The Mandalorian 1.02 - Chapter Two: The Child
It's potentially either a very brave or very foolhardy move to make the second instalment of your flagship Star Wars series into an almost dialogue free, arguably filler, episode. This however is precisely what Disney+ have one with The Mandalorian. Does their gamble pay off? For me, yes absolutely. I loved this episode, it just appeals to my sensibilities. I could perfectly understand if someone else was to critique The Child as a pointless diversion with little payoff. You could absolutely view it that way if you were inclined. For sure, not much happens, there is little character development and only one thing of any real importance happens near the end but... it's just so much fun!
The first episode of The Mandalorian laid the groundwork and introduced us to all the main players. This episode focuses purely on the titular bounty hunter and his current quarry, the ridiculously cute Baby Yoda. After having eliminated his bounty hunting rival, the droid IG-11, at the end of last episode Mando now returns to his ship. Unfortunately someone else has beaten him to it, or rather somethings else. A pack of jawas, everyone's favourite diminutive desert scavengers have arrived and are in the process of dismantling the Razorcrest. Obviously Mando does not take very kindly to this and soon the little cloaked varmints are exploding left, right and centre. It turns out that Darth Vader's warning to Boba Fett, "no disintegrations", was quite literal. Mando's rifle is quite capable of instantly reducing someone to nothingness. Gone are the usual 'pew pew pews' of the usual Star Wars blasters. The jawas completely make this episode for me and seeing them running around in panic as random ones just explode made me laugh far more than it probably should have.
Beating a hasty retreat, the jawas pile into their sandcrawler and trundle off as fast as it will allow, hotly pursued on foot by a very angry Mandalorian. The jawa sandcrawler is one of Ralph McQuarrie's most iconic designs from the original movie and it is fantastic to get a more up close look at it in action. This chase sequence plays out in a similar fashion to Indy trying to get on board the tank in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, one gag with a protruding rocky outcrop is virtually identical. Watching Mando trying to scale the side of the sandcrawler as jawas jabber at each other and pop out of hatches to chuck stuff at him is great stuff. Intercut with this are shots of Baby Yoda zooming along behind in his floating pram. It's all very whimsical and very surprising for only the second episode in of this supposedly gritty bounty hunter series but it works completely. Equally impressive is the comic timing when Mando reaches the top of the travelling fortress. A dozen tiny jawas await him with ion blasters. They all shoot simultaneously, we pause a beat and then the Mandalorian falls backwards off the sandcrawler. It's reminiscent of when Artoo is similarly incapacitated in A New Hope.
With the jawas disappearing off into the distance Mando must trudge through the desert to seek help from Kuiil, the ugnaught voiced by Nick Nolte, who also assisted him in the last episode. As Mando traverses this alien landscape, accompanied by his floating companion, it becomes apparent that as well as embracing the themes and tropes from westerns Jon Favreau has also looked to Japan for inspiration. In the same manner in which George Lucas was inspired by the works of Akira Kurosawa, so Favreau has turned to the manga and film series of Lone Wolf and Cub aka Baby Cart. In these tales a lone wandering assassin for hire is accompanied by his baby son whom he has to push around in a little cart. It's great to see this continuance of different cultures inspiring the creators of Star Wars and the idea of a helpless child being dragged into all manner of dangerous situations allows for a lot of high stakes drama. It is interesting to note that it's not until Mando meets up with Kuiil that we actually get the first dialogue of the episode, just over a third into its running time. It's another example of the film makers being confident enough to let just the visuals tell the story.
There is more hijinks with the jawas as Kuill tries to barter with them to retrieve the parts for the Razorcrest. Mando would rather barter using his flamethrower. Again, in quite a creatively brave move, most of this conversation takes place in the jawa's dialect with subtitles. This leads the head jawa to comment that Mando speaks Jawa like a wookie. This earns him another burst from the flamethrower. After unsuccessfully trying to negotiate for either Mando's armour or Baby Yoda himself the jawas decide to trade the ship parts back for The Egg. Leaving Kuiil behind the bounty hunter and his companion set off to retrieve The Egg, whatever that may be.
It turns out The Egg is literally just an egg. It is however guarded by its mother, a mud horn. This big hairy beast looks similar to the reek, one of the creatures that was released in the arena to kill Anakin, Padme and Obi-Wan in Attack of the Clones. As one would expect the mud horn isn't best pleased at someone trying to steal her egg and a bloody battle ensues. After being thrown ignominiously into the mud Mando finds his rifle malfunctioning and his flame thrower soon out of fuel.
The music for this fight scene is particularly engaging with a pounding percussive rhythm and assistance from a synthesiser. It's a change of style for Star Wars and Ludwig Goransson has created something quite different to what we are used to. Some of the score is reminiscent of Lin Manuel Miranda's incidental work on The Force Awakens and Rise of Skywalker. With the addition of Mongolian rockers The Hu Band providing a song for the Jedi: Fallen Order video game there's now a nice diversity to the Star Wars soundscape.
Just as Mando has to resort to facing the mud horn with just his vibroblade, a fight he can't possibly win, we get the one actual important piece of plot in the whole episode. As the ferocious beast charges it suddenly finds itself stopped in its tracks. Moments later it is hovering off the ground and completeyl unable to defend itself as Mando slits its throat. Yes it turns out that Yoda wasn't the only one of his race to have the power of the force. With a wave of his little green hand The Child comes to the rescue. Unlike Yoda this absolutely wipes him out and is soon in a deep restorative sleep. Whether or not all of this species is force sensitive is something we are yet to discover but Mando can now see why this asset is so highly valued.
Returning to the jawas with his prize Mando trades The Egg for his ship parts. In a final piece of whimsy, do the jawas worship this object or treat it with respect? No, they just crack it open and start chowing down on the goopy innards. Brilliant. After Kuiil helps him repair the Razorcrest the bounty hunter blasts off to take his sleepy companion back to The Client.
Clocking in at less than thirty minutes and not really advancing the plot one iota, except for revealing Baby Yoda's force powers, The Child is arguably completely throwaway. It is also completely brilliant and massively entertaining. The jawas are great fun and watching a legendary Mandalorian warrior squatting awkwardly in a cramped sandcrawler, bumping his head on the ceiling with every jolt is hilarious. Completely different in tone from the opening episode The Child shows a different side to Star Wars. Full of fun but still bringing all the excitement and adventure we've come to expect.