The Mandalorian Season 3: Episodes 2-3 Review

As Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) continues his labored quest to find a droid capable of detecting air breathability (technology that was already pocket-sized even in the Star Wars prequels), the pitfall of the writing in The Mandalorian Season 3 becomes more evidently an issue with the writers’ perspective. They seem to be generating arcs of conflict in reverse from the first plot points they thought of rather than challenging those first guesses to get better conflict overall. The result is circuitous, better than the Obi-Wan Kenobi show but within the same sphere of forced conveniences.

Episode 2’s most bizarre moment happens when Din is captured by an impressively conceived scrapper droid, sifting through the ruins of Mandalore on six crunching legs like the scuttling turrets in Ghost in the Shell. Its occupant is a spindly skeleton bot with a screen that displays one eerie eye, a vital Phil Tippet touch (remember that the guy who brought the original gooey wrinkles to the denizens of Star Wars went on to make Mad God). Din’s Dark Saber falls between the bars of his cage, but Grogu is there, ready to help.

Instead of obvious suggestions such as, “hand me my lightsaber,” Din is instead enlisted into saying the plot-extending words that are needed for the rest of the show, no matter how unlikely: “Go get Bo-Katan” (Katee Sackhoff). But she’s on another planet, you see, so Grogu has to fly out of the cave, board the ship, fly there, get her, bring her back, and lead her to Din. The R4 astromech droid in Din’s ship allows Grogu to fly to the moon where Bo languishes on her barren throne; at that moment, I wondered if that was the only reason the droid had been introduced at all. The air quality test may have just been a screenplay mirage.

There’s no epic or cooperative confrontation when she arrives, either – she easily dispatches the scrapper droid and its sinister occupant with the Dark Saber, her family’s heirloom. In previous seasons, the saber was cruelly significant to her, but the directors of the new season forget these details since just a hesitant glance before using it would have been enough to remind viewers of the conflict behind her mask, yet they barely show her picking it up before wielding it with 100% accuracy like a video game level she’s practiced to death. After rescuing Din, he has a line that encapsulates how Favreau is as much on autopilot writing this show as an unoccupied spaceship. He says, “How did you find me?” as if he didn’t ask Grogu to get her and then see him return with her. He just needed “something” to say, and that sounded right in theory.

Episode 3 takes a detour to Coruscant where a forgettable Imperial scientist character from a previous season (introductory flashbacks are required to get the viewer up to speed with things they’ve already seen) attempts to integrate into the Rebellion reallocation program. The parallels the episode draws between the goals and tactics of the Rebellion vs the Empire are not dissimilar from statements of thematic declaration made by Rose Tico in The Last Jedi. At least in theory, any universe-building observations provide welcome additions to the sequel canon, which made few choices overall to progress the saga from Return of the Jedi into a post-war galaxy. These realistic wartime touches were part of the bedrock of The Mandalorian's style in the early seasons. Admitting that even the good guys use interrogation-reprogramming tactics to achieve their idea of peace is in the right spirit for a sequel to Star Wars.

The issue with the direction and shooting of the episode is that nothing reads but the bare elements of this “intended spirit.” Even the concept art that plays over the credits has a better grasp of potential depths of meaning. A drawing of Dr. Pershing's Voight-Kampff-lite test with a Rebellion HR robot is a sterile wide shot in the painting, with cold, clean walls. The shot in the show is completely middle-horizon, communicating none of his fear of getting lost in another corporate military system, which the drawing gets across without the aid of theme-specific dialogue. His relationship with a fellow Imperial defector, Elia (Katy M. O'Brian), is no less middling since O'Brian plays her too alarmingly for a character allegedly meant to fool him (or us). Despite throwing most of this 58-minute episode toward this mini war parable, the writing fails to make it much more than a time-killer.

The Mandalorian used to represent an intellectual tangent away from the principal saga, something that could give the back-alley Star Wars, which has always been everyone’s favorite, some room to flex its wrinkly brow without hitting the powdered noses of the more manipulated entries’ more manipulative themes. But one concept that has remained in the center ring of the reception of modern Star Wars is that making new claims results in pushback. So to avoid this, Season 3 of The Mandalorian seems unsubtly restrained from coloring outside of any lines. As a result, it feels even in comparison to its own early seasons as reverse-engineered as a school essay that had to put the thesis paragraph in the introduction in retrospect because it forgot to think of it first. It adds details to what’s already written to try to sell the vision in reverse. But anyone actually reading it can see that it’s all Forced.


Image is a screenshot from the show: ©Lucasfilm/Fairview Entertainment

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