Opinion Editor Michileen Martin argues that in order for The Mandalorian to continue to grow, Grogu has to finally speak.
Jon Favreau recently demolished the notion that he had a hard idea of when Disney+‘s The Mandalorian would end, saying the heroes of the show “potentially could be with us for a while,” and that he wanted the chance to do “much more” of the series. I’m not here to argue about whether that’s a good idea or a bad one, but I will say if The Mandalorian is going to have the longevity Favreau or any likeminded fans wants from it, we need Grogu to finally open his mouth and talk. And we need it to happen soon.
I’m not arguing that it doesn’t make sense for the little guy not to speak, but that the series needs to evolve. In order for The Mandalorian to grow, Grogu needs to grow. Even if his trauma stops him from saying all that he remembers, we need to see him emerge as his own character and become more than just sci-fi‘s most adorable MacGuffin, and more than Cub to Din Djarin’s Lone Wolf.
It feels like The Mandalorian has been streaming for much longer than it has, and so it may be easy to forget that Grogu started off as a surprise ending. In fact, Grogu didn’t even have a proper name until the middle of Season 2. The people behind the camera of the Star Wars series called him “The Child,” while the rest of us pretty much refused to call him anything but “Baby Yoda.”
But he’s not a baby. In spite of his irresistible cuteness, those huge dark eyes, and his penchant for eating and/or playing with everything he shouldn’t, we know Grogu isn’t a baby. And I’m not just talking about the fact that the little dude is over 50 years old.
The Mandalorian may have Grogu act like an infant, but in “Chapter 13: The Jedi,” Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) suggests he’s anything but. In her psychic communication with him, she learns he was trained by “many masters” and tells Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) that the way he wields the Force takes “years of training and discipline.”
Sure, it’s possible Grogu’s still unnamed species doesn’t traditionally communicate through speech (which could explain Yoda’s unique syntax), but presumably with years — possibly decades — of training at the Jedi Temple alongside species from all over the galaxy who do speak, somewhere along the way he’d figure out how to do it. I mean, even Wookiees can talk. They just sound like they’re either roaring, moaning, or very passionately yawning when they do it.
The good news is that we may finally be getting close to him opening up. The most recent The Mandalorian episode, “The Foundling,” begins some unraveling with a flashback to Coruscant and the efforts to save Grogu during the events of the infamous Order 66. Perhaps it will be these memories Grogu has to confront before we hear him speak properly.
It can be kind of jarring to make a character speak when audiences have followed them for a while and are used to them not talking; especially when those characters are some kind of non-human creature. But the right talent can make it work. Of all the wonderful things there are to say about 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, for example, finally hearing the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) speak in complete sentences that were more than two words long was a big highlight.
Things are looking kind of iffy for a lot of the big science fiction and sci-fi adjacent franchises these days, particularly the Disney ones like Star Wars and Marvel that have been ruling the roost for a while. To survive, The Mandalorian is going to need to evolve, including making its most beloved hero, Grogu, a fully realized character. And that includes making him open his mouth to do something beyond frog-eating.