In the penultimate episode of Season 1 of The Mandalorian on Disney+, we are re-introduced to IG-11, the assassin droid with a penchant for blowing things up (including himself, if he gets captured). The dangerous bounty hunter was blasted by Din Djarin in the first episode of the series, since IG-11 posed a real threat to the Child, now known as Grogu. However, IG-11 appears to have not only come back from the dead, but has changed his ways, and has transformed from a by-the-book bounty hunter to a nurse droid.
This metamorphosis is courtesy of Kuiil, the wise, empathetic ugnaught who sees new purpose in the dilapidated droid and rebuilds it. Through Kuiil’s tutelage and re-programming, the converted assassin learns to feed and take care of the blurrgs, serve tea, and help out around Kuiil’s homestead. And no one is more surprised than Din Djarin, who has trouble shaking his belief that the IG unit is a danger to Grogu and everyone in its path. However, Kuiil is steadfast: the droid is no danger.
But how did this happen? Yes, Kuiil is a gifted technician. He knows how to use his hands to repair and modify things, often making them better. But this is entirely different, and not because of any mechanical know-how or technological wizardry. In fact, the secret recipe for IG-11’s conversion lies not in Kuiil’s exceptional gifts with tools, but in his adherence to two keywords: patience and affirmation.
We are treated to a wonderful montage of Kuiil giving the droid newfound purpose through this lens. With patience, Kuiil never gives up on the droid while it re-learns to walk, carry things, and recalibrate itself to a new way of life. Kuiil never loses his temper, raises his voice, or shows frustration of any kind. And he never puts a timeline on IG-11’s rehabilitation. He allows the droid to make mistakes and advises accordingly with kindly patience.
Kuiil is also sure to praise the droid as it continues to make progress. He rewards him with appropriate accolades during IG-11’s training and does so with sincerity and without any sense of patronizing the droid. There is respect and acknowledgment of effort, all done with genuine affirmation. The results of this strategy speak for themselves as a testament to IG-11’s determination and effort, but more importantly here, due to Kuiil’s adherence to a different strategical approach.
For this ugnaught, compassion and empathy make all the difference.
Dan Zehr is the host and brand director of Coffee With Kenobi, a podcast that examines the mythology of Star Wars from a place of intelligence and humor. He is the co-author of The Star Wars Book, along with Pablo Hidalgo and Cole Horton, and is also a high school English teacher with an MS in Teaching and Learning.
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