The Mandalorian "star" Baby Yoda has won the internet for this season. No one can stop talking or making memes out of him. You could say Disney+ has won the first big battle in the Streaming Wars. Baby Yoda now dominates virtually every corner of the internet and rocketed Disney+'s Star Wars series to "Biggest Show" status this season.
Baby Yoda's real purpose in the story is to make The Mandolarian a good guy.
Spoiler warning: We Dive Deep Into Mando's Personality
The writing of the show has taken deliberate steps to make the Mandalorian a sympathetic good guy with a soft centre. Everything was signposted even before Baby Yoda showed up at the end of the first episode. The Mandalorian was a war orphan, or a foundling. He donates a percentage of his bounty fees to the care of foundlings. That was the first sign that he has a soft spot for kids. When he discovers his bounty is a Baby Yoda, he shoots the bounty droid to stop it from killing the kid.
All the Mandalorian's interactions with Baby Yoda are gentle. He doesn't shout or throw the kid around. He always gently scolds him and picks him up. It's a stroke of marketing genius that the pre-release publicity for the show made fans think it was going to be "The Man With No Name in space." Once Baby Yoda shows up, the show turns out to be "Lone Wolf and Cub in space!"
"Save Baby Yoda" is the New "Save the Cat"
You know the term "Save the Cat"? It's screenwriter shorthand for making sure a character is likable and sympathetic. If he does badass and nasty things, stop for a moment to have him save a cat to show he's a good guy at heart. That's what Baby Yoda brings out in the Mandalorian. Everybody's heart melted at the sight of Baby Yoda, with big eyes and tiny, frail body. How a character treats Baby Yoda becomes a clue for whether they're good or not. Of course Werner Herzog would villainously call for Baby Yoda's death with cold indifference. In real life, Herzog's reaction to Baby Yoda has been the opposite – exactly like everyone else's, of course.
The Mandalorian may act like The Man With No Name – but at heart, he's really Shane. He has a kind heart that comes out when he's with ordinary people instead of bounty hunters, scum and villainy. He's unerringly courteous to people who show him kindness, always thanking them when they help him. Pedro Pascal's face may be hidden under the helmet, but his body language and gestures are frequently imbued with tenderness when he doesn't have to shoot or kill anyone.
The show goes to great lengths to show the Mandalorian as an underdog. He's not the greatest warrior or the best bounty hunter. He's often put-upon and ends up outnumbered and outgunned. He would have died if he didn't get help from Baby Yoda, his fellow Mandalorians or whichever allies he had. He seriously considers giving up his religion and way of life to settle down and raise Baby Yoda with the widow who takes a shine to him. But he knows the heartbreaking truth: he can't settle down. He and Baby Yoda are joined at the hip as they'll be hunted for as long as they live.
The show also implies that the Mandalorians in general have a soft spot for children. When they hear he turned over Baby Yoda to Werner Herzog, they're all pissed off at him. The big heavy-artillery Mandalorian – played by show creator and director Jon Favreau, no less – wants to beat the crap out of him. But the moment Mando rescues Baby Yoda, they're perfectly happy to swoop in and help him escape.
All this for Baby Yoda. Everything in the show happens because of Baby Yoda.
This all makes sense because this show is for both parents and kids. It's comfort food about a man who's reluctantly learning how to Dad. His reaction to seeing Baby Yoda for the first time is the same as ours. That was the moment his heart melted, even if we can't see his face under the helmet.
Baby Yoda turns us all into The Mandalorian.