It’s an unwritten rule that every episode of The Mandalorian must feature Baby Yoda doing an Adorable Baby Yoda Thing. Such is the marketing way.
It’s The Mandalorian’s insistence on highlighting the gurgling green cutie’s toddler antics (mostly involving inappropriate snack choices) that made The Mandalorian such a success, drawing in Star Wars diehards, their kiddos, and mainstream audiences who hadn’t been given a reason to geek out for the space western franchise before.
Plus, the merchandise possibilities became endless. From the moment Baby Yoda — whose real name, Grogu, just doesn’t have the same ring to it — appeared on-screen with his ridiculously large pea ears, bobblehead body, and stylish potato-sack garb, his endearing likeness was soon plastered on every product imaginable.
It made sense to capitalize on Grogu throughout Season One’s run, especially because its primary focus was on bounty hunter Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) protecting the Force-sensitive child amid a series of dicey adventures. Season Two was then a rehash of Season One, but with a clearer sense of where Grogu was supposed to wind up (in the de-aged arms of Luke Skywalker to complete his Jedi training).
But (some) Star Wars acolytes have become jaded by the tiny alien’s omnipresence. They bemoaned his cameo in The Book of Boba Fett, and found themselves less charmed than ever by all of Grogu’s silly shenanigans in the opening episode of Season 3. (He likes to nosh on space M&Ms now, guys, and he’s also a “bad baby” that squeezes Babu Frik a little too hard.) It isn’t so much that Grogu is a nuisance, but rather that he continually steals scenes from the show’s ostensible protagonist.
Will Disney ever let Baby Yoda stop babying around? Or, more pertinently, will Disney ever let showrunner Jon Favreau (gently) toss Grogu to the background, and bring Din to the front of the narrative? Grogu is obviously crucial to Din’s character arc: Grogu’s indispensableness is evident when we see Din break one of the most sacred Mandalorian rules in the Season Two finale and remove his helmet to give Grogu a proper goodbye. But the story is disserviced by Din’s one-dimensionality. Din is more than an ass-kicking surrogate dad. His past is worthy of deeper exploration, as are Mandalore’s history and the Mandalorians’ unique code of ethics and religious ideology.
There’s hope yet for Mandalorian fans that want a season centered less on getting Grogu someplace, and more on the growth of Din’s character, culture, and creed. Episode 1 of Season 3 ends with Din and Grogu visiting a Mandalorian castle on Kalevala, and Din is determined to retake Mandalore and atone for his transgressions. Grogu’s precious, memeable, and bankable mischief will just have to wait. It’s time for the Mandalorian to take back the reigns of his show.
The Mandalorian Season 3 is available to stream on Disney+.