Three Seasons Into The Mandalorian, And Let's Be Honest: Grogu Sucks

Folks, search your feelings and you'll know it to be true: The reign of Grogu simply must come to a close. For over three years now, "The Mandalorian" has subjected us to the endless coos and inane babbling of the most shameless marketing tool that this franchise has ever seen — no small feat for the property responsible for Ewoks, Wookiees, BB-8, and the similarly reprehensible affront to all good taste known as Babu Frik. But unlike those side characters and thinly-veiled toys, "Star Wars" has seen fit to bend the entire arc of the series (along with a multi-episode stretch of a completely unrelated spin-off show, "The Book of Boba Fett") around the gravitational pull of this Yoda-shaped black hole. And as "The Mandalorian" approaches its upcoming third season, well, I've had enough.

Okay, with that said, let's get one thing straight right off the bat: "Star Wars" is for kids and that's okay! George Lucas hasn't been shy about the ultimate target demographic he had in mind from the start (12-year-olds, as he put it himself), and so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the kid-friendly franchise now under the ownership of, uh, Walt Disney Studios would keep that tradition going. Honestly, the bigger twist would've been if "The Mandalorian" didn't have some sort of blatant marketing hook to keep children and parents alike invested. But just because it's the obvious move doesn't necessarily make it the right move.

With every bit of season 3 footage that continues to throw that annoying, bald-headed furball in our faces, I can feel my disdain for this discount Muppet growing more and more by the day. Say it with me, everyone! It's time for Baby Yoda to end.

This is not the way

Let me put my cards on the table — I'm not anti-cute by any stretch of the imagination! The Marvel Cinematic Universe equivalent of Grogu, Baby Groot, continues to be one of the best and funniest and most poignant additions that writer/director James Gunn brought to "Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2" and beyond. The Mogwais from Joe Dante's "Gremlins" live rent-free in every film fan's head, especially as the mascots of the Letterboxd social media website (and rightfully so). And while some "Star Wars" fans may have forgotten this in the aftermath of his lightsaber-wielding antics in the prequel trilogy, Yoda's first appearance in "The Empire Strikes Back" set the franchise precedent for weirdo, goofy characters who mostly exist to annoy our heroes and make life harder for them. This is all good!

But what do each and every one of those examples have in common? For one thing, they were more than mere excuses to have audiences squeal at their screens in unison and post viral-ready clips and screenshots online, essentially doing the show's marketing on behalf of Disney and entirely for free. Ever since that cliffhanger ending back in the season 1 premiere, Grogu couldn't help but feel like a cynical business calculation by creator Jon Favreau and those higher up the food chain in Lucasfilm. How best to mitigate the risks of launching a brand-new streaming service led by a "Star Wars" series featuring a new and unknown character who (mostly) never takes off his helmet? Easy! Pair Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) up with an impossibly cute Yoda lookalike who'll get even the most casual fan to subscribe to Disney+ and tune in every week.

Needless to say, it worked like a charm and now here we are.

I wouldn't like to see the baby

Even the idea of a "Star Wars" character existing solely for cuteness' sake wouldn't be a total deal-breaker, however, if only the first two seasons hadn't bent over backwards to treat Grogu as precious as possible, like a meme-factory just waiting to happen. Images like the Child sipping tea, hopping after frogs, or playing with the controls on Mando's spaceship practically feel reverse-engineered to get the intended reactions from viewers on social media. (Note how the one time Grogu diverged even slightly from audience expectations, viewers melted down en masse over something as meaningless as him eating unfertilized eggs.)

Meanwhile, it's no coincidence that the few times Grogu has been placed in genuine peril — think of the Stormtroopers punching their captive in the Taika Waititi-directed season 1 finale, or Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) threatening him with the Darksaber in season 2, or even having a deepfake Luke Skywalker suddenly ferry him away from his Mandalorian guardian for Force-training — have also been the few times that the show has ever seemed to have any real stakes. There's a certain narrative logic to resorting to the classic Western pairing of a grizzled old warrior with a young innocent in his charge, but the show hasn't bothered to actually mine any genuine drama or conflict out of that pairing ... which is probably because they decided to write Grogu as a literal baby with no agency of his own.

But once the creators decided to take their boldest choice yet — separating Grogu from Mando — and undercut it by having them reunite in no time at all in "The Book of Boba Fett," any hope of getting even the tiniest break from Grogu's antics sputtered out alongside Lucasfilm's understanding of self-contained narratives.

Sticking out like a green thumb

Should you be under the impression that I only have the most serious and analytical of complaints regarding Grogu, allow me to dissuade you of that notion altogether.

For better or worse, I have a laundry list of gripes that are much larger than the little tyke himself. For example, I have yet to understand why the creative team behind "The Mandalorian" decided to use distractingly human infant sound effects that sound like they originated from a computer file named StockBabySoundEffects.wav. Every alien species in "Star Wars" (the real Yoda included!) have come with all kinds of distinct idiosyncrasies, voices, and behavior that separate them entirely from our own human mannerisms, while Baby Yoda just sounds like ... a human baby. And that awful name! Let me assure you, "The Book of Boba Fett," that hanging a lampshade on how bad the name "Grogu" is does nothing to absolve the name from being bad in the first place. And as much as I appreciated his single best moment in the entire series — Force-choking Gina Carano's Cara Dune in a rare moment where I actually cheered the little guy on – the aftermath of the brilliant "Andor" has made my tolerance for cutesy and zero-calorie storytelling from this franchise at an all-time low.

There's every chance that season 3 of "The Mandalorian" does the unthinkable and actually turns Grogu into a halfway decent character. Maybe he'll even be tolerable, with all his most cloying tendencies dialed back just a smidge. Or Disney and Lucasfilm can just keep trucking along, drowning out the minority voices of cynics beneath the oohs and ahs of Baby Yoda doin' his thing. But whether we all admit it or not, we know the truth. Grogu is just the worst.