The Mandalorian season 3 has a problem that's too late to fix
The Mandalorian season 3, episode 5 spoilers follow.
Early on in The Mandalorian's latest season, Mando starts teaching Grogu "how to navigate the galaxy." That's all well and good, but how can we trust a Mandalorian to find his way around when The Mandalorian itself has been so aimless in season three?
Things got off to a rough start before this season even started when the ramifications of season two played out in an entirely different show. It's a complaint we've recycled ad nauseam, but it bears repeating that this decision to reunite Mando and Grogu in The Book of Boba Fett made no sense for fans who might not be well versed in the wider Star Wars-verse.
Resetting the status quo somewhere else effectively erased any tension Luke Skywalker's surprise cameo brought last time around, and unfortunately, these narrative issues weren't just confined to season three's premiere.
With Grogu and Mando reunited, Baby Yoda's training in the ways of Mandalore could have been the drive this season, except there's little dramatic tension to be found in this journey. Grogu has already rejected the Jedi way, after all. So instead, season three opened with a redemption arc for Mando, who sought to atone for losing his 'Way' by bathing in the Living Waters of Mandalore.
With that could come intriguing questions around what "The Way" really represents and how much Mandalore life represents what cult-like doctrines actually look like in a galaxy far, far away. That's still on the cards to some degree, but Mando's initial quest to atone was completed pretty sharpish in episode two, and then a sidestep into Dr Pershing's new life on Coruscant derailed things further just one week later.
That's not to say any of these individual arcs were bad or that the occasional sidestep is unwelcome. If anything, this kind of detailed world-building has long been integral to Star Wars' appeal. The issue is that the through-line connecting all these disparate threads hasn't been strong or, frankly, interesting enough to sustain all that.
Look no further than this season's fourth episode, where we finally learned who saved Grogu from Order 66. This mystery has long plagued fans, inviting all kinds of theories since The Mandalorian first began.
But rather than weave those flashbacks into a relevant arc that ties everything together, it feels like the writers threw all that in suddenly just because they felt like it, or worse, to give writers like us something to talk about in what was otherwise a fine, but unexceptional episode.
Of course there is a plan, but it hasn't really started to take shape until this latest episode, five weeks in. With only three more chapters left to go, it's hard to see how all this will coalesce into something that can match the high bar set by previous seasons.
But coalesce it must, because otherwise, what are we even doing here?
There seem to be three key strands powering this show onward in the back half of the season.
First is the rising Imperial Forces that the New Republic is woefully unprepared for. Captain Teva tries to warn officials that "there’s something dangerous happening out there," pointing out "by the time it becomes big enough for you to act, it will be too late." Teva's already right on that account, but his warnings fall on deaf ears.
Jump forward a few years to Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and that "rather imperial way of thinking" he's so worried about has resulted in the destruction of several New Republic planets at the hands of the First Order.
Between this worrying prediction and Dr Pershing's defection in episode three, it's clear that The Mandalorian plans to plug those gaps to explain how the sequel trilogy reached that point.
Then there's also the the Children Of The Watch, who finally have a home on Nevarro thanks to High Magistrate Greef Karga. Bo-Katan has been pushed forward as the one who will unite this tribe and all the others too because of her experience both within and outside The Way.
Ignoring how easily the Armorer let Bo off compared to Mando, this all ties into the discovery of Beskar alloy traces left behind on the ship where Moff Gideon was rescued. Yep, our Big Bad is randomly coming back and it seems that another Mandalorian tribe has been helping him set things up ready for his grand return.
The pieces are finally fitting into place, and it's about time, but we still have some concerns, because as it stands, it remains painfully unclear how either Mando or Grogu will fit into any of this. A clash for power could pit Din Djarin and Bo-Katan against one another, although it would take a lot for Mando to try and seize control at this point. He's far more concerned with being a father.
And then there's Baby Yoda. Sweet, adorable Baby Yoda whose development this season has amounted to a few flips, a dull paint fight, and love for everyone's favourite daddy. Is he even a character at this point or just a meme machine? Time will tell...
To be fair, things would be pretty boring if we could predict everything coming our way. Still, it really feels like we're flying by the seat of our pants this season, and not in a fun, thrilling kind of way. If the team behind The Mandalorian aren't careful, they run the risk of losing their way completely, and huge chunks of their audience might go along with them.
The Mandalorian seasons 1-2 are streaming now on Disney+. Season 3 airs weekly every Wednesday. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and the entire Skywalker Saga are available on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K now, as well as on Disney+.
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