trade for all the stuff they acquired from his ship, but the comedy of getting the tough guy covered in mud made it more than worth it.
Indeed, a lot of what is interesting about this episode is how much the Mandalorian fails on his own. His armor keeps getting beaten up. He can’t kill the Mudhorn without a major assist from his tiny green companion. Winded, wounded, he can barely hold his knife as the creature charges one last time. And he can’t get his ship back together without Kuill (Nick Nolte), to whom he is unfailingly gracious and polite.
Whisper it low: Could this show’s aim be to deconstruct the overly masculine “lone wolf” trope so common to 20th century cinema?
I’ve written before about the notion of blue-collar Star Wars, focused more on the working grunts of the galaxy instead of big-name Jedi and aristocrats. We saw some of it in the original movie, and a lot of it in Rogue One and Solo. But The Mandalorian may turn out to be the most blue-collar Star Wars yet — in part because it gets to take its time, to linger over one working stiff in particular.
Even when that working stiff happens to wear a helmet the whole time, just a little tilt here or a resigned shake there can open up a whole galaxy of empathy. We’ve been there, big guy.
The Mandalorian may collapse in on itself yet. But regardless of what happens next we’ll always have this delightful day in the life, this perfect little Star Wars tone poem.