Arts, Column

Weynand: The Force Isn’t With ‘The Mandalorian’ Season Three

The Star Wars universe is facing a greater threat than Darth Vader or Emperor Palpatine. Simply put, the franchise is getting boring.

The third and latest season of The Mandalorian is a negative deviation from the show’s previous plot quality and sophistication. The new season is not doing enough to engage the audience. Instead, the release is full of filler episodes that feel like a waste of the audience’s time. 

In a galaxy far, far away, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu—also known as Baby Yoda—are continuing their intergalactic adventures. In this season, they battle a giant robotic spider, save a foundling from a dragon-like creature, and even encounter a mythosaur.

The central issue of the season is not that it is uninteresting or poorly made but rather it feels like the plot is not progressing. The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda wander aimlessly with a different group of supporting characters from episode to episode. Filler episodes are fun occasionally, but that has not been how The Mandalorian previously operated. 

Season one of The Mandalorian was a success largely because it barely connected with the wider Star Wars universe. It was a character-driven narrative that purely focused on Din and his transition from merciless bounty hunter to Grogu’s loving protector. It was slow at times, but that is because Din was taking time to transition from the life of a mercenary to a father figure. 

The show presented a fresh protagonist in the Star Wars franchise: an all-new, likable character who had strong morals and an awesome costume with an advanced power set. Throw in a young, force-using Yoda, and Star Wars fans were hooked. The Mandalorian was an unsurprising hit for Disney+ and became one of the most popular streaming series. 

Season two needed to shake things up and keep the audience engaged, which creator Jon Favreau knew exactly how to do. Now that season one established Din and Grogu as fan favorites, it was time to introduce them to the wider Star Wars universe. In this season, Din and Grogu meet some of the other protagonists roaming around the galaxy.

The grand return of Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) after his presumed death in Return of the Jedi sent shockwaves throughout the fanbase, and the live-action debut of Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) was something people had been demanding since her animation debut. 

The second season delivered a plot that was centered around Din and Grogu with the greater Star Wars universe weaved in throughout. It was not a perfect execution, but the season furthered the plot and gave the audience a taste of the beloved Star Wars galaxy. The second season was a worthy successor of the first, and so the third season had a lot to live up to. It hasn’t been an easy, or entertaining, road for season three. 

Thus far, the third season fails where the first and second succeed: the plot and the connections. The plot has strayed from a focus on Din and Grogu, and the connections are at best mishandled and at worst unnecessary. 

The overarching plot is based on unifying Mandalore. Din has found his old clan of Mandalorians, and he is trying to find his family a new home. The problem with this plot is that Din is a less interesting character when he is with his clan. He has to follow rules and his story is limited to Mandalorian-centric adventures, which feel like filler plot lines. Grogu is now somewhat reduced to a side character and not the focus of the show. 

The core of The Mandalorian has been and should continue to be the relationship between Din Djarin and Grogu. The duo still has a lot to grow and develop in terms of trust and compatibility as Grogu expands his force abilities. Their dynamic demands a deeper exploration. 

The major universe connection this season is the presence of Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff). Fans know Bo-Katan from The Clone Wars and Rebels as Mandalore’s rightful ruler, depending on who you ask—Mandalorian rules can get a little confusing. This season, rather than fighting Din for the darksaber, which would give her the right to rule, she decides to help him and join his clan. This is out of character for Bo-Katan, to say the least. 

Bo-Katan had every reason to be the primary antagonist this season. This new change of heart is unsupported by any character development, leading to a puzzling and disappointing culmination in her animation arc. 

The lack of stakes hasn’t helped The Mandalorian this season, either. For the show to keep the audience engaged, there has to be some sense of danger. In the future, pressure needs to come in the form of an antagonist—an original villain, better yet a force-user, would be a threat Din and Grogu have yet to face head on. For all of the combat skill Din has, he would be a sore match against a Sith. Seeing Din and Grogu fight, say, a relic Inquisitor or something comparable would be a completely new and exciting direction for The Mandalorian.

There is a chance that this season can recover with the remaining three episodes. There have been subtle hints throughout the season that imply Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), the villain from seasons one and two, is making a return. This was basically confirmed in episode five, when Gideon escapes from prison offscreen. He hasn’t physically appeared yet, but the audience can feel his presence. 

Gideon would provide a return to form for the series—because he was trying to capture Grogu, Gideon would bring the Din and Grogu relationship back to center stage. Gideon is also a former wielder of the darksaber. Should he come back for his old weapon, perhaps The Mandalorian can put Bo-Katan to better use and satisfy her ruler arc. 

Another thought is the possible return of the animation legacy character Asajj Ventress. In televised canon, the last time audiences saw Ventress she was helping Ahsoka after the padawan was expelled from the Jedi Order. Ventress was on a redemption-revenge arc against the empire that begs completion, and she could fit into the picture as a fellow bounty hunter like Din. Should Gideon return, Ventress could be a powerful force-sensitive ally to have on Din and Grogu’s team. 

All of that is a tall order for only three episodes, but the plot for the rest of the season is still a mystery. If The Mandalorian knows what is best for it, it will forget the filler and show the audience what Din and Grogu are really capable of, like it did in the first two seasons. Otherwise, season three will mark a low point for the Disney+ flagship series.

April 9, 2023