'The Mandalorian' Becomes Proper Must-See TV With Its Astonishing Second Episode

Naturally, there are spoilers here.Directed by Rick Famuyiwa, "The Child" is the second episode of The Mandalorian, the exclusive Disney+ Star Wars television show. It picks up shortly after the first episode left off and sees the title character (played by Pedro Pascal) on the run with a mysterious baby. It very quickly becomes apparent to the Mandalorian that something isn't right with the job he's taken, as he's quickly attacked by a group of Trandoshan bounty hunters looking to take the child from him.And it also quickly becomes apparent that this is the episode that will win over everyone who liked but didn't love the first episode.After defeating one enemy and disintegrating another, he makes his way to his ship, The Razor Crest, hoping to make a quick getaway. Unfortunately, a pack of Jawas (who no longer seem native to only Tatooine, more on that later) have stripped his ship. They make a hasty getaway when the Mandalorian starts taking potshots at them, but they've also taken so much of the Mando's ship that he's unable to get off planet. With no where else to turn, he goes back to the ugnaught Kuiil (voiced by Nick Nolte) who convinces the bounty hunter to accept his help in negotiating with the Jawas to get his parts back. When the diminutive scavengers realize he doesn't have anything of value to trade, they send him on a quest for the egg of a monstrous creature. With no options left, the Mandalorian goes to retrieve this egg from a monster's lair, youngling with a floating basinet in tow. The monster may well have killed the Mandalorian had the youngling not interceded, tapping into the Force in order to let the Mando win the day. Because of the youngling's help, the Mandalorian is able to retrieve the egg, get the parts back for his ship, and leave the planet, wondering what it all means.

The Sound of Silence

George Lucas once said that "the Star Wars films are basically silent movies and they're designed as silent movies, therefore the music has a very large role in carrying a story more than it would in a normal movie." This philosophy is on full display in the second episode of The Mandalorian. Of the 30-plus minute episode, less than a fourth of it had any dialogue at all, the first word isn't heard until almost 11 minutes into the episode. The marriage of Famuyiwa's visual storytelling and Ludwig Göransson's music is so strong that you barely notice that nary a word has been spoken. The quiet influences of Lone Wolf and Cub become even more apparent as the Mandalorian is forced to fight in situation after situation, all the while protecting the Force sensitive youngling in its repulsor-powered basinet. There are two moments in particular that take the breath away in this fashion: the first is when he kicks the basinet out of the way when the Trandoshans attack, the other time is when he has to prevent the muddy creature from bulldozing right through the child. There are many moments in the episode that hearken to this heightened sense of visual storytelling that would not be possible without the physical presence of Pedro Pascal. His ability to communicate through the mask and the traditional Mando armor is nothing short of awe-inspiring. When you go back and look at silent film stars like Charlie Chaplin or Harold Lloyd, the expressions on their face were one of their most powerful tools in conveying the story. Pascal (and the filmmakers) have taken that away from the lead of the story, and yet it all still communicates easily. It's stunning in its artistry and storytelling; the craft that goes into such things is simply working at a higher level.

What to look out for

One thing that's curious about this episode is the inclusion of Jawas. This is the third planet we've seen Jawas on now. For the longest time, they were limited to the wastes of Tatooine, but they've spread in The Mandalorian to the planet where the Mandalorian met his contact Greef Carga (Carl Weathers), and again on the planet he's stuck on in this episode, Arvala-7. It's interesting to note that they do look and sound differently, giving them a solid distinction between their Tatooine counterparts. These Jawas have red eyes instead of yellow and wear dusty grey cloaks instead of brown. It makes one wonder how many planets Jawas have spread to, looking for that sweet, sweet salvage, and how fast will it be before they reach Jakku and pick its bones clean? The Jawas also serve a purpose in a grand fairy tale sense, knocking the Mandalorian down a peg and then forcing him on a quest to retrieve an egg, a classic symbol of rebirth, fertility, and the cycle of life. It will be interesting to see how this presages what we might expect by the end of the series and what rebirth this might have been for both the Mandalorian and the Youngling.The other thing to look out for in this episode is what appears to be the apparent influence of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The action sequence with the Jawa sandcrawler is evocative of the tank battle between Indy and the Nazis in the race to grail. There's a moment in particular where the Mandalorian is hanging off the side of the vehicle and the Jawas try to graze the side of a cliff the same way the Nazis tried to clip Indy. Funnily enough, they pulled the same move in Solo: A Star Wars Story as well, as Han and Chewie were trying to break aboard the Conveyex. The Indy references play all the way to the top of the sandcrawler, and when the Jawas are lined up at the top like German soldiers, the Mandalorian reaches for his pistol to blast them. In a move that felt unexpected, turning the reference on its ear, the Jawas all get a shot off, knocking the Mando right off the top of the sandcrawler. It's a funny, unexpected moment and rewards you for your expectations built on the homage.The last thing I'd point you to that feels like a direct homage is the fight between the Mandalorian and the rhino creature. It felt like it took beats right out of Attack of the Clones, both from Jango Fett's face off against the Reek in the Geonosian arena, but also moments of his fight with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Kamino. Here, though, when this true Mandalorian has a similar fight with a rhino-like creature and a Force-user on his side, he survives.

The Child 

The element of the show that continues to raise questions with the most shocking moment of the episode is the young child in the bounty hunter's care. There is nothing more wondrous in this episode than the youngling stopping the monster from killing the Mandalorian with the Force in a show of power that would seem impossible for one so young. But I suppose Yoda taught us not to judge books by their covers, right? But this raises even more questions. Where did this youngling come from? Just how strong with the Force is it? If the Imperial Remnant wants the child, who was protecting it? Were the Nikto guarding it actually heroes, dying to protect the child? The best theory I have is that this child came from one of the Jedi nurseries that Darth Sidious had sought in early seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. If the toddler is really 50 years old, that makes them only one year older than Darth Vader and could have easily placed them in one of those nurseries at any point in the lead up to the Clone Wars. At that point, though, how did they survive this long? Someone must have been protecting them, right?Whatever the child's story, the work done to bring them to life is nothing short of astonishing. It's clearly a combination of physical puppetry and computer work, but there are no seams to the transitions. And the moment where the youngling eats the space-salamander? Perfection.

The Overall

One of my chief concerns about this show was whether or not it was going to play for kids. Was it going to be caught in this gray area of morality where the underworld thrives, setting bad examples of what's "cool?" Or would it be something that showed kids how to do the right thing in difficult circumstances, despite that badassery? I think it's definitely the latter and that pleasantly surprises me. I watched this episode with my four-year-old who is new to the world of Star Wars and was enthralled—especially by the Force wielding toddler. This fairy tale of an episode brought some great storytelling together with a series of mysteries that are so compelling that I'm starting to bristle at the week-long wait for the next episode.