Feature Article

Opinion: The Mandalorian Really Needs To Develop Its Characters

The Mandalorian gets the look of Star Wars right but is desperately missing the humanity.

A quarter of the way through The Mandalorian's eight-episode run, I find I know nothing about anything that's happening--and I'm wondering why I should care.

The first live-action TV show outing in the Disney Star Wars era certainly nails a cool aesthetic about the galaxy far, far away. It follows a Mandalorian bounty hunter (who is not Boba Fett), taking jobs in the post-Return of the Jedi era. It gets the ships and the aliens right, as well as the zings of blaster bolts, the dangers of massive creatures and uncooperative humanoids, and the general bad-assery of anybody sporting that particular iconic helmet and the gear that goes with it. The Mandalorian sets out to shed some light on a different corner of the Star Wars universe, and anything that opens up the franchise is good for a story that's been largely centered on one particularly influential family for the last 40 years.

But The Mandalorian is two short-ish episodes in, and it's remarkable how little we know about, uh, anything. We've seen the titular Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) do some bounty hunting, fight a variety of blaster-wielding jerks, rebuild his dismantled ship, and tame an alien beast to ride it. But we've learned almost nothing about him as a person, even as we've watched him do a whole bunch of action hero-type stuff.

We do know a little about the Mandalorian. He's a no-nonsense man of few words. He's willing to take help where he can get it, even offering to split a bounty with a rival hunter in order to get the job done. And he's got a soft spot for Baby Yoda, the target of his bounty, which saved from termination. This seems to be the result of some kinship the Mandalorian feels with the baby on account of them both being orphans, a fact we learned from a very fast, very choppy flashback in the first episode.

And that's pretty much it. We haven't even seen the Mandalorian's face, on account of he never takes his helmet off (which the show sug an affectation of being a member of the Mandalorian warrior tribe). We know he sometimes forms bonds with animals, thanks to that horse-training montage with the alien Blurg in Episode 1. And we know he has some pretty gray morals, I guess, given that he's willing to take jobs from shady Imperial characters who definitely are up to no good. But maybe inside he might have a soft spot for orphans, in part because he has not yet murdered a child.

Not knowing anything about the main character--most chiefly, his motivations and drives--makes it really tough to care about The Mandalorian. The first two episodes have certainly shown him doing a lot of stuff, but none of it feels especially consequential; it's just a series of tasks he has to complete or events that happen to him, without any discernible effect on who he is as a person. The closest we've come to actually learning anything about him through his actions came at the end of Episode 1 when he killed an ally, rather than let that ally shoot a baby as part of a bounty contract. He's down for murder, but not baby murder--although you could just as easily argue that this is just him following the rules of his contract with those obviously evil Imperial dudes. He gets more money if he returns the baby alive, so maybe he was planning to ruthlessly murder IG-11 all along to keep the payout for himself.

The point is, we don't know. We don't know anything about anyone. There are other Mandalorians, apparently, and they're excited to make new Mandalorian armor out of the special Baskar steel our Mandalorian is earning from his contract. But as to who they are, what else they want, or what else they do, we know nothing. We spend a huge amount of the first two episodes with Kuiil (Nick Nolte), and find out about as much about him as we do the protagonist of the show, even though he has much more dialogue. Why help a scary murder warrior kill a bunch of folks? "To bring peace to my valley," he says, and then ends the discussion with "I have spoken." Very compelling.

It's not that The Mandalorian shouldn't channel Westerns with its Man With No Name approach to its protagonist, or that we need heaps of dialogue explaining every single thing about our man Mando. Mystery can work, especially in these kinds of stories. But The Mandalorian has gone too far in the other direction; it's not providing us with a slow-burn mystery, it's giving out almost no information at all. The thing that makes a mystery interesting is piecing together the tidbits of information that can slowly start to form a complete picture, and we've gotten almost none of that in The Mandalorian. If your protagonist is going to be faceless, nameless, and mostly silent, there should be other characters around to pick up the slack.

You can reveal a character subtly through his actions and his efforts, but The Mandalorian barely does either. The first two episodes are almost purely just a string of events leading from one action setpiece to another. They're fun setpieces, sure--but there's little to glean from watching a bounty hunter kill Jawas or put his ship back together. Watching The Mandalorian is like watching someone else play a video game: There's a lot of cool stuff happening, but little to take it beyond spectacle.

The Star Wars universe is full of nooks and crannies worth exploring, not the least of which is the storied history and mystery surrounding the Mandalorians (and then there are bounty hunters in general, the galaxy's crime-ridden underworld, and whatever's up with the surviving officers of the Empire, known in the Expanded Universe as the Imperial Remnant). But in order to explore those things, you need to have characters; people with personalities who want things, who take action to reach those goals, and who face conflicts along the way. So far, The Mandalorian has done a great job capturing the aesthetic of the Star Wars universe without including any of its humanity. I'm still waiting for the show to give me a reason to keep watching. If I wanted to watch a nameless mask-wearing character zap a bunch of people with blasters for a half-hour, I'd fire up Star Wars: Battlefront.

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philhornshaw

Phil Hornshaw

GameSpot editor in Los Angeles, and the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero’s Guide to Glory. Hoped the latter would help me get Han Solo hair, but so far, unsuccessful.

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Bumblebee1138

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This is why Gamespot should've stuck to games. They get ignorant and dumbfound when expressing opinion for an actual story.

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brxricano

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And he finally gets it. An empty franchise full of flat free spirited characters who dont achieve or earn anything significant because by design they flutter about the galaxy showing you everything and doing nothing but screaming dying running crying and waiting for someone strong to show up. Star wars is captain planet with way less dignity and shitton more cringe.

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Bumblebee1138

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@brxricano: Isn't that what YOU are doing right now? Screaming, crying, don't achieve or earn anything significant? ;)

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brxricano

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@Bumblebee1138: Ah, my captain planet has arrived. Save me from your own garbage. Everything you said is true, if you happen to be illiterate. So instead, a good counter to prove im incorrect would be to break down a world built weaker than DC's and demonstrate im looking in the wrong direction by filling in ANY character's depth that i missed. Crybaby tantrum Vader? Deadbeat Obi? Never say nada Fett? No then yes Solo? Gargles the Wookie? Captain Planet skywalker aka fake jesus christ? Had it and lost it leia? Five nights at freddy deadpan face padmae? Jar jar binks is cool said every jamaican ever. Yeah id use an ad hominem too if i was stuck. Hey, different colored lasers though, amiright? Hi five!

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Bumblebee1138

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Edited By Bumblebee1138

@brxricano: Nice, you've just proved that I'm correct :D

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brxricano

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@Bumblebee1138: Lol the answer i literally expected. Life is good.

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Bumblebee1138

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@brxricano: I know you're feeling the tension towards me, but please contain your excitement.

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brxricano

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@Bumblebee1138: the next post will allow you to get your last google translated word in. Cheers!

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Bumblebee1138

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@brxricano: I don't think we should hurry toward anything. I'm not really into that.

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Applemooze2

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Phil, you did 1 thing right... Putting 'Opinion' at the front of the titel.. Are you mistaken that the Mandalorian is a documatary?? Stop it with the wining about character development. Where is your own imagination? Maybe you should wait until the season ends. Come to think of it, a lot of movie reviews here are below standard. Maybe just stick to gaming.

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Applemooze2

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@applemooze2: lol documentary.. excuse the typo

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idHeretic

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TL;DR

"I'm a baby who needs to be spoon-fed."

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hausjam

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Edited By hausjam

I don’t generally agree with bloggers, but he’s right. The very first episode should have shown us who the mandalorian is and what his game is. Look at Rebels. By the end of the first 2 part episode, we knew who all five main characters were and what drives them.

As much as I think favreau is a great filmmaker, I fear he doesn’t, nor anyone else anymore understands Star Wars.

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hampton2003

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its only 2 episodes in, and since the 2nd was so short i see it more as a part 2 of episode 1. I am worried about running out of time and episodes for this to be a fulfilling season 1, so i hope the rest of the episodes are longer for more world/character development. But so far im very happy about the show, and I'm enjoying the mystery. Very little is spoon fed to the audience, like how he remote controls baby yoda's pod or how these bounty targets have gps chips in their bodies. Now a smart viewer can just make plausible assumptions of scenes that we never saw explaining these mysteries and fill in the knowledge gaps, but not everything has to be explained and its kinda refreshing. If by episode 4 we still have not gotten much more, then yeah I'll agree with this article.

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Millionsedge

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"Opinion: The Mandalorian Desperately Needs To Develop Its Characters"

Let's revisit this after 6 or so episodes. Seems too early to say.

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jenovaschilld

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@millionsedge: Exactly, these are not The Lonesome Dove episodes here. It feels more like a web series brought to streaming then actual 48min-1hr dramas.

Every premise of the author article above makes no sense considering only two short episodes have come out. So far it feels like any other western from the 70's or Anime like Samurai Champloo in that, let us give them action and backdrop while feeding the story at its proper place. What do they want, a Days of Our Lives soap opera with an hour of dialogue, that pretty much says alot but means little.

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RELeon

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I don't mind it. I am not very big into Star Wars, know very little of the overall story arc outside of the main concepts. Watching this show brought up a lot of questions for me, which encouraged me to go do a little research after each episode and learn more about Star Wars lore.

I generally know nothing about what is going on in the episodes so far, but it doesn't keep me from thoroughly enjoying them.

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idkHowToPlay007

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Edited By idkHowToPlay007

First off, ITS TWO EPISODES IN!!!

Second, no they don’t need to develop their characters a ton more. This is essentially a wild western Star Wars themed series. Do we really need that much character development for the Mandalorian? I am sick and tired of exposition, exposition and more exposition in modern TV/Movies. While this they show who the character is by their actions, NOT THEIR WORDS!

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linkdarkside

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Edited By linkdarkside

I hope the mandelorian don't remove his helmet.

Another thing i like about his character is that He a bad ass but not a gary stu.

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jenovaschilld

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@linkdarkside said:

I hope the mandelorian don't remove his helmet.

Another thing i like about his character is that He a bad ass but not a gary stu.

Agree, or when it does, it will be just as the series ends and it fades to black before you can see his face.... That or Rick Ashley when he takes off his helmet.

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watercrack445

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The bar fight scene was dumb. Its like they took inspiration from Han Solo's bar fight.

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jenovaschilld

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@watercrack445 said:

The bar fight scene was dumb. Its like they took inspiration from Han Solo's bar fight.

Agree, I hate every show that starts off with a bar fight, bandit fight.. Such a forced 'hook' that is just not necessary in today's binge streaming.

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idkHowToPlay007

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@watercrack445: so? There is other parts of the show that took inspiration from other movies. And second of all, who cares it’s still Star Wars, and took inspiration from another SW movie.

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CashPrizes

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It's one thing to be like "Oh man, I can't wait for them to tell us the Mandalorian's back story!"

It's an entirely other, pointedly wrong thing to be like "This is a problem. The show Desperately needs to give us more character development!"

They don't ever need to develop him. The Man with no Name / Blondie in the Sergio Leone movies gets almost no character development. All you need to know about him are his actions and his deeds, he is a bastard with a nebulous code of honor that will keep you guessing how he will respond.

They could have him never go back to the Mandalorian enclave, and that too would be fine. Sure they might need to have him give a little more exposition to the Besskar armor since they have built that up as his motivation, but a deep dive on how Mandalorian history and cultural workings is not necessary, and it certainly isn't desperately required.

Awful article.

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alastor529

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Edited By alastor529

1st of all its only 2 episodes and 2nd and most importantly Not everything has to be developed by dialogue and exposition. lmao

I can tell he is a guy who had a rough childhood and barley remembers any of it, wants to live up to Mandolorian ideals. The character still is learning as he goes, he is not perfect at everything. he is being challenged by the wonders of a universe he is still exploring. he has depth since he is shown to be ruthless in combat but obviously still questions his place in all this as he decides to save Baby Yoda instead of executing him like the orders were he decides to save him for now and bring him in alive because he obviously questions even his own authority if he doesn't agree with it which is the polar opposite of how he treated the first bounty he collected.

I don' need him or anyone else to explain his actions, his actions already speak louder than words and that's one of the better aspects of his character and the shows narrative in general.

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idkHowToPlay007

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@alastor529: EXACTLY!!

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Ryno1179

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Boba Fett is one of the coolest characters in the Star Wars universe. Please tell me how much character development he had in episodes 4, 5 and 6?

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jenovaschilld

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@ryno1179: Bob Fett is a whiny bitch, whois character is decent by one side book and that is it. Still though, agree that less character development was a plus then a minus in the movies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iw5zLa2FmoI

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KumaTenshi

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Edited By KumaTenshi

God forbid the story be actually logical and all. We're shown he's clever, quick, intelligent, and capable of being ruthless. He does his job and does it well. He's hired by people who are part of an Empire that no longer exists, to find a mysterious thing. He finds said thing, and it's a "baby" of a race that we watching know very little about, even with the expanded universe of Star Wars that has been touched upon over the years.

The show doesn't treat you like an idiot, you're meant to pay attention and figure out things on your own. Glean what you can from the characters going through things. The people in this show speak and act like ACTUAL people, something Star Wars has long been missing.

Like you said, it's 2 episodes in. It's building foundations, establishing things for later on. Just because you don't have some emo brooding person with immediate things to deal with in their absurdly complicated life, not unlike many other shows these days.

And you're obviously not paying attention if you haven't figured out much about said Mandalorian from the first two episodes. I can list off about 30 some odd character traits he has already. Never mind that episode 2 confirmed baby "yoda" is a force user - something that their universe has long been missing. Remember, at this point in time, Luke is basically one of the ONLY other people in that world capable of tapping into this (Leia too, but we already know she cannot and does not use it that much). And he's off attempting to create a small version of an order that has LONG not existed, too.

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linthenius

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Its as if the show is only 2 episodes in and there will be more development as time goes on. Shocking concept I know.

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Barighm

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Edited By Barighm

The millennial "I want it now!" philosophy on full display, folks.

They're trying to build up the mystery. Generate questions. Get people wondering. Maybe not WELL, but...that's the goal.

If they answered all of those questions in the first couple of episodes, there would be nothing left for the rest of season.

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Bumblebee1138

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@Barighm: If Dollar Trilogy was made today, Gamestpot would make an article crying about how we don't even know the name of the main character.

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drnknnmd

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@Barighm: not really a millennial thing, considering the Boomer gen invented the microwave, tv dinners, cable tv, the VCR, etc etc.

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Nabinator

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@Barighm: "The millennial "I want it now!" philosophy on full display, folks."

I came on to post a similiar thing. Bloody hell, people just want everything right away.

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