Mandalorian Season 3 is The Worst, and Then the Best, of Star Wars TV
It takes an entire episode, but Mando eventually hits his stride.
Season premieres are hard. Season premieres of a hit Disney+ Star Wars series with an incredibly complicated and wide-ranging plot are even harder. The Mandalorian painted itself into a corner with the plot points it scattered like birdseed across Season 2 and The Book of Boba Fett, but instead of picking at these loose ends and tying them up over the course of the season, Episode 1 dedicates itself to that necessary evil, leaving Episode 2 to (thankfully) deliver more considered, progressing, and episodic plot like we’re used to. After watching the first two episodes of the season, we can promise it’s worth it in the end.
Light spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian Season 3 Episodes 1 and 2.
Episode 1 of The Mandalorian Season 3 starts off promising, with a Children of the Watch helmet forging and initiation ceremony — a ritual that looks awful like a baptism — that’s suddenly interrupted by a giant alligator-like creature emerging from the lake. The various Mandalorians present fight off the creature, but it’s ultimately destroyed by Mando in his new starfighter.
He’s visiting to talk to The Armorer about getting forgiven of his transgressions, which apparently involves resurrecting an old friend, consulting an old enemy, and a random encounter with a band of pirates — a mishmash of mini-moments that end abruptly after 35 minutes.
There have been a number of jokes over the years calling The Mandalorian “Space Errands: the TV Show” but Season 3 Episode 1 is literally just that — Din Djarin toting his kid around as he looks for a memory circuit, tries to see what the deal is with Mandalore, and remarks how Nevarro is such a tourist trap now.
It’s all a result of the disjointed storytelling we’ve seen since the end of Episode 2, both in-universe and out of it. The Book of Boba Fett established the Living Waters, but this episode had to repeat the explanation for those who didn’t see it. Bo-Katan’s stolen fleet, the entire point of her first meeting with Mando, unceremoniously left her off-screen because Din has the Darksaber.
Then, there’s the matter of Cara Dune. Magistrate Greef Karga (excuse me, High Magistrate Greef Karga) is tasked with exposition dumping what happened to her since Lucasfilm no longer has ties with Gina Carano. The proposed solution is that she was the one to turn in Moff Gideon, which allowed her a spot in Special Forces. It’s hard not to look at it as a forced moment when you know the context.
The Mandalorian has always prioritized the episode in its storytelling — each of its “Chapters” delivers a thematically unified, standalone story. This episode seems to be the exception to the rule, essentially serving as a hodge-podge of scenes to truly start the season right in Episode 2.
Every complaint about Episode 1 is completely dismissed by Episode 2, which immediately clicks back into gear with a trip to Tatooine to see Peli Motto. The mission? The trip to Mandalore established in Episode 1. But don’t expect a normal fetch quest or escort mission — Episode 2 is an adventure unlike any other that taps into not only what makes The Mandalorian great (thematic unity) but also what makes Star Wars great (lots of lore and cool worldbuilding).
Unfortunately, we can’t go into as much detail about the episode, but Grogu shows major growth in it, justifying Jon Favreau’s out-of-nowhere comment that there’s a two-year time jump between Seasons 2 and 3. As with any other story about Mandalore, Bo-Katan is a major player, but instead of delivering the Mandalorian Civil War between her and Mando, it’s instead more of a cultural exchange, each learning more about the other’s faction.
All this leads up to an epic sudden moment that’s pretty much as close to a jumpscare that Star Wars gets, setting up a firm course for the rest of the season despite Episode 1’s wandering scope.
This week’s episode may have been all over the place, but if there’s one series that can basically write off an entire chapter and know fans will return, it’s The Mandalorian. Thankfully, it will reward those who stick around.