After the Force choke, viewers are already primed for it. Last month, some assumed that Baby Yoda committed mass murder in the season 2 trailer just because he looked at Mando’s wrist-mounted rockets and then they went off. And really, the adventures of a troubled Padawan Child and/or the rise of Darth Cutesius would be more fun to watch than the weekly big-game hunt the show amounts to now.
The trouble with the Darth Cutesius theory, though, is that it doesn’t match the show’s tone at all. Not that the murderous world of a chaotic neutral bounty hunter couldn’t support a Force-mad murder baby–it could, and I kind of hope it does now. But that isn’t how the show frames Baby Yoda. Take Frog Lady’s episode. Every time Mando caught him snacking on the eggs they were all risking their lives to protect, there was no ominous music, no unsettling Dutch angles, no eerie lighting, and no more rebuke than you’d expect if the Mandalorian had caught the Child double-dipping into a ration pack instead. The episode ends with a winky shot of Baby Yoda eating yet another egg, even as the crew triumphantly limps toward reuniting Frog Lady and her husband so they can have their children. It’s not just confusing on a character level, it’s a story that undoes its own narrative stakes. And it’s framed nothing like Anakin or Luke or Rey or Kylo Ren’s brushes with the Dark Side.
Baby Yoda gets the kind of framing the Star Wars universe usually reserves for Ewoks, Jar Jar Binks, Porgs, and other cute, mostly plot-irrelevant creatures. All the Child really does anymore is coo and get cooed at. The tone of his shenanigans (when he has them) is maybe most reminiscent of the way Star Wars approaches R2-D2 and C-3PO’s—the peril is light and cartoonish and, even when things get sort of grisly, it’s not scary because nothing permanently terrible is ever going to happen to them. Thing is, C-3PO getting taken apart in Cloud City or having his head ripped off in a Geonosian droid factory is pretty different from Baby Yoda eating a whole species’ hope for survival.
The simplest explanation is just that The Mandalorian has gone off the rails. All the other signs are there: rumors that star Pedro Pascal had quit (he hasn’t), controversies surrounding other cast members like Gina Carano and Rosario Dawson, self-contradictory writing, and characters being whittled down to wooden stereotypes like Gruff Dad and Chaotic Baby.
It also seems possible that somebody is demanding the continued cutesification of Baby Yoda despite his ongoing moral decline. You’ll sell more merch with cute than creepy. But then, Szostak’s comments and the fact that the Baby Yoda mod in Star Wars Battlefront II turns the Child into an unambiguous killing machine suggest that higher-ups must be fine with selling plushies of a murderous kid. Maybe that’s the message The Mandalorian’s really sending: Baby Yoda is just cute enough to kill.
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