Evil comes in many forms in the world of Star Wars. The cackling, wizened corruption of the Emperor; the tortured emotional outbursts of Darth Vader; the blank-faced obedience of the Stormtroopers; whoever decided Padawans should wear ratty little braids all the time.
But in today’s Star Wars projects, the true face of villainy is more insidious, hidden away from us all under a layer of latex cuteness and huge, innocent eyes. Because in Disney+’s The Mandalorian, it’s the iniquity of Baby Yoda that is the greatest danger the galaxy faces.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Baby Yoda can’t be evil… he’s so cute!” “How could something terrible have such wide-ranging brand appeal?” “Why would anyone want to critically examine the motives of a character who makes such an adorable plushie?”
But truly, the breakout star of the Mandalorian has a dark side, best exemplified by the latest episode of the smash-hit streaming series. In The Passenger, we meet a character imaginatively dubbed Frog-Lady, whose impossible quest – to transport her unfertilised eggs to her husband across dangerous space – so moves the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) that he risks it all to help her babies come to life.
To do so he flees New Republic X-Wings, crashes through ice sheets and battles off giant ice spiders – but in the background to his heroism, Baby Yoda’s wicked actions bubble away. Immediately, in scenes played for laughs, The Child begins to snack on this precious cargo – this woman’s future offspring, her last chance to continue her genetic line. Her family’s past, present and future are nothing but an hors d'oeuvre to the ravenous, unfeeling Baby Yoda.
This storyline continues throughout the episode, and has unsettled even the most slavish devotees of Baby Yoda. In fact, the show’s makers ended up addressing the controversy online, desperately attempting to put a good spin on their cash cow’s dark acts.
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But in our heart of hearts, we all know the truth – that this is just the latest in The Child’s atrocities. Throughout the series we’ve seen his raging id and self-absorption put his protector in danger (for example, unleashing spiders on him in this episode by eating another creature’s young), and it’s harder and harder to attribute it all to misadventure.
This is a character who, lest we forget, in season one choked a woman (Gina Carano’s Cara Dune) for daring to intrude on his space. When Darth Vader does that, we rightly recognise his villainy – when it’s Baby Yoda, we’re quick to write it off as youthful hijinks.
I know what you’ll say next – The Child is, after all, a child, and can’t be held responsible for his actions. He’s carnivorous and non-lingual, and will probably grow out of these habits.
Personally, I have suspicions. As revealed in the very first episode of The Mandalorian, the Child isn’t some babe in the woods – he’s 50. He’s older than the Mandalorian, in fact. And while within the series it’s speculated that his relative immaturity is due to his species’ long lifespan (as seen in actual grown Yoda, who was several centuries old in the Star Wars movies), we have to ask ourselves – how do we know this is actually true?
After all, how on Earth would a species evolve and survive when they’re completely vulnerable and liable to capture for decades at a time? How do we know… that Baby Yoda isn’t faking the whole thing for his own dark purposes?
Just think about it. The original Yoda’s lovable, cuddly appearance was intentionally designed by George Lucas and his team to belie the wise, powerful Jedi beneath. In the years since, fans have speculated that Yoda’s equivalent in the Dark Side must exist - a comic, seemingly harmless character whose antics would later be revealed to more sinister than we ever could have believed.
For years most have assumed that was intended to be Jar Jar Binks (and who doesn’t love a Darth Jar Jar theory) – but what if we’d arrived at the wrong wacky alien? What if the evil Yoda was more obviously just an evil Yoda, finally envisaged in The Mandalorian in the misleading form of the Child?
Famously, series creator Jon Favreau once noted The Mandalorian was inspired by Game of Thrones – and what could be more Game of Thrones than a shock betrayal like this, or the heel-turn of a previously beloved character (cough Daenerys cough)?
Forget Moff Gideon – it’s clear that in The Mandalorian, the true grand villain of the whole affair is The Child, a Damian from The Omen-style threat who will turn against his allies sometime soon. Soon, the galaxy must band together to face off against the threat...
…but look at his wittle face. Awww.
OK, let’s let him do it anyway. Do you wanna overthrow the Republic, little one, do ya? Ooooh, OK then. Death to the Jedi! Long live the first Baby Yoda Empire!
- Read our latest The Mandalorian review
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