There’s a funny bit in the VERY long-awaited first episode of The Mandalorian‘s third season when Greef Karga (Carl Weathers), who has been kicking ass as Navarro’s High Magistrate, says to Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), “I thought you completed your mission, but you’re still running around here with the same little critter.”
It’s basically a synopsis for the season three of The Mandalorian, all wrapped-up in a pretty little bow. If you can even remember season two’s finale, it ended with Din handing Grogu over to Luke Skywalker for Force training. In terms of canon, about two years passed before they were reunited as part The Book of Boba Fett‘s wildly unfocused miniseries, and now things sorta feel like they’re back at square one. The “Lone Wolf and Cub” vibe of the show is back, and as for Din finding a new purpose, little time is wasted in establishing one.
Appropriately-titled “The Apostate”, the opening episode begins on Concordia where a sizable number of Mandalorians are gathered. The Armorer (Emily Swallow) is seen forging a new armor out of the infamous beskar metal. It is to be given to a new member of their…cult? If anything arose out of season two it was Din beginning to see that some of the myth and legend surrounding Mandalorian culture had the texture of religious fanaticism. That idea seems to have been curbed, for now, anyway. As this youngling says the oath and dons his helmet, the event is disrupted by the emergence of a giant alligator-like creature that devours a few of them. For all of their might, the creature is clearly winning, until the return of Din in his starfighter turns the tide.
Din is there to beg penance for removing his helmet, ostracizing him from the group. The Armorer listens as Din tells her his plan to bathe in the waters underneath Mandalore. To do so would wash him clean of his sins. The Armorer clearly does not think this is a possible task, but gives him the thumbs up, perhaps because she’s been won over by how cute Grogu looked in that moment.
A mission statement for the season established, The Mandalorian settles into a familiar groove. Din stops at Navarro where he reunites with Greef. Honestly, I miss the shady Greef a lot more than I like this dull, respectable version. Their conversation leads to at least one major reveal, the activities of one Cara Dune and whereabouts of Moff Gideon, as teased very recently, and also that Din needs IG-11, the droid who sacrificed his life in season one, to be rebuilt. But this will require parts that, conveniently, nobody can easily acquire. That gives Mando some “task of the week” stuff to fulfill. Also, a possible story beat for the future as Greef tries to recruit him to become the local law enforcement. Hey, even a Mandalorian has to settle down someday, right?
The weakest part of the first episode finds Din squaring off with some easily forgettable pirates. While it does give us a very cool dogfighting sequence later, it’s tough to look at these minor villains as anything other than time filler. Fortunately, director Rick Famuyiwa doesn’t b.s. with the small stuff for too long. He sets up what is sure to be season-long tension between Din and Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff), who is isolated in her castle following her loss of the Darksaber. When Din and Grogu arrive looking for help exploring Mandalore, she bluntly turns him down but leads him in the right direction…perhaps hoping that he’ll die down there. Perhaps he will, but probably not.
While Famuyiwa did a bang-up job directing the first episode, Black Panther DP Rachel Morrison’s franchise directing debut for episode two, “The Mines of Mandalore”, is one of the most exciting events of the season. She quickly proves that the land of Star Wars is as comfortable to her as that of Marvel. Without venturing into spoiler territory because this episode arrives next week, it finds Din wading deep into the heart of Mandalore, unwrapping the myth and lore of his people.
What this episode also does is put a spotlight on Grogu’s growth in experience since training with the Jedi. With Din incapacitated, Grogu has to survive the brutal Mandalore in order to get help. While the pace is more deliberate this time, there’s room for some light-hearted fun and the return of my personal favorite character, Amy Sedaris’ Peli Motto, who is scheming with her droid and Jawa friends as always. I love the tight-knit circle that has been built around Din and Grogu, and how we always leave them just long enough to begin to miss them. Then when they reemerge, it’s like being reunited with old pals.
Much has been made about Pedro Pascal’s performance as Mando/Din Djarin, or should I say, the lack of a performance by him. The busy actor is still the voice, heart, and soul of the character, but it’s good to see Disney finally acknowledging the physical efforts of Brendan Wayne and Lateef Crowder. Pascal’s got enough glory coming his way over on HBO for The Last of Us. Spread the wealth.
In the first couple of episodes, The Mandalorian season three quickly re-establishes old patterns and formulas for maximum comfort viewing. The Mandalorian saga promises to be big and sprawling, but the opening steps are cautious and deliberate. The expansion of Sackhoff’s role as Bo-Katan promises to be key, and maybe one of the best moves in the series yet. She’s tremendous here as the dejected, fallen leader, and her storyarc threatens to be more intriguing than Din’s if the writers don’t watch out.
I would argue that the two prior seasons were entertaining but directionless, which left a lot of room for throwaway episodes. That feeling isn’t there, at least not at the start of season three. We know what Din’s plan is, what he’s looking to accomplish, and so far Jon Favreau isn’t screwing around in setting him on that journey. If Favreaut can stay on this course, this could be the best season of The Mandalorian yet.
The Mandalorian season 3 premiere is streaming now on Disney+.