The Mandalorian Season 3 Needs to Avoid A Classic Star Wars Villain Mistake
How many stories about evil Imperials are there left to tell?
“The Pirate” isn’t just the most action-packed episode of The Mandalorian Season 3 to date, but also its most substantial. Across its lean 44-minute runtime, the episode not only sets up and follows through on an action sequence between the Disney+ series’ central Mandalorian covert and Gorian Shard (Nonso Anozie) and his pirate crew, but it also sets up an exciting and surprisingly subversive future for Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff).
In case that wasn’t enough, the episode additionally sets the stage for the potential return of longtime Mandalorian villain Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). Even more interestingly, the episode raises the possibility that Gideon’s long-dreaded comeback may have been facilitated by a group of rogue, potentially evil Mandalorians.
In doing so, “The Pirate” presents two possibilities for the future of The Mandalorian Season 3 — one of which just so happens to be infinitely more interesting than the other.
The Mandalorian has yet to introduce one central Season 3 villain. Instead, the season’s first five episodes have introduced multiple antagonists, including Gorian Shard, Elia Kane (Katy M. O’Brian), and now Moff Gideon. In the season’s early episodes, it seemed like there was the potential for Sackhoff’s Bo-Katan to take a bit of a heel turn, but The Mandalorian has seemed increasingly less interested in pursuing that possibility this year. That means, with the death of Gorian Shard in “The Pirate,” the season’s only two remaining villains are Gideon and Kane.
Episode 5 of The Mandalorian confirms that Kane is actively using her bureaucratic position within the New Republic for her own, nefarious means. It isn’t, however, clear yet whether or not her mysterious evil plans have anything to do with Moff Gideon’s potential escape from imprisonment and rumored return. Either way, Kane and/or Gideon emerging as the ultimate villains of The Mandalorian Season 3 wouldn’t be all that surprising at this point.
As a matter of fact, it’d be a slightly disappointing creative route for the show’s story to take. That’s especially true given the far more dramatically compelling possibility that the final scene of “The Pirate” sets up, which is the potential introduction of an evil, Empire-allied Mandalorian faction.
Heading into The Mandalorian Season 3, many Star Wars fans believed it was going to explore a conflict of some kind between different Mandalorian factions. Up to this point, the season hasn’t really delivered on that front. The final minutes of “The Pirate,” however, suggest that either an unknown group of Mandalorians really did extract Moff Gideon from his prison transport ship, or the traces of Beskar steel that were found in its wreckage were planted there by one of Gideon’s Imperial Remnant allies (possibly Elia Kane herself).
While it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if the latter explanation ends up proving to be true, it’d be far more interesting if it’s revealed this season that there is a Mandalorian faction with different interests and allegiances than Bo-Katan, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), and the other members of their covert. That’d open the door for a Mandalorian civil war the likes of which Star Wars fans have never really seen on-screen before, and certainly not in live-action form.
A group of evil Mandalorians would give the series the chance to introduce some villains who, unlike Moff Gideon and Elia Kane, aren’t like so many of the Star Wars antagonists that have come before them. Frankly, as imposing as Gideon is, he’s not the most interesting Imperial villain that has been featured in a Star Wars project. The franchise has, in fact, relied on more evil Imperial villains than it has any other kind of antagonist, which is partly why even cartoonish bad guys like Gorian Shard feel somewhat refreshing and new whenever they show up.
The Inverse Analysis — It wouldn’t necessarily be a bad decision for The Mandalorian Season 3 to bring its story all the way back around to Moff Gideon and his Imperial allies. However, it would represent just another instance of the show avoiding new narrative territory in favor of embracing classic Star Wars tropes. As unnervingly effective as both Elia Kane and Moff Gideon are, they also feel like just the latest iterations of a kind of villain that Star Wars fans have already seen a million times before.
The same can’t be said for a group of pro-Empire warriors with a different set of beliefs than their fellow Mandalorians. At the very least, a villain like that would not only allow The Mandalorian to explore the various corners of the Mandalorian culture on-screen, but it’d also give the Disney+ series a chance to start truly telling its own unique live-action Star Wars story again.
New episodes of The Mandalorian premiere Wednesdays on Disney+.