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Can The Mandalorian Survive Without Baby Yoda?

We are in no man’s land for Star Wars fans, specifically those who have come to love The Mandalorian. Season 2 has wrapped up its run and we have a potentially long wait for season 3. But that gives us plenty of time to ponder what’s to come. What we know for sure is that the show will be radically different when it returns and there is one key question at hand; can it survive without Baby Yoda?

Warning: this post will contain massive spoilers for The Mandalorian season 2. Proceed with caution. From the end of the show’s first episode, The Mandalorian has largely been about the adventures of Mando and Baby Yoda. We now know the loveable little alien creature has a name, Grogu, but he is still affectionately referred to by his internet-given title. In any case, the season 2 finale, in many ways, concluded that central journey, setting up a huge change to come when the series returns for its next round of adventures. Namely, it seems Pedro Pascal’s bounty hunter will be traversing the galaxy without his trusty, Force-sensitive sidekick.

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To recap, the season 2 finale saw Mando and his crew breaking onto Moff Gideon’s ship to get Grogu back after he had been abducted. After a harrowing battle, they had secured the Child and Moff Gideon was cuffed on the bridge. But a legion of Dark Troopers was going to spoil the whole thing, as they were gearing up to bust down the door and kill the lot of them. Then, a lone X-Wing appeared, none other than Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing. Luke tore through the Dark Troopers in expert Jedi fashion. He then makes his way to Grogu and offers to train the young (relatively speaking) alien in the ways of the Force. In the end, Mando saw that it was the right thing to do and leg Grogu head off with Luke.

It was a fitting and logical step for Grogu’s journey to take. He is strong with the Force. There are few Jedi left in the galaxy in this time period, which is roughly five years after the events of Return of the Jedi. This is when Luke was trying to rebuild a new generation of Jedi. Din Djarin, as much as he loves Grogu, can’t properly train him. Heartbreaking as it may have been, for fans and the characters, it was the correct narrative decision.

But that leaves us in an interesting place heading into The Mandalorian season 3. There is zero question that the surprise reveal and instant popularity of Baby Yoda helped make the show a bigger-than-expected success. It bolstered Disney+ as a streaming service and united the Star Wars fanbase under one roof. That little green alien almost single-handedly paved the way for the future of the franchise. That may sound dramatic, but it is hard to imagine the show being as successful without its secret weapon.

Executive Producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have cemented themselves as brilliant Star Wars storytellers. There was tremendous pressure in creating the first ever live-action Star Wars series, especially one that wasn’t going to lean on legacy characters. It is hard to argue with results. They succeeded in a big way, aided in no small part by their creation of Baby Yoda. But The Mandalorian has, additionally, thrived because its stories have compelled the fanbase, appealing to both casual viewers and hardcore fans. Even so, it is hard not to wonder if the show can succeed on the same level without the ace up its sleeve. Will fans be compelled to see how Din deals with his life beyond protecting the Child? Or will some lose interest with Grogu out of the picture? To quote Yoda, “Impossible to see, the future is.”

What we know for sure is that Disney and Lucasfilm are doubling down with Star Wars on the small screen. The success of this show has prompted them to expand on TV in the next few years. While the movies will continue, streaming is the immediate future. Disney+ will play home to a host of new shows including The Book of Boba Fett, Ahsoka, Rangers of the New Republic, The Acolyte, Andor, Obi-Wan Kenobi and more. Several of these shows will take place in the same timeline as The Mandalorian and the plan is for them to build to an “event” series down the road. What precisely that will be remains to be seen. Though there is at least some reason to believe it will involve Grand Admiral Thrawn, given that name-drop in season 2.

The key point is that Star Wars has found a new path forward thanks to The Mandalorian. Baby Yoda helped unite a divided fanbase. But another key to the show’s success is that it truly felt like something new within a galaxy far, far away, while weaving in elements that felt familiar. Grogu is, himself, familiar in that he is of Yoda’s species but new, as we have never seen a younger version of that species. These shows have an opportunity to break new ground. The Mandalorian season 3, similarly, can reinvent itself in bold new ways that viewers might never expect. A new storyline or character that none of us can even fathom could wind up filling that void. It is very possible for this show to succeed without Baby Yoda. Difficult? Yes. But possible. Favreau and Filoni appear to be up to the challenge.

It’s also important to remember that, even if he isn’t in The Mandalorian season 3, we almost certainly have not seen the last of Grogu. This is a creature that could live another 700 years or so. Disney and Lucasfilm are undoubtedly going to use that to their advantage in the future, be it in some of these upcoming Disney+ shows or elsewhere. Even if the show that introduced him to the franchise has to soldier on without him, Grogu will quite probably be a major part of Star Wars for years to come. But Mando, in the meantime, will need to find himself a new companion, and a new quest. The Mandalorian seasons 1 and 2 are available now via the Disney+ streaming app. The Mandalorian season 3 release date is set for Christmas 2021.

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