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The case for never seeing Baby Yoda on ‘The Mandalorian’ again

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It is rare for a critic to call for a show’s most successful character to be axed. Rarer still when that same critic annointed the character in question “Being of the Decade.” But The Mandalorian is a rare show in which the story demands it. The integrity and style of Star Wars as a whole demands it. Baby Yoda, aka The Child, aka Jedi Padawan Grogu Djarin Mudhorn, must never be seen on screen again, in this or any other Star Wars show — at least, not in his toddler-like 50-year-old form. 

This, by all appearances, is what the showrunner wants. Jon Favreau personally wrote a kickass finale to Season 2, which gave Grogu the best, most surprising, most earned exit from the show imaginable. Luke Skywalker is the biggest gun the franchise has to offer; he and his timeline are to be used sparingly. Favreau is a good storyteller. He knows you don’t top that. 

Despite Din Djarin’s promise to “see you again,” if he and Grogu did reunite, disappointment would inevitably follow. Whereas if this is his unexpected swan song, it packs a Casablanca-style emotional wallop. (If you don’t go with that Jedi, you’ll regret it…) It’s the oldest commandment in showbiz, one that George Lucas at his best always followed: Leave ’em wanting more.

Admittedly, it’s also a gutsy creative decision. I doubt Lucasfilm will officially admit the kid is out of the picture for some time to come — certainly not before the holiday shopping season. You’d expect the corporate and financial arms of Disney are chomping at the bit for more Child. He is the Disney+ equivalent of a golden goose. For many viewers, Baby Yoda is the number one reason they pay their monthly subscription. Is The Mandalorian even a show without its Lone Wolf and Cub dynamic? 

There’s an epic story to come, even if we can’t quite see it yet through our Grogu-grieving tears. 

But Favreau has a track record for standing his ground. He made sure Baby Yoda’s arrival in the world was a surprise by nixing Disney’s desire to get the ball rolling on Child toys ahead of Christmas 2019. The story simply mattered more than merch. He’s also a technical perfectionist who didn’t believe the Child animatronics were going to work on screen until Werner Herzog shouted at him. The Mandalorian crew has expended every effort to make him seem real: lighting, new gestures, a tad more CGI. But the bag of tricks was almost empty. If the Child just performs the same moves season after season, the story could go stale. 

Favreau has also spent a season carefully setting up alternate answers for what the show is about. It now sits at the center of an expanded universe, to use an old Star Wars expression, of Disney+ TV. It has given birth to three spinoff shows: Ahsoka, Rangers of the New Republic and, as of the Mandalorian finale’s surprise post-credits sequence, The Book of Boba Fett. Given friendships between characters in all four shows, you can expect quite a lot of crossover on their shared timeline. There’s more than enough going on without the little green guy.

For season 3 of The Mandalorian, officially confirmed to exist by Favreau on Monday, we have more than enough story breadcrumbs to know where it’s going. Din Djarin now wields the Darksaber, whether he wants it or not. Bo Katan must win it from him in combat. Din the foundling is now the  unofficial leader of a defeated, feisty, galaxy-wide group, the Mandalorians. They fight to reclaim and avenge their home planet. 

Though defeated in the battle for the Child, Moff Gideon (an increasingly enjoyable Giancarlo Esposito) may yet stand in their way — and we have yet to learn what he wants to do with Grogu’s blood. In Star Wars, as in any good story, the villains always have a lower bar for their return.

There’s an epic story to come, even if we can’t quite see it yet through our Grogu-grieving tears. One in which the main character’s emotional arc is given greater heft by losing — permanently — a fellow orphan he came to think of as his son. 

What next for baby? 

Here’s looking at Grogu, kid.

But wait a minute, I hear you say. What about Grogu’s storyline? The kid has been picked up by Luke Skywalker for Jedi training that will surely connect, somewhere down the line, to the Jedi school destroyed by Ben Solo before he became Kylo Ren. What happens in between those events? Does Grogu survive? I must know now! My fan heart demands it!

Ah, but waiting for Star Wars to reveal answers we really must know now is what gives the franchise its power. Any veteran of the agonizing three-year wait between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi will tell you that. If Lucasfilm is wise and Disney can restrain itself, we won’t know any of the answers to the Grogu-Kylo questions posed by the Mandalorian season 2 finale for at least that long. A dozen fan theories must rise and fall before we learn anything definitive. This is the way. 

And when the answer comes, the technical limitations of the onscreen character suggest we’d be better off learning it in any other medium. A comic book, a novel, or an animated series could give us the further adventures of Grogu, Jedi padawan, better than a live-action TV show. (For one thing, it would be a lot easier for Mark Hamill to participate without blowing more million-dollar budgets on de-aging CGI.)

I’m also not ruling out forms of return that will at least make Grogu still seem to be in the show: flashbacks, visions, hallucinations, a Force projection or two. But there’s a reason why George Lucas used to insist, back in the day when he ran the franchise, that we would never learn anything about Yoda’s species. The lack of backstory, not the Force, is what gives a Jedi Master his power. 

The Mandalorian managed to give the Child a spectacular exit while retaining just enough of that mystery to keep us wondering. Some may argue we shouldn’t even have known his name, or the fact that he was in the Jedi temple during the Jedi purge known as Order 66. 

The less we know about the details, the more Star Wars stories we get to make happen in our headcanon. 

The Mandalorian is now streaming on Disney+.

WATCH: Official Baby Yoda toys are finally here!

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