While it’s been over two years since the end of The Mandalorian’s second season – which saw our titular hero Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) hand over his young charge Grogu to Luke Skywalker – we haven’t been wanting for Mando content since then. He showed up in a big way in spin-off series The Book of Boba Fett, which saw him not only gain a new, super-fast ride but also had him reunite with his little green friend, who forsook his Jedi training in order to be with his surrogate Dad.
But there’s no guarantee that Mandalorian fans have watched the other Star Wars spin-off. The first episode of season three has the unfortunate job of catching those viewers up whilst reintroducing characters and setting the table for what’s to come.
It’s a balance that the premiere doesn’t always confidently strike, and the storytelling feels messy. There are repeats of conversations and motives already explained elsewhere. Specifically, Djarin’s mission to bathe in the Living Waters in the mines of Mandalore in order to atone for the sin of removing his helmet (an action which goes against the Mandalore creed) is a directive he first received in Boba Fett.
To help him navigate Mandalore, Djarin first makes a pit-stop in Nevarro, where Carl Weathers’ Greef Karga – now a High Magistrate – implores him to put his feet up and enjoy the hugely upgraded surroundings. But Djarin is there to repair the IG-11 droid that aided him all the way back in season one, as he needs it to help him explore the planet.
I have mixed feelings about the return of the droid. In season one, it was brilliant: the storytelling made Djarin (previously a droid-hater) and the audience really care for the reprogrammed machine, and its eventual sacrifice had meaning and weight. I’m a fan of lasting consequences over bringing characters back. I can hope this is more than a cheap resurrection of a fan-favourite.
While both main and sub plots are getting a patient build-up, the opposite is true for the action. We’re put right back in the thick of it from the first sequence onwards, as Djarin makes a stylish entrance to dispatch a sea monster to save Mandalorian lives. It’s bettered by a later sequence which sees Mando put his fancy new Starfighter to good use once again to take down some pirates with a bit of fancy flying. There will doubtless be more battles ahead for our favourite helmeted hero as he navigates the galaxy with Grogu, here supplying more GIF-able content (a scene where he squeezes an Anzellan is hilarious and cute in equal measure).
The episode ends with Djarin on Ka’velana having a tense chat with Bo Katan (Katee Sackhoff), the wildcard of season three. Clearly upset that the Mandolorian wields the Darksaber instead of her – and over her Deathwatch squad abandoning her as a result– it gives us new questions to consider. How far will she go to obtain the weapon? And is there a heel turn in her future?
She is one of many intriguing pieces on the table in this inelegant, but still enjoyable return to Mando’s world. The action is still thrilling, Grogu remains adorable, and though the storytelling could use some sharpening, there could be some big, satisfying payoffs in the near future.