Din Djarin Seeks Redemption In A Series That Feels All Too Familiar
Mar 1, 2023
From the beginning, the main criticism on Lucasfilm’s “The Mandalorian,” a show about Mandalorian Bounty Hunter, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), and the little Baby Yoda creature he’s been tasked with protecting, Grogu, was that the series was very episodic. After coming into contact with Grogu and becoming his ward in a fascinating “Lone Wolf and Cub”-like dynamic, that initially felt fresh and like a strange “Star Wars” Western, “The Mandalorian” quickly settled into a familiar pattern. Mando would roll into a new town or planet, sometimes rub up or rub against some of the locals, make some friends, make some enemies, have a 35-minute adventure in a new saloon as it were, and then off to the next escapade. “The Mandalorian” was like a reverse “Bonanza” in space. Instead of gunslingers riding into town and messing with the weekly adventures of the Cartwright family, the series was Mando riding into new towns, new planets, and of course, ending up spending too much time in all-too-familiar “Star Wars” locales like Tatooine.
READ MORE: Anthony Mackie Wanted To Star In ‘The Mandalorian’ & Is Now Hoping For A Cameo In The Series
A narrative or two eventually emerged; Mando realizing he had to hand off Grogu to Luke Skywalker for Jedi training; or Galactic Empire remnant leader Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) trying to abduct Grogu for clandestine research and experimentation efforts; or the introduction of Mandalorian leader Bo Katan (Katee Sackhoff), and suggesting a showdown on the barren planet of Mandalore, but generally, this was a week-in-week out show of adventures, meets up, team-ups with friends and such and not much consequence to any of it.
Well, to be fair, there was a gigantic moment of great consequence at the end of ‘Mando’ Season 2. Mando completed his mission, found Luke Skywalker, and handed Grogu off to the Jedi for training in a surprisingly heartbreaking and sad finale that felt like the conclusion of the show.
But ‘Mandalorian’ creators Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, just couldn’t let audiences live with the pain, separation, or the narrative hole it created in the show. Instead and somewhat inexplicably, they undid all of that immediately in an entirely different show, “The Book Of Boba Fett,” which, not about Mando or Grogu at all, puzzlingly paused itself midway through its first season, in order to shoehorn an episode or two about the Mandalorian and Grogu. (In summation, Mando and Grogu were reunited and the young Baby Yoda’s Jedi training was cut short, though Jon Favreau insists their separation was about two years long, even though it feels about a month on the show.)
READ MORE: ‘The Mandalorian’ Producers Play Coy About Cara Dune Returning To The Show But Admit She’s “A Great Character”
So yes, audiences that didn’t watch “The Book Of Boba Fett”—and honestly, we don’t blame them, it was crushingly dull—might be shocked or surprised when they dial up ‘Mandalorian’ Season 3 and Mando and Grogu are reunited and like nothing happened (one of the most dubious choices in modern-day franchise storytelling and perhaps an example of interconnected storytelling just going too far in the wrong direction).
The Season 3 premiere, “Apostate,” which says it all in its title, explains Din’s dilemma and goal this season. Having taken off his helmet in Season 2 to say goodbye to Grogu face to face—again, an emotionally bruising moment that they reneged on immediately—he has been excommunicated by “the Armorer” (Emily Swallow) and the few Mandalorians he knows on the planet Navarro (essentially the home base planet on the show). The Armorer and her sect are more militant Mandalorians, they never remove their helmets and since they are all Din has ever known, he is desperate to find some sort of redemption (though Season 2 revealed Bo Katan and another sect of Mandalorians that take off their helmets often and have no use for such dogmatic rules).
READ MORE: ‘The Mandalorian’: Jon Favreau Says There’s No Planned Ending & Characters “Could Be With Us For A While”
So, essentially everything is the same and back to normal in “The Mandalorian” aside from Din’s personal quest for redemption. Navarro has gone legitimate and Greef Karga (Carl Weathers), once the former immoral leader of a bounty hunter guild, is now the High Magistrate of the planet, acting as a benevolent ruler (cue a lot of “Star Wars” cameos on Navarro for no particular reason like a familiar looking C3PO protocol droid, etc). If you’re wondering where Cara Dune is (Gina Carano, fired from the show at the end of Season 2), well, they’ve conveniently added some expository dialogue to explain her sudden absence from Navarro (she was “recruited by special forces,” so yes, she’s out there in that Galaxy somewhere).
“The Apostate” opens up with a big action sequence, but it’s airless and meaningless in many ways. A bunch of Mandalorians doing a younglings ritual, but they are attacked by some lake alien dinosaur and Mando comes to save the day with his ship (it’s all a way of him coming to the Armorer, pleading his case and trying to find some way for him to atone for taking off his helmet).
The show then lazily segues into “everything is back to normal.” Once Mando turns down Greef’s proposal to make him the Marshall of Navarro—his desire for redemption too pressing— Favreau and Filoni try and bring back another fan favorite IG-11, the Bounty Hunter droid voiced by Taika Waititi, because of course they do and because of course the droid comes back to life even though he self-destructed back in Season 1.
All of it just feels like, one small obstacle after another, but as usual, it often feels like an excuse for “Star Wars” nods and winks. In this case, the key to properly reviving IG-11 is to introduce a bunch of Anzellans, the cute, diminutive race of aliens known for being expert droid fixers (first introduced with Babu Frik in “Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker”). A lot of hijinks ensue, silly mix-ups with Grogu and the Anzellans and it’s all more comic relief and cameos rather than story—Favreau and Filoni seemingly content to let all the characters hang out together again rather than letting a real story emerge.
Yes, it’s only Episode 1 of a show that’s already two seasons deep and maybe it’s a lot to ask for a show to reinvent itself or properly set up the narrative of the season, but if “The Apostate” is any indication, “The Mandalorian” is content to fall back into all its old habits and trappings—Grogu cooing with laughter in a moment that’s supposed to be stressful or intense which is supposed to be cute—the peppering in of an action sequence off the top and then near the end of an episode, but generally, this is a week-in-week out episodic show that is more and more veering into “Star Trek” territory.
A retaking of the planet Mandalore is in the cards for this season, as is a teaming or conflict with Bo Katan, but it’s definitely unclear if anything of magnitude will happen given that Favreau has already said a Season 4 is written. And that’s the main element of this show, it’s just so damn frustrating, despite such an interesting world and set-up.
Fans have griped that “The Mandalorian” and lightweight series like the ones that Favreau and Filoni have made thus far are robbing “Star Wars” of what made it special and often, especially with a disposable throwaway, more-of-the-same episode like this, it’s really hard to argue with. [C-]
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