No one had seen the first episode of The Mandalorian before the Star Wars live-action series actually debuted on Tuesday morning, as part of the Disney Plus launch. Instead of screening the premiere for critics, Disney kept a tight lid on the series in order to preserve a surprise. Now we know what that spoiler seems to be: the identity The Mandalorian’s first big target.
But unless you’ve been plowing through the expanded universe of Star Wars between movies, the gravity of the reveal — or what the reveal is supposed to even be — may not make a ton of sense. Below, we unpack the last couple of minutes of The Mandalorian’s first episode to figure out what it means for the show’s future.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for the first episode of The Mandalorian.]
Months before The Mandalorian debuted, an early leak suggested that the series would center around the title antihero looking after a baby he was hired to kill. That description certainly fits the first episode, which introduces a common theme from Westerns like True Grit or Three Godfathers (and the adjacent Lone Wolf and Cub) to the Star Wars universe. While many fans speculated before release that it could be Rey or another main character seen in the future, no one really expected his target to be a little baby Yoda.
The target itself isn’t actually Yoda, but “Baby Yoda” the easiest thing to call the alien. Yoda’s species doesn’t actually have a name in Star Wars canon. Even if you take Legends — the now defunct pre-Disney expanded universe — and Disney’s official canon into account, we know almost nothing about these little green humanoids.
The few things we know for sure about the mysterious species come from the three members we’ve seen: Yoda, Yaddle, the other Yoda-like alien who sits on the Jedi Council during the prequel years, and our brief glimpse of the baby in The Mandalorian. We know that members of the species are green, small, and have incredibly long lives.
Yoda died at the age of 900. When we see Yaddle in the prequels, she’s around 483 — before she’s tragically cut down as part of Order 66. According to The Mandalorian, The Asset, which seems to be the temporary name of The Mandalorian’s target, was 50 years old and still appeared to be a baby, meaning these creatures have a prolonged childhood to go along with their longer life span. Since the episode ended on this big reveal, and they have long lives, one assumes they’re pretty rare throughout the galaxy.
Based on Yoda and Yaddle, there’s a reason to believe this species is also strong in the Force. If The Mandalorian’s new baby companion is Force sensitive, or part of a species that often is, then it would make sense that it was highly sought after in the wake of the Empire. But that still wouldn’t explain why The Client, the name of The Mandalorian’s employer, and his doctor cared so much about it and would want it dead. And if it is Force sensitive, and The Mandalorian looks after it, that could send our hero (?) into the path of some Jedi in the near future.
Another important question the series will have to answer is what exactly The Asset was doing on that desert planet in the first place. Clearly the forces that The Mandalorian and IG-11 took out weren’t on the same side as The Client, but were they protecting The Asset, or just trying to deliver to someone else? How much evil galactic interest is there in this Yoda-like baby anyway?
As for why The Mandalorian decided not to kill the child, well, that’s not clear. Maybe it’s as simple as The Mandalorian being a human bounty hunter and not wanting to murder defenseless baby. There could also be a larger explanation.
Mandalorians have a reputation as some of the deadliest warriors and bounty hunters in the galaxy. While most of the time they’re known to complete any job no matter the cost, Mandalorians also have an extremely important honor code that they live by. This code often prizes martial ability, especially in one on one combat, as we see in both Star Wars: Rebels and The Clone Wars. The current situation makes living by the code a little tricky, considering one combatant is a literal baby.
The final moment in The Mandalorian’s first episode revealed more questions than answers. If The Mandalorian sticks by The Asset and has to protect it from those who want it dead, the show could shed valuable new light on Yoda’s mysterious race, and what exactly would make Werner Herzog want a newborn dead. If we’re lucky, maybe The Mandalorian will at least put a name to Yoda’s species.