REVIEW: “The Mandalorian” Season 3 (2023)

Disney and Lucasfilm struck gold in 2019 with their terrific streaming series “The Mandalorian”. The sprawling space western was an immediate hit and a much needed win for the Star Wars universe which was still smarting from some of the reactions to their more recent movies. Season 2 followed in 2020 and it was met with similar excitement and praise (the two share the same 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Needless to say, the anticipation for Season 3 was high.

The first season had a fairly simple roadmap. Most of the episodes were like self-contained adventures that followed bounty hunter Din Djarin and young Grogu as they made stops around the galaxy. The season’s easy-to-follow structure was perfect for casual Star Wars fans who didn’t need to be well-versed in the franchise’s history and lore to understand what was going on. Season 2 was much the same, although it did introduce some new characters and began opening up other corners of the galaxy that would play parts in Favreau and Filoni’s greater vision for their Mandalorian universe.

And then came Season 3 with its different feel and much broader scope. Many viewers have had a hard time connecting with this season and have struggled with writer, creator, and showrunner Jon Favreau’s storytelling. Granted, there is plenty to question regarding the season’s structuring. Yet every episode has purpose and expands the Mando-Verse in a number of interesting ways.

Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

Without question, these latest eight episodes will resonate more with the seasoned Star Wars fan. It demands at least some understanding of the sequel trilogy, the animated shows, Mandalorian lore, the franchise’s history with cloning, etc. in order to fully grasp where it goes (and is going). That’s a big ask, especially for those who simply want more of Din and Grogu bouncing around the galaxy facing new threats and giving us cute gif-worthy moments to enjoy.

But Favreau and company have bigger ambitions. They are building up an interconnected world that will extend into other shows and culminate in a Dave Filoni directed feature film that was recently announced at Star Wars Celebration. You can certainly tell in Season 3 as nearly every episode expands the Star Wars universe in some kind of way. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its issues. Favreau gives us a lot of meat but too much is left on the bone. He doesn’t go as in-depth on some things as he needs to and he doesn’t always communicate well with his audience. It leaves certain story angles feeling underserved, and it’s sure to leave some viewers in the dark.

But what can I say? I love this kind of stuff. I love combing over the episodes, connecting the dots to past Star Wars material, and trying to figure out where things are going to land. In other words, I’m the target audience. And even if the structure is a little wonky and the storytelling a bit demanding, the geek in me found a lot to enjoy in Season 3. And not just from the story stuff, but also the great assemblage of characters, the many scenes of thrilling action, and the jaw-dropping visual effects which are easily the best of the series so far.

Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

Pedro Pascal steps back behind the beskar helmet and armor, reprising his role as bounty hunter Din Djarin. In this season his journey goes from seeking reinstatement into his Mandalorian clan to playing a key part in unifying the fractured Mandalorian tribes so they can reclaim their home world of Mandalore. Along the way he reconnects with such familiar faces as Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) and Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee). And then of course there are the shadier sorts such as the villainous Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), the slimy Elia Kane (Katy O’Brian) and the curious Penn Pershing (Omid Abtahi).

But it’s the Mandalorians who take center stage in Season 3. We once again meet The Armorer (Emily Swallow), Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides), Paz Vizla (Tait Fletcher), and Koska Reeves (Mercedes Varnado). Of them all, Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) is given the biggest boost. Over the course of the eight episodes, Bo-Katan finds her courage, shows her resolve, and proves herself to be the unifying leader her people need. She’s a terrific character dating all the way back to The Clone Wars animated series, and it has been great seeing her get her live-action due

Sprinkled throughout the season are a number of other delights: Anzellan mechanics, R5-D4 facing his anxiety, a…remodeled IG-11, and of course the infinitely lovable Grogu. He’s not as big of a player this season and it’s still bizarre that his big reunion with Din took place in another series (“The Book of Boba Fett”). But he still has a significant presence and he’s given some meaningful character progression.

Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

It should be said that a couple of much-talked-about episodes have divided many viewers. One hones in on Dr. Pershing who is now part of the New Republic’s amnesty program. The episode may seem extraneous, but it actually sheds a lot of light on some of the New Republic’s flaws. And it gives us our first hints on some darker forces at work. Then there’s the reasonably fun yet glaringly contrived “Guns for Hire” marked by its distracting Jack Black and Lizzo cameos. The episode is bookended by a couple of good moments, but otherwise it’s the weakest of the eight.

When taken as a whole “The Mandalorian” has delivered once again with terrific characters old and new, extraordinary visuals, and the kind of Star Wars action fans crave. This season tapped into much of what many of us enjoy about the series while also exploring new parts of this incredible galaxy that so many of us love. That said, I can see it being catnip for diehards and confusing for more casual viewers. But even with its occasional wonkiness and a handful of questionable choices, I found myself locked into every episode. Even better, it ended with a bang and it left me hungry for more. Hopefully we won’t have to wait long. All three seasons of “The Mandalorian” are streaming now on Disney+.


5 thoughts on “REVIEW: “The Mandalorian” Season 3 (2023)

  1. I really liked this season. Yes, it’s not as strong as its predecessors but it’s still fun. Plus, I’m in that minority that enjoyed the Jack Black/Lizzo cameo. I just wish Lizzo brought along her flute. She’s a damn good flute player. I think she needs to form some supergroup to do some Jethro Tull covers. I love Jethro Tull.

    • Thank you! Great to hear from someone else who really liked the season. It seems like it’s getting a lot of undue criticism. I get some of the complaints, but some people or so overboard that they miss so much of what the season did.

      • These Star Wars fanboys are a testy bunch. I just like to think of them as fanboys with sand in their vaginas who are never happy with anything.

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