Review by C.J. Bunce
The Mandalorian is back.
Flash back to 1980. Imagine you’re getting ready to see what Lucasfilm has in store next and instead of The Empire Strikes Back, the third season opener to The Mandalorian splashes across the screen. That’s how good Jon Favreau & Co.’s series is: A mega-sized showcase of the best the Star Wars galaxy has to offer. And let’s face it: This is really the fourth season of what could be called The Mandalorian Tales, because Din Djarin, Boba Fett, and Bo-Katan’s stories are all part of the same narrative–especially after Din and Grogu, AKA Baby Yoda, were such a major element of the first season of last year’s The Book of Boba Fett.
If you’ve caught the first epic episode of Season 3, which is streaming now on Disney+, let’s chat about some of the goodness packed into that first episode.
It all starts with that opening. Within 10 minutes you know the series isn’t going to simply rest on its laurels. But what exactly are we seeing?
Is Emily Swallow’s character The Armorer really forging a tiny helmet for Grogu? Please?!? Wait… that’s not it (darn it!).
Are we seeing a flashback to Din Djarin’s initiation into the Mandalorian way? Nope, not that either.
Is it Din Djarin and Grogu starting the season with a Han Solo-esque, Episode IV finale rescue from the latest Star Wars brand of kaiju bad boy? Bingo!
Pedro Pascal (the voice, and sometimes the body in the suit) is back as Din Djarin, with everyone’s favorite space fantasy sidekick Grogu by his side. Carl Weathers is back as Greef Karga, and no surprise, this time he has a higher rank. Greef and Din have some kind of conversation about the changes on the planet Nevarro, but nobody is listening. Why? Because Grogu is being his adorable young self. Swinging in an office chair in a boring old office. Swiping Reese’s Pieces from a bowl as only a young Force wielder could do. (We’ll need to re-watch later to see what they were talking about).
Din tries to be a one-man Droid Factory (see the Sears Christmas catalog back in 1978), and re-build from street art remnants his old droid pal IG-11. Unfortunately, that’s not going to be easy (as evidenced in an homage scene from The Terminator), but it does allow fans of the prequel movies to meet a new race of characters, tiny fellows that look like they’re mice complete with little mice doors. These “Anzellans” fit right in with the mechanical droids little Anakin worked with in The Phantom Menace. And Grogu really likes these guys (another high point of this short, half-hour episode). By the way, their strange voice was provided by the Harry Potter movies’ Shirley Henderson. Keep an ear out for Greef’s hilariously unnecessary translation.
Viewers are reminded The Mandalorian isn’t just a space fantasy, it’s a full-blown space Western-the best kind of outer space show. Din and Greef face off with a gang of space pirates led by a particularly good alien creation called Vane, played by Marti Matulis. His boss is Captain Gorian Shard (Nonso Anozie), a CG creation that looks like he was fished from the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
And there’s Grogu marveling at the space whales traveling along hyperspace channels (these seem to be the same as the Purrgil from Star Wars Rebels). But wait! Those look like ghosts! So that scares Grogu into climbing down to sit in the protective lap of his old man. Hey, Star Wars Creators: Lay off the scaring of Grogu–we don’t want to see more of that! But a giant asteroid space chase that takes us back to The Empire Strikes Back? Yes, more, please!
But that’s not all!
Katee Sackhoff is back as Bo-Katan, and she’s still mad at Din for his “cult” practices and leaving Mandalore when they were needed most. We’re reminded Din still wields the Darksaber, which makes him the leader of what’s left of the Mandalorians. This is the way.
Add in too many Easter eggs to count (like a family of Salacious Crumb-type beings), cool new costumes from Shawna Trpcic, and the best storytelling and special effects on television.
Thank “the Volume” (say that in C-3PO’s voice)–the technology referred to extensively in the show’s behind the scenes exploits, that marvelous recording studio of giant screens that utilize 360-degree panosphere cinematography to re-create real-world settings and enlarge digital scanned creations behind practical effects and physical actors for a much lower cost than previous filming methods. This is why Star Wars fans get new story spectacles as good as the first time a Star Destroyer first flew over their heads.
Rick Famuyiwa directs three episodes this season, the first being this week’s opener. Neither Favreau nor Dave Filoni are directing episodes this season, but they are written by Favreau and the first episode has much Filoni style and Clone Wars elements. Showrunner Jon Favreau can do anything with this show–five years after the fall of the Empire and decades from the third Skywalker trilogy, the twin-sun sky is the limit.
It’s time to train Grogu in the ways of Mandalore (with R5-D4 and EV-9D9 watching on). Will he get his own helmet? Will he confront a Gorn?
The best of Star Wars is back.
The best thing to happen to Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back returns. The first episode of Season 3 of The Mandalorian is streaming now, with new episodes arriving Wednesdays. It’s the most fun on TV. Don’t miss it!