SPOILER ALERT: This story discusses major plot points in the Season 3 finale of “The Mandalorian,” currently streaming on Disney+.
It took all eight episodes of Season 3 for “The Mandalorian” to find its way back to itself, which is to say, back to Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and his (now officially!) adopted child, Grogu. For most of Season 3, the core relationship of the series—the reason why “The Mandalorian” became an instant global phenomenon—was shunted aside in favor of tracking how Katee Sackhoff’s Bo-Katan Kryze rallied the estranged factions of Mandalorians to take back their devastated homeworld.
Audiences have not responded kindly. Legions of reviews, tweets and YouTube videos vivisected this season of “The Mandalorian” for being “detached,” “unsatisfying,” “sloppy” and “the worst.” What had been a loose and uncomplicated story of Din and Grogu’s ongoing adventures had become instead a sprawling narrative steeped in Mandalorian lore that was brand new (and, even worse, uninteresting) to most people watching. An ironic strength of the show—audiences projecting themselves into Din’s helmet in the absence of Pascal’s deeply expressive face—became a major liability, with episodes in which dozens of helmeted Mandalorians talked to each other in a dry, monosyllabic monotones, with nary a human face to be seen.
The Season 3 finale at least appeared to resolve Bo-Katan’s storyline, with the two major factions of Mandalorians uniting to defeat the seemingly unkillable Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), who’d set up a hidden Imperial base in the ruins of Mandalore. They did so in grand-if-derivative “Star Wars” fashion, with cross-cutting battles in space and on the ground, as Gideon faced off against Din and Bo-Katan while he sported shiny black armor that evoked Darth Vader with the subtlety of an AT-AT. And Grogu got in the mix as well, tussling with some of Gideon’s troopers while controlling the hollowed-out body of the IG-11 droid from Season 1.
Even with this resolution, however, “The Mandalorian” fumbled some basic storytelling: For three seasons, Gideon has hinted at a grand plan to retake the galaxy that involved kidnapping Grogu and stealing some of his blood. One Season 3 episode abandoned Din and Bo-Katan to further draw out this plotline, shifting to Courscant to track how Gideon’s main scientist, Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi), was struggling to reintegrate himself into the New Republic—a storyline that was ultimately left dangling.
Instead, in the finale we finally get to see the fruits of Gideon’s labors, in the form of incubation tanks housing clones of Gideon that have been infused with Grogu’s blood and given power over the Force. But rather than see any of Gideon’s unholy creations in action, Din pushes some buttons on a control panel to explode the containers and destroy them before they’d even drawn their first breath.
Could more Gideon clones be housed elsewhere? Totally. Could Gideon have survived the massive fireball that consumed his body and destroyed his base? Sure. Was watching all of this unfold depressingly anti-climatic? Absolutely.
For better or (mostly) worse, Season 3 of “The Mandalorian” ultimately felt like the concluding act of this era of the show—even the episode title, “The Return,” evoked “Return of the Jedi.” By the finale’s end, Bo-Katan and the Mandalorians had successfully recolonized Mandalore, and Din had declared himself to be Grogu’s adoptive father and Grogu to be his Mandalorian apprentice. Which meant, by Mandalorian creed that seemed to be made up on the spot to finally free Din and Grogu from this interminable storyline, the pair had to go off on their own on a series of adventures.
In just a few scenes, “The Mandalorian” reasserted its original premise: Din partnered with New Republic ranger Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) to help root out Imperial remnants on the outer rim of the galaxy, and he established a homestead for himself and Grogu back on Nevarro. The inherent promise is that Season 4 of the show will return to what made Season 1 so enticing: A series of one-off adventures in which a lone gunman and his resplendently adorable child explore the galaxy and tussle with bad guys.
Alas, “The Mandalorian” is also ultimately meant to feed into a culminating feature film alongside the events of “The Book of Boba Fett” and the upcoming Disney+ series “Ahsoka,” where the shenanigans on Coruscant and the talk of Grand Admiral Thrawn are expected to continue. So while Season 4 may get back to basics, it won’t stay that way.
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