Episode 8 of season 3 of The Mandalorian ends the season on a surprisingly definitive high note, by returning to what made the show good in the first place.
Admittedly, I wasn’t feeling overly optimistic going into episode 8 of season 3 of The Mandalorian, the final episode of what’s been a relatively disappointing season. I expected a lot more of the same issues that have plagued this season throughout its run, namely the lack of identity and the constant regelation of its best characters and storylines to the background. Somehow though, I ended up feeling pleasantly surprised, as the show gave us a season finale that I’d confidently rank among the season’s best offerings. How did it manage this major turnaround after a disappointing episode 7? Well, simply by doing the one obvious thing that we’ve all been clamouring for. They actually made the titular Mandalorian the main character again.
The majority of season 3 has been spent focusing on Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), a fellow Mandalorian who previously served as a somewhat intriguing supporting character, and the quality of the show’s storytelling has suffered as a result. Sackhoff’s performance has consistently lacked the emotional gravitas to carry the show, and her character has constantly lacked any real emotional hook to invest the audience. So, going into a finale that promised to wrap up all the plot threads into an emotionally satisfying conclusion, I was worried that there would simply be nothing interesting to actually wrap up in the first place. To combat this issue, the show ends up returning to its most basic but effective emotional hook, namely the bond between Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and his adorable adopted son, Grogu.
“Chapter 24: The Return” takes place almost entirely on an Imperial base, depicting the final confrontation between the Mandalorians and Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). The episode starts strong, with several thrilling fight scenes between Djarin and various Stormtroopers, before turning its attention to the main fight that the show has spent three seasons building up. Then though, there was some cause for alarm. For a couple of minutes in the middle, the show seemed to be teasing that it was going to be Kryze fighting Gideon, as Djarin seemed elsewhere entertained. As much as this would admittedly make sense for the end of a season that has spent so much time trying to build up Kryze as a character, it would have felt like a kick up the backside to those viewers who have gotten genuinely invested in Djarin as a character and his storyline which we’ve spent three whole seasons getting invested in, just for it to be completely thrown aside in favour of someone else entirely.
Luckily, as if the show read my mind, they shift the spotlight back in the direction of Djarin and Grogu, where it firmly stays for the rest of the finale. Without delving into spoilers territory, there’s a very definitive feel to the whole affair. I’ve had a long-standing theory that the third season’s shift in story focus has been enforced due to Pascal wanting to leave the show, and this episode did nothing to counter those beliefs. The way they’ve set up themselves going into a potential fourth season, I really wouldn’t be surprised to see Djarin relegated to the odd cameo, with the show embracing the Mandalorians as a culture as its main characters.
If this is the end for Djarin, it’s a strong one. Not only do we get some great action scenes, but the actual emotional conclusion for his character nails the landing, with some very effective beats that almost got a wet eye out of me. Pascal, who at times has sleep-walked through this season, gives one of his stronger performances here, almost as if this is his swan song. An unfortunate side effect of Pascal stepping away from the show would be losing its mascot Grogu, who gets a beautiful ending to his story here. As a hardcore Grogu fanboy, I felt very well-treated here, with the show giving us plenty of emotionally satisfying moments for the adorable, scarily powerful child.
The finale isn’t completely without its problems though. I absolutely adore Giancarlo Esposito as an actor, but here he can just feel like a caricature of what you would expect from a performance of his. He’s always great at playing the subtle villain, but here he’s expected to play a more conventionally cheesy supervillain, and he ends up delivering a performance that feels incredibly forced and over-the-top. Not to mention, the actual character he’s been given is weak to begin with, as he lacks any kind of interesting trait or motivation to make him a compelling villain, instead just feeling like an executive wanted Esposito to be in the Star Wars universe because they liked him in Breaking Bad (2008-2013).
With “The Return”, season 3 of The Mandalorian manages to somehow end on a high note after a very rocky run. Looking ahead, I can imagine season 4 will feel like a very different show, so if this was meant to be a last hurrah for what The Mandalorian’s been over the course of the last 4 years, then it’s a good ending for what’s generally been a great show. As an actual finale to the season, there’s a lot that was brought up over the course of the last 8 episodes that is still yet to be explored, but knowing Disney they’ll inevitably make 10 spin-offs about every loose plot thread. At the end of the day, it’s a finale that’s emotionally satisfying in a lot of ways but might frustrate those who wanted every single plot thread to be perfectly tied up.
The Mandalorian ‘s Season 3 Episode 8 is now streaming on Disney Plus.