If you’re like me, you’ve probably noticed a common thread lingering across all of the Star Wars shows on Disney+ so far.
What begins as a typical hero’s journey, whether following the profit-hunting pursuits of The Mandalorian or reuniting with the Bad Batch crew, turns into something much different: a story of parenthood.
The blueprint was established from the beginning and has become hard to ignore ever since. Grogu was the mystery bounty in Chapter 1 of The Mandalorian and has dictated the show’s every second from there. Likewise, Omega made her impression from the start of The Bad Batch just as Leia did in Obi-Wan Kenobi.
While it may not be a child, The Book of Boba Fett shares some of these same qualities, too. Surprisingly, that show spun Boba Fett into a political leader, tasked with looking after an entire community of people rather than himself. Regardless of how you look at it, each show has disregarded the story many of us may have hoped to see to give us an unexpected tale of parenthood and family instead.
Not convinced, yet? This type of storytelling on Disney+ hasn’t been isolated to Star Wars either. Hawkeye put its hero in a similar position, forced to look after a young Kate Bishop. And early signs indicate that She-Hulk will place the Avenger into the same leadership role, too.
So, it’s clear that Disney+ has defaulted to a parent-child narrative in a number of shows thus far. But why? And on top of that, why has it been so successful, too?
First, each of these shows places its main characters into an unfamiliar position. We often think of bounty hunters as stoic, ruthless killers who see no boundary between right and wrong unless money is involved. At least, Star Wars have historically treated them in that way. But, what does a bounty hunter become when he has a child to look after? Or an entire village?
Pedro Pascal elaborated on this when discussing what to expect from The Mandalorian moving forward. “If he is stepping into a leadership position, he’s reluctant to do so,” Pascal said. “I don’t think that there’s anything more interesting than a character being forced into discovering what they’re capable of, and who they are.”
Parenting has been just one path of that discovery. That is, in large part, because children themselves are unpredictable. They will make mistakes that put the more experienced characters into situations they would rather avoid. As a result, we get to see how far the hero will go to remedy them when they have something of their own to protect.
Michelle Ang, the voice actor for Omega, referenced this as a key aspect to remember when developing the character, saying in an interview last year:
"There would be times when I was like, ‘You know, I think that she might not recognize the gravity of the situation.’ She’s working on this from one level, which might be more lighthearted or really innocent, and that’s actually a nice counter to the Bad Batch, who have a very military or jaded outlook as to how certain situations might progress."
These stories thrive on the element of contrast. They pit unbreakable heroes alongside children punching above their own weight to try and contribute to the fight. As a result, they serve as foil characters. Their differences reveal more about one another than we’d ever otherwise know.
Parenting isn’t exactly a revolutionary concept, of course. It’s been a staple in media for centuries. I think of projects like The Last of Us or A Quiet Place as recent examples.
Star Wars is no exception, either. Family has been arguably the biggest theme of the entire franchise, specifically in the Skywalker Saga. George Lucas even acknowledged this when selling Lucasfilm to Disney, telling Charlie Rose in 2015.
"[A]ll I wanted to do was tell a story … It started here and it went there. And it’s all about generations. And it’s about the issues of fathers and sons and grandfathers… It’s a family soap opera.”"
However, there is something distinctly different when relationships form outside of blood. In these cases, they come by choice, and are all the more powerful because of it.
The time and space that the television medium provides could be another reason why. The bond between The Mandalorian and Grogu has grown so strong because of the two seasons worth of events preceding it. Two and a half hours could not have that same effect.
Perhaps it is just that the parent-child relationship is a perfect fit for television. Or, maybe, it is an extension of what has been present in Star Wars all along. Either way, Disney+ has found its storytelling template, and it’s hard to argue with the results, too.
Now, the question becomes, will people begin to tire of it? And what should we expect from Andor and whatever else comes after? It’s hard to say, yet each story has been a surprise so far. And whether it involves a parent-child relationship or not, I’m hoping for more of the same.