It’s been a long wait for the third season of The Mandalorian, with several other Star Wars shows getting their time in the sun in between. The refreshingly different Andor, Ewan McGregor’s comeback vehicle Obi-Wan Kenobi, and more Star Wars animated ventures all kept fans occupied while they waited for the further adventures of Din, Grogu, and the rest of the gang.
And while The Mandalorian season 3 has felt somewhat aimless in spots, the story thankfully came to a compelling conclusion with its final two episodes. The biggest sticking points were the episodes that generally lost the main bounty hunter narrative, but the highest-ranking chapters focusing on the overarching plot mostly right the ship for Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), Grogu, and Bo-Katan Kryze’s (Katee Sackhoff) exploits.
Note: The following article contains spoilers for The Mandalorian season 3.
To be fair, the first two seasons of The Mandalorian peppered in some solid episodic/anthology-style episodes that didn’t have major implications for the main plot. After all, the Star Wars bounty hunter premise is a great excuse for that, but Guns for Hire is a bit of a misfire because of its episodic nature.
In a world where premium TV is getting more expensive to produce less content — and especially so for some Disney+ originals with their gutted runtimes — this episode feels like wasted time. Guns for Hire felt too much like an excuse for celebrity guest stars (Jack Black and Lizzo pop up), somewhat like an old-school sitcom. And given that season 3’s biggest critique is how narratively lost it can feel in spots, this episode burns some valuable time in an already short season of TV.
While The Mandalorian has been an overall critical success, one of the fan criticisms has consistently been how inconsistent its episode runtimes are. It goes with the aforementioned point on how some Disney+ originals dilute the strengths of the medium’s long-form format, but The Convert did give a proper “TV hour” runtime to its story. Ironically, though, the pacing of its story feels disjointed and shows how more isn’t always better.
After a brief opening with Din, Bo-Katan, and Grogu, the episode abruptly switches over to a different part of the galaxy for more than 30 minutes following some Imperials turned New Republic employees. Granted, the concept of former Imperials being rehabilitated into the Republic is an interesting concept, but the drawn-out new plot thread almost feels like an episode of a different show. It manages to pay off by the end of the season, as it plants the seeds for Moff Gideon’s (Giancarlo Esposito) return thanks to his spy in the New Republic.
A little over two years separated seasons 2 and 3 of The Mandalorian, making the new season premiere of the Disney+ flagship show highly anticipated. And though it wasn’t the most engrossing return for a beloved TV series, The Apostate was an admirable start.
Fans are treated to Din Djarin with Grogu back in tow and visiting old friend Greef Karga for a warm reunion. The Apostate‘s biggest drawback is how much of a “setup” and introductory episode it is despite being more than two seasons into this story and the cast of characters. Still, it does enough to satisfy most fans itching to get invested back into this corner of the Star Wars universe.
Seasons 1 and 2 mixed in episodic adventures with the overarching plot of Gideon leading the Imperial Remnant from the shadows. It’s much of what’s made The Mandalorian so interesting, but season 3 takes a back seat from that. The results of that narrative choice looked mixed in certain episodes, but one positive is how it focused on Mandalorian culture and how these people build themselves up again.
The Foundling, in the grand scheme of things, is something of a smaller-scale quest with no major implications on the soon-to-be main story, but it’s an engaging one nonetheless. Part of it is because it was a Mandalorian-focused side story, with Din and Bo-Katan reconnecting with what remains of a fractured society. It’s a good bonding experience for all of the main cast that gives each one a moment to shine.
The Apostate is followed up with an episode that helps move the season along in the form of The Mines of Mandalore. Focusing on the comeback and reintegration of the Mandalorian people was one of season 3’s stronger points, and this second episode is a great journey of growth for both Din and Bo-Katan.
On top of fleshing out more Star Wars lore, The Mines of Mandalore also did well to show some tense action within the claustrophobic titular setting. Plus, the episode showed off the Darksaber, which is always fun to watch in action. It was also the start of Sackhoff’s Bo-Katan becoming a satisfying co-lead in her own right by evolving past her jadedness and cynicism.
Even though the antagonists of The Mandalorian season 3 weren’t particularly memorable until Moff Gideon made his grand return, The Pirate still makes for an exciting episode. Building on the season premiere and some of the conflicts to arise from Gideon’s plant, Elia Kane, The Pirate brings the forces of Mandalore together to rescue Karga’s settlement from pirates and the New Order’s bureaucratic incompetence.
The leader of these raiders is a colorfully campy, if unremarkable, character, but the conflict and the action set pieces it props up make this one highly entertaining. Excellent shots of legions of Mandalorians descending upon the settlement and the season’s continued love of aerial/space dogfights make The Pirate a winner.
Though the aforementioned Andor is the show that excels at Star Wars-themed espionage and political intrigue, The Spies reaps the rewards of the awkwardly paced third episode of The Mandalorian‘s third season. It’s not exactly the most shocking of reveals, but Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon returning is more than welcome.
He commands the scenes he’s in as expected, and the spectacle that follows is thoroughly satisfying. It also shows some meaningful progress for these embattled factions of Mandalorians, which ultimately rise to the occasion as one. Bo-Katan continues to make a strong case for herself as the people’s new leader, and The Spies powerfully ends in an air of suspense and tragedy.
Essentially the last act in a two-part story, The Return successfully keeps up the momentum of season 3’s penultimate episode. The battle that ensues and finishes in this finale raised some believable stakes and made good on the sacrifice that Din, Bo-Katan, and company made to get here, with Gideon once again proving to be a convincing foe.
The hand-to-hand combat and overall action sequences in these final two episodes were especially impressive, showing off some cathartic and well-choreographed fights. The Return also featured a relaxed epilogue that seems to set the stage for where the main cast goes from here, complete with a touching and well-earned formal adoption of Grogu that capitalizes on the theme of “found family.” Season 3 was notably weaker than the first two, but it still managed to be solid as a whole and finished on a strong note.
The first three seasons of Lucasfilm’s The Mandalorian are available to stream now on Disney+.
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