Immediately, Chapter Two of The Mandalorian gives the viewer something that the first episode did not: a title. With the title comes a spoiler, and if you have not given yourself to the altar of Disney+ and consumed the first two episodes of the series, then here is your chance to stop reading and turn back. There will be no other warnings.
Chapter Two is “The Child,” and with that branding, we’re supplied a show we did not anticipate in the slightest. From the first trailer, we knew the series would lean heavily into the Western and make use of galactic bounty hunters in ways that Darth Vader could never manage. The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) is a Boba Fett of action and purpose. IG-11 (Taika Waititi) is an IG-88 who can swivel more than his head and four sockets. Even Bossk gets his due through a trilogy of Trandoshan thugs who jump our protagonist at the start of Chapter Two only to be disintegrated for their efforts. Showrunner Jon Favreau has already yanked his favorite bounty hunters from The Empire Strikes Back and actually done something with them. The Mandalorian is his toy chest, free from the constraints of the Skywalker Saga.
There is that Child. Chapter Two does not go anywhere to help alleviate the mystery surrounding the Yoda-related baby rescued from the clutches of gangsters and sought after by a down-and-out Imperial client (Werner Herzog), but it does redirect the narrative drive briefly considered by last episode’s climax. The Mandalorian is not a show about a Man with No Name bouncing from one job to the next. The Mandalorian is a show about a foundling driven to protect another foundling. And neither foundling is an innocent.
Last week, as a bit of fun, I casually referenced Lone Wolf and Cub, because the series introduced the idea of a badass warrior traveling with a cute-looking baby. I was not the only writer to do so. Visually, it’s a clear marker. Now, this week, The Mandalorian firmly plants itself inside the moral realm of the classic manga. For two to travel on the River Styx, both parties must have chosen the life of sin. Chapter Two reveals the child to be no weak pup. He belongs by the Mandalorian’s side, for he is a killer (and I say “he” because that’s what the Mandalorian chose to designate him in Chapter One).
Lone Wolf and Cub is the saga of disgraced samurai Ogami Ittō and his infant son Daigorō, who wander the countryside seeking vengeance against the men who murdered Ittō’s wife and Daigorō’s mother. At the start of their journey, the father asks his son to choose between the ball and the sword. If he chooses the ball, Ittō will kill the child and allow him to join his mother in the afterlife. If he chooses the sword, Daigorō will join him on the revenge quest as an equal partner. The child picks the sword and his father’s mission.
We have not yet met the vengeance fueling the Mandalorian, but I believe we will soon discover a comparable source of pain. As we saw in the first episode, when the bounty hunter returned to his clan to have the Imperial client’s bar of Beskar steel forged into a piece of his armor, our protagonist is not a simple cutthroat. During the civil war, he experienced the trauma of violence first-hand, and the reward he secures from his bounties is used to support other Mandalorian younglings touched by similar brutality. Our Mandalorian, who once refused Imperial credits for cheaper Mon Calamari cash, now seeks their most precious prize because the steel they can offer is too rich to pass up.
The prize, surprise, is a biological being and one that bears a striking resemblance to the most powerful Jedi in the known universe. Yoda clone? Yoda offspring? Yoda cousin? We don’t know. What we do know is that retrieval and protection of the lil’ greenie will prove difficult. The Mandalorian granted IG-11’s suicidal tendencies by blasting a hole in his cone at the end of the last episode, and at the start of this one, he dispatches a group of Trandoshan goons horning in on his gig. The Imperial client is either spreading his money around to different thugs to assure definite capture, or there is more than one interested party. Given his empathy toward kiddies in danger, the Mandalorian seems to be attaching himself to the child and guaranteeing a season’s worth of problems aimed at his person. This attachment, however, goes both ways.
During the altercation with the Trandoshans, we see the child absorb the combat through wide, unblinking eyes. Remember, the creature is 50 years old. He’s witnessed a lot, and these are probably not the first folks he’s seen obliterated before him considering the gangsters he tends to travel with. Post-combat, while the Mandalorian tends to his wounds, the child creeps from his hovercart and reaches out toward his companion’s injuries.
It’s a gesture we’ve seen many times before in the franchise. He’s tapping into the Force. The bounty hunter pays the child no-nevermind and plants him back in his bedding. The child creeps out again. He reaches out again. The Mandalorian puts him back, closing the cart this time, sealing him away.
We don’t know who or what the child is, but so far, anyone in this universe who looks like a green hobgoblin is a Force-being. This does not answer any questions. Are all of Yoda’s species Force-sensitive, or is it a genetic result occurring in this child specifically? Can’t tell ya, but even The Mandalorian cannot escape the all-controlling, mystical-energy once so casually dismissed by Han Solo. We could be seeing lightsabers sooner rather than later.
More importantly, the child’s Force capabilities make him an active participant in their adventure. He’s not a bundle of chubby goo that needs shielding. He’s a partner. Like young Daigorō in Lone Wolf In Cub, the child can and will aid in the offenses and defenses of the Mandalorian. He’s making choices to walk the path of a killer, selecting those that have a right to live and those that don’t.
After eradicating the Trandoshans, the Mandalorian and child make their way back to his craft. Jawas have struck and stripped the vessel clean. The Mandalorian attempts to retrieve the parts from the Jawas, but their rolling fortress is impossible to crack, and the swarm of hooded scavengers swats the bounty hunter like a fly. A sensation he should make peace with as it will return very quickly.
Since he cannot recapture his parts through brute strength, the Ugnaught Kuill (Nick Nolte) suggests they barter instead. The Jawas are willing to deal, but only for the egg of a Mud Horn, which looks nearly identical to the Reek that tried to skewer Anikan in Attack of the Clones and lives deep inside a dark, ominous cave. The Mandalorian enters the beast’s domain and is quickly pummelled to a pulp. Flat on his back, once again.
The Mud Horn charges, and a shaking Mandalorian stumbles to his feet with only his dagger hanging limply before him. He’s as dead as Dillinger until lil’ greenie reaches out with the Force and suspends the Mud Horn in midair. The Mandalorian is stunned, the baby passes out, and the Mud Horn falls to the ground. With no time to think, the Mandalorian shoves his blade into the beast’s skull. Victory, but only by the grace of a child.
The kid is a killer, calculating the worth of lives against each other, just like the bounty hunter who walks next to him. He is not a pure being of potential or a wee baby. He’s a creature of will, who has spent decades practicing very (for lack of a better word) human choices, and those choices mark his path and the Mandalorian’s path. They’re in it together, deciding the fates of everyone that carelessly or carefully falls before them. They’re Lone Wolf and Cub.