- Katie Sackhoff, Pedro Pascal, Carl Weathers
- Jon Favreau
- Action, Adventure, Science Fiction
- Release date
- March 1, 2023
- Where to watch
The Mandalorian has been one of Disney’s least divisive spinoffs of a legacy property in years. Be it Star Wars, Star Trek, or the MCU (looking at you She-Hulk), Disney, Paramount, and others have managed to alienate as many fans as they’ve been able to entice. Well, Mando has returned for season 3, and now he’s disgraced, he’s still got Grogu, but he’s also got a fast ship and a mission to accomplish.
(Season 3 Episode 1 – The Apostate)
The Mandalorian Season 1 was pretty strong, with a solid and focused arc that carried the two main characters from episode to episode and helped the audience invest in them both. It also introduced a brand new set technology that enabled the showrunners to give us unparalleled visuals and sweeping alien vistas that helped to transport viewers to a galaxy far far away.
In the 2nd season, Favreau and company chose to expand Mando’s universe and introduce a host of supporting characters, each one with his/her own sidequest that was only tangentially related to the season’s overall arc. While it’s an understandable choice, especially if one plans on continuing for an indeterminate number of seasons, the result was an unfocused season that meandered with style.
That brings us to the inaugural episode of the 3rd season of The Mandalorian. There really isn’t much to discuss, as not much happened. There are a couple of well-done (if obligatory) action sequences that do little to further any narrative because there really isn’t much narrative to further. The episode’s purpose was mostly to catch us up on what happened in the last season and to set up this season’s main quest, namely what Mando must do in order to redeem himself in the eyes of his Mandalorian sect.
As per usual, the visuals are mostly stunning, with just the right balance of the practical and the virtual, which gives the viewer a sense of dimension and substance that the computer-generated prequels never did. That being said, there were two creature designs that didn’t quite live up to the rest of the series. Hopefully, they are blips and minor aberrations, but I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing a lot of both of them in upcoming episodes.
The performances, of which there were few, remain strong. Pedro Pascal (The Last of Us), does his dry and sober best to emote through the tin can that he wears, and his Mando continues to be the stoic and dangerous man that we’ve all come to love. Carl Weathers returns as Carl Weathers playing Greef Karga, but it works.
When the laser blasts stop and the space dust clears, this was a perfectly adequate entry
- I have trouble believing that the female leader of Mando’s Mandalorians and Katie Sackhoff’s character would be followed by a group of uber-mensch alpha-male gunslingers. You could perhaps convince me of one, but not both. They are in the series to fill a strong independent woman quota. Fortunately, they are both really good in the roles, so it’s not particularly distracting. Also, they both possess a number of force multipliers that substantially lessen the significant physical differences between the genders.
(Season 3 Episode 2 – The Way Down)
Episode 2 takes us to the near-mythical Mandalore, the now-ruinous homeworld of the Mandalorians. Din, in an effort to redeem himself, must find the living waters located in the mines of the planet and once there recommit himself to The Way.
I’ll admit that I thought this season was going to go the way of season 2, with numerous Kung Fu-like side quests that were entertaining but didn’t really have much to do with the overall season arc. After all, a redemption story that only requires finding a location and reciting some words didn’t seem like enough of a challenge to warrant an entire season. Fortunately, it looks like that was only a set-up for the show’s true arc, which I believe to be the redemption of Katee Sackhoff’s Bo-Katan.
In the past seasons, Din’s adherence to The Way has been treated by most as an outdated and anachronistic curiosity worthy of derision and mocking, except for the fact that those who would do so rightly feared him (for the most part). While it’s still too early to be sure, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Din’s orthodoxy doesn’t drive Bo-Katan to readopt The Way and usher in a new era for the Mandalorians. It’ll be a nice change to have religious fervor treated with dignity and respect.
Episode two is just as slick and beautiful as we’ve come to expect from the series. While it was lite on story, it delivered some solid action.
Since the introduction of Bo-Katan, Mando has continually needed rescuing any time that she is near. It’s time for the show to remember how bad@$$ Mando is and maybe have her not be so perfect.
(Season 3 Episode 3 – The Convert)
The opening ten minutes of episode 3 of The Mandalorian are a pulse-pounding example of how to do a Star Wars dogfight right. Every beat was perfect, and of course, the special effects were as well. Then, we got the remaining 40 minutes of the program.
In a total divergence from what has come before. All but the final 5 minutes were devoted to two characters who were heretofore less than of tertiary importance in one or two previous episodes. Unto itself, this isn’t a terrible thing. After all, were the show to follow the same formula one episode after the next, it could become quite stale quite quickly. It’s my belief that the showrunners are attempting to world-build on a much grander scale than they have so far, which comes with its own set of problems.
It continues to be my fear that Mando will become a background character in his own story, as he was in this episode. Instead of Mando and Grogu, we got a somewhat interesting look into the mechanics of society after the Empire. I’ll admit that it did introduce a number of very interesting societal constructs that are clearly the seeds that will grow into the New Order. However, the main story of Episode 3 was paced a little slowly and felt overlong, and it was a challenge to connect emotionally with the protagonist.
Now, let’s talk about what was really good. If they allow Mando to continue to be a strong symbol of The Way, and he is allowed to grow as a leader, the insertion of Sackoff’s Bo-Katan will be a welcomed one. When they don’t write her with snark substituting for strength of character, the two have excellent chemistry. Furthermore, by allowing Din (Mando) to be an example of piety and strength to her, her growth as a Mandalorian leader becomes something worth caring about while making him even more important to the show’s marrow and future development. Put plainly, it gives the show depth beyond simple action adventure.
It’s too early to say if Episode 3 is a misstep. The episode itself has enough interesting how-the-sausage-is-made nerd porn to keep the devout happy, and the series has cached enough goodwill to give it the benefit of the doubt that it is building to something worthwhile. I only hope that they don’t wait too long and that we get some focus back by next week.
- The main protagonist is a wimpy beta male who is led by the nose by a superior and manish female character.
(Season 3 Episode 4 – The Foundling)
In a reversal of last week’s nearly hour long episode, Season 3, Episode 4 of The Mandalorian was officially 33 minutes long, but if you don’t count the opening recap and the closing credits, it’s only 20 minutes long. That doesn’t give me a lot to work with. So, expect a short review.
Episode 4 picks up sometime very close to the conclusion of the events of the previous episode. Din, Grogu, and Bo-Katan are still at the Mandalorian covert. The show begins with all of the Mandalorians training when a giant beast, which they refer to as a raptor, swoops down and grabs one of the Mandalorian children. Several give chase but the raptor is faster and the mandos’ jetpacks run out of fuel.
But let not your hearts be troubled because only Bo-Katan has the wherewithal to jump in her ship to give chase. She’s able to track it to it’s nest, and she reports back to the covert.
The plot is just a simple rescue mission. It’s not overly thrilling, and there’s very little depth, but the visuals are excellent, and the aerial battle between the jet-packed Mandalorians and the giant raptor was very cool. However, the timeline doesn’t make any sense. Bo-Katan follows the raptor to its nest, then returns to inform the others. Next, they take her ship to the base of the spire that houses the nest, and they camp overnight there. Finally, they free climb to the top of the thousand-foot rock, and only then does the mother raptor return to the nest and spit up the Mandalorian boy for food for her hatchlings.
Why would the bird fly to the nest and then wait 24 hours before barfing up the kid for supper? I suppose it’s possible that he got away and she only just recaptured him but, if so, they didn’t mention it in the episode.
On the positive side, we do get a good flashback of Grogu’s escape from the Jedi Temple on Coruscant during the harrowing events of Order 66. The puppeteering is astounding. It’s hard to remember that Grogu isn’t real. I will say though, that it is silly that he’s 80 years old but is only just now experimenting with speaking. Human children start talking at around 12 months of age. Do you mean to tell me that it takes 80 years for Yoda’s species to advance to the level of a human 1-year-old? Yoda was 900 years old when he died, assuming that that’s the average lifespan for their species (which it almost certainly is not), that means that it takes them nearly 1/9 of their lives to learn how to speak. That’s just ridiculous.
When the dust settles and the blasters are all holstered, Episode 4 of season 3 of The Mandalorian is an entertaining, yet virtually meaningless entry into the series. Based on the last two episodes, I can’t keep the series under our Worth it section.
- In the training scene, male and female Mandalorians who are training in hand-to-hand combat with one another fight exactly the same, with the women holding their own and not being at any disadvantage. I can tell you from personal experience that, when I was in martial arts, women were always at a disadvantage during sparring. The men’s strength and size were a lot to overcome. In order to be competitive, the women had to be faster and fight closer and inside of our reach. It was the only way for them to have a chance. Now, take a warrior race, who has trained to fight from the time that they can walk, and multiply my experience by a factor of 1,000. The Mandalorian armor and arsenal is a fine equalizer for arms training, but not hand to hand.
- Din is clearly being pushed into the background so that the more articulate and bolder (and strong independent female) Bo-Katan can co-opt the series.
(Season 3 Episode 5 – The Pirate)
I think that any hope that The Mandalorian was going to keep Din as its main character is gone. The showrunners are clearly trying to build toward something, maybe another series, and Mando and Grogu are now incidental characters.
The action is still good, but every episode is some side quest and the series as a whole has become rather aimless. The only throughline is that Bo-Katan is the chosen to lead the Mandalorians to their former glory. I’m not sure why, she’s no tougher or braver or more capable than any other Mandalorian we’ve seen, but she does have a vagina, so that’s probably got something to do with it.
This episode has some unfortunate performances and even worse creature effects and puppetry. It reminded me of something out of Chuck E. Cheese.
As a whole, the series is quickly becoming something worth turning on only if you’ve got something else to do and you want some background noise. They’ve got three episodes left to right this starship.
- The female characters are now the narrative focus because…reasons.
(Season 3 Episode 6 – Guns for Hire)
This episode was a slight improvement from last week. However, the series remains largely aimless, only spending five minutes or less of each episode on the season’s overall arc. Furthermore, it continues the trend of dropping big-name recognizable stars in as cameos, and it’s jarring every time. That being said, at least when they cast Bill Burr in seasons 1 and 2, his character was likable and had a meaningful role in each episode that he was in. Now, the showrunners are just tossing them in because they can, and it’s not working.
Guns for Hire had no fewer than three star cameos. Christopher Lloyd plays the head of security for a cartoonish planet ruled by Jack Black and Lizzo. I love Jack Black and Christopher Lloyd as much as the next guy, but their inclusion in this episode felt very forced and unnatural. Speaking of forced and unnatural, the only thing worse in this episode than Lizzo’s character was Lizzo’s performance. She made the kid who played Spider in Avatar: The Way of Water look like Daniel Day-Lewis, and brought the episode to a screeching halt every time the camera was on her.
The episode itself was another meaningless side-quest with teeth-grindingly bad dialogue, but at least Din was an equal co-star in it instead of taking a back seat to Bo-Katan in every scene. They even let him save her once…before she saved him…a second time in the episode.
When the season began, it was my hope that the two would team up throughout the season and that Katan would learn from Din’s piety and competency, but true to modern-Disney’s raison d’être, Din has largely been relegated to secondary character status. Even in this episode, he doesn’t drive the action but is there for support.
Mando and Bo-Katan continue to have good chemistry and it’s a shame that The Mandalorian writers don’t seem to know what they are doing with the characters. There are only a few episodes left, and I can’t see them pulling it all together in time for me to care, but here’s hoping.
- Also, continuing the cinema tropes of the last few years Katie Sackhoff’s Bo-Katan doesn’t require force multipliers to best much larger and stronger men in hand-to-hand combat. No, she can stand toe-to-toe and front-kick armored men 60 lbs heavier than her ten feet back. I used to practice martial arts and I’ve been front kicked by women with superior training to my own and shook it off. If I’d had armor protecting me, it’d have taken a step back.
- The program would have lost nothing if Sackhoff’s character would have had to rely on her superior weapon’s skill, or even wit and cunning, in order to win this episode’s big fight.
(Season 3 Episode 7 – The Spies)
The series has made a mistake by relegating Din and Grogu to supporting characters. Bo-Katan’s story has been told a million times, and we really don’t need another princess wins back her throne tale from the princess’s point of view. The show should/could have stuck with Din’s POV and used him as an example of piety and conduct to help to mold Katan into the leader that she needed to be. However, she figured it all out in the first couple of episodes after seeing the Lockness Monster, so her growth is done.
She’s now a fully realized character who everyone follows because of reasons and even the Dark Saber, which is so heavy that full-grown men have to wield it with two hands, is as light as a traditional lightsaber in her magical touch. We’re constantly told that she’s The One, but we have yet to see her deflect Agent Smith’s best kung-fu with one hand behind her back.
I don’t actually hate her character, I just don’t find her to be that interesting or compelling, and certainly not as much as Din and Grogu. Furthermore, her’s is not enough of a story arc to keep things interesting. It’s taken 7/8 of the season to introduce the antagonist, and it’s the same old one that Mando has bested multiple times before. I’m bored.
I will say this, the show gets two things right in every episode: the ships and especially the rocket packs. They are used amazingly well in each battle. As far as that goes, the last ten minutes of this episode are pretty strong, but with one episode to go, they are going to have to pull out a miracle to right this haphazard season whose aimlessness has all been a thinly veiled effort to promote Disney’s next streaming Star Wars project.
- Nothing new, just the same promotion of a middling female character at the expense of a more compelling and established male character that we’ve seen all season long, all in the name of The Church of the Latter Day Saints of Inclusion and Representation, Diversity be Thy name.
(Season 3 Episode 8 – The Return)
After such a directionless commercial for a Bo-Katan standalone series…I mean a directionless season of The Mandalorian, I was completely prepared to be utterly disappointed with the season finale, and I was. However, it might not be in the way that you think. Where the h3!! was 90% of this episode hiding all season long?
Chapter 24 of The Mandalorian is the first time that we’ve been treated to any level of tension or felt the weight of any real stakes for this entire season. It was hyper-focused with perfect pacing, grand action set-pieces, and let Mando cut loose and be the bad@$$ that we all remembered…right up until Mary S…I mean Bo-Katan jumped in and took over the big-boss fight, completely neutering the momentum for the sake of Kathleen Kennedy‘s ego and the systemic mysandry that she’s spent the better part of a decade baking into the Star Wars cake.
When the blast-shield is lifted and the you clear the debris-field that was Alderaan, this was easily the best episode of the season and, had they let Mando be Mando all the way to the end, one of the most exciting episodes in the series.
They just can’t help themselves from making Bo-Katan upstage Mando for no good reason.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SEASON 3 OF THE MANDALORIAN
If you read this entire review, you’ll notice two themes being repeated throughout: the season’s story arc barely exists, which made the season feel rudderless, and the sometimes mildly interesting Bo-Katan, played by Katie Sackhoff usurped the starring role for no clear narrative reason, except that “The Force is Female.”
Because I’ve made it my job to do so, I’ll check out the the first couple episodes of season 4 to see how it goes, but if you haven’t watched any of season 3, you haven’t missed anything. I’d watch the final episode, but that’s it.
FINAL WOKE ELEMENTS
The entire season had only a single woke element, but it was repeated in every episode and the showrunner’s and writers’ religious adherence to it is largely what derailed season 3. They were adamant in shoehorning in Bo-Katan and, like your parent’s feeding you burssellsprouts as a child, they’d be damned if you were going to leave the table without sucking down every bitter bite.
James Carrick is a passionate film enthusiast with a degree in theater and philosophy. James approaches dramatic criticism from a philosophic foundation grounded in aesthetics and ethics, offering insight and analysis that reveals layers of cinematic narrative with a touch of irreverence and a dash of snark.