Today is May 4th, aka Star Wars Day, so I’m taking a brief look at The Mandalorian season three. I enjoyed this one. While it was not as consistently strong as the previous two seasons, I still felt it was well done. Here are some of my thoughts on it.
1) Featured Players
Pedro Pascal is the actor who is credited as Din Djarin, the titular Mandalorian, as he provides all of the character’s dialogue and is the man behind the mask on the extremely rare occasions when the character takes off his helmet. Pascal does a good job in the role.
However, Brendan Wayne and Lateef Crowder also perform the role of Din Djarin. Officially the two of them are the “on-set doubles” for the Mandalorian, but I get the feeling they perform the majority of the character’s physical acting. So I’m glad to see the two of them now being featured much more prominently in the end credits this season.
It was also nice to see Katee Sackhoff promoted to a series lead this season. I really liked the morally ambiguous character of Bo-Katan Kryze that Sachkoff voiced on The Clone Wars and Rebels animated series, and thought it was great that she was given the opportunity to reprise the character in live action on The Mandalorian last season. Sackhoff continued to do great work with the role. The writing by Jon Favreau & Dave Filoni continued the character’s compelling arc, giving Sackhoff some great material to perform.
2) The Quest is the Quest
It was set up in The Book of Boba Fett that Din Djarin was going to try to reach Mandalore to bathe in the “living waters” beneath the surface so that he could redeem himself for removing his helmet in front of others & rejoin his clan.
I’m sure that I was not the only viewer who expected that this quest would be the main focus of season three. Instead, Din reaches Mandalore in the second episode, and by the end of it he’s found the living waters. That allowed Favreau & Filoni to then spend the rest of the season building up to Din and Bo-Katan leading their fellow Mandalorians to take back their homeworld, something I really thought wouldn’t happen until at least next season.
As someone who greatly dislikes padded-out storylines, I definitely appreciate that The Mandalorian is a show that moves along at a fairly brisk pace.
3) Skippy the Jedi Droid Lives Again!
At the beginning of the season Din isn’t even sure if the air on Mandalore is still breathable, and he decided to acquire a droid so he can test the atmosphere. Somehow he comes up with the absolutely cockamamie idea of asking Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) to have his people rebuild assassin droid IG-11, who self-destructed back at the end of the first season. To Favreau’s credit, we don’t get a quick resurrection, and this turns out to be a really difficult task, requiring Din to look elsewhere.
Din’s next stop is Tatooine, where junk dealer Pelli Motto (Amy Sedaris) convinces him to buy astromech droid R5-D4 off her. When Pelli starts playing up R5’s value by claiming the droid is a hero of the Rebel Alliance, well, I’m sure we can all be forgiven for being skeptical, as Pelli is definitely something of a con artist… I mean, not five minutes earlier we saw her working with the Jawas to rip off some poor mark. Amazingly, though, New Republic fighter pilot Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) later locates Din and Bo-Katan by tracking R5, who he confirms was indeed part of the Rebellion. And during the battle to liberate Mandalore from the Empire, R5 ends up being incredibly helpful to Din.
R5–D4 is actually a very old Star Wars character. He was the droid with the “bad motivator” that the Jawas tried to sell to Owen Lars way back in the original movie. Peter David later wrote the EXTREMELY out-of-continuity story “Skippy the Jedi Droid” that was published in Star Wars Tales #1 by Dark Horse Comics in 1999. The story, which was both funny and poignant, revealed that R5 secretly had Force abilities and, sensing that R2-D2 had possession of the stolen Death Star plans, willingly blew his own top off so Owen would instead buy R2, which led to Luke Skywalker finding Obi-Wan Kenobi and saving the Rebellion.
Amazingly, almost two decades later elements of “Skippy the Jedi Droid” did become canon. In the short story “The Red One” by Rae Carson in the 2017 prose anthology From a Certain Point of View, we find out that R2-D2 convinced R5-D4 to sabotage himself by blowing up his own motivator, enabling R2 to continue with his vital mission.
In recent years quite a number of elements from the old “expanded universe” have been incorporated into Star Wars continuity, but this has got to be among the most unusual and unexpected. I wonder how soon until Tag and Blink show up?
4) Penn Pershing Is An Imbecile
Geneticist Dr. Penn Pershing (Omid Abtahi) is definitely one of those people who, while undeniably a brilliant genius in his chosen field, is clearly lacking in any sort of practical sense. It certainly explains how he was manipulated into working for the Empire in the first place, as they undoubtedly appealed to his scientific curiosity to get him working on their unethical projects. Likewise, he’s so blinded by Elia Kane (Katy M. O’Brian) tempting him with the opportunity to continue his cloning research that he completely failed to perceive that she was leading him into a trap, even though I’m sure everyone in the audience saw that coming a mile away.
In any case, “The Convert” does seem to be setting up the idea that only just a few years after the establishment of the New Republic it’s already being plagued by the exact same problems that caused the Old Republic to fall. The fact that early on in this episode we see influential politicians at the opera house who seemingly don’t care about the differences between the Galactic Empire and the New Republic, and whose entire mantra is “Don’t get involved,” is another sign that things are not going as well as they should be for this new government.
Likewise, we see that Imperials such as Pershing who were paroled into in the amnesty program are being sent for evaluations with droids who just rattle off a series of boilerplate questions before rubber-stamping approvals. That’s a good indication that the New Republic is stretched thin for both personnel & resources.
I think all of this does help to explain why the Imperial Remnants are seemingly operating unhindered on the Outer Rim, and why someone like Elia Kane is so easily able to act as a double agent right at the heart of the government. It also sets the stage for the New Republic eventually turning a blind eye to the rise of the First Order.
5) The Best There Is At What He Does
I never really understood the hate for the character of Jar Jar Binks. Yes, he’s kind of an annoying character, but not all that much more than C-3PO. I honestly thought Jar jar was kind of funny. And I always felt bad that Ahmed Best became a convenient target for all of the angry fanboys because The Phantom Menace failed to meet their impossible expectations.
So I appreciated the fact that Best was given the opportunity to play a new role, Kelleran Beq, the Jedi Master who we see via flashback saved Grogu from Order 66, on The Mandalorian. Actually, I was watching “The Foundling” and I had no idea who he was, so I was wondering for the rest of the episode who had played that kickass Jedi. Then the credits rolled and the answer completely blew my mind.
I’m hopeful that Best will have some more opportunities to portray Kelleran Beq in additional flashbacks that explore Grogu’s missing past.
6) One Point Twenty-One Gigawatts!
I definitely enjoyed seeing the legendary Chrisopher Lloyd guest star in “Guns for Hire” as Commissioner Helgait. He only had a couple of scenes in the episode, but he definitely made the most of them. Glad to see that at 84 years old Lloyd hasn’t lost a step. And we can now add him to the list of actors who have worked in both the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises.
As for Jack Black and Lizzo, well, neither of them was at the top of my list for people who I wanted to see guest star in Star Wars, but their appearances were brief and relatively effective, so I didn’t mind.
I’ve seen some people refer to “Guns for Hire” as a “side quest” with the implication that it’s a throw-away episode. The thing is, the episode is important for what it establishes about Din and Bo-Katan. We see that the two of them complement each other; each of them has a particular set of skills & knowledge and are able to do something the other is not, and it is only by working together that they are able to solve the mystery of what is causing the droids to go rogue on Plazir-15.
This leads into the final two episodes, where the various tribes & sects of Mandalorians are finally able to reclaim their home world by joining forces.
7) “Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.”
The contrast between the Shadow Council of the Imperial Remnants and the Mandalorians is striking.
On the surface the Council is united, with Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), Brendol Hux (Brian Gleeson) and the others playing lip service to “restoring order to the galaxy” but it very quickly becomes apparent that each of them are in it for themselves. Gideon sees the continuing absence of Grand Admiral Thrawn as a chance to seize power as the leader of a restored Galactic Empire, Hux jealously holds on to his forces & resources, and the other warlords look at the chaos as an opportunity to amass greater wealth.
Gideon is also much more interested in his own personal project to create Force-sensitive clones of himself than he is in the Empire’s master plan, the mysterious “Project Necromancer.” Presumably the Empire’s quest to capture Grogu in the first two seasons was a central part of the Project, but Gideon co-opted it to further his own personal ambitions.
(Having said that, if those closeness were so vitally important to Gideon, he really shouldn’t have left them unguarded like that!)
In comparison to the Imperials, we see that while Bo-Katan, Paz Vizsla (Tait Fletcher), The Armorer (Emily Swallow) and Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides) each have their own idea of what it truly means to be a Mandalorian, at the end of the day each of them wants what is best for their people. They disagree about the means, but they basically want the same ends, and it is only by working together that they are finally able to achieve those ends.
At first I was surprised when, after so much build-up, after the long path it took for Bo-Katan to finally reclaim it, the mythical Darksaber was so quickly, casually destroyed by Moff Gideon. But, honestly, in the end the Darksaber really didn’t matter. When it comes right down to it, the idea that whoever happened to win it in battle was the rightful ruler of Mandalore was a pretty crazy basis for running a government… you know, as opposed to all of the other crazy ways people try to govern.
Gideon was one of those who made the mistake of believing that the power of the Mandalorian people lay in the Darksaber, and he thought that either by possessing it or destroying it he would be able to conquer them. Bo-Katan, though, finally realized the truth: the strength of the Mandalorians was that when they finally set aside their differences and united they became much stronger.
In the end Gideon, who has no true friends or allies, only servants and slaves, is left standing alone. He’s defeated by Din, Bo-Katan and Grogu when they work together against him.
8) Credit Where Credit Is Due
Obviously there were a whole bunch of very talented people working with Favreau & Filoni behind the scenes to make The Mandalorian season three as good as it was. Noah Kloor also contributed to the writing. Rick Famuyiwa, Rachel Morrison, Lee Isaac Chung, Carl Weathers, Peter Ramsey and Bryce Dallas Howard were the directors for this season. And of course there were numerous artists & technicians creating all of the great visual & sound effects.
I want to give a shout-out to Shawna Trpcic, the costume designer for all three seasons, as well as for The Book of Boba Fett. With each season the show has become more ambitious in scope, with an ever-growing cast of characters. Trpcic has consistently done a fantastic job designing the costumes for all of them. I feel she did good work on the various Mandalorians themselves, providing them with a generally unified look while giving each individual his or her own particular details & qualities. Also, the costumes for Captain Bombardier and the Duchess in “Guns for Hire” were really stand-out creations.
So, good jobs all around.