Is The Mandalorian’s Midi-chlorian Plot Twist A Risk Worth Taking?

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN AHEAD!

Yesterday’s episode of The Mandalorian was…not my favorite, for several reasons. I’m over Gina Carano as Cara Dune, I’m growing tired of so many repetitive side-quests, and I’m ready for Baby Yoda to become something more than Din Djarin’s adorable accessory…but one thing that I did find genuinely fascinating and admirable about the episode was showrunner Jon Favreau’s borderline-reckless bravery and confidence, on full display for everyone to see. With a single, subtle reference, he has brought back midi-chlorians, one of the most controversial and universally hated elements of George Lucas’ prequel trilogy, and managed to weave them so deeply into the story that they’re sure to be addressed more directly in the near future as they influence The Mandalorian‘s plot moving forward (if The Mandalorian‘s plot ever moves forward, that is): and now Favreau has to hope that the goodwill he’s built with fans will carry him unscathed through the inevitable firestorm. If he’s lucky, he’ll find the fandom more welcoming to his interpretation of midi-chlorians than they were to George Lucas’ introductory explanation of the concept twenty years ago.

The Mandalorian
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Personally, I don’t expect Favreau to suffer any major consequences for bringing back midi-chlorians, though I do think he could risk damaging The Mandalorian‘s popularity with hardcore fans. Let’s just say, midi-chlorians aren’t something from the prequel trilogy that I think anyone was begging to be reminded of anytime soon, though they have popped up sporadically in Star Wars canon since their appearance in The Phantom Menace. They tend to lead to prolonged philosophical arguments about the nature of the Force: which you might think sounds like fun now, but trust me, you don’t want to be around when Star Wars fans start arguing about…well, anything really. Whether it’s a debate about midi-chlorians or the Skywalker surname, this is one fandom that has always had a massive and well-documented problem with toxic trolls, gatekeepers, bigots, and the like.

Before we go any further, though, I feel obligated to break down some midi-chlorian history and biology for you. Imagine for a moment that you’re Baby Yoda in school on Nevarro; grab a bright blue macaron cookie, and settle in for an explanation of one of Star Wars‘ most complicated, convoluted concepts.

Midi-chlorians, most in-universe scholars agree, are sentient microbes that concentrate inside the cells of every living creature in the Star Wars universe. Most people don’t have very high concentrations of midi-chlorians in their bodies: 2,500 or lower is agreed upon as the normal amount per cell for an average human being in Star Wars. But the more midi-chlorians you have living inside of you, the more attuned you are to the Force (Anakin Skywalker, for example, had over 25,000 midi-chlorians) and the more likely you are to be picked up by some random Jedi passing through town. In fact, during the reign of the Old Republic, that was one of the main objectives of the Jedi Order: taking blood samples from kids around the galaxy, and testing them for midi-chlorians. Now, something important to remember is that midi-chlorians aren’t actually the Force – rather, they act as a conduit between the Force and their host body, translating the will of the Force to their host. The host also has to put in work focusing their mind and looking inwards so as to be more attuned to their own midi-chlorians, and thus more open to the will of the Force. It’s unknown whether the midi-chlorians actually created the link between the Force and living creatures, or whether the Force created midi-chlorians to establish that link (if it’s the former, it leads to some disturbing questions about why the midi-chlorians have an agenda of their own that seems to overpower the free will of their host bodies; but if it’s the latter, why wouldn’t the Force have distributed midi-chlorians more fairly throughout the galaxy?). Midi-chlorians also have a wide range of other bizarre, and only vaguely defined, powers: such as the ability to create life. This has led to speculation that Anakin’s abnormally high midi-chlorian count was a result of him being conceived in his mother’s womb by the midi-chlorians, Immaculate Conception style – and again, we’re getting into troubling territory regarding free will and consent, since Shmi Skywalker doesn’t seem to have gotten any say in this matter.

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It’s this ability to create and potentially preserve life that caught the attention of the Sith and led to them manipulating midi-chlorians for a variety of evil purposes. Eternal life, for instance, was one of several goals that Emperor Palpatine lusted after – and almost achieved. In The Rise Of Skywalker we discovered that Palpatine was able to survive his death in the explosion of the Death Star II, and since it’s never been fully explained how he managed that (except that it had something to do with clones), it’s been speculated that midi-chlorian manipulation was involved. Now, it looks like The Mandalorian may be trying to retroactively provide more information on this issue – as well as the backstory of Palpatine’s mutant science project, Supreme Leader Snoke (whom I mistakenly referred to yesterday as a clone of Palpatine, when he is in fact a clone created in someone else’s image by Palpatine).

When Din Djarin and his team infiltrated the ex-Imperial fortress in yesterday’s episode of The Mandalorian, they stumbled upon a top-secret cloning facility being operated by Dr. Pershing, a character last seen in season one, whose backstory is largely clouded in secrecy but involves the Kaminoan cloners. Pershing was a minor character, whose agenda in season one was being hindered by having to work alongside “The Client”, an Imperial bureaucrat who didn’t seem to have a very high regard for the doctor’s work, and was mostly concerned with finding Baby Yoda and killing him as quickly as possible. But it seems that ever since the season one finale, with The Client now dead, Pershing has found a more receptive audience in ex-Imperial killing machine Moff Gideon. Unfortunately for Din Djarin, both Pershing and Gideon are working towards a common goal: getting their hands on Baby Yoda, and using him – somehow – to bring about the return of the Empire.

Dr. Pershing isn’t at the fortress when Djarin and his team stage their attack, but they do find a hologram message from Pershing to Gideon’s headquarters, where the doctor gives a progress report on his work, and seems to confirm that, with just a single blood sample he was able to obtain from Baby Yoda back in season one, he’s been trying (so far unsuccessfully) to transfer the child’s midi-chlorians to other beings: all of whom now resemble deformed vegetables lined up in tanks. Pershing never utters the word “midi-chlorian”, but he specifically states that recapturing Baby Yoda is essential because the Empire is unlikely to find any other test subject with a higher “M-count” – a subtle, but unmistakable, reference to the midi-chlorian count. Pershing doesn’t state an exact number that we could compare to other notable Jedi (if Baby Yoda has a higher M-count than Anakin Skywalker, he’s by default the most powerful Force-user on record), but it seems that the child is extremely valuable to the Empire.

But why? What are they doing with all these experiments? Well, we don’t know just yet: but from the context, it certainly looks like Pershing and Gideon are trying to create a small clone army of Force-users, with a small assist from Baby Yoda’s midi-chlorians. The logistics of how a Force-user’s midi-chlorians can be transferred from one person to another is a subject of debate in the fandom – but as I mentioned, we have seen Palpatine successfully clone himself (or something) with his Force powers intact, and we know he created multiple clones of Snoke, a Force user. In The Mandalorian, we possibly even see the very first proto-Snoke in development on Nevarro: according to musically-minded Star Wars fans, his theme plays over a scene in the cloning facility where the camera zooms in on a distorted specimen who has a facial scar very similar to the one sported by Snoke. I have mixed feelings about the revelation that Snoke might have been created using Baby Yoda’s blood, but it’s a twist, alright. What’s more concerning about all this is the implication that this experiment on Baby Yoda was the Empire’s first step towards doing…whatever they did to bring Palpatine back in physical form…and that Baby Yoda’s blood might have been part of that process.

The Mandalorian
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If all goes well, this might also be the first step towards making midi-chlorians popular with fans. When George Lucas introduced the complicated idea in The Phantom Menace, audiences were justifiably confused about why the Force – which, until that point, had seemed like an intangible, spiritual construct – suddenly had a nonsensical scientific explanation: one which seemed to contradict the guiding principle of the original trilogy by suggesting that the Force isn’t something that anybody can wield with the right training, but instead requires you to have a specific number of symbiotic microbes in your blood before you can even take the next step towards becoming a Jedi. It ruins the magic, in a way. And it’s so complex that nobody can figure out exactly what the midi-chlorians are or what they’re capable of, because nobody behind the scenes has ever conclusively answered either of those questions. If The Mandalorian is going to bring back midi-chlorians, it’s going to need to put in the work to explain what they are, what they do, and why we shouldn’t hate them.

So what do you think? Is this a good idea, or a bad one? Are you still trying to figure out the difference between a midi-chlorian and a Mandalorian? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

A Live-Action “Hercules” Is In Development At Disney!

A lot of people complain about the recent deluge of Disney live-action remakes, and, despite the fact that I personally have liked almost all of said remakes (with the glaring exception of The Lion King), I can understand the reasoning behind these complaints. More often than not, Disney has rigidly insisted on remaking all of their most beloved classics – films like Aladdin, Cinderella, Beauty And The Beast, The Jungle Book…films that are already so good or at least iconic, that it’s hard to add anything new to the story. That’s why I’m so happy that, at long last, the studio is looking to remake a couple of its more niche or less popular films. Films like Hercules (oh, and also Robin Hood).

Hercules has a huge cult following, to no one’s surprise. The film is a lot of fun, it’s got some pretty good songs, and the characters are hilarious and endearing – especially the villainous Hades, and the snarky princess Megara. But thanks to a poor box-office performance, Hercules is often neglected by both the studio that made it and general audiences: not quite as much as, say, Atlantis: The Lost Empire or Treasure Planet, but enough that neither Hercules nor Megara are considered official Disney royalty, despite being the prince and princess of Olympus and its huge pantheon of gods. Incredibly unfair, if you ask me. But thankfully, the film will now get a second chance to prove its worth, in the form of an upcoming live-action remake (special shout-out to the folks at The DisInsider for obtaining this awesome new scoop).

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Along with the news that the film is being remade for a theatrical debut and a hint that it will be a musical like the original (unless, I suppose, the non-musical Mulan remake does so well that Disney rethinks that strategy), there’s also several rumors of possible directors for the coveted project. Jon Favreau is probably the most obvious choice on the shortlist thanks to his work on the massively successful The Jungle Book and The Lion King remakes, but, from a creative standpoint, he seems like a weak option: perhaps The Lion King was just a fluke, but it’s also indicative of a mentality I personally don’t want to be applied to Hercules – adapting one of Disney’s more niche properties should be an opportunity for a more unique, creative vision, and Favreau’s has…not been that. And look, I’m not going to sit here and say that Bill Condon brought anything revolutionary to Beauty And The Beast, or that Guy Ritchie was able to leave his own distinct mark on Aladdin, but at least they added new material to the plot and expanded on some things, however small: The Lion King really didn’t do anything to widen the world or broaden the scope of the story. Then again, Favreau has proved to be a great producer on The Mandalorian, so I wouldn’t be averse to him having a role behind the scenes – but I don’t think he’d be the best choice for director.

The other names currently being floated are Gore Verbinski and the Russo Brothers. The former you will recognize as the director of Disney’s original Pirates Of The Caribbean trilogy (which, incidentally, I just watched a few days ago, and have been meaning to review), and the latter as the directing duo behind Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Now, I really like the Russo Brothers – despite some gripes I have with Endgame, I think the Russo’s are both extremely talented directors. But Verbinski…he’s the one I want helming the Hercules remake. His skill with action scenes and his eye for detail would help to make the film visually stunning, atmospheric, and appropriately epic for an adaptation of an ancient Greek myth.

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As with any remake, there’s an opportunity for Disney to both honor the animated classic while updating the story with more modern sensibilities: due to the fact that Hercules has a smaller fanbase than the studio’s big hits, there’s probably an even greater likelihood that this remake could feature a number of changes – if I had to guess, I’d imagine that Megara will get a larger role, and probably won’t be subjected to the satyr Philoctetes’ unwanted advances, which, in the original film, quickly crossed a line into what would be considered harassment. And I’d love to see the remake draw more heavily from actual Greek mythology – the animated film was not very faithful to the Hercules myths, which means there’s a lot of room to improve on that front: though I’m 99% certain we still won’t see the actual Hercules origin story onscreen, as it involves Zeus cheating on his wife by disguising himself as the husband of a mortal woman.

There’s no word yet on who will be cast in the remake, though the internet is already abuzz with theories – the general consensus is that the Muses should be played by some of pop culture’s most talented black performing artists, from Beyoncé to Lizzo to Janelle Monaé, while singer Ariana Grande, coming off a strong and well-received recent performance of Megara’s ballad “I Won’t Say I’m In Love” appears to be the top choice to play the princess. As for Hades, I still maintain that Jeff Goldblum would be the ideal candidate for the zany, campy role, but I’m open to suggestions.

So what do you think of a Hercules remake? Who would you like to see come onboard as director? Who should star? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“The Mandalorian: Chapter 3” Review!

It’s impossible to talk about this episode of The Mandalorian without making reference to some spoilers, in contrast to last week’s episode, which saw Pedro Pascal’s armored bounty hunter and internet sensation Baby Yoda team up to take down a rhino and do basically nothing else for half an hour. At the end of that episode, titled The Child, the Mandalorian was last seen boarding his spaceship with Baby Yoda in tow, presumably escorting the adorable little green puppet back to his client, the mysterious mastermind played by Werner Herzog. So where does the story pick up this week?

Well, that’s where the spoilers come into play, so if you haven’t seen the episode, you should definitely do so – I know! I’m actually recommending this show now! That’s because director Deborah Chow has actually managed to revitalize my interest in the Mandalorian’s character arc, and his interactions with Baby Yoda, which are the emotional heartbeat of this story so far.

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When the episode begins, however, the Mandalorian is forced to make a very tough choice about Baby Yoda’s future: face-to-face with Herzog’s nameless (but unmistakably evil) Imperial client, the Mandalorian – even in-universe, every other character has taken to calling him Mando, so I’m going to do the same, despite my concerns that the name is instead in a disparaging, rather than respectful, way – ends up handing over the adorable little green baby in exchange for a handful of metal slabs that he turns into more armor (and another shoulder-pad to match his current one) with a little help from Emily Swallow’s character, The Armorer. Just as before, Mando gets flashback visions while the Armorer is busy making his new suit of armor; visions which, as before, show a child (presumably him?) being rushed through a war-zone by frightened parents and placed into a bunker. Now, though, we get a tantalizing new glimpse of what happened – barely moments after being carried to safety, an explosion rocks the underground chamber and baby Mando looks up to see the bunker doors thrown open to reveal an intimidating killer robot – one of the B2 super battle droids from the Star Wars prequels, if I’m not mistaken.

We still don’t know why the Mandalorian gets these flashbacks when he’s at the armory, but we do get some insight about the workings of Mandalor culture – emphasis on cult, as the small group of secretive warriors seem to be. With their semi-religious reverence for weaponry and their deference to the weapons-maker, it looks like the way of Mandalor lies in battle and the glory of warfare. Our protagonist, the Mandalorian, is up for a promotion, it seems, for killing the big rhino in the last episode, and the Armorer asks him if he’d like to choose a signet engraved with said rhino’s image – an honor he respectfully refuses, as he had help in killing the creature “from an enemy”, i.e. Baby Yoda.

But the Mandalorian has a heart of gold, or at least something other than Beskar steel, which everybody else in the galaxy is willing to sell their souls for: rather than move on with his life and go hunt down other innocent people for money, he decides to turn around and save Baby Yoda. Helped along by his new, impenetrable armor and his highly-advanced weapons (such as “singing birds”, which is basically a volley of poison darts hidden in one’s glove), the Mandalorian is successful in his mission, and breaks an unconscious Baby Yoda free of creepy Doctor Pershing’s nefarious operating table. Pershing swears up and down he was trying to keep Baby Yoda alive, but the Mandalorian ignores him and goes looking for Herzog’s character – instead, he finds a whole bunch of stormtroopers, whom he dispatches (thanks to those singing birds and a couple of flamethrowers), before making his escape. As of right now, we still have no idea where Herzog’s character has gone, and we’re still no closer to learning his true identity.

So the episode’s titular Sin has been repented for, but the Mandalorian isn’t quite out of the woods yet – or should I say, out of the grungy city full of hundreds of other bounty hunters whose tracking fobs all light up and start pointing the way towards the fleeing Mandalorian. That little predicament (undoubtedly sparked by Herzog, wherever he is) leads to a confrontation at the spaceport between Mando and a crowd of angry killers, assassins and mercenaries led by Mando’s…friend?…Greef Karga, played by Carl Weathers. While it seems at first like little Yoda might use the Force to get them out of trouble, it turns out to be Mando’s other Mandalorian friends who arrive with jetpacks and laser-machine guns to save the day – well, night. And after briefly confronting Karga and throwing him out of his spaceship, Mando and Baby Yoda take off once again to destinations unknown.

And I, as the skeptical audience-member unimpressed with the series’ previous installments, am left feeling very pleased with what I just watched. It was complete, but gave us enough hints and unsolved mysteries to keep us guessing. It was more compellingly acted, though Pedro Pascal is still fighting a losing battle with his helmet (which, according to his character, he has never removed in all his life: he did hesitate slightly when asked if he had ever had it removed for him, though – why, pray tell, is that even a question one asks of someone?).

Next week, we should find out where the Mandalorian and his infant quarry are headed, and what Herzog plans to do about them. I hope we also finally get to see Ming-Na Wen in next week’s episode, since the show is still conspicuously Ming-less.

What did you think of the episode, and what theories do you have about the series in general? Share your own thoughts in the comments below!

Episode Rating: 7/10

 

Greef Karga (Carl Weathers)

“The Mandalorian: Chapter 1” Review!

The first segment of Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni’s The Mandalorian is an intriguing introduction to a darker, grittier corner of the Star Wars universe, doing a whole lot of worldbuilding, establishing a compelling mystery spanning several planets, and leaving viewers with plenty of questions.

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Set sometime after the fall of the Empire in The Return Of The Jedi, the series presents us with a region of deep space that seems unaffected by the peace and prosperity we saw blossom across the universe in Jedi‘s celebratory finale. The aliens and humans we encounter in the pilot episode are barely scraping by, surviving only by hunting down their enemies and killing them – or hiring others to do so. The nameless protagonist played by Pedro Pascal, known only as the Mandalorian (or “Mando”, as he is disparagingly called in one space cantina), is supposedly one of the most legendary bounty hunters in the parsec, though he does surprisingly little to earn that reputation in this episode: the action sequences are few and far between, and the big battle at the end of the episode is really just a whole bunch of red laser-bolts dancing wildly across the screen, leaving the Mandalorian himself with little room to prove his own tactical or military prowess. His uncomfortably awkward encounter with an alien monster named a Blurrg undermines the character even further. As of right now, I can’t understand why everyone is so terrified of the Mandalorian, or how he has somehow established such command in the bounty hunter guild he works with – but his ally, the hunter droid IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi), while undeniably more malevolent, is even more clumsy, so perhaps this is a trait shared by all of Star Wars‘ bounty hunters – even the mighty Boba Fett fell into a Sarlac pit, after all.

It’s an unpleasant reality, but Pascal’s Mandalorian is simply not as interesting as some of his co-stars in the first episode, who receive far less screentime but far more personality and character. Even the Armorer, a female Mandalorian who designs a shoulder pauldron for the Mandalorian (I get that they’re a secretive people, but names would be really helpful right about now), is marginally more interesting than him: Mandalorian culture in general is something that I’d love to see explored in greater depth as the series progresses – though at present, there’s a much greater mystery unfolding, one which definitely takes precedence over “why are shoulder-pads so important to the Mandalorians?”

Werner Herzog plays the Mandalorian’s nameless client, who appears to be a survivor of the Empire’s demise: he commands a host of trigger-happy stormtroopers, and is working closely with a suspiciously enthusiastic scientist named Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi). The two men employ the Mandalorian to hunt down a dangerous target on the other side of the galaxy, though neither is willing to give many details about their prey – save that Pershing wants it alive at all costs. We’ve known for quite some time that this series could give us crucial details about how the fallen Empire rebuilt itself into the First Order that currently threatens Rey and the Resistance: if I had to make a guess at this early stage, I would assume that Pershing and his mysterious friend have something to do with that. And I’ve even got the beginnings of an idea as to why that might be, but it requires us to get into spoiler territory – so without further ado, here’s your SPOILER WARNING!

At the end of the episode, after the Mandalorian and IG-11 have broken into an alien base on a desert planet, they come face to face with the unidentified asset they’ve been hunting via tracking fob. And while some of us might have been expecting their target to be a prominent Star Wars character such as Obi-Wan Kenobi or Princess Leia, they are instead greeted by…a tiny floating cradle. It would have been absolutely outstanding if the cradle’s occupant had turned out to be baby Rey, but no…

It’s baby Yoda.

Now, The Mandalorian takes place after Yoda’s death, so obviously this isn’t the Jedi Master himself – which means there are only a couple of reasons why this character would even be introduced, and why the Empire would be so desperate to hunt him/her down and capture him/her. It could be that Baby Yoda is a completely unrelated member of the Jedi’s same species (which, let’s face it, isn’t likely). It’s possible that Baby Yoda is Yoda’s child, which is at least theoretically plausible. But I happen to think this baby is none other than Yoda’s clone: an infant messiah who the Empire might want to capture for two reasons – firstly, because letting it live isn’t exactly Imperial protocol; and secondly, most importantly, because at this point in the Star Wars timeline, with the Empire collapsing into ruin across the galaxy, with the forces of evil on the run, the Sith Lords are desperate for something to restore their greatness and glory. What better way to do so than to bring back Emperor Palpatine himself – something we know will happen in The Rise Of Skywalker – through use of cloning technology? Why else would a scientist be so desperate to get his hands on the seemingly harmless child? Why else, unless he wanted to study the secrets of cloning and use that technology to resurrect the Emperor?

But the Empire didn’t count on Pedro Pascal’s Mandalorian being a kind-hearted softie who can’t bring himself to hurt the baby when he confronts it – even killing (or at the very least injuring) IG-11 when the droid tries to “terminate” Baby Yoda. The episode ends with a powerful shot of Baby Yoda holding the Mandalorian’s hand, staring up at him with adorably naive eyes and making cute cooing noises. I don’t know what to expect from Episode 2, but somehow I don’t think that the Mandalorian will be responsible for taking the baby back to the Imperial baddies.

Aside from Baby Yoda, the episode’s finale leaves us with a couple of big questions. Is IG-11 really dead? Will the Mandalorian be able to escape with Baby Yoda? – his Ugnaught guide Kuiil (Nick Nolte) was adamant that people who enter the desert don’t come back alive, but the Mandalorian seems to have taken care of all of the infant’s alien guardians pretty easily. As for the Mandalorian himself, who is he? Glimpses of his backstory as a war refugee played in a montage while the Armorer was designing his shoulder-pad, so it looks like Pascal’s character might have had a tragic past during the Clone Wars.

When all is said and done, the series’ pilot episode is merely good – with hints and teases of better material down the road. At the very least, it’s worth watching for Ludwig Göransson’s beautiful score, which sounds almost more fantasy than sci-fi. And with characters like Ming Na-Wen’s assassin Fennec Shand yet to appear onscreen, there’s plenty to look forward to in later episodes.

Episode Review: 7/10