WARNING: The following contains minor spoilers for the third episode of The Mandalorian, now streaming on Disney+.
Star Wars created and calcified countless cliches when it first became a pop culture phenomenon, and one of the most notable is the trope of "Stormtrooper Aim." No matter how many Stormtroopers there are or how well trained the soldiers may be, they just never seem to hit their protagonist targets. But it looks like The Mandalorian is ready to reverse their reputation.
Stormtrooper Aim has been something of a plot hole in the Star Wars franchise ever since A New Hope. Before the white-armored soldiers ever showed their skills on screen, a line of dialogue hinted at their deadly reputation. When Obi-Wan Kenobi inspects the aftermath of a skirmish and breaks down the details for young Luke Skywalker, he says "These blast points are too accurate for sand people. Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise." The line was meant to instill dread for when viewers finally meet these Imperial Stormtroopers.
Rewatching that line is almost comical given all the Star Wars media produced since. Stormtroopers are famously imprecise, despite Obi-Wan's words or his years of experience dealing with them first hand. Throughout the original films, prequels and even the recent spate of sequel films Stormtroopers almost never hit a main character they aim at.
Especially after gaining further insight into the training of Stormtroopers, their imprecision is baffling. One would think that elite trained soldiers would be able to nail a target from the relatively short distances over which their conflicts most often occur. Whether they are on open battlefields shooting at stationary targets or in the narrow hallways of the Death Star, the Stormtroopers just never seem to hit the heroes with their blaster bolts.
From an out-of-universe perspective it's easy to see why. Protagonists often wear what's referred to as "plot armor," which is the requirement that they make it through relatively minor conflicts unharmed so they can proceed through the rest of the story. Tropes like "Stormtrooper aim" and "plot armor" often serve as criticism for a lack of realistic storytelling, as they can pull audiences out of the story and keep the danger of any given sequence from resonating.
However, The Mandalorian has not been so willing to fall into this same trap. In the latest episode, the series' hero, Mando, gets hit multiple times by Stormtroopers. Blaster bolts explode against him as he invades a complex, his stealth advantage thrown totally to the wind once he is discovered. It comes as a small but reassuring detail amidst all the action that not all Star Wars creators will continue to make the past mistakes.
Of course, it's not as though the Stormtroopers in the episode just gunned down Mando and left him a smoking husk on the ground. The blast bolts hitting him were likely added to show the durability of his newly-won armor. Now replete with a freshly forged Mandalorian cuirass, the scene helps fortify the Mandalorians' reputation for fearsome fighting skill and capable craftsmanship.
It's only natural that the character's literal armor would strengthen his plot armor, so it's not as though the show completely escapes some of the hazards of including such familiar tropes. But it's common sense that a hero would make it through violent conflicts early in the story so they can stick around until the end. The trick for a storyteller is juggling tropes so that no single one feels overused, and The Mandalorian managed just that.
Stormtrooper aim's heavy use throughout the franchise makes these villains look buffoonish and unthreatening. Seeing that the Stormtroopers Mando fights can actually hit their target helps establish the threat they could pose in future conflicts all the more. When audiences see characters who do not wear such powerful plot armor, it increases their investment in the dangerous situations portrayed. Could Mando getting hit by blaster fire now hint at a future ally's fate at Mando's side?
Either way, however small the detail is, it helps fill in the plot hole first created by Obi-Wan's observation from Star Wars' first film. For the oft-used henchman to feel threatening it is important that their attacks actually have consequences -- and it only makes sense that Star Wars' grittiest and most down-to-earth project yet would be the one to address the issue.
Created by Jon Favreau, The Mandalorian stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Omid Abtahi, Werner Herzog and Nick Nolte. A new episode arrives each Friday on Disney+.