For much of The Mandalorian, Baby Yoda has existed as the show’s ultimate MacGuffin. The Empire — particularly, Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon — has been willing to go through huge expense and effort to get their hands on the little green guy, but one of the biggest questions in the series has been “why?”
Season 2, episode 4, “The Siege,” finally gives an answer — but it’s tied to one of the most controversial, even reviled, aspects of George Lucas’ prequel films.
Spoilers below for The Mandalorian season 2, episode 4, and the Star Wars films
As a recording of bespectacled Dr. Pershing (last seen taking a blood sample from Baby Yoda in season 1) reveals, Moff Gideon appears to be experimenting with injecting test subjects with Baby Yoda’s blood — and the midi-chlorians within it — in order to make his own Force-powered soldiers.
To backtrack a bit, the idea of midi-chlorians was first introduced in The Phantom Menace when Qui-Gon Jinn takes a blood sample from Anakin Skywalker in order to ascertain the young Jedi-to-be’s midi-chlorian count. Anakin’s midi-chlorian count of over 20,000 was infamously “off the chart” — as Obi-Wan relates, “even Master Yoda doesn’t have a midi-chlorian count that high.”
A later scene has Qui-Gon explaining what midi-chlorians are: “a microscopic life form that resides inside all living cells” that provide a connection between living things and the Force. According to Qui-Gon, the midi-chlorians “speak to us, telling us the will of the Force.”
In The Mandalorian, though Pershing doesn’t make explicit reference to “midi-chlorians” themselves, he does say that he doubts “we’ll find a donor with a higher M-count.” Considering what Obi-Wan’s comment tells us about Yoda’s midi-chlorian count (namely, that it’s very high), there’s little doubt that the Empire’s interest in Baby Yoda’s high “M-count” isn’t related.
The debate over whether midi-chlorians were a good or bad addition to the lore of Star Wars is a far-ranging one, an idea that the franchise continues to grapple with even in today’s modern incarnation.
When The Phantom Menace released, many fans railed against the concept of midi-chlorians, arguing that it put an almost Dragon Ball Z-esque quantification on the idea of Jedi and the Force, along with establishing a literal blood right to who gets to be a Force user and who doesn’t.
It was an explanation that seemed miles away from Obi-Wan’s description in A New Hope of the Force as “an energy field created by all living things — it surrounds us, it penetrates us, and it binds the galaxy together.” The original films made it seem like anyone could be a Jedi if they had the will and the training — even a farm boy from the farthest corner of the galaxy.
Following the backlash, midi-chlorians faded into the background, with only oblique mentions in subsequent films and TV series. But the idea that midi-chlorians represented has continued to serve as a point of contention throughout the years in Star Wars media.
The sequel trilogy highlights that conflict perfectly. Is Star Wars and the legacy of the Force something that anyone can be a part of, as Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi posits, with Rey framed as a random orphan capable of wielding power to challenge the Skywalker dynasty? Or as J.J. Abrams’ films would suggest, does it all really come down to what’s in your blood?
The Mandalorian seeks to reopen the can of worms that is the midi-chlorian debate in the most direct way since The Phantom Menace. And while it’s not clear if it’s actually possible to create a Jedi simply by injecting one with enough Yoda blood, it seems, one way or another, The Mandalorian will be weighing in on what does — or doesn’t — define a connection to the Force.
As Dr. Pershing notes in the episode for his own midi-chlorian experiments: “There were promising effects for an entire fortnight, but then, sadly, the body rejected the blood.” We’ll have to wait and see whether Star Wars fans do the same with midi-chlorians this time around.