Clocking in at little over half an hour, the second chapter of The Mandalorian (“The Child”) has debuted on DisneyPlus, a few days after the premiere of Chapter One. This new chapter packs plenty of event into its brisk running time, as the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal, in an amazing faceless performance) and his Ugnaught companion Kuill (scene-stealer Nick Nolte) care for a toddler and contend with scavengers.
*****JAWA SANDCRAWLER-SIZED SPOILERS AHEAD!!*****
Chapter Two: The Child.
Beginning from the end of Chapter 1, Chapter 2 sees the Mandalorian trekking back to his ship with the hover-pod containing the 50-year old alien toddler of the same mysterious elfin species as Yoda in the Star Wars films. The Bounty Hunters’ Guild wants the creature dead, and even the client offering this particular bounty seems okay with the child’s death (save for the client’s associate, Dr. Pershing). But the Mandalorian isn’t onboard with that decision.
En route to his spaceship, the Mandalorian is attacked by other bounty hunters. Instinctively the bounty hunter pushes the child’s hover-crib safely out of the way, as the engages multiple combatants. Successfully dispatching his opponents with his brutal blaster/incinerator weapon, the Mandalorian decides to camp out for the night while he repairs his battle armor.
At the campfire, the toddler bonds to the Mandalorian; repeatedly leaving its hover-crib and walking over to him. We also see the infant eat an alien frog in a single swallow, which answered one of my burning questions; doesn’t this baby ever get hungry?
The next morning the Mandalorian returns to his landing site, where he sees a Jawa sandcrawler, with teams of Jawa scavengers stripping his spaceship of its hull plating and other valuable parts. The Mandalorian fires upon the Jawas, incinerating a few of them, as they rush aboard their sandcrawler and get the hell out of there.
The Mandalorian decides to pursue, tenaciously climbing the side of the giant vehicle (“the crawling fortress”), but the Jawas are far more clever than they appear. They nearly scrape the Mandalorian off of their craft by driving too close to a canyon wall. Eventually, the Mandalorian makes his way to the rooftop of the giant machine…only to see a team of Jawas waiting for him with their large stun weapons. They fire simultaneously. In a scene recalling R2-D2’s capture by Jawas in “A New Hope”, the Mandalorian is electrocuted and hits the ground unconscious… stunned, but not dead.
With the child’s hover-pod remaining close-by via remote, the Mandalorian returns to his loyal Ugnaught ally Kuill, hoping he can help negotiate with the Jawas for the return of the spaceship’s stolen parts.
Kuill and the Mandalorian ride their beasts-of-burden (blurrgs) out to the Jawa camp, where they are setting up for one of their used droid sales (again recalling “A New Hope”). As their blurrgs approach the Jawa party, the diminutive creatures ask for the Mandalorian to remove his weapons, but the Mandalorian refuses; a Mandalorian’s weapons are part of their religion. Upon insistence from negotiator Kuill, he relents. Kuill, who speaks the Jawa language, begins parlaying with the scavengers. The Mandalorian speaks Jawa too, though not nearly as well; he is insulted for his effort by the lead Jawa negotiator (“You speak like a Wookiee”).
Soon, a deal is reached; the Jawas agree to return the stolen parts in exchange for retrieving “the egg” of a large, ferocious predator in a nearby cave. All parties agree as it seems like a reasonable enough exchange. The Jawas drive their sandcrawler out to an area not far from the cave and park. We get a good look at the Jawa sandcrawler control room, as both Kuill and the Mandalorian ride out with them.
At the site, the Mandalorian enters the cave, and finds a large ovoid object covered in streaming, organic, camouflage strands… it’s the egg. As he removes it, a giant eye opens nearby and the predatory beast awakens. From outside the cave we hear blaster fire. Apparently blaster fire only serves to piss the mother creature off.
The huge horned beast tosses the armored Mandalorian about like a rag doll, charging at him for sport, like a bull. The Mandalorian’s flame flower has little effect before it’s exhausted, and his weapons and armor are damaged. After a ferocious round, the bounty hunter is nearly exhausted.
During the combat, a curious thing happens; the child reaches out…very Yoda-like…and causes the giant beast to hover, confused, in mid-air. Apparently the mini-Yoda is force-sensitive in a big way! Taking advantage of this moment of confusion, the Mandalorian uses his final weapon, a dagger, which he plunges into the beast’s head…killing it.
Returning to the Jawa camp with the hard-won egg, the Mandalorian assumes it to be something of great value but is surprised when the Jawas cut the top of it off and proceed to feast upon the gooey yolk inside. For them, it’s little more than a party-sized bowl of hors-d’œuvres.
Securing the parts, the Mandalorian is still doubtful that he can put the ship back together without a repair facility. The ever-resourceful Kuill offers his services, and the two of them weld everything back in place, test fire the engines. The Mandalorian’s ship is in working order.
Grateful for Kuill’s unyielding loyalty and assistance, the Mandalorian offers him a place aboard his ship. Kuill refuses, saying that he’s content to live life here, on his own terms, and that he is grateful for the Mandalorian bringing peace to his valley. Once again, Kuill asks the Mandalorian how he survived his fight with the egg-laying beast. The Mandalorian, realizing the child has incredible powers, says he isn’t sure either. The allies part, and the Mandalorian stows the hover-crib aboard the ship and takes off…
The Child’s Development.
Where Chapter One was heavy on (successfully) establishing mood, character and atmosphere, the second is a simpler tale that is about action. In the span of 30 minutes, there are multiple combats, an attempted sandcrawler jacking, and a fight with a vicious beast. Despite a full plate of events in that half hour, “The Child” manages to keep the pace at an easy-to-digest level, more in keeping with the original 1977 film.
The ‘off-world’ Jawas seen in “The Child” are minor variations of their Tatooine or Jakku counterparts; for instance, their cloaks are gray, not brown, and their eyes glow red instead of yellow. Even their hulking sandcrawler is less rusted-out, with a ‘party deck’ where the Jawas make a last stand against the Mandalorian, as they collectively stun him. It’s nice to see such natural variation within previously established Star Wars races, like the Jawas (and in porcine Ugnaughts such as Kuill, who is far more charitable than the gruffer creatures seen on Bespin in “The Empire Strikes Back”).
“The Child” is yet another variation on the ‘bandits with a baby’ premise of 1936’s classic western, “Three Godfathers.” The tale of non-paternal guys being saddled with an infant is a very old story loosely re-adapted many times, as seen in the popular 1987 comedy “Three Men and a Baby” (an adaptation of the French farce “Trois Hommes et un Couffin”) as well as the 2003 Japanese anime, “Tokyo Godfathers.” This is a Star Wars twist on that old tale. More importantly, it’s also proof that the Star Wars movies’ limited range of stories (Rebels/Resistance take on evil Empire/First Order… wash, rinse, repeat) are an affliction that this streaming series not not suffer. Looking forward to seeing more from this corner of that galaxy far, far away…