The Mandalorian is back.
The Internet’s (and my) favorite daddy Pedro Pascal is back in the show that, in some part, proved there was still some juice left in the Star Wars universe. That juice wasn’t particularly potent but it was pleasant enough in its debut season. In its second season, however, the show vacillated wildly between a thrilling story that believed in the emotional core of its characters and a meandering one that pandered to an overblown sense of nostalgia. In the process, it drove itself into the ground.
Season three, in its first two episodes, claws out of the ground but barely so. It’s a boring, meandering, lifeless endeavor that only occasionally sparks to life thanks to the visuals. Unlike Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Book of Boba Fett, The Mandalorian knows how to use its famous/infamous volume technology and the apocalyptic landscape of Mandalore; Episode 2 particularly benefits from this.
Speaking of Boba Fett, however, the most egregious mistake this storytelling team made was shoehorning the emotional core of Din and Grogu into that former show for no good reason whatsoever. If you didn’t watch Boba Fett (and I envy you), then you’re probably confused by the start of season three. “Wait, didn’t Din leave Grogu with hideous de-aged CGI Luke Skywalker (sort of Mark Hamill)?” Correct. It was the beautiful scene where Din removed his helmet so Grogu could see his face, an emotionally resonant moment where a character broke a creed he had previously tied his life to because his bond with his child was more important to him.
Then, for some reason, two episodes of Boba Fett detoured from its titular character and gave us The Mandalorian Season 2 and a half. Grogu decided that he also found de-aged Luke Skywalker too uncomfortable to be around and chose to go back to Din instead. Grogu’s decision should have emotionally resonated, but it didn’t, so we’re here in Season 3, dubious about the Marvel Cinematic Universification of Star Wars. Disney seems more desperate to please fanboys who stopped aging after Return of the Jedi than anything else.
The character and narrative thrust this season suffers from a similar lack of vision. In theory, the idea of Din trying to reclaim his honor after removing his helmet is a logical one to tackle next. He has come to terms with how he feels about Grogu and, subsequently, being a father figure. Now he has to come to terms with not just how he feels as a Mandalorian, but his place within a broader culture that splintered after the destruction of Mandalore. That could be a good season’s worth of material and it still could be, but the beginning is lackluster enough to where the show’s ability to nail that character arc remains in doubt.
In light of Andor, it was perhaps inevitable that The Mandalorian would disappoint. Still, this show doesn’t need to be an examination of insurgency politics and the fascist bureaucracies in Star Wars to be good or even great. It just has to believe in itself and have a sense of purpose––and for now, it has neither.
– The structure of Disney+ shows continues to be bizarre––even Andor, which is so much better than The Mandalorian in every way, suffers from this. Like, why is there a 30 minute Episode 1 and a 42 minute Episode 2 when there’s barely enough material there for one episode? It’s kind of baffling and really fucks with the momentum of the series.
– Amy Sedaris is a treasure and every time she appears on this show, some of the other nonsense feels worth it.