Well, looks like I may have gotten my wish about The Mandalorian going back to basics. But what a strange and long way to get there. I like to think today’s episode title, “The Return,” even hints at that. That this show will be returning to form after losing its way a bit. And it’s hard to deny it has after wrapping up the arc it established over its first two seasons on literally another show. That’s not really the sign of a formulated plan. But what’s weird is Grogu’s training with Luke was abruptly wrapped up so we could spend this season with our title character and Grogu taking a backseat to the rest of the Mandalorians reclaiming their home world. And then that gets abruptly wrapped up when Din is told he needs to leave and now he and Grogu are going to freelance for the New Republic hunting down Imperial warlords. I was honestly expecting a new show to be announced in the credits, like they did with The Book of Boba Fett after season 2, because this season very clearly exists to set up something else that’s not The Mandalorian.
(Maybe that was the premise from the outset. Maybe The Mandalorian was never about a guy traveling from planet to planet collecting bounties. It was instead always about a guy traveling the galaxy looking for possible spinoff shows.)
But look, like I said, the season finale of season 3 puts the show in a good spot and back on track for some interesting adventures. I am not convinced this show can resist the temptations of more lore and trying to tie everything into some epic sense of structure. Not everything needs to be epic. The Mandalorian works best when the stories are kept small. And I certainly enjoyed “The Return” more than I did last week’s episode – Din actually gets to do quite a few things, which has been few are far between this season – I think I could go the rest of my life without seeing another CGI jet-pack battle. I’m good.
Moff Gideon has been defeated … again. What was even the point of his return? What a weird thing. Last week’s episode gave us this grand reintroduction. Watch out! He’s back! And, now, a week later, he’s gone again. I have little doubt Moff Gideon will be back again next season, only to fail again. He’s kind of turning into the Cobra Commander of Star Wars villains. Just this guy who always gets beat, but thinks his next plan will work, but doesn’t. Well, better luck next season, Moff Gideon. Also, I could go along with Gideon’s explanation that his team was setting up shop on Mandalore to mine for Beskar. Fair enough! But he’s also making clones of himself that will know how to use the Force somehow? Why can’t he just be an evil general who wants power? No, no, instead he has this unbelievably convoluted idea of cloning himself, only now he can use the Force. An idea destroyed by one push of the button by Din with no resistance. Then Moff Gideon gets mad that his evil scheme has been foiled and gives us a speech. He really is Cobra Commander. Maybe next season he’ll have a weather laser or something.
Look, I’ve been pretty clear I didn’t much care for the main plot point of this season being all about the lore of the Mandalorians and trying to reclaim their planet. I enjoy a show about one Mandalorian. Two of them aren’t bad. But hundreds of them are boring. But I stuck with it, and then the whole season came down to, “Tanks for your help, Din. But time for you to go. Maybe go back to the career you had before?” “Yeah okay. This is the way.” Seems like maybe we could have just started at this point for this season? My point is, if the events of this season are so unimportant to The Mandalorian as a show that now it’s just Din and Grogu going back to bounty hunting, why did we have to sit through it? Since it appeared in the season finale of season one, all we’ve heard about is the importance of the Dark Saber. Then it’s just kind of destroyed as an afterthought. Oh well. (To be honest, I’m glad it’s gone.) Anyway, all of this really moved Din’s story kind of nowhere. I mean, sure, he officially adopted Grogu. But wasn’t that already assumed? The only answer that makes sense was, again, this whole season was just to set up something else.
But hey, I’m strangely optimistic about The Mandalorian going forward? Yeah, question mark, maybe I don’t feel super confident about that statement. But a show about Din and Grogu hunting down war criminals for the new republic sounds great actually. I just wish that would have been this past season. (And there’s always the fear a new show will be announced, let’s say Lobot, and Din and Grogu’s arc about hunting down war criminals is wrapped up in episode four an five of Lobot. For the record, I’d totally watch a Lobot show.)
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