Season 3 Episode 1 of The Mandalorian gets the show off to a great start, but it may leave more casual viewers very lost and confused.
Honestly, the best thing about season 3 episode 1 of The Mandalorian is just that it’s actually good. It’s been about two and a half years since the finale of season 2, which saw the titular Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and the show’s breakout star Grogu part ways, but “Chapter 17: The Apostate” feels just like slipping on a familiar cosy jumper. In almost every way, this is just another regular episode of The Mandalorian, which is absolutely a good thing. With that being said though, if you’re just a casual fan of the series, you may be left feeling very lost and confused.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to talk about season 3 of The Mandalorian without discussing the ridiculous decisions made by Disney to do with this show and its spin-off series, The Book of Boba Fett (2021). Namely, the abysmal decision to essentially transform Boba Fett’s show into a season 2.5 of its more successful older cousin, ripping what we can only assume was intended to be the beginning of season 3 and stuffing it into the second half of a completely different show, without alerting audiences. Now, if this was simply just a crossover between the two shows, where Mando turns up for an episode and the two get up to some wacky hijinks, then that would be fine.
But instead, The Book of Boba Fett features some genuinely very significant plot and character developments for Mando and Grogu, including their emotional reunion, setting the stage for season 3. This, of course, means that if someone who only watched The Mandalorian and decided to skip The Book of Boba Fett started watching season 3 of their preferred, they’d be left completely clueless about what is happening. It’s a baffling decision.
As a guide though, if you do fall into this camp of confused audience members, to be fully prepared for season 3, you just have to watch episodes 5, 6 and 7 of The Book of Boba Fett. These all prominently feature characters from The Mandalorian and are essentially episodes of that show ripped straight out of it, so you can enjoy them without having seen the first four chapters in Boba Fett’s journey. Episode 7 requires a bit more knowledge of the series, but if you’re just watching for the Mando and Grogu bits, you can safely ignore the rest and just focus on that.
Horrible decisions aside, everything else that episode 1 of season 3 does, it does well. The episode sees Mando, having been rejected from a tribe of Mandalorian warriors because he had previously removed his helmet, beginning his search for the destroyed mines of Mandalore to redeem himself in the eyes of his peers. This quest leads him back to the planet Nevarro, where he helps high magistrate Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) with a pirate infestation problem. It’s a plotline that feels very typical Mandalorian, feeling standalone from the grander narrative but at the same time filled to the brim with Star Wars lore and callbacks to the previous seasons.
All the show’s elements that typically shine on an episode-to-episode basis are great here again. Pedro Pascal is, as always, brilliant as the leading character, elevating what could so easily have been a boring action star made to sell merchandise. Speaking of merchandise, Grogu, otherwise known as Baby Yoda, continues to astound me with just how adorable he is. One of my favourite scenes in the episode is when the two are travelling in hyperspace. We watch Grogu, sitting in the ship, looking around him, taking it all in. This moment is shot beautifully, with a harsh blue light separating it visually from the rest of the show, showing us just how unique this experience is. As the seasoned veteran sleeps through the light show he’s observed a thousand times, the child watches in amazement, basking in a sight he’s never seen.
Rick Famuyiwa, the show’s newest executive producer, directs the episode, and he helms some great action scenes. I was particularly impressed by the battle between Mando and the pirates in space, to the point where it almost felt like a crime watching it on the small screen. For a series that stars a bounty hunter who travels through space, there’s a surprising lack of action scenes set in the great abyss, so it was very nice to finally see it as a backdrop for a great chase sequence.
All in all, we can breathe a big sigh of relief, because season 3 of The Mandalorian is off to a great start. Whilst the first episode isn’t anything too risky or special, it does deliver on simply being a great episode of a great show. Sometimes, when you’re returning after a couple of years, especially with the inconsistent The Book of Boba Fett airing in the middle, just a simple reminder that the people in charge do know what they’re doing is the greatest gift of all. I can’t wait to see what planet Mando and Grogu visit next, and honestly, that feeling is all I wanted from this premiere.
Season 3 Episode 1 of The Mandalorian is now streaming on Disney Plus.