‘The Mandalorian’ Is A Good Show About How Hard It Is to Be a Single Parent
Every episode of The Mandalorian is a totally new adventure. Each week introduces a new supporting cast, a new location, and even a new style of story; “Chapter 6 - The Prisoner,” was a Star Wars twist on a classic prison break tale. Since this is basically a space anthology series, there are only a few constants from episode to episode: The Mandalorian himself, the baby Yoda he’s unofficially adopted, and the inescapable feeling that being a single parent is the hardest job in the world.
While The Mandalorian’s space setting makes the rigors of rearing a child (let alone “The Child”) a bit more exotic and exciting than they would be for an earthling, the parallels to real-world father- and motherhood are all over the series. While Mando’s helmet — and the fact that it keeps the character’s emotions obscured, including from the audience — continues to frustrate me at times, the nice part about that featureless metal dome is it’s easy to see yourself reflected in its opaque visor, and the show’s unvarnished depiction of raising a kid.
One complaint I’ve seen raised a few times regarding The Mandalorian is the fact that Mando repeatedly leaves Baby Yoda — who he has destroyed his own life and career to protect — in the hands of relative strangers (or sometimes totally alone!) while he goes off and takes various jobs as a mercenary. And it is true that Mando does shove his Li’l Yoda Jr. into assorted closets more than probably another parent would (or, fine, should). The caretakers he finds around the galaxy are not always the most trustworthy, either.
But what is he supposed to do? He needs to earn credits to keep their ship fueled and operational. He needs to buy food for both of them. (It’s not until you have kids yourself do you realize just how much goddamn bone broth kids can eat. They eat so much bone broth every day!) Mando’s all alone. He has to do everything.
As a parent, I mostly see The Mandalorian as a slightly exaggerated versions of legitimate parental problems and fears. Unless you’re a stay-at-home parent, Mando’s dilemma is basically your life with slightly more aliens. Every single day of your life, you leave the most precious creature in the world to go to a job you probably don’t want to be doing anyway to earn the money you need to keep them in coaxium and kyber crystals. Granted, hopefully you’re leaving the kid in the care of someone you trust and not, like, on a pile of smelly old blankets in a bulkhead. But hey, most kids aren’t one with the Force or 50 years old, either.
In “The Prisoner,” Mando reluctantly reunites with a crew of mercenaries he’d worked with at some point in the past, and accepts a job as muscle on a team that’s going to bust a criminal out of a New Republic starship. The team wants Mando because his ship, the Razor Crest, is not known to the New Republic and is better at evading radar detection. That means that Baby Yoda, hidden inside yet another compartment, is inevitably discovered by these reprobates that Mando has partnered with, thrusting the widdle cutie into yet another dangerous situation. Not surprisingly, the prison break goes poorly, the team turns on Mando, and their droid pilot Q9-0 attempts to kidnap Baby Yoda to collect the reward on his head. At the very last moment, Mando escapes the prison ship, returns to the Razor Crest, and blasts Q9-0. If he’d been just a few seconds later, we might have been writing The Child’s obituary this week.
Again, these are probably not the wisest choices a single dad could make on behalf of his space son. Objectively speaking, the Mandalorian sucks at being a dad. And that is why The Mandalorian is such an appealing show about parenthood — because that, in my experience, is what parenthood is all about. You suck at it, you make terrible choices you quickly regret, and 98 percent of the time you are moments from catastrophe. You do everything, good and bad, with the best of intentions, in order to give that little child that you are responsible for the best possible life you can. Everyone remembers and quotes the adult Yoda’s line from The Empire Strikes Back about how you do or you do not, there is no try. But with Baby Yoda — and babies in general — it’s all about trying and failing over and over. And then trying again.
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