The Mandalorian notices that the person he spotted earlier — the one he'd asked the bartender about — has disappeared. Concerned she's a bounty hunter trying to collect the kid he's protecting, he exits the bar and follows her footprints into an alley.
She swings from a nearby rod and kicks the Mandalorian backward. The unidentified person quickly establishes herself as a brawler, throwing haymakers like it's her job and taking hits from the Mandalorian like he's any old fighter. As the fight drags on, she slams him to the ground with such force that his head hits the ground before his body. (Honestly, it's hilarious, terrifying, and arousing.)
Eventually, they both end up on the ground pulling blasters on one another while the Child, colloquially called Baby Yoda by fandom, watches them and sips on bone broth.
This is how we meet Rebel shock trooper turned mercenary Cara Dune — and neither viewers nor the Mandalorian and the child are ever the same again.
The Mandalorian stole the hearts of viewers when it appeared on Disney+ at the very end of 2019. A sort of space opera slash weird western, the series takes place five years after the events of Return of the Jedi and follows a bounty hunter from the Mandalorian creed as he finds himself faced with an impossible decision. Should he kill or capture the bounty he's been sent to collect as he has sworn to do, or should he help the bounty escape?
The fact that the bounty is a 50-year-old baby that looks a lot like Master Yoda but coos a lot like a sweet little angel makes it easier for the Mandalorian to decide. And so, like an interstellar Lone Wolf and Cub, our hero and his bébé flee from their pursuers. Among the many people they help and are helped by, Mando and the Child meet Cara.
Wanted for reasons yet to be disclosed, Cara believes Mando to be attempting to collect the bounty on her head when he arrives on Sorgan, the planet where she's been hiding out. So, naturally, she beats the ever-living hell out of him when they first meet. Fine, technically their fight ends in a stalemate, but for so much of the fight, he looks like a toy figurine just getting destroyed by a BAMF.
Played by former MMA fighter and actor Gina Carano (Deadpool) who performed many of her own stunts, Cara represents a different kind of powerful woman, one we rarely see in Star Wars. She's a battle-hardened fighter and warrior skilled in hand-to-hand combat, battle strategies, and various weaponry. She dresses in a manner that is neither feminine nor masculine, wearing her own personal uniform of a black T-shirt with shoulder plates and pants that still strike an hourglass figure, something that was important to the series creators. She doesn't do the "baby thing," preferring to hold a giant gun than the Child. She is leery of others and of getting wrapped up in their battles — unless it includes fighting ex-Imperial warlords (aka Imps). She's angry and she's alone and she's generally OK with both.
Perhaps more importantly, the series doesn't attempt to minimize Cara in any way to make the protagonist look better. She takes up space onscreen, generally seeming taller, larger, and stronger than the Mandalorian. She leads, even when standing next to a person in mythical armor — and people listen to her. Her anger is respected and even contextualized when it's revealed that Cara is from Alderaan, the only planet the Galactic Empire successfully destroyed with the Death Star.
She struts around with so much self-confidence that it could be intimidating, could be frustrating to someone like Mando who has literally been trained as a bounty hunter since he was a small child. But, it's not. Mando trusts, respects, and cares about Cara—with ZERO sexual tension. It is so rare to see two people of different genders just being friends and it's really refreshing when it happens. Additionally, if it weren't for her, either the Mandalorian, the Child, or both would have died at least six times by my count.
In fact, during the season finale, Cara's fighting strategies, calm under pressure, and just plain unwillingness to surrender save the day in both direct and indirect ways. When Mando is almost killed by an explosion, it is Cara who drags him back to where they have cover to tend to his wounds. When Mando wants to give up and die, it is Cara who makes IG-11 promise to bring him to escape in the sewers. When their exit is blocked by stormtroopers, it is Cara who decides they must take their last stand, though IG-11 makes the ultimate sacrifice. Over and over Cara proves she isn't some sidekick to Mando, but rather, a peer and a friend who understands what the ravages of war can do to a person.
Cara Dune is an exemplar for how to create dynamic, powerful women who don't ascribe to our society's insistence that women should be small, meek, and obedient to men. If I can place an order for what I'd like to see in 2020 and beyond, I would say, "More characters like Cara Dune, please and thank you."