The Mandalorian’s season 3 mid-season review: dazzling tale lacks depth, direction

Pedro Pascal attends San Diego Comic Con in 2014. The third season has the first new episodes of The Mandalorian released since 2020, and continues from the events of the spin off show The Book of Boba Fett.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Pedro Pascal attends San Diego Comic Con in 2014. The third season has the first new episodes of The Mandalorian released since 2020, and continues from the events of the spin off show The Book of Boba Fett.

The first four episodes of the third season of the Star Wars franchise’s television show The Mandalorian have been released, and while the beginning part of the season brings a bevy of exciting new creatures and set pieces, slow pacing and frustratingly banal dialogue act as a speed bump to this galactic adventure.

The season opener follows season two’s dramatic finale that saw Moff Gideon captured by the New Republic and fan-favorite character Grogu carried off to safety by Luke Skywalker. It also comes after the events of the spinoff show The Book of Boba Fett, which reunited Grogu and the Mandalorian.

Pedro Pascal, hot off of a critically acclaimed performance in the first season of the HBO series The Last of Us, returns as the Mandalorian along with Grogu in the first episode. Fellow Mandalorian Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) plays a larger role this season as the Mandalorian works to redeem himself as a true Mandalorian and discover more about where his role is in the vast galaxy.

The landscape of Star Wars has changed since the second season of the show was released on Disney+ in late 2020. When it was released, The Mandalorian was seen as a rare breath of fresh air in an increasingly stale Star Wars universe, showing that the franchise can afford to shift its focus away from lightsabers and Skywalkers while still telling a compelling, cohesive narrative. Andor, a series based on the events leading up to 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, broke from tradition even further with its maturity and grittiness.

Fast forward to 2023 and The Mandalorian isn’t the cool new live-action Star Wars show on the block. While the new season so far is full of exciting new locales and creatures, there is cause for the Star Wars faithful to be concerned.

The first four episodes see Grogu, Kryze and the Mandalorian exploring the abandoned planet of Mandalore and reconnecting with the enclave of Mandalorians in their well hidden but poorly located desert planet hideout. There’s not much in the way of plot development so far, and with the self-contained nature of each episode it’s unclear so far what the narrative arc of this season will be.

The set design is the highlight of these episodes. Despite one VFX-heavy trip to Coruscant, the far flung planets of the galaxy pop with more color and depth than they have in the show’s run. A bevy of unique aliens steal the show, and those yearning for more dogfights and ship battles have plenty to enjoy.

Where the season comes short, however, is the dialogue. Much of the action centers solely on the two main characters as the Mandalorian and Grogu explore on their own away from civilization. While the isolation is exciting, it means a deluge of clunky, unnecessary dialogue. Contrary to the age old film adage of “show, don’t tell”, every new creature, item and location is described by the Mandalorian to Grogu in full, often more than once.

The dialogue isn’t egregious by any means, but it highlights the persistent hand-holding throughout this season so far. The main issue is that with the sequel trilogy long in the rear view mirror for Disney, The Mandalorian is now the only live-action Star Wars show releasing for the better part of a year, which means that it needs to fill many different roles. It needs to have nostalgic callbacks for old school diehards, act as an entry point to the series for the space opera-curious and be palatable to all ages to maximize merchandise sales. This lack of purpose blurs the focus of the show and keeps the first episodes from achieving the highs of the past two seasons.

While their exciting visuals and strong performances from cast members harken back to everything that made the first two seasons so great, the episodes ultimately suffer from a lack of direction that leaves a feeling less like reminiscent of a bounty hunter’s confident romp through the outer rim and more like a mashup of a Star Wars show that aims to please everyone. It’s definitely worth a watch, but there’s much to improve upon as Grogu and the Mandalorian continue their journey across a galaxy far, far away.