The second episode of The Mandalorian did not disappoint, but again it required a second viewing to really give the show its due. I was a bit overwhelmed in this episode at how much like A New Hope it felt; what with the sandstone grotto and the over-telegraphed attack, the classic inconvenience of the not-quite-villainous Jawas, a macguffin-related quest, semi-weird creatures which basically boil down to putting brown fur on a large, typically gray-skinned leathery animal from the real world…
Okay, that last one might be a bit of a deep cut. But even if you don’t know your banthas from your mudhorns, you still know that “Chapter 2” was a great hero’s journey narrative packed into a half hour. And while I maintain that the predominant feeling I get when watching The Mandalorian is that the titular character (whom I have been calling “Mando” since before Kuiil did, thank you very much) strikes me like Dash Rendar with a Mandalorian helmet set to some killer music, there’s no denying that this episode had a good deal more epic flavor to it than even the last one did.
The writing seemed a little tighter, the direction a bit more deliberate, the acting more endearing, and the music slightly more evocative than the first outing; it feels like The Mandalorian is beginning to find its legs—which, unlike that Quarren hassling the Mythrol in the cantina, it had throughout Chapter 1 as well.
Speaking of Chapter 1, if you haven’t read my look at last week’s pilot, go back and check it out. And if you aren’t caught up on the show, you should be aware: spoilers for The Mandalorian follow. So spit this article out and go watch it already.
Size Matters Not
In my last article, I talked more about the Mandalorian people than about the reveal that “the asset” Mando and IG-11 were tracking was actually an adorable little baby from Yoda’s still-unnamed species; but between Baby Yoda and Nick Nolte’s iconic “I have spoken,” it seems like the Star Wars fandom can talk about nothing else. Even “maclunkey” has fallen by the wayside.
And for good reason: this episode’s titular “Child” is adorable. From his attempts to force-heal Mando’s arm to his little snack on Kuiil’s moisture farm to using the force to keep Mando from harm, he has floated his little egg-shaped pod into everyone’s hearts.* He makes a great unspeaking Greek chorus, and the cutaways to the child’s face reinforce how cute he is; making it all the more surprising when he turns out to be more than just dead weight (so to speak, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t weigh anything in that pod of his).
But after seeing the great Jedi Master Yoda in full control of his powers for six movies, it’s easy to forget that Yoda was introduced in a pretty similar way to this kiddo: as a cute animal with a little bit of comic relief. We were all just as surprised as Luke to discover that this quirky little guy was actually the great Jedi master he’d been looking for; it reinforced the message that “wars not make one great” and that “size matters not” by subverting an expectation that we were going to meet someone more like Obi-Wan in that swamp on Dagobah.
Interestingly, Mando is surprised by Baby Yoda’s powers in a pretty similar situation to Luke’s in The Empire Strikes Back.
Luminous Beings in the Mud
After collecting a difficult bounty, fighting off a group of Trandoshan bounty hunters, discovering that there is a bounty on his own head, and making a difficult hike back to his landing site (one which he was told last episode was “impossible” without a blurrg), Mando comes back to his ship to find it being actively disassembled by Jawas.
A classic Western-style train heist against the Jawas’ sandcrawler fails. Kuiil helps in the negotiation; the Jawas want Mando to retrieve a mysterious egg from a fearsome creature. He nearly dies in the attempt. It’s not a good situation.
We’re approaching Advent right now. As I write this, it’s about two weeks away. And while many people view Advent as a time for lights and hope and excitement and shopping, the real meaning of Advent is much more about despair: a people who have been subjugated, their connection to God severed, prophecies without fulfillment. The darkness is falling. Everything is lost.
Beaten and bruised, lying in the literal mud with his armor damaged and his weapons lost, clutching only a tiny dagger, it doesn’t seem like there’s much hope when the five thousand pound Mudhorn begins to charge. He is about to die; and even if he somehow doesn’t, there’s no way off this planet. Surely despair crosses Mando’s mind as he holds up his dagger in a laughable last-ditch effort to turn aside the massive creature.
But then Baby Yoda lifts his hand.
Like adult Yoda’s true identity, Baby Yoda’s sudden revelation that he can use the Force comes as a bit of a surprise: to the mudhorn, to Mando, and to us. You don’t expect power to live in an infant. You don’t expect salvation to come from a child.
For God’s people in the first century, the end of Advent brought a similar mystical hope. A baby! One whose existence is shrouded in mystery, One who is opposed by the powerful, One who is imbued with a cosmic power that many don’t believe exists, One which bends the universe to His will. One who brings salvation, at great cost to Himself. Hope approaches!
But hope doesn’t always come before the darkness, before the mud and despair. Often it waits until you’re in the deepest part of it. In the pit of impending doom and loss, in the failure and loss of being stuck and knowing that there are people out to get you, it’s hard to hear the word that hope approaches. Words aren’t enough. Sometimes, when you’re in the mud, the only thing that brings hope is seeing that hope incarnated.
And it probably won’t come in the package you expect.
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Looking for more reviews of The Mandalorian? You can subscribe to our friends over at Home One Radio, or check back here next week for our look at “Chapter Three.”
*No regrets, rhymes are awesome.