About a year ago, the first episode of "The Mandalorian," a "Star Wars" spin off show, dropped on Disney+. Immediately, viewers were struck by one character on the series, even though they didn’t have a single line. I am, of course, talking about Baby Yoda. Except, that’s not their real name. I won’t get into spoilers from most of the episode, but I will be discussing one very big reveal, so SPOILER WARNING if you don’t want to know it.
In a recent episode of the show, fans were shocked when Baby Yoda’s real name was revealed to be… Grogu. This wasn’t a good kind of shock, as many felt that this name seemed boring and generally uninspired.
However, was there any possible name that could have felt right? Fans had settled on this one specific name for over a year. Memes talking about how cute Baby Yoda is spread all across the internet like wildfire, cementing the phrase “Baby Yoda” in people’s heads. They weren’t likely to embrace whatever came next.
This problem is not unique to "Star Wars," as some variation of it can be seen in just about any sort of long-term storytelling. To present a question to an audience and then withhold the answer for a year or more is a very risky move, as there is no guarantee that the response will be good. Every fan has time to fully flesh out what they think the answer should be and will judge what they see based on it. This means that writers are expected to satisfy everyone’s individual expectations—to mentally tune into every individual viewer’s mind and combine everything into a cohesive and satisfying story… and that’s just not possible.
A somewhat famous example of this sort of thing is the finale to the television show "Lost." I’m not trying to make any sort of statement as to its quality, but the general consensus is that it was terrible. Fans were so mad about it that they claimed it ruined the entirety of the show. Would this vitriol have arisen if the show was only one season? I don’t think it would have. The anger came from the investment people had made in the show. The agreement that everyone watching had at least subconsciously made with the creative team was that if they just stuck with the show for a few years, even if they get bored with it or found that the quality dropped, then they will one day get the answers to the mysteries presented. If that answer doesn’t satisfy you, then that agreement is broken. A broken agreement leads to people selling their "Lost" DVDs en masse.
Obviously, no actual agreement is made. There is no legally binding contract signed. This doesn’t mean, however, that reactions are any more subdued. YouTube is filled with rants which complain about every single thing in pop culture that they disagree with. Entire chatrooms are devoted to creating boycotts against companies for releasing something that they dislike. It seems like so many people just hate everything.
Now, it’s not impossible for a show to stick the landing. Many have great finales, with few complaints made among fans. It can be done, but it becomes increasingly more difficult the longer the build up is. Not to mention, the reveal of Baby Yoda’s name has been met with a more humorous response, making fun of the name and the decision-making that went into choosing it, than an angry one. At the same time, it’s worth wondering how the response might have been had the buildup lasted five years instead of one. Maybe it would have been the same. Maybe it would have been worse (knowing how toxic the "Star Wars" fan community can be, this is pretty likely). Regardless, it’s worth thinking about the people behind the scenes, and their struggle to simply make a good story. Is that really worth getting so mad about?