Mandalorian’s surprise embraces, extends legacy of lifting up children
The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars TV series, has landed — and boy-howdy that was some cliffhanger ending for the premiere episode. You might even say it was pregnant with possibilities.
Spoilers follow, so you’ve been warned.
A baby of Yoda’s species is the “asset” the “Client” (played menacingly by Werner Herzog) hired the “Mandalorian” to acquire. Being 50 years old would place its birth sometime around the fall of the Republic — around when Yoda went into exile after failing to thwart Emperor Palpatine’s ascendancy, and Anakin Skywalker succumbed to the dark side as Darth Vader.
We don’t know whether this is the child of Yoda, or just another rare member of his and Master Yaddle’s species (where did she go, anyway?) — or, in fact, whether it’s special because of midi-chlorians and Force ability (Ed. — Chapter 2, “The Child,” answers this!) or something else entirely. Could it be a clone instead? Some off-shoot of Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine’s cloning scheme that led to his rise and the fall of the Jedi? (Does cloning also explain the First Order’s crimson new Sith Troopers, or the supposedly dead Emperor’s role in Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker? Kylo Ren, now supreme leader of the First Order, famously pushed for using clones back in his bickering with General Hux in Episode VII — The Force Awakens …)
Either way, kids (even 50-year-old ones like the little green bounty) are central to Star Wars once again.
But Star Wars was always about children. Creator George Lucas has always said it was for children, inspired by the matinees of his own cinephile youth. When traditional Gen X Star Wars fans, who only had the original trilogy for reference, pictured the backstory of Anakin’s fall, they may not have been picturing the young Tatooine slave boy who raced pods and shouted “yippee” — but Lucas obviously did.
Bad-ass masked bounty hunter Boba Fett didn’t start out on screen as a little boy holding his father’s severed, helmeted head in the Geonosis arena — but that child, a clone grown at a natural pace to give his bounty hunter dad a son, underscored that the prequel trilogy was as much about family as it was galactic politics and trade policy.
“Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.”Jedi Master Yoda, Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones
The original trilogy may not have shown many children, but it was nevertheless about family — found and rediscovered — and about ending oppression to make it safe and rewarding for them.
The lack of the youngest faces in that beginning may have been why many grown fans found the prequels off-putting or disappointing, even as their own children found a place in the story’s action. Darth Vader’s massacre of the Jedi Temple’s defenseless youngling population is the first crack in Padme Amidala’s unconditional love. Twin infants Luke and Leia are born into a darkened universe as their mother dies and the father gives into despair and hatred. They, however, hold the promise of light in the future — part of a long game played by both the Jedi and, perhaps, even the Sith. Spin-off animated series like Clone Wars and Rebels both showed that abducting Force-gifted children was a key element of Sidious’ sinister plans.
The newer sequel trilogy, starting with The Force Awakens, balances the two approaches by focusing on young adults but working young children into the narrative midstream as harbingers of hope — the Canto Bight stable urchins in Episode VIII — The Last Jedi, one of whom exhibits Force sensitivity, eagerly soak up Luke Skywalker’s epic legend the way Star Wars came to so many of us, play-acting with action figures. They’re the reason we know the Resistance and the Rebellion won’t die — as the final trailer for The Rise of Skywalker promises, “THE SAGA WILL END / THE STORY LIVES FOREVER.”
All that history aside, of course, only future chapters of The Mandalorian will give us answers about our new little, green friend. Will the series prove to be more about the bounty than the hunter? The mercenary seems to be haunted by visions of some other humainoid youth in peril — possibly himself as a “foundling” — so perhaps he will identify with his quarry in some way.
Even if this Yoda-like youngling turns out to be just a stunt played for shock value, maybe the twist that this “child” is actually 50 years old still says something important about Star Wars and its fans — not that they should put away childish things, but rather that they should hold onto the childlike wonder through which a 900-year-old mentor like Yoda was able to experience and appreciate a cruel yet marvelous and inspiring universe.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …
SPECIAL THANKS ARE IN ORDER:
Discuss Literary Adventures at the Facebook group 'For the Love of All Things Edgar Rice Burroughs.'Trademarks TARZAN®, TARZAN OF THE APES®, JOHN CARTER OF MARS®, DEJAH THORIS®, PELLUCIDAR®, A PRINCESS OF MARS® and EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS® are owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.