The Mandalorian was the first to start it all on Disney+; when fans were first introduced to the Beskar-wearing warrior, they only expected a fun mercenary’s adventure to be told. When the first season wrapped up, fans were in awe of the capable, isolated storytelling in the canonized world that had revolved around the Skywalker legacy for so long. By the time of the second season, the tale of Din Djarin was weaving itself within the larger story of Star Wars, with characters like Ahsoka and Bo-Katan Kryze making their live-action debut.
Now, while fans were still on board, Disney and Lucasfilm began expanding their roster of shows on Disney+, including the likes of The Bad Batch, The Book of Boba Fett, and Andor. With these shows ranging in tone and response, it looked like Star Wars would eventually hit a brick wall with its streaming shows. So, with The Mandalorian in its third season, does it manage to reclaim its missing potential? Well, yes, but it also loses some essence of itself along the way.
The Mandalorian‘s third season continues Din Djarin’s (Pedro Pascal) story, which sees him journeying to become a Mandalorian once more while aiding Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) to reclaim their lost homeworld of Mandalore. Throughout their journey, Din and Bo-Katan meet old friends like Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) and Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and confront threats from greedy pirate gangs to hostile abominations all while trying to unite their two clans together. However, with the remnants of the Galactic Empire conspiring to usurp those in their way, the Mandalorians must put their differences aside for the survival of their people.
Heading Into The Pits
In its beginnings, The Mandalorian catches us up on Din Djarin’s story and his mission to reclaim his namesake of being Mandalorian. Though we revisit locations like Nevarro and Tatooine, the show takes a step back in utilizing the show’s familiar characters. Greef Karga may be an esteemed leader who uses action when necessary, but in the end, he’s only there to be the refuge for the Mandalorians. Carson Teva, while only appearing in the fifth episode “The Pirate”, was only utilized in Djarin’s side quest to protect Nevarro from the pirate lord Gorian Shard (Nonso Anozie). Meanwhile, Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) was relegated to a short cameo to tie into the events of The Book of Boba Fett, nothing more or less. While I get that this season is supposed to be focused on the Mandalorian reclamation, I don’t think there was a need to revisit these characters, save for Greef Karga, if they were going to be underutilized.
Furthermore, the show tries to build-up to the grandiose conclusion in the upcoming fourth season, but it relies too much on having tonally different episodes that don’t really mesh well. This season quickly bounces its story around, from the Nevarro pirate storyline to the exploration of Mandalore to even a droid uprising with little connection to the main story. One episode in specific, “The Convert”, felt out of place, both tonally and story-wise. It wanted invoke the tone Andor had, with doubts and allegiances from Penn Pershing (Omid Abtahi) and Elia Kane (Katy O’Brian) being shuffled around, but it eventually had to connect to the straightforward story. With such tonally different episodes, it seems like this season wanted to experiment with what could work for something as expansive as The Mandalorian, but it faltered in doing so.
As what may be its biggest problem, this season actually downgraded Grogu back to being the “Baby Yoda” everyone knew in the first season. While we did get a great flashback sequence with Grogu and Kelleran Beq escaping the Jedi Temple in “The Foundling”, the rest of the season doesn’t do much with the potential he had from season two. Instead of trying to flesh out Grogu’s character potential like the previous season did, he essentially feels much more like the child we knew way back. The episode “Guns For Hire” is an example of this, where Din and Bo-Katan head out to solve a mystery buddy-cop style, leaving Grogu back to enjoy the festivities with surprising cameos from Jack Black and Lizzo. Sure, I understand that Grogu is still a child, but the show had begun to build him into something more with him slowly mastering his powers and I would’ve loved to see more of that here.
The Mandalorians Come To Light
Because the show places its focus on uniting the Mandalorian clans, the season provides more depth to one character that was only a mere cameo: Bo-Katan Kryze. Throughout the season, Bo-Katan has been slowly growing out of her distaste of reclaiming Mandalore with each episode influencing her to become the strong leader she once was in The Clone Wars. This season continually puts Bo-Katan to the test, from fighting her peers to reclaim her mantle to saving the younglings of those she once dismissed, to build her up. Sackhoff continues to wonderfully portray Bo-Katan inserting a sense of complexity and heightening hesitation within Bo-Katan as her actions hold influence over the survival of the Mandalorians.
However, with Kryze being boosted up among the ranks, it looks like Din is slowly retreating back to his soft-spoken side. Although he might be transforming into the hunter everyone knew then, it feels like Din had less to do with Bo-Katan taking the lead. Most of the special moments we got with Din were during the action with the mercenary blasting his way through trouble. The other moments occurred between him and characters like Bo-Katan and Karga to continue establishing those bonds. Nonetheless, Pascal continues to give it all he can to personalize Din into his own being, but the writing hinders what he can do. Hopefully by next season, Din may be put in more personal circumstances to wrap up his story nicely.
Moreover, the personalities of some members of the Mandalorian clans receive some expansion. Specifically, Paz Vizsla (Tait Fletcher) had more humanization as seen in “The Foundling” and “The Spies”. He slowly moved away from being the brutish bodyguard of the Armorer (Emily Swallow) and was becoming more of an empathetic character. Seeing his sacrifice and death all the more made me realize how much we could’ve had with characters with Vizsla. Should the next season return to form, then we can hope we can observe more individual growth from these characters.
The Overarching Shadow
While this season’s story has set its sights on the campaign to retake Mandalore, The Mandalorian is actually trying to branch out to a future show many have been waiting for: Ahsoka. Unlike The Mandalorian, Ahsoka is a continuation of Star Wars: Rebels with Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) on a journey to find Ezra Bridger (Eman Esfandi). However, from its teaser trailer, the show is also bringing another big bad to live action in the form of Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) in hopes to unite the Imperial remnants together. With this background knowledge, as well as the events of the final two episodes, it feels like Lucasfilm may begin leaving Din behind for bigger things.
The season does this by continually hinting at the Empire’s involvement over time and goes into this issue more specifically by reintroducing Din’s lost foe, Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). The season’s third episode hinted at Elia Kane keeping true to the Empire with the penultimate episode confirming Gideon’s survival. However, in the penultimate episode, Gideon’s meeting with the Imperial shadow council set the road for The Mandalorian to reconnect back to the central events that pave the way for the sequel trilogy. In doing so, I can’t help but feel that the show is losing what specialty it had left from season two.
The thing that made The Mandalorian special was that it was able to stand out as an independent adventure that, while having some ties back to the overarching Star Wars story, provided a somewhat fresh perspective within this universe. Seeing Din embark on quests that were separated from Star Wars’ main narrative while continuing to build this world through a western, action-thriller styled tone was something new in the live-action side of things and had this mysterious intrigue of “what’s going to happen next?” with each episode.
Now, with the show weaving itself into the grander story of things, it’s beginning to lose itself by putting Djarin in the background while propelling forward with Bo-Katan Kryze. However, this isn’t to say Bo-Katan doesn’t deserve the spotlight as her character growth is necessary and good to see, but I’m just a bit sad to see Din taking a step back. If anything, his character can leave a huge lasting impact in Filoni’s movie, but because of the show’s placement in the timeline, all things must connect in the end.
This season of The Mandalorian is a mixed bag, with clashing tones and interweaving plots trying to create something bigger. With its focus recentered on the reclamation of Mandalore and beyond, this show may feel like it’s losing the spark that made the show special in the first place. However, it also increases the potential for this concurrent storyline to branch out into unknown waters all while returning to its roots in the next season. Although it seems like Din Djarin’s story may wrap up in Dave Filoni’s upcoming movie, I’m holding out for some hope that the tale ends on a high note.
The Mandalorian‘s third season is currently streaming on Disney+.