Warning: full spoilers for The Mandalorian Season 3 ahead!
Season 3 of The Mandalorian on Disney+ sees Mando and Grogu traveling the galaxy as they learn the secrets of Mandalore, team up with Bo-Katan Kryze, and battle all manner of deadly space monsters. And, while that may sound exciting on paper, somehow it’s not. Even if the show does occasionally drop some juicy new lore or reveal long-held series secrets, the kind us Star Wars fans can’t get help but get excited for, its main plot strains to keep things interesting. The main culprit is the show’s lackadaisical approach to its conflicts, which it tackles with the same pacing as a Bantha crossing the Dune Sea. More than anything, The Mandalorian desperately needs a sense of urgency.
While a lot can be said about the show’s clunky plot in Season 3, the most egregious examples of its slowness come from Episodes 2 and 4. Both feature a high stakes situation that is immediately robbed of its excitement due to a bizarre sense of logic.
The Molasses of Mandalore
In Episode 2, Chapter 18: The Mines of Mandalore, Mando is caught by surprise and captured by a creepy new villain, but instead of Grogu finding a way to save his foster father in the moment, he’s instructed to flee Mandalore and go get Bo-Katan… who is on another planet. Even if we’re being generous by acknowledging that Bo-Katan’s home of Kalevala is in the same star system, it would take far too long for Grogu to travel through space to get her and return in time to save his dad. Mando would be dead ten times over in the time it takes to make that trip. And it’s not helped by the fact that once Grogu does return with Bo-Katan, they take their sweet time slowly following the same path as if Mando’s life isn’t in jeopardy. Would it hurt them to put a little pep in their step?
(It’s funny, in an unintentional way, to imagine Bo-Katan purposely walking as slow as possible because Mando dying would mean he’s no longer around to contest her claim to the throne of Mandalore.)
We’re not given any reason to think that Mando would be kept alive for an extended period of time, but it didn’t have to be that way. There’s actually an easy fix within the episode itself. Just as the rescue party finally arrives, we watch the cyborg stick Mando with a tube to drain his life fluids. Had that happened right when Mando was captured, it would have at least given us a plausible reason for why Mando would survive that long: he has to be kept alive long enough for all his tasty juices to be sucked out and turned into a protein shake. His life would still be in jeopardy, but it would have been on an understandably slow ticking clock. Alas, we’re given nothing to go on and are left with an episode filled with repetition and devoid of tension.
Granted, this is Star Wars, which isn’t always practical, what with its planet-killing weapons and life-preserving metal and all, so we let it go. After all, they wouldn’t do the exact same thing two episodes later, would they? Oh, they totally would.
In Episode 4, Chapter 20: The Foundling, when the little Foundling boy is suddenly snatched up by a space pterodactyl, all of the Mandalorians spring into action. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! They rocket through the air after the flying monster, only for their jet packs to run out of fuel, and just when all hope is lost, Bo-Katan’s sweet fighter jet screams past them in hot pursuit. But then after the title card, in another bizarre twist, we find Bo-Katan back at the camp... without the child. She tells them she tracked the creature to its nest and that they should go back with a group to rescue the boy. Wait a sec. Why didn’t Bo-Katan try to save him herself? Later we learn the creature was saving the boy for its babies’ breakfast the next day, but she didn’t know that. By simply scouting the area and not making an immediate rescue attempt, Bo-Katan essentially affords the bird monster all the time it needs to chow down on the little snackling.
What follows is a scene where the Mandalorians formulate a plan, and they agree it’s the noise of their jetpacks that would cause the creature to kill the boy, not the fact that they just gave it a full day to eat in peace. Not one person is concerned with the fact that with every passing second it’s more likely the kid will become bird food, if he hasn't already. It feels strange that no one objects to any of this, not even the boy’s father. Everyone just agrees with this plan to plod across the landscape as the hours pass, as if yet another life wasn’t hanging in the balance. Sure, you have to approach on foot to avoid startling the creature, but do you have to walk so slowly, and then for some reason camp out for the night? (Note: do not list any of these folks as an emergency contact.)
Again, it didn’t have to be this way. There could have been an explanation, delivered by one of the Mandalorians familiar with these local animals, that they only feed their young at sunrise, giving them enough time to make it to the nest and save him. But we weren’t even given that much. We were just given another instance where a character is put in imminent mortal danger, and then there was no sense of urgency to save them.
The Bigger Problem
These two examples are a symptom of a larger problem with the show. This season feels thin when it comes to its overall plot. Granted, the initial appeal of the show was that it didn’t have much of an overarching plot. It was a weekly episodic treat to watch Mando and Grogu go from one adventure to the next, and that was delightful. But with Din completing his quest to return Grogu to the Jedi at the end of Season 2, the show’s ability to use that formula came to an end. From that point where Din crossed paths with Luke Skywalker, he became more than just some bounty hunter. He became a pivotal figure in Star Wars lore. Now it seems that The Mandalorian as a show is obligated to be about something bigger and more important, but whatever that is supposed to be, there doesn’t seem to be enough of it to support a full season.
Just look at Season 3 so far. The big quest Mando was given to redeem himself in Episode 1 was resolved by the end of Episode 2, then we took a detour to Coruscant for a detached political story, and now we’re left wondering what Din, Gorgu, and Bo-Katan are even after now that they’re hunkering down with the Mandalorians. Could it be that there’s simply not enough meat on the narrative bone this season, and so moments of danger are stretched to fill out an episode’s runtime, completely robbing them of all tension in the process? Please say this is not the way.
Those are our thoughts on how The Mandalorian is doing at the halfway point in Season 3. Let us know what you think of the season so far in the comments. For more on Mando, check our IGN's review of The Mandalorian Episode 4 and the identity of the Jedi who saved Grogu.