The Mandalorian Season 3 Review: The MCU-fication of Star Wars

The series has become too committed to building a larger mythology, sacrificing its own characters to do so.

This review contains spoilers for Season 3 of ‘The Mandalorian.’

The Mandalorian has no emotional core.

Even in its mixed bag of a second season, the show understood that its core was the relationship between Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu. Everything else can, and in some cases, should be important in their own right but not at the expense of whose story this has been. Now, The Mandalorian is too committed to building up the larger Star Wars mythology than anything else and has revealed that it will sacrifice its own characters to do so.

Season 1 was about Din and Grogu forming a bond. Season 2 was about Din working up to the difficult decision to leave Grogu in the care of creepy, de-aged Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Then, for some reason, two critical episodes of this show appeared in Boba Fett’s story, episodes that would have done wonders for this utterly meandering third season.


(Center): Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) and IG-12 (Taika Waititi, far right) in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN, season three, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

The Darksaber. The Mythosaur. Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) and her relationship to Children of the Watch. Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). The secret cloning project. Almost none of it is executed with any competence, as if the creators forgot the basics of writing. Moff’s grand, evil plan? Revealed and then destroyed in a manner of seconds. It could be resurrected in Season 4, but that would simply feel cheap.

Linear storytelling that follows a particular set of prescribed character and story arcs can be overrated, so The Mandalorian eschewing that model for most of the season isn’t the problem. It’s that, in its Season 3 finale, the show pretends that is what it has been doing the entire time. There’s some neat bow-tying, accompanied by some excellent visuals, but it’s shiny wrapping paper around a stocking full of coal. If the show felt the need to expand beyond its core duo in terms of foci, that would be completely fine – societal storytelling can be much richer compared to stories focused on a central protagonist. But this season is so poorly written that it doesn’t even manage to do that.

(Center): Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) with Imperial armored commandos in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN, season three, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Moff Gideon made a spectacular entrance in the first season – he had gravitas, he felt dangerous, he had a sense of purpose. But now he’s a pathetic, Saturday morning cartoon wearing a truly baffling piece of armor designed to look intimidating (it’s not). He has no deep sense of motivation, no real relationships, just empty hubris.

Bo-Katan Kryze is a similar, haphazardly drawn character. There’s a lot of reliance upon the audience to be familiar with this character and her history from both The Clone Wars and Rebels, but you just can’t rely on audiences to keep up with every part of a cinematic universe in order for one show to make sense. Within the context of The Mandalorian alone, the audience does not get to know her as a person so we can be invested in her quest to become a leader. Throughout the entire season, you feel nothing.


(L-R): An Anzellan (Shirley Henderson) and Grogu in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN, season three, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

It’s frustrating because there’s so much potential. The prying of how the New Republic becomes the First Order is fascinating. It feels like such an intelligent pivot to expand this part of the Star Wars story and capture some of the political text that Andor captured so well. However, within this season, it feels like it’s a part of an entirely different show and just doesn’t mesh with the rest of the story.

The comparisons to Andor are ubiquitous, if a little unfair. After The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Andor came onto the scene as the best thing Star Wars has ever produced. The Mandalorian doesn’t need to be Andor, nor should it try to be, but with the MCU-fication of Star Wars, its confidence is being swallowed up by the “needs” of the IP. This is particularly evident in Episode 3, where the show’s attempt to delve entirely into politics ends up proving that it’s not entirely capable of executing it.

It’s really a matter of finesse, characterization, and detail. There’s so much here but it all gets lost in scattered storytelling. When those elements come together, even for a moment, the show shines. Din sliding in to protect his child? Hot. Grogu using the Force to save himself, Din, and Bo-Katan? Beautiful. But as the season departs on the image of a beautiful, pastoral landscape, it feels like as much a warning as it is a promise that the fleeting moments in which The Mandalorian remembers that its characters will remain just that: moments.

The third season of The Mandalorian is now streaming on Disney+.