Are you surprised to hear the words “Star Wars” and “Controversy” side by side? The Mandalorian S3 recently wrapped up and I have some thoughts…
*Spoilers for The Book of Boba Fett*
The Mandalorian S3 takes place after a presumed time-jump. Grogu and Din are reunited (after the events of The Book of Boba Fett), but Din is still an apostate from his people. Din Djarin’s quest for redemption inadvertently ripples into a fight for the fate of Mandalorian culture.
Lemme get this out of the way: I’ve never gotten the hype over this show. I enjoy it, but it rarely blows me away. That said, I was shocked to find critical response for this season so low. Because– hot take– the problems people whine about with this season were ALWAYS PRESENT.
The Mandalorian has always been “side-quest the show”, with main plot in the periphery until the final 2 episodes; Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) has never been as good a fighter as other Mandos; and he often needs his allies to bail him out of trouble. The show hasn’t changed as much as you think. You’re just noticing the problems I’ve had from day 1.
But let’s address the chief complaint people seem to have: that Din Djarin and Grogu are no longer the show’s main characters. I’m not here to tell you that you should LIKE said change. But the fact that The Mandalorian S3 pivoted its protagonists is NOT an objectively bad choice.
Din and Grogu’s story was basically over. S2 ended their arc on a high note. And The Book of Boba Fett plus Mando S3’s first few episodes clean up their last dangling plot-threads. The series had nowhere else to go with Din as its lead. So the writers made the next best choice: keep Din as a major supporting character and tell the most interesting Mandalorian story they could tell at this time– Lady Bo Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) re-discovers “The Way” and tries to reunite her people.
I can hear you already: “But Joe! Why couldn’t Din Djarin do that story?” Because he clearly lacked interest in a leadership role. He tried to give up The Darksaber the moment he got it. And Bo Katan is the rightful heir to Mandalore. And Din already respects her. It makes perfect sense to me that he’d help and support her plans once she made a concrete goal.
And it’s not as if Din and Grogu’s story ends with a hard stop. There’s a slow passing of the torch throughout S3 to Bo Katan. Even the technical elements of the series work to subliminally tell us that Din is no longer the lead. He’s foregrounded in shots less often, sometimes even out of focus in the background, and his theme song is played in group settings (to represent ALL Mandalorians instead of just him).
I guess I’m a sucker for characters like Din Djarin, who aren’t THE heroes but who have a key role to play in the hero’s journey. I love Obi-Wan Kenobi for the same reason. Din doesn’t accomplish the most badass feats this season. But it’s his unyielding faith in “The Way” that makes the highlights of this year possible.
Besides Lady Bo Katan, The Mandalorian gives its supporting cast far more material. Greef Karga (Carl Weathers), The Armorer (Emily Swallow), Paz Vizla (Tait Fletcher), Captain Carson (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee ), and Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) are now more well-rounded characters. I finally feel some connection to these people beyond “Yeah, they look cool I guess.” (AKA Boba Fett Syndrome). Everyone gets a moment to shine.
Though this praise is sorta backhanded, because The Mandalorian should have been at this level all along. It’s like the writers watched Andor and realized how to improve their show. But they couldn’t pull off their storyline’s balancing act so seamlessly. I’m just saying: The Mandalorian is like a juggler who can only use two balls at a time.
The Mandalorian S3 contains the strongest themes of the series thus far. It’s a testament to the world-altering power of faith in your beliefs (be they religious, philosophical, generally moral, etc). “The Way” finally has a destination, which could only have been reached along its path. Though said path wasn’t necessarily what the Mandalorians thought it was. The competing philosophies of Mandalorian culture are largely at the forefront of S3 in a big way, and provided the show what it was sorely missing. Yes these ideas were presented previously, but now their consequences show in force.
Star Wars’ politics have always deeply intrigued me and I’m pleased to see The Mandalorian wade into that sphere. A big plus for S3 is its focus on bigger picture elements. We’re shown more factional politics with the Imperial remnant, other Mandalorian clans, and the New Republic. Each of these groups’ worries intersect and clash in fascinating ways, with Din Djarin and Bo Katan right in the middle. Now I FINALLY start to understand The Force Awakens‘ status quo.
This story was still simultaneously too long and too short. They didn’t need 8 episodes for the main plot. Yet 8 episodes is far too short for a season of TV (and some episodes are only half an hour at that)! What makes this worse is that half the episodes FELT like filler and detours instead of fun one-off adventures. Yet I repeat: it’s always been “side-quest the show”, so this was expected…
My biggest concern is that the overall story arc is never clear. This plot pivots every time we think it’s picked a direction. And the ending especially feels like the crew wrote and shot it the same day, seeing how little of it was set up through the season.
But for some praise: The Mandalorian‘s production values look better than ever! I dunno what the crew did differently, but their sets were less overtly shot on The Volume. And they (more) seamlessly blended practical effects with CGI. This world proved immersive and occasionally mesmerizing.
I also found the action scenes way less repetitive than they used to be. Not every encounter was with a giant monster or easily-killed stormtroopers. The scenes had variety, reasonable challenge, and felt fresh for Star Wars. They weren’t especially memorable, mind you, but I was never bored.
I’ve been hearing a stupid amount of complaints about S3 online. And I dunno what people are on about because The Mandalorian is as good or bad as ever. S3 even fixed or improved upon my old complaints, if anything.
The Mandalorian S3 is occasionally frustrating but it’s certainly Worth a Watch.
IN-DEPTH ANALYSES OF THE ABOVE, AND MORE, ON THIS EPISODE OF CLOSE UP:
Are you hyped for the future of Star Wars on TV? What did you think of The Mandalorian S3? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know.
Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!
Till next time,