If this is the way, I don’t want it: with Episode 3, The Mandalorian Season 3 has revealed its glaring inadequacies when it takes the story away from Mando and co.
The first two episodes of the new season have been a bit miss-and-hit. Especially coming off the highs of Andor and its prestige, mature treatment of Star Wars, it’s hard to shake the weightlessness of Din (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu’s adventures, even when they’re still an irresistible space daddy-and-son duo.
After that lore bombshell in the closing moments of Episode 2, don’t look forward to the third addressing it or delving deeper into the living waters of Mandalore.
While we catch up with Din, Grogu, and Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) in the immediate aftermath of their trip to the thought-to-be-cursed planet, we spend most of our time with someone else entirely: Dr Pershing (Omid Abtahi), who earlier served Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito).
Spoilers for The Mandalorian to follow…
A whooshing, thrilling dogfight
We pick up right where we left off, with Bo-Katan and Din sitting on the banks of the living waters. Bo-Katan asks Din if he saw “anything alive” down there – aka, a real-life Mythosaur in the flesh that may confirm the prophecy of a new age of Mandalore – but he didn’t.
As they head off, they’re attacked by a squadron of Imperial interceptors, kicking off a dogfight full of ships howling along cliff faces and cool, explosive maneuvers that’ll make you nod in contentment. When it comes to set pieces on the small screen, fans are being well-fed – Din even gets his own Batwing moment.
The sequence culminates with a huge backup squadron bombing Bo-Katan’s home on Kalevala. Her reflex is to retaliate, but Din convinces her to pull away and jump into hyperspace to “some place they won’t find us.”
Dr Pershing returns in The Mandalorian Season 3 Episode 3
The episode moves to Coruscant, where Dr. Pershing has been welcomed into the Amnesty Program, an initiative that reintegrates former members of the Empire into life under the New Republic. As he’s giving a speech about his past research, explaining how simple organ cloning could have saved his mother and others like her, a familiar face appears in the crowd: Elia Kane (Katy M. O’Brian), an Imperial communications officer last seen in Season 2.
Afterwards, Pershing is congratulated and welcomed by many high-profile residents of Coruscant, before making his way to Amnesty Housing. There, he meets a few other amnesty officers, including Elia. At first, Pershing is surprised to see her and clearly wary of being around her, but over a few drinks (and some delicious-looking travel biscuits), they soon become friends.
We also get a small tidbit that’ll come back to bite Din in later episodes: Moff Gideon is believed to have escaped on his way to the war tribunal, but some say he was hooked up to a mind flayer (more on that later).
Weirdly, the housing block looks very similar to where Syril Karn stayed with his mother in Andor, and his place of work looks just like his post under the Empire after his first attempt to catch Cassian went haywire. Whether or not this likeness is intentional is unclear.
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The Mandalorian isn’t Andor
The main tension of the episode is Pershing’s inner conflict: he’s grateful for being forgiven for working for the Empire and is willing to do “whatever is asked of him”, but he can’t let go of his past research (for those who’ve forgotten, he wanted to study Grogu and extract his blood to experiment with his high M-count).
Here’s the thing: this sort of storytelling has never been The Mandalorian’s strength, and there’s not enough to Abtahi’s character for him to carry the best part of an entire episode. His day-to-day quibbles with the ways of the New Republic, his burgeoning (yet always suspicious) friendship with Kane, and his eventual decision to go outside his perimeter to get Imperial equipment from a junkyard – it’s all so obvious from the beginning, but the script isn’t tight or layered enough to imbue any real suspense.
After being pursued by a droid train conductor in possibly one of Star Wars’ least exciting scenes – it’s a small thing, but there is no sense of how fast that train is going when they leap off the back – they make it to the junkyard and pack up some supplies. Alas, as we all knew, there’s a twist: when they’re apprehended by New Republic officers, Kane is revealed to be one of them.
Pershing wakes up as he’s being prepped for mind flayer treatment, renamed under the New Republic as a “Six-O-Two Mitigator.” No, it’s not the monster from Stranger Things – it’s essentially electric-shock therapy that can “soothe traumatic memories” at low voltages. However, Kane has no intention of making things easy for Pershing – she turns up the power to its maximum, which may scramble his mind entirely.
Before the episode ends, we catch up with Din, Bo-Katan, and Grogu as they arrive at the Children of the Watch’s home in Concordia. They’re greeted by a swaggering, cynical Kaz Vizsla, who refuses to believe they’ve bathed in the living waters of Mandalore. Din gives The Armorer his vial and he’s quickly proven right, and despite Bo-Katan’s personal issues with the cult, she’s inducted into the ways of the Way. As her fellow Mandalorians welcome her in, she catches sight of a silver Mythosaur skull – the prophecy awaits.
The Mandalorian Season 3 Episode 3 review score: 2/5
Underwhelming, unexciting, and frustrating, even – with Episode 3, The Mandalorian ditches what it does best to explore the downfall of a character nobody cares about.
The Mandalorian Season 3 Episodes 1-3 are streaming now on Disney+. You can sign up here. You can also check out our other coverage of the show here.
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