“The Mandalorian” Season 3 Review: Episodes 1 and 2 Are Very Different

In two very different episodes, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) wrestles with his purpose and Grogu (Baby Yoda) takes on more responsibility.

(Editor’s note: Included in the following review spoilers “The Mandalorian” Season 3, Episode 1, “17 chapter – For the apostate”.)

Early in the Season 3 premiere of “The Mandalorian,” Grogu (aka Baby Yoda) marvels at the blue-white light of hyperspace. Her tiny jaw drops. His oval eyes widen, and when he notices giant shadows flying past his relatively thin cruiser, he reaches out a three-fingered hand and holds it against the thin glass that separates him from the cosmos. Maybe he’s trying to sense obscured entities with his budding powers… or maybe he’s just a little overwhelmed by the vast universe around him. So, like any young child overwhelmed by emotions, he crawls into his father’s lap. And Papa Din holds her tight as the two travelers take a nap under the stars.

The relationship between Din (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu continues to drive “The Mandalorian” into Season 3, as it should. Now that Mando and Baby Yoda have fully embraced the father/son dynamic — on another show, for synergistic reasons unrelated to good storytelling — they must now decide what to do with their lives together. Grogu just needs to grow up. You can continuously improve the Jedi powers taught by Luke Skywalker while taking Mandalorian lessons from your adopted father. But for Din, their journey begins with redeeming himself in the eyes of The Watch. He wants to be known as a true Mandalorian again, and that means going to Mandalore and bathing in the “living waters” beneath the city’s old mines.

Season 3 repeats this trajectory from the start, but the first two episodes take a completely different tack. Like the central character of “The Mandalorian,” he questions his purpose. Whether it’s the best way to tell its story (heavily episodic, heavily serialized, a balance of the two) or “Star Wars” in general (expanding the universe with more spinoffs, focusing on internal development), the return of a series (after two and a half years) is both reassuring and curious.

Episode 1, “17 chapter – The apostate” offers greater comfort. After the action-oriented introduction (where Mando and Baby Yoda trick each other to save the Mandalorians from a giant alligator monster), Mando sets out on his main mission and is almost immediately sidelined. You have to fly to Mandalore and take a bath in the water – ok, then just fly to Mandalore and jump in a bath, right? Bad. First, you need a droid to help you scan the planet’s surface and make sure the air isn’t toxic. That means traveling to Navarro, visiting Greef Karga (Carl Weathers), trying to revive a trusty old droid, and then doing another side quest for a rare part while being harassed by random space pirates.

(L-R): Anzellans (Shirley Henderson) and Grogu in Season 3 of Lucasfilm's THE MANDALORIAN, exclusively on Disney+.  ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.  All rights reserved.

Shirley Henderson in The Mandalorian

Courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd. / Disney+

Mixing the spread with an accessible episodic story, Part 1 is classic ‘Mandalorian’ and works beautifully. Of the two main action scenes, the space battle is slightly more exciting and represents Mando’s personality a lot more (stealth, smart, cool under pressure as opposed to throwing bombs at giant lizards). I enjoyed the slight meta nod to the rest of the world ignoring Grogu’s real name (“His name is Grogu,” Mando confirms to Greef, who, after calling him “the little one” and “the creature”) dismissively replies, “If you say so.) And we’re glad to see “The Mandalorian” use a variety of settings and backdrops instead of repeatedly falling back on Stagecraft’s digital soundstage.

Part 2, without getting into spoilers, goes in a different direction. Almost everything is plot-focused, with minimal achievements to be made within the episode itself, but what’s really interesting is how quickly it moves things forward. Mando’s seasonal arc hits hyperspeed, and Grogu’s development isn’t far behind. While not all that satisfying on its own, the 42-minute entry does a good job of teasing where “The Mandalorian” is headed next, even if it’s hard to figure out exactly where it might be.

Episode 1 also has a nice arc: Mando begins by listening to the leader of The Watch and ends with a visit from Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff), who denounces the Watch as a “cult.” Mando, while still loyal to his religion, no longer accepts it. He’s somewhere between the two extremes of loyal and disavowed, and Season 3 will push him in one direction or the other, similar to how Grogu had to decide during “The Book of Boba Fett” whether to follow his de facto father or must be taught the way of the Jedi. As long as these two stick together, there’s a good chance they’ll be fine – and so will the Mandalorian. But with their commitment to each other now confirmed, “The Mandalorian” answered the main question tied to Seasons 1 and 2. Now you have to find a new way forward and there is a galaxy of ways available.

grade: B-

“The Mandalorian” Season 3 premiered on Disney+ on Wednesday, March 1. New episodes are released weekly.

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