In an interview with British GQ, John Boyega lamented the lack of development of and nuance in characters of color in Star Wars. Indeed, though his character Finn was an important part of the recent trilogy, his centrality and development diminished with each subsequent film.
The franchise’s black heroes unquestionably have been underdeveloped and underutilized. However, its recent black villains—most notably Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) of The Mandalorian—exhibit some of the nuance and development that Boyega found lacking.
Moff Gideon remains a mystery, which itself lends the character a degree of nuance. What viewers can discern from his appearances in Chapters 7-8 is that he operates with a level of agency not yet afforded to black characters in the franchise. Gideon is a former Imperial officer who had been tried for war crimes, managed to escape captivity, and has become a leader of one of the remnants of the Empire after its defeat in Return of the Jedi (1983). He wields great power and intellect. Regarding the former, he not only leads advanced troops that are more efficient than the Imperial garrison on Nevarro (where the conflict in The Mandalorian occurs) but also wields the Darksaber, the rare lightsaber traditionally held by the Vizla clan of the Mandalorians. As for the latter, Gideon exhibits tactical acumen—as shown by his ability to outwit The Mandalorian and his allies—and knowledge, including of The Mandalorian’s birth name and of the The Child's importance.
Moreover, Gideon’s portrayal by Giancarlo Esposito lends the character a great deal of gravitas. Esposito has carved out a niche as a cold, highly efficient, complex villain in series such as Breaking Bad (2008-2013) and Better Call Saul (2015-present), where he has portrayed restauranteur/drug kingpin Gus Fring. Esposito recently was nominated for Emmys for both Better Call Saul and The Mandalorian.
The hallmark of a classic villain is the ability to shape the world around him/her/them. Gideon has shown the capability for doing so, thus evidencing the nuance and agency that villainy provides black Star Wars characters that heroics has yet to deliver.