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Why Baby Yoda both makes and ruins ‘The Mandalorian’

Published Dec 30th, 2019 7:05PM EST
Star Wars Baby Yoda
Image: Disney

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The first season of The Mandalorian is over, and the finale was quite enjoyable, delivering on all accounts. There’s plenty of action, character development, and humor, a few exciting twists, and Baby Yoda, of course, all under Taika Waititi’s brilliant directing. And, as expected, there’s going to be at least one more season on Disney+ that will further explore this post-Return of the Jedi time period in Star Wars history.

But as successful as this season of the first live-action Star Wars TV series might have been, I’m sad to say that Baby Yoda ruins it just as much as the character makes the show worth watching. Mind you, there will be some spoilers about the series in what’s about to follow, as well as a few The Rise of Skywalker spoilers.

I wasn’t really looking forward to The Mandalorian. But as soon as our Andy Meek started teasing the cliffhanger at the end of the first episode, I needed to know what it was. And as soon as I saw Baby Yoda, I was hooked.

I had to know what happened next! How is this possible? How does Baby Yoda even exist? I had so many questions that needed answering, and I hoped that The Rise of Skywalker might somehow include some sort of Baby Yoda Easter egg in it. After all, this TV series takes place between the original trilogy and the new trilogy; therefore, Baby Yoda could (and should) still be alive by the time these movies begin.

And then there’s Baby Yoda’s cuteness, which is guaranteed to sell lots of merchandise for Disney. Word of Baby Yoda spread like wildfire, and people were aware of the creature without having seen the first episode.

But then I realized mid-series that if it weren’t for Baby Yoda, I’d have stopped watching. This dawned on me in chapter 5 (The Gunslinger) and especially chapter 6 (The Prisoner), where the story hardly advanced at all. Yes, it was exciting and well-made, but the episodes didn’t give me any reasons to tune back in.

Image source: Disney

It didn’t help that The Rise of Skywalker’s plot leaked online at the time, revealing an annoying thing that totally ruins the film for me. Those leaks turned out to be accurate, and Palpatine’s resurrection is done so poorly that you can’t just accept it, no matter how much you love Star Wars. On top of that, Episode IX undoes a brilliant idea from The Last Jedi, something that Disney needs to address. Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII made it clear to everyone that the Force doesn’t care about your genealogy. You don’t have to be of Skywalker or Palpatine descent to feel the Force and interact with it. The child with the broom at the end of the film is the perfect example of that.

The Rise of Skywalker forgets all about that. You have to be the chosen one to use the Force. Finn, by the way, is an exception to that rule, but all we get is a single line of dialogue about him feeling Rey’s presence.

Image source: LucasFilm

To return to Baby Yoda, that’s precisely what The Mandalorian does. Baby Yoda is a toddler, but he’s super powerful, and it comes to him intuitively. And none of it is adequately explained in the TV series, which, of course, is how you keep people hooked to their Disney+ subscription — and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Nor is it wrong for a company like Disney to create and market an adorable creature like Baby Yoda.

But as soon as the Baby Yoda cuteness overload starts to fade away, you might realize that the show could be better if Baby Yoda didn’t exist in the first place.

Think about it for a second, Baby Yoda isn’t able to speak, yet he’s capable of a few Force tricks that Rey and every other Jedi had to train exhaustively to use. He can lift heavy objects, strangle people Vader-style, and Force-heal people — all without training and using his own flawed moral compass. Comparatively, Anakin, Luke, and Rey had to train to use the Force effectively. So Baby Yoda is more powerful than them? Palpatine-grade powerful?

Having Baby Yoda pull off all these tricks is fan service that might hurt the series and future stories down the road.

If Baby Yoda is so strong now, without any training, what will happen when he grows up? If that happens, by the way, that would mean Yoda would actually be contemporary to the events in The Rise of Skywalker and survive beyond them. Would he also survive for years in the shadows, like Palpatine did, only to resurface in some strange way in a future trilogy? How is it that nobody else is feeling Yoda? And why didn’t he help Rey?

With all the Star Wars content we’ve seen in the past few years, we need stories that can introduce other characters that we can care about. The galaxy is so vast that people have no idea what Baby Yoda’s race is. That means it’s also populated with plenty of potentially exciting characters who are not related to the Kenobi, Solo, Skywalker, Palpatine, or Yoda families in any way.

To create a robust Star Wars universe, whose stories might be worthwhile, Baby Yoda can be both an advantage and an impediment. We need more reasons to care for a Star Wars series than a resurrected character from the original trilogy. And, sadly, the only reason to watch The Mandalorian right now is Baby Yoda. I don’t have enough reasons to care about Mando or any of the other characters, let alone the bad guys, to keep watching.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.