This Star Wars: The Mandalorian article contains spoilers.
The Mandalorian is back for a second season featuring more adventures for Mando and the Child, better known as our beloved Baby Yoda. Ever since the Force-sensitive Child was introduced in the first episode as a helpless bounty sought after by Imperial agents, this little character has stolen the show, giving us a new twist on the well-established concept of Jedi Master Yoda. Not that the character is related to his famous movie predecessor. In fact, we don’t yet know where Baby Yoda comes from or who his people are, which is why The Mandalorian season 2 will see the duo embark on a journey to find Baby Yoda’s home.
At the end of the first season, the Armorer tells Mando that it’s possible Baby Yoda’s people are the Jedi, ancient sorcerers and enemies of the Mandalorians, but it’s also suggested at one point that he might be the result of some pretty nefarious experiments. Based on what we know, it could really go either way. We certainly wouldn’t put it past the Empire to try and clone their own version of the Jedi Master to control.
As The Mandalorian season 2 kicks off, let’s break down the mystery and what the movies, Expanded Universe of books and comics, and lore tell us about Baby Yoda.
What is Yoda’s species?
We don’t exactly know. Not only is their home planet unknown, but so is the species’ real name (if it even has one), which is why it’s simply refered to as “Yoda’s species.”
When George Lucas originally created the character, Yoda was intended as a mysterious creature, an open-ended question in a wide universe. “He’s a mystery character,” Lucas said in an interview with Moviefone. “He’s a magical character. He has no background. He comes and he goes. He’s the subversive secret mysterious stranger that enters the film and then exits at the end.”
Puppeteering and voice acting by Frank Oz catapulted the character into fame. In some original concept art, Yoda is more elf-like than alien, with longer legs and a pointed hat that wouldn’t be out of place on a classic gnome. The pointed ears are the surviving trait that display the character’s fantasy influence.
There is one other member of this species in Star Wars canon: Yaddle, a Jedi Master who sat on the Jedi Council in the Prequel era. She was known for both exuding patience and kindness, and having exceptionally deadly Force powers that could trap a person in stasis.
The species is so rare and mysterious that no one knows what exactly is so mysterious about them. Is it happenstance that their species produced the greatest Jedi Master in the modern era? Perhaps there is something inherently powerful in the Force about them. Perhaps they’re no more or less likely to be great Jedi than humans are.
Episode 2, “The Child,” might have offered an answer. Early in the episode, the baby reaches out a hand as if trying to use the Force to heal the wounded Mando, who puts him back in the bassinet before anything can happen (we later learn in episode 7 that Baby Yoda can indeed heal severe wounds.) The fact that Baby Yoda is Force-sensitive is confirmed later in episode 2 when the Child lifts the charging Mud Horn monster with the Force. It clearly takes a lot out of the Child, a Herculean effort of a task that would be challenging even for an adult Jedi. Remember how Luke struggled to lift his X-Wing out of the swamp? This baby can use the Force before he can even talk. Clearly he’s powerful, and it makes sense based on what we know about this species that the power could be inherent in his biology.
At the very least, we’re all expecting him to the magic hand thing now, just like Greef.
What does Baby Yoda mean for Star Wars canon?
Part of the reason the big reveal in the series premiere is so remarkable is that Lucas has long advocated for keeping Yoda’s species secret. When everything in Star Wars is explained, the universe feels big, but it can also feel rote. The Yoda species remains an element that cannot be canonized, cannot be commodified. It gestures at Star Wars’ fantasy influences while not going so far as to outright explain the motivation behind the gesture.
Baby Yoda’s Force powers also draw a direct line to the Jedi, an order that seems to have been long forgotten by the time of the New Republic. Despite Luke Skywalker’s legendary exploits for the Rebellion, news doesn’t really seem to travel as far as the Outer Rim of the galaxy. So far, The Mandalorian exists in the underworld of Star Wars. Characters scrape by on the strength of their wallets and their fists. Jedi don’t often venture into this world unless it’s to stop a crime lord who has severely rattled someone in the upper echelons.
Will this Force-sensitive Child give The Mandalorian a way to connect its otherwise Force-secular story to the mystical side of the galaxy in season 2? If Mando is to complete his mission (and fan-favorite Jedi hero Ahsoka Tano really is set to appear on the show), then he’ll eventually have to rub elbows with the sorcerers his people are taught to be wary about.
The age of the Child, 50, is also notable. The Mandalorian takes place five years after Return of the Jedi. That means the alien was born before even the start of the Clone Wars, when the Republic was just beginning its slide toward galaxy-wide conflict. This is one of the reasons some fans believe the Child could be related to Yoda, who was still very active on a galactic stage in the Prequels, but the Jedi of old aren’t supposed to have children. So is the Child possibly a war refugee like Mando himself? A desperate attempt at continuity for a species that only has one or two members at a time? Or just one of many children gone missing in a dangerous galaxy?
Whatever the case, the implications of Baby Yoda’s existence remains one of the central mysteries on the show.
So where did Baby Yoda come from?
Maybe “Baby Yoda” is just what his name implies. As Slashfilm points out via sharp-eyed Twitter users, Doctor Pershing (Omid Abtahi) might offer a clue. The man employed by Werner Herzog’s character in season 1 has a symbol on his sleeve that might match the one worn by Kaminoan cloners, which implies that this doctor has some pretty specific plans for Yoda’s species. We later see him running tests on Baby Yoda, although those experiments are cut short when Mando rescues the Child.
Later in the season, the Ugnaught farmer Kuill suggests Baby Yoda could be a “strand-cast,” a bio-engineered organism that we learned way more about in The Rise of Skywalker (both Supreme Leader Snoke and Rey’s father were revealed to have been strand-casts created by the Emperor’s imperfect clone and the Sith Eternal). It’s very possible that Baby Yoda was created in a lab as a way to learn more about how to capture the powers of Force user inside a clone body. We know the Sith tried to do just this with the Emperor’s son, but failed to transfer the Sith lord’s powers to the strand-cast (although Rey would eventually inherit these exact powers, including Force lightning, one generation later). Baby Yoda might have been the first and only bio-engineered specimen to have inherited the powers of his predecessor, which is why Imperial scientists would want to study him further while trying to properly resurrect their Emperor.
There’s precedence for all of this, of course. Cloning has been a part of Star Wars since the very beginning, with the Clone Wars being mentioned as early as A New Hope, but wasn’t detailed until Attack of the Clones. And with The Rise of Skywalker bringing cloning and weird science back to the forefront of this universe, Baby Yoda’s strand-cast origin story is looking much more likely now.
Other origin possibilities are more banal:
When it comes to the unknown in Star Wars, there is one direction fans can reliably look. The Unknown Regions, called as such because hyperspace navigation is so difficult in this anomalous region of space, exist at the edge of the galaxy. Some people have found ways to explore it, namely Grand Admiral Thrawn’s Chiss species and some members of the Empire.
Maybe Yoda’s species is from this region? Since the Mandalorian’s adventures mostly keep him in the relatively lawless Outer Rim of the galaxy, he’s geographically placed in the right spot to venture into this dangerous sector of space in season 2 if the show really wants to venture into unexplored territory on screen.
What does Baby Yoda mean for the Mandalorian himself?
Regardless of who he is and where he comes from, Baby Yoda has provided a major pivot point for Mando, who decides to break the Bounty Hunters’ Guild’s code to save the child from the Client, taking the reward and the bounty itself with him to parts unknown. This not only makes Mando one of the most wanted men in the galaxy but also a confirmed anti-hero who chooses to do right when faced with a life-changing decision.
Throughout the first season, Mando is most concerned with what’s right for the Child and finding a place where he might be safe from the other bounty hunters still looking to cash in and the Empire. Mando hasn’t found that hideout yet, having been foiled at every turn, but he has found a heart where the show initially suggested there might not be one. We expect the Mandalorian’s fatherly role to only grow as long as he’s protecting his young ward.