Disney+'s new series The Mandalorian has been a hit since its debut on Nov. 12 — and not just with Star Wars fans. By now, you've definitely seen some sort of content, whether it's a meme or a musical tribute, dedicated to "Baby Yoda," the technically unnamed, 50-year-old child that is the same species as the iconic Yoda. There is another character, however, who is worthy of riotous applause: Cara Dune.
Cara Dune makes her entrance in the fourth episode ("Chapter 4: Sanctuary") of the series, but we've been anticipating her ever since her poster was revealed alongside ones of other primary characters from the new series. Within minutes of her onscreen debut, Cara proved she was worth the wait.
Played by former Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Gina Carano, Cara Dune's character was bound to be a force to be reckoned with from the start. Her first interaction with the main character, the Mandalorian, is a perfectly executed hand-to-hand combat scene in which she nearly bests the starring bounty hunter. While Leia, Padme, Rey, Rose Tico, and Jyn Erso are all fighters who have proved themselves, Cara Dune brings something brand new with her warrior-strong capabilities to match anyone she comes across with her hands alone. Hand-to-hand combat is rare in the galaxy far, far away where lightsabers and blasters are so much quicker, so seeing a female character hold her own against a starring male character in an uncommon fighting style for the franchise was something to behold.
Not only does Cara Dune bring a new style of combat, she brings a new aesthetic. Cara Dune is the opposite of soft. She's bold, brave, and rough around the edges . . . and she should be because she's a retired shock trooper of the Galactic Civil War. Her style is new, too. Name one other character bold enough to get the symbol for the Rebel Alliance tattooed on their face? You most likely cannot. Cara avoids the buns and braids that have become somewhat of a standard for Star Wars female protagonists, instead sporting a refreshing and edgy sidecut.
In terms of body-type diversity, Cara Dune is pulling all of the weight for that movement in the Star Wars franchise. Given the fact that Carano is a former athlete with years of training, Cara is muscular and solid, standing apart from the pack of predominantly slender protagonists that have come before her. As a woman who also isn't slender, watching Cara Dune on screen finally felt like there was someone who I could see myself in within this fictional universe I have long admired.
Beyond her look, Cara Dune has enough personality to fill a room. She's sassy, constantly calling out The Mandalorian on his faults and making sure she's the one to knock some sense into him as he attempts to remain loyal to life he left behind when he chose to save Baby Yoda. Not only is she sassy, she's brave. In the battle to defend a small fishing village in the fourth episode, Cara is undeniably the MVP of the affair. She charges a deadly AT-ST, an Imperial vehicle armed with mounted laser cannons, in order to save the villagers. She pretty much uses herself as bait to draw said AT-ST toward a ditch that the protagonists dug to trap and destroy the machine. Cara seemingly has no fears and she's as smart as warriors come. Baby Yoda is almost killed toward the end of the episode, but Cara manages to track the bounty hunter and shoots him in the back of the head right before he could take a shot at the child.
While there have been plenty of animated female characters with diverse fighting styles and personalities, such as Sabine Wren, there is something special about seeing a person break an onscreen trend of the same type of body type, style, and fighting technique. Cara provides a new character for female fans of Star Wars, young and old, to look up to and, perhaps, see themselves in. She was made for those who find themselves to be a little rugged and audacious. She is a breath of fresh air for those who haven't been able to see themselves in the Star Wars universe quite yet.