A little over a month ago, I sat waiting with bated breath to see the first episode of Disney+’s original Star Wars series The Mandalorian. Free of the shackles of characters named (or implied to be) Skywalker, I hoped the show would present an all-in look at different unscrupulous characters occupying the far corners of the universe I’ve spent the better part of forty years knowing more about than my own. What none of us expected was this:
Who could have guessed that the Mandalorian himself would ultimately take a proverbial backseat on the Razor Crest to a diminutive character that the all of humanity collectively and simultaneously dubbed “Baby Yoda?” Certainly not me. I also never would have thought that a show about a masked bounty hunter crossing paths with murderous droids and Carl Weathers would compel me to reflect on being a father, but here we are.
With very little effort, The Mandalorian has made us all feel emotionally compelled to take care of the little guy. And since I have a little guy of my own here to take care of here in the real world, I’ve been taking some mental notes as I’ve watched the first few episodes of the show.
One of Mando’s greatest strengths as a parental figure is his even-handed approach. Despite engaging in a frequently violent profession, the Mandalorian is surprisingly calm when trying, sometimes over and over, to establish rules and expectations on his ship and keep his mischievous charge out of trouble. He is ceaselessly chill for a guy who just had parenthood thrust upon him.
That said, he manages to remain emotionally distant when his station or interactions with others demand it. While he’s clearly gotten more attached as the season has progressed, he can still lean into his icy demeanor when needed. He’s not losing sight of his own career and self-care despite having a kid around now.
But despite his occasional aloofness, the Mandalorian is also hawkishly protective of his young (fifty-year-old) companion. Not only does he keep all danger at bay, he’s also reluctant to let anyone else parent in tandem with him. His liberation of the child from his clients in the third episode demonstrates his desire to raise the kid himself. While he gradually begins to trust some villagers in the fourth episode of the series, a run-in with another bounty hunter at the end of that episode seems to solidify Mando’s feelings of responsibility.
And still, being around a child for extended periods of time clearly makes this guy absolutely bananas. Who can blame him, though? The kid is clearly tapping into the Force. Has he been trained? Well, he’s a baby, so probably not? Imagine having a kid running around and getting into everything, but with THE FORCE. In the second episode, the Mandalorian is driven so nuts that he takes on a mudhorn single-handedly*.
Have I mentioned the child’s grotesque eating habits? And I thought seeing Miles eat food off the floor was bad…
Suffice to say, I’m loving The Mandalorian in some pretty unexpected ways. The Star Wars franchise has always offered some strong and colorful role models, but it’s nice to finally see a parent among them.