• December 7, 2021

All Baby Yoda Does Is Coo and Destroy Things

Baby Yoda is a force of mass destruction. Yes, as of this week, the Child—the breakout star of the The Mandalorian, the one with a green face so sweet it moved Werner Herzog to tears and inspired zillions of squeeful memes—has progressed far beyond the cute creature fans inexplicably wanted to breastfeed and turned into something far more insidious. Don’t believe me? Look no further than this week’s episode, where (spoilers) the Child ate a woman’s unborn babies. OK, fine, they were unfertilized eggs, but they were the unfertilized eggs of a refugee, named Frog Lady, who was trying to get them to her husband so that together they could prevent their species’ extinction. Not exactly the kind of roe that comes with your sashimi plate. Yet, even as the Mandalorian is trying to help Frog Lady at great personal risk, Baby Yoda is just out of sight, popping her spawn like candy—and Disney expects you to laugh.

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Making a heartless bastard out of a character who primarily exists to be cute is jarring, even though the little menace has been giving off some Dark Side vibes for a while. Sure, he healed a guy once, but he also levitated a fuzzy monster rhino just so Mando could kill it, and used the Force to choke someone, a Sithy signature second only to Force lightning. Now, post-spawn-slurp, Baby Yoda is basically just an amoral toddler goblin who causes a second round of chaos in this week’s episode when he almost gets everyone killed for devouring even more ovum, this time belonging to angry ice spiders. Remember when Baby Yoda was primarily famous for sipping soup? Whomst was the nerf herder who thought that this was a good idea?

Some Mandalorian fans are disturbed, enough that Lucasfilm creative executive Phil Szostak stepped in to explain that the egg-eating was bad, but not that bad.

Somewhat predictably in this fandom, Evil Baby Yoda has staunch defenders too. They feel that the Child’s ravenous antics are a deliberate choice to give the show grit or moral ambiguity or evolutionarily plausible alien dietary choices, or that this is just more foreshadowing for a Dark Side Child. The latter kind of makes sense. Anakin Skywalker’s former padawan Ahsoka Tano is due to appear later this season, and the Baby Yoda going full-on super creep would be a natural way to introduce her as his instructor in the ways of the Force.

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.

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