“The Child” proves that The Mandalorian isn’t interested in telling the story anyone expected it to — and it’s all the better for it.
This recap of The Mandalorian Season 1, Episode 2, “The Child”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
While you could and perhaps should lament Disney’s burgeoning pop-cultural monopoly, every cloud has a silver living. And that silver lining is currently The Mandalorian, which is a show so specific that it literally couldn’t exist without the resources and reach that a behemoth like Disney can provide. The first episode was excellent, but was, at least until its final few seconds, exactly what people expected it to be. But The Mandalorian Episode 2 is different. It’s the baby steps — quite literally — in a whole new kind of Star Wars story; one that seems eager to shake the mythology until all kinds of enjoyable alien weirdness falls out.
What fell out of the pilot’s last-minute cliffhanger was Baby Yoda — the adorable lime nipper that many unsavory people were willing to pay a fortune for the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) to kill. He couldn’t bring himself to do that, and it’s still unclear what his plans for the infant are now, but his first order of business in “The Child” is getting off-world with the bounty. And that, in a wordless opening stretch, proves difficult. He’s attacked — and injured — by rival bounty hunters. And when he returns to his ship, the Razor Crest, Jawas have ransacked it for parts and are making off with them in their Sandcrawler.
Mandalorians are the bonafide badasses in the Star Wars universe, especially in corners of the canon that the films didn’t venture to — the Skywalker Saga has always done a disservice to the Fett family, but there’s much more to the denizens of Mandalore than those two. Yet The Mandalorian Episode 2 isn’t altogether interested in maintaining that galactic reputation. Pascal’s Mando is a bit of an idiot. After chasing the Sandcrawler in a great set-piece, he finally clambers to the top of it only to be repeatedly stunned and topple off in a comic pratfall. It shouldn’t work, really, but it does.
Stranded, the Mandalorian hooks back up with Kuiil (Nick Nolte), who is familiar with the Jawas and is able to broker a deal with them in a scene which also plays for explicit comedy. The Jawas agree to give back the parts of the Razor Crest if the Mandalorian retrieves an egg for them, and once again we’re back to obvious borrowing from video game trappings. The rest of “The Child” is a fetch quest; a micro goal in service of a macro one. There’s even a boss fight.
The “boss”, so to speak, is a Mud Horn, a hulking rhino-like creature whose egg the Mandalorian is trying to steal. It looms up out of its cave and smacks Mando around until his weapons are all wrecked and his armor is split and warped. He’s just about done when Baby Yoda intervenes and levitates the Mud Horn in the air with the Force, allowing Mando just enough time to shank it. Baby Yoda, worn out, falls into a deep sleep, while the Mandalorian retrieves the egg and returns it to the Jawas so they can all stuff their greedy hands in its yolk. All that for a quick meal.
But it raises all kinds of questions. Just how powerful is this kid? Why doesn’t the Mandalorian recognize the Force? What does the Client (Werner Herzog) want with the child, and will the Mandalorian return it to him to find out? The Mandalorian Episode 2 was exactly the right kind of filler episode; a basically standalone adventure that made the broader quest more interesting while still working on its own terms.
The Mandalorian and Kuiil repair the Razor Quest, though the ugnaught rejects the offer of both payment and a full-time position as the Mandalorian’s partner. He’s just thankful that his valley is now peaceful. He was a fun and interesting character who served his purpose well. If the Mandalorian’s misadventures introduce more like him, I’ll be perfectly content.
But what’s most exciting and interesting about this show is that, when the Mandalorian and sleeping Baby Yoda head out into space, there is simply no way to tell where they’re going to go next. If the show’s mandate was to deliver a great live-action Star Wars series, then it has already succeeded in that — though everyone kind of thought it would. But its greatest surprise so far is delivering a great live-action Star Wars series that isn’t the one people were expecting.