The Mandalorian: a revealing (though wobbly) third season

| April 19, 2023


Disney’s mega-hit The Mandalorian, wrapped up its third season on Wednesday with a boffo finale to a season that honestly has struggled to stay on target.  Unlike Season 2, which was as sure-footed as anything this series has produced since the original trilogy, Season 3 seemed to have a narrative drive that ran in fits and starts, whole episodes devoted to minor plot points in the finale, an epilogue (the Lambda Shuttle) that felt grafted on, and an entire episode that didn’t feel like Star Wars at all.  We’ll get there in a moment.

First, the good stuff.  At its core, Season 3 took a turn that was kind of refreshing.  Up to this point, the story has been all Grogu.  Who is he?  Where does he come from?  Are there others of his kind still left.  This season largely belonged to the personal journey of Din Djarin, Bo-Katan, and their struggle to rebuild their broken civilization.  Thinking back on it, there’s a long and satisfying path from the very Shakespearean image of Bo-Katan sitting upon her throne in the vast caverns of her empty stone castle to the reigniting of the forge at Season’s end.  I love grand story arcs like that.

In that, this show ebbs nicely toward something that I value in The Mandalorian as a Star Wars series: that this show takes a different path, creates a new lore and pulls away from the safer waters that are the bane of nearly every other Star Wars property.  Much as I like The Bad Batch, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Rebels they pretty much stick to the center, rarely venturing away from the tenets set forth by George Lucas’ original saga – I can always feel the Skywalker saga is always just around the corner.

I don’t get that from The Mandalorian.  I sense a widening of the universe, a venture into a new ideas and new cultures.  I love the way that Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni and their writers are willing to try new things and give us a twist on characters that, up to this point, we’ve only had a rudimentary idea about.  Look what they’ve done with the Tuskins and the Jawas.  I’m glad that the Jedi is only a side-plot to this series because, frankly, I need a break.  One more story about how someone is teetering just on the edge of becoming a Sith Lord and struggling to stretch out with their feelings?  As much as I’m looking forward to Ashoka this August, I have a feeling that we’re headed back into those familiar waters.  I hope I’m wrong.

It was nice to wade into the Mandalorian culture in Season 3, get some of their backstory and ultimately watch them slowly but surely begin to accept the idea that This is the Way is not always the only way.  They aren’t allowed to take their helmets off except in private (which can’t do much for the actor’s egos) I like the acceptance that Bo-Katan walks between the cultures that hide their faces and those that do not.  It’s an enlightening, an acceptance within a religion that allows itself to expand and learn.

What Season 3 lacked was consistency.  An entire episode devoted to Dr. Pershing, the good-natured scientist forced to create clones in Moff Gideon’s lab felt like the backdoor pilot to a series that wasn’t going to emerge.  Also a pointless journey to a planet run by Jack Black and Lizzo felt less like Star Wars and more like something out of 60’s “Star Trek.”

The series also struggled to give little Grogu a purpose.  With his story effectively closed (or at least on the back burner), the writers seemed to have problems finding something for the littlest Jedi to do.  In that, we got a sometimes amusing, sometimes frustrating series of gags ebbing toward the idea of Grogu entering the terrible twos.  It is all leading up to the finale which has a purpose, but the journey getting there felt a little forced.  And the winking iris of the final episode (which I won’t spoil) is, to be honest, a little too cartoony given the tone of what has gone before.

Season 3, regrettably is the weakest of this monumental series, which doesn’t make it bad, it just goes to illustrate that it was a little unfocused, as if the writers were setting something up but being very slow about what they were building up to.  Still, given the final episode, I can’t say that this was a wash out.  What we are left with feels as much life-goes-on as it does a reset.  Grogu and Din Jarin are happy together.  That these two must somehow form a family is the point of this whole venture – a found family, bound by adventures still to come.  I look forward to it.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2023) View IMDB Filed in: Blog