Please, Someone Get the Mandalorian a (Talking) Buddy – The Ringer

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By now, you know the deal. The Mandalorian, the bounty hunter at the center of the new Disney+ show of the same name, is a serious fellow. He fights; he shoots; he collects bounties; he finds the next bounty to fight and shoot his way toward. He does not like to talk. He wears a mask, under which allegedly lurks Pedro Pascal; its permaplacement over his tousled (again, allegedly) locks means he does not wink or smile or frown or have his eyes squished in. Or at least not so far as we know. Basically: The Mandalorian (as well as The Mandalorian) does not give us very much emotion to process.

None of this is surprising, exactly: The Mandalorian is a brooding Western by design. But also—and I’ve fortified my desk with Beskar so don’t even bother unholstering your blaster—maybe through its first two episodes, it’s just a teeny, tiny bit boring?

Hear me out. Yes, the mystery is intentional (see: our nameless lead). But it’s astonishing how little lore or dialogue or … information of any kind the show has offered up so far. In the second episode, “The Child,” we don’t get a line of English until nearly 10 minutes into its 32-minute run, and it’s one delivered by a supporting character (“I thought you were dead”) that the Mandalorian doesn’t even bother responding to. So far, this is par for the course—when absolutely forced to engage with a conversational partner, he’s as close to monosyllabic as possible, the Lucasverse’s very own surly teen. Combine that with the helmet and, well, he might as well be a droid.

That’s a problem because if there are stakes in the show beyond “the Mandalorian would like to get rich so he can buy nicer armor,” they still aren’t apparent to the viewer. There’s slow burn, and then there’s being a quarter of the way through a show’s eight-episode run and not knowing whether its central character has a personality beyond being mildly annoyed by flight delays.

Fortunately for us, there’s a simple tweak that could fix this problem. Please, Star Wars gods (midi-chlorians?): Give the guy a buddy posthaste. One who talks.

There’s reason to think a sidekick would give the show the livening up that it needs. We got some time in Episode 1 with a chatty Mythrol bounty-ee, and Nick Nolte’s weirdly helpful Kuiil, the one who supposed he might have passed on to the great guild forge in the sky, has at least forced the Mando to exercise his vocal cords here and there. The first episode’s shoot-out, where our hero works beside the Taika Waititi–voiced, self destruction–obsessed IG-11 droid, was as much fun as the show has allowed so far.

We are now blessed with the presence of Baby Yoda, whose adorable, catlike peering was used as a frequent cutaway in “The Child,” adding some levity and just a hint of narrative, as when the Mando makes clear he does not, unlike every kid who will be receiving gifts this holiday season, want to cuddle with its giant green googly face. But the little guy (girl?) doesn’t talk, and like porgs before it, there’s probably a ceiling to how much they can use Baby Yoda’s charm as a distraction. It brings me no pleasure to say so, but if The Mandalorian keeps relying on Baby Yoda Blinks Wonderingly as a punch line as frequently as the show did in Episode 2, it will probably be a failure.

It would also be, well, pretty dull. The end of the second episode leaves us with the Mando and Baby Yoda—the bounty who won’t be bounted, hinting at an internal conflict that the bounty hunter probably will not explain on his own—setting off alone for ports unknown. Given that one of those characters can’t speak and has limited facial-expression range and the other doesn’t want to speak and has zero facial-expression range—well, I doubt we’ll get much in the way of stultifying conversation. Or plot. Or fun.

What our Mando needs is a pal. As yin needs yang, so does the 10th grader at the dinner table need a parent to relentlessly ask how school was. Say, Mando, does the foundling you’ve taken in remind you of your own childhood? How does that make you feel? Beth—you remember Beth, Andy’s mom?—saw you with a girl at the dance; could you tell me her name?

There is reason for hope on the sidekick/buddy/partner front. Many of the promos for The Mandalorian, including the interstitial for the show in the Disney+ app, feature our Mando alongside Gina Carano, who plays a character named Cara Dune. Dune has yet to appear; with the back three-quarters of the season looming and the Baby Yoda plot finally lifted off from its sandy planet, the odds seem good that we’ll meet her at last. Let’s just hope she’s a little better at chitchat than the Mandalorian.

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