Many have attempted the stoic and silent heroes in film and television, but one example has truly succeeded.
The term "silent protagonist" is often thrown around when discussing player characters in video games. These protagonists are often depicted with little or no personality or character for the purpose of allowing the player to insert themselves more personally into the game world and the narrative. While this can work for interactive media, like video games, narrative focused media need more fleshed out and interesting characters to drive the plot. However, there are exceptions to this rule and we are going to find out why one of best examples of this character in narrative driven media is the Mandalorian.
"The Mandalorian" is a Star Wars television show exclusive to the streaming network Disney Plus. The show focuses on the title character simply known as Mandalorian. He is a very cold and efficient bounty hunter who speaks very few words, has almost no emotional attachments, and the audience (or other characters for that matter) never gets to see his face. At the beginning of the series you would be wrong if you mistook him for a robot. He is a man with little known about his past and almost no friends or loved ones. While many would say this makes a character an interesting and mysterious bad ass, it is often used to mask the fact that there's nothing unique about the character and they are quite generic.
However, the Mandalorian has managed to become an interesting and beloved character in the Star Wars franchise. Despite his beginnings as a stoic, loner protagonist; he has grown into a more emotionally complex character due to his connection with the character known as Grogu, or as the internet called him; Baby Yoda. During one of his missions he's tasked with collecting this child and bringing him to the Empire. However, the Mandalorian forms a connection with the child and his character begins to slowly change from there.
The Mandalorian's mysterious "lack of character" is part of the narrative of the ongoing series. He goes from a cold emotionless killer to... well... still being a killer, but one who grows a slightly more ethical code and begins to form bonds with other people. We slowly learn things about him, like his real name and his face looks like (which was a great character moment both times they did it). We are introduced to the armor shell the moves and sometimes talks, but thanks to Grogu we eventually see the man that hid behind the armor.
The Mandalorian teaches us two things about "silent protagonists". The best "silent protagonists" are the ones that slowly reveal elements of their characters over time which creates "actual" mystery and character growth, and the ones that are driven by more fleshed out characters surrounding them (i.e. Master Chief and Cortana). While there is some truth to many creators using "silent protagonists" to mask thinly written characters, they can also be used to move plot and other characters along in interesting ways. They show us that a compelling character is defined by their actions, not their words.