Some news websites that should know better spoiled the ending of The Mandalorian‘s chapter one, released Tuesday on the brand new Disney+ service, in their headlines and lead photos the same day. We are not going to go there. So if you wouldn’t like to see a giant spoiler for the ending of the first ever episode of live-action TV Star Wars, look away before the end of the ZOMG.
This, then, is to be the MacGuffin of The Mandalorian. It’s the one thing our stoic helmeted hero gave a crap about all episode, shooting his colleague IG-11 in order to save its life, then reaching out to touch fingers like he hadn’t just shot a fellow Bounty Hunter guild member. It’s a tiny, unnamed 50-year-old creature with a striking resemblance to a baby version of the galaxy’s greatest ghostly guru.
We have no freaking clue who or what it is, and that’s kind of the idea. It isn’t Yoda, who died during Return of the Jedi (The Mandalorian is set five years later), and it is unlikely to become Yoda in some sort of time-travel scenario (even though Star Wars has dipped a toe in time travel in the show Rebels, it was made clear that the process is difficult and extremely rare). But let us for the sake of argument call it Baby Yoda.
MacGuffin was a term coined by Alfred Hitchock to mean plot-driving objects interesting to the audience only because the characters care about them and will go to great lengths to get them: the Maltese Falcon, the Death Star plans. Yet Baby Yoda is actually more interesting to the audience than to the characters, and it’s plenty interesting to them. Call it a Mega-MacGuffin.
In-universe, it seems, Baby Yoda is highly interesting/threatening to the now-collapsed Galactic Empire, or rather its former forces represented by Werner Herzog’s character, simply known as the Client. (We’re 25 years before The Force Awakens here: The Rebellion won, the Republic returned, and the First Order is not a thing yet.)
The client has a Dr. Pershing with him, and as eagle-eyed fans have noticed, Dr. Pershing has an armband that looks similar to one used by the clone-makers of Kamino in Attack of the Clones — the ones that gave us the clone army based on Boba Fett’s dad, the mercenary Jango.
So wait, are the remnants of the Empire trying to clone a force-sensitive Yoda kid to create a clone army of evil Yodas? That … sounds kind of amazing? Am I rooting for the Empire now?
Three Mandos and a Baby
Meanwhile the Mandalorian sees his own refugee childhood trauma in Baby Yoda’s eyes. Here is a chance to heal by paying it forward. With one decision he becomes a fugitive, and possibly a murderer (though we think IG-11, voiced by Taika Waititi, is probably made of sturdier stuff).
Now, maybe Mr. Mando easily evades the bad guys, finds two other members of his people to settle down with, and the show changes its name to “Three Mandos and a Baby.” Or more likely, he and his living cargo will be pursued across the galaxy, turn the tables on his pursuers, etc. etc.
We don’t know whether the Mandalorian is aware of Yoda, or indeed whether anyone in the galaxy other than Luke Skywalker knows that Yoda lived, or died, or tells his story. It has been 25 years at this point since Yoda fought Palpatine in the Imperial Senate. Yoda went into hiding on Dagobah when Palpatine issued the Jedi-killing Order 66 (this was all in Revenge of the Sith).
So let’s say it’s unlikely that the Mandalorian knows that he has his hands on a hunted baby from a weird unknown species that ages really slowly. This works in the show’s favor, creating one hell of a mystery box for the audience that the lead character will not necessarily open.
And of course, we’re desperate for it to be opened. It’s been nearly 40 years since Yoda was introduced in The Empire Strikes Back, and in all that time we’ve never even learned what his species is. George Lucas didn’t want us to, even as every single other species ever seen on screen for a second was obsessively categorized.
Lucas did put a female Yoda named Yaddle on the Jedi Council in The Phantom Menace. Yaddle has, sadly, become something of a joke in Star Wars fandom. In-universe, she quit the Jedi Council before the events of Attack of the Clones, having never had a speaking role. Here are all 18 seconds of the movie that she’s seen on screen:
Yaddle did have further adventures in Star Wars books and comics; she eventually sacrificed herself to save a planet at the age of 483. However, those adventures were wiped from the official canon in 2014, acquiring the status of “Legends.” Yaddle’s story, then, is wide open for a re-write.
Did she and Yoda have a child, a couple of decades before the events of The Phantom Menace? That seems unlikely, given that we know the Jedi Order were not allowed such attachments; it would instantly turn everything Yoda said to Anakin Skywalker on this question into hypocrisy.
More possible: one or both of them found another Force-sensitive member of their species, and worked to shield the baby from the Empire after Order 66. If so, perhaps Obi-Wan Kenobi was also involved in the effort, and protecting the Yoda baby would give Obi-Wan something to do during his long exile on Tatooine, the subject of the upcoming Disney+ series, Kenobi.
Whatever happens next, the Baby Yoda storyline has Dave Filoni’s fingerprints all over it. Filoni was Lucas’ protege on the Clone Wars animated series, the most recent season of which ended with a story arc in which Yoda battles ancient Sith forces and discovers more about the nature of the Force itself (it’s always nice to see an 800-something learn new things). Filoni is a director and consultant on The Mandalorian, among other projects.
In short, Lucas seems to have entrusted Filoni with the central mystery of Yoda, and it is about to explode across the Star Wars universe. The story of this Mega-MacGuffin baby may even be relevant to The Rise of Skywalker, the final episode in the Skywalker saga, which premieres after the first season of The Mandalorian is over. At the very least, I expect I’ll probably end up buying a Baby Yoda before long, in much the same way I talked myself into buying a Porg puppet.
Prepare yourself for more mystery and merchandising, you must.