The Media Man Reviews: The Mandalorian Season 3 (Revenge of the Fifth Special)
Updated: May 14
It's been a while since I've covered a Disney+ Star Wars show, hasn't it?
Last year, I tackled The Book of Boba Fett. It was not good. That same year, I also reviewed Obi-Wan Kenobi. It also wasn't very good. And I didn't even bother watching Andor since that was a show about a character who I barely remember despite watching Rogue One more than once, and yet people seem to think that's the best of the bunch so far. Weird isn't it when a character as forgettable as Cassian Andor gets a more critically beloved show than both Boba Fett and Obi-Wan, am I right?
Anyway, here we are with another Disney+ Star Wars show but this one at least has some promise to it for it's another season of the highly acclaimed series The Mandalorian. Released back in 2019 as one of the premiere shows to kickstart Disney+'s activation, The Mandalorian has become the most beloved piece of Star Wars media to ever come out of the Disney era of the franchise. The show has received critical praise from fans and critics everywhere for its great acting, solid writing, fantastic visual effects and for the strong father/son bond between Din Djarin and Grogu. Grogu himself has gone on to become a merchandising juggernaut and is easily the most popular image to come out of the series alongside Djarin himself.
I was one of the many fans that enjoyed The Mandalorian so going into Season 3, I had high hopes that it was going to be good. However, The Book of Boba Fett dashed some of those hopes by screwing over the developments at the end of Season 2 by just having Grogu go back with Djarin again so that didn't exactly set a good impression for the season. Way to ruin the heart-warming ending of Season 2 by just going back to the status quo guys. X(
Still, Season 3 showed much promise in the trailers so I was still optimistic for the show. Does Season 3 give us great new adventures with our favourite Mandalorian? Or was this NOT the way for this show? Let's fly into The Mandalorian Season 3...
Section 1: The Story
Following on from Season 2, Din Djarin seeks to redeem himself after breaking the creed and removing his helmet so he's given a seemingly impossible task to go to Mandalore and bathe in the Living Waters so that he may redeem himself. Along for the ride is Bo Katan whose faith in Mandalorians is shaken when she bears witness to an actual Mythosaur (the creature that inspired the symbol of Mandalorians). Djarin and Bo must then band together to reunite their splintered factions and make Mandalore whole once more, but Moff Gideon has other plans...
On paper, this season sounds very interesting and has some cool ideas and to be fair, it really does have some interesting ideas. A season devoted to Din Djarin seeking redemption is a great story idea for this season and also giving Bo Katan more screen time was always going to be welcome. That girl's come a long way since The Clone Wars and the series should see where else it can go with her. Unfortunately, much like The Book of Boba Fett, Season 3 of The Mandalorian suffers as a result of poor pacing and very strange story-telling priorities and these great ideas go to waste as a result.
For example, all that stuff with Djarin seeking redemption? Over in like two episodes. That seems a bit quick to finish off a storyline that's been set up for a series, doesn't it? I'm glad they didn't drag this plot point out for a whole season as that would've been stretching it but still, it feels like Djarin's story was done with so fast that they may as well not have bothered with it. His story is pretty much done with by Episode 2 and thus the rest of the series basically becomes Bo Katan's story and Djarin has to play a supporting role in his own series. I don't mind the focus on Bo Katan, but it shouldn't come at the expense of overshadowing Din Djarin is what I'm saying. Djarin has become what Boba Fett became in his own show: being overshadowed by his supporting cast. No joke, it feels like Djarin can't do anything without being overshadowed by either Bo Katan or Grogu at some point. You could even do a drinking game on how many times those two keep needing to save him and it just makes the main character of The Mandalorian seem weaker and less effective than in previous seasons. A character shouldn't feel like they're downgrading as a show goes on, they should be getting better.
And like I said, the show has very weird ideas on what it wants to focus on. We get this whole subplot about wanting to restore IG-11, only for that subplot to be quietly dropped for a few episodes and then brought up again in the second-to-last episode for no real reason, we get an entire episode focusing on Dr. Pershing and Kane that feels like set-up for another series and has very little to do with the plot of The Mandalorian itself and then Episode 6 gives us an entire subplot involving a droid conspiracy that absolutely SHOULD NOT have been there at all when the plot's supposed to be about gathering together wayward Mandalorians. Because of this haphazard story-telling, it causes this season to feel unfocused and like it has too many ideas but not enough time to utilize them all. I guarantee that Dr. Pershing subplot would've fit better in another series like maybe the upcoming Ahsoka show rather than in a season of The Mandalorian. The whole stuff with the pirates also should've had more focus and not felt like an afterthought as it did here. Or instead of shoving pirates in there, maybe that time could've been better spent on actually giving Moff Gideon more screen time and fleshing him out some more? They could've used the time they had so much more wisely than they did, but sadly we get a jumbled story with no real focus. When it's focused on Djarin and Bo's stories and everything around the Mandalorians, that's when it feels the most coherent. Once everything else comes in, then it starts to feel muddled. If they kept Djarin's plot about being redeemed going until Episode 3 and then the next five episodes focused on Bo's conversion and them gathering the wayward Mandalorians while also focusing on Gideon's return, that might've made this season feel more focused and coherent in the end.
Now to be fair, some have speculated that the reason this season might seem disjointed is down to the firing of Gina Carano after Season 2 which caused her character's spin-off series, Rangers of the New Republic, to be cancelled. So it's highly possible some of the reason for this series being unfocused could be down to some of the ideas they had for that series being shoved into this one. If that is the reason for the lacklustre writing then it shows they shouldn't do stuff like that. Don't shove leftover ideas into another one as you won't get a coherent story as a result.
Along with the so-so writing, the tone at times gets a little too goofy for the kind of show this is. The Mandalorian was among the more serious and grounded Star Wars properties that Disney produced and yet this season just amps up the goofiness to the point it doesn't feel like Star Wars kind of goofy, but just goofy in a way that feels like it belongs in another series. I mean when you have Grogu playing around in IG-11's remains and causing mischief with it or an episode guest-starring Jack Black and Lizzo of all people, you know you're going too far. Hell, the series concludes with Din Djarin casually lazing about in a chair while Grogu plays with a frog and the episode has the audacity to finish with an iris out! This feels like what you'd see in a PARODY of Star Wars, not an actual piece of Star Wars media! And let's not get started on how Grogu is somehow able to handle the Praetorian Guards or even save himself, Djarin and Bo with the Force. That just got way too ridiculous for my liking, especially that last part. You seriously mean to tell me that in just one year, Grogu is somehow powerful enough to protect everyone from an explosion with just the Force? Come on! That didn't exactly work for Kanan Jarrus in Rebels and that guy had way more training than Grogu did so you can't expect me to buy that. All it does is just raise further questions of why Jedi and Sith don't just do that themselves if the Force can just do that...
Also this season has a habit of having things just happen and not explaining them properly. I mean what was with that droid that captured Djarin in Episode 2? Why did it capture him and what did it want to do to him? Never explained and we forget about it as quickly as we got this plot point. So why even have it at all if you're just going to leave it unexplained? How did Moff Gideon manage to create his beskar armoured troopers and even create a beskar armoured suit for himself? Never explained, he just has them now and we're supposed to just accept that for some reason. That's lazy writing plain and simple and just makes you wonder how and when he was able to forge beskar armour. And not only that, but the writing digs up some weird plot holes that really make you scratch your head in confusion. Take Episode 4 for example. This huge creature snatches Paz Viszla's son away and takes him to the top of a huge mountain...and then for some reason waits until the next day to feed it to its babies? What was that all about? Why did it wait so long? It feels like they thought up a cool set-up for a rescue scene but didn't think about how to get to that scene logically. And let's not forget how Mandalore has been ravaged and coated in crystal for so many years...yet somehow plant life is able to grow under the surface despite there being no way sunlight or rain could get through. I get this is science-fiction but that's still not how plant life works. If there's no access to sunlight or rain, plants can't grow so what was up with that?
So yeah, this season is massively flawed and lacks in execution. But would I say it's terrible? Um...not really? I'd say it's mediocre but calling it downright bad feels like an exaggeration. I'd still say it's better than The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi by a country mile. While the writing has its faults, I do still like some of what we see here and not everything is done badly here. Bo Katan's story for example was well-executed and was by far the most interesting part of the series. Yes it sucks Djarin got side-lined in favour of her, but at least Bo was an interesting enough character to carry her own subplot and seeing her go from being this anti-religious figure to becoming a convert now she's seen the Mythosaur with her very own eyes was fascinating stuff to dive into and an interesting direction to take her character in. Also gathering up the Mandalorians together for a final showdown against Gideon and his men, while lacking in proper build-up, was still pretty awesome to see and the fact the Mandalorians get their planet back and earn their happy ending made for a somewhat satisfying finale all things considered. They could've easily undermined the whole season by having them lose at the end but they didn't and I'm grateful for that.
But Bo Katan's interesting story and the well-earned happy ending for the Mandalorians feel like diamonds lost in a sea of sand for this season just feel jumbled, unfocused and played up the comedy factor too much for me. It's not the worst thing ever as some people would mislead you into believing, but it's still not very good overall and I can't help but feel disappointed. That's kind of the recurring theme with these shows now I think about it: promising ideas that only leave me feeling disappointment in the end...
Section 2: The Characters
The Mandalorian is back and this time round sadly wasn't the best time for him in the series.
We have our main lead once more, Din Djarin (played again by Pedro Pascal). He had an interesting start for the series with his quest to be redeemed after removing his helmet and his quest does play a part in kickstarting the larger plot at hand but as I mentioned, his story is pretty much over with by Episode 2 and thus for the rest of the series, he's pretty much just playing second fiddle to Bo Katan while she gets all the story and character development. This isn't to say he feels useless to the story or anything, just that he got used up too quickly and it's like Jon Favreau and the other writers didn't know what else to do with him. Granted, this could be because Pedro Pascal was also busy working on The Last of Us over on HBO so maybe his reduced role is because of that. It would probably explain why we never see his face again this season. Still, I feel they could've handled him better, especially during the action in where he's constantly needing to be saved by Bo or Grogu at several points in this show. It just feels like Djarin took a downgrade in his capabilities and isn't as badass as he should be, which feels like a let down.
And of course, we have the return of Grogu. This season further proves my point why he shouldn't have come back. Season 2 gave him a lovely send-off and then The Book of Boba Fett just crumpled it up and tossed it in the bin because Grogu's popular and so they have to keep him around. His presence here especially feels like this season was conceived without him in mind and they had to hastily re-write the series so he could be included. Thankfully, he's not a total load and has shown he's more skilled than before and also smarter than last time but it still feels like half the time, he's just there to be cute and do cute child things. I already talked about how ridiculous it is that in just a single year of training, he's now powerful enough with the Force to stop an explosion but it really took the mickey when he somehow gave the Praetorian Guards a tough time when those are the same guys where it took Rey and Kylo Ren working together just to beat them. This season would've benefitted IMMENSELY from his absence and nothing can convince me otherwise.
And next we have the best character of the season, Bo Katan Kryze (played by Katee Sackhoff). With Djarin's story all used up in two episodes, this pretty much becomes Bo's season and they really made the most of it with her. She goes from being a cynical woman whose pretty much done with life and finds the more religious Mandalorians ridiculous to being a convert who feels like her eyes have truly been opened upon seeing an actual Mythosaur and this leads to her and Djarin teaming up to round up wayward Mandalorians. We also get some backstory for her as we learn how she lost the Darksaber to Moff Gideon in the first place and that he broke his end of a deal they made and thus that guilt is still weighing heavily on her conscience. While I wish it didn't come at the expense of side-lining Din Djarin in his own show, Bo Katan is still the best thing about this season and I love how far she's come since The Clone Wars. They handled her well here so I'm happy about that.
We also have Moff Gideon (played by Giancarlo Esposito) back as the main villain again...which comes off as annoying more than anything because it almost feels like this show can't go five minutes without him as the big bad. It'd be nice to let Djarin go up against a new villain for once but no, he's back again and his return didn't feel all that great in the end. He's still as vaguely developed and as uninteresting as he was the last two times he showed up thanks to the show's inability to give him any real screen time to further flesh him out and build him up and his ultimate plan in the end frankly is rather dumb. Cloning himself and making an army of powerful Force-sensitive fighters? As Tony Stark would say: "Not a great plan." First of all, he clones HIMSELF, an ordinary non-Force sensitive human being to make his grand army? Why not clone a Jedi or something? He could easily try and capture Luke or Ahsoka and clone any of them instead of himself. That'd already make for a stronger army! Second, he seriously thinks an army of Force sensitive clones will make him invincible? He does remember that the Empire he once worked for was built on top of the purge of the Jedi Order, right? If Emperor Palpatine was able to orchestrate the downfall of the Jedi and nearly wipe them all out then what makes him think this'll work any better? What's worse is that he has such little screen time that his plan gets foiled rather easily and anti-climactically as a result, making it feel super-rushed as a result. I'm glad he's finally dead because he really did get less interesting for me and the show really wasn't doing him any favours by putting in the bare minimum.
Aside from that, there's not much else to talk about with the characters here. Greef Karga (played again by Carl Weathers) is Din Djarin's friend who now has a big position of power, The Armourer (played by Emily Swallow) continues to be an interestingly mysterious character, Paz Viszla (voiced by Jon Favreau himself) gets more development only to get promptly killed off and then forgotten about so his death feels especially wasteful, Elia Kane (played by Katy M. O'Brian) is just the New Republic double agent whose subplot should've been in another show instead of this one, Axe Woves (played by Simon Kassianides) is the Mandalorian Bo has to defeat to assure her dominance and Gorian Shard (played by Nonso Anozie) is a pointless villain. And then we get the confusing guest stars in Episode 6 where we have two characters played by Jack Black and Lizzo of all people. Jack Black's a great actor, don't get me wrong, but he and Lizzo don't exactly sound like the kind of people you'd cast in STAR WARS of all things. Their presences just feel very distracting and out of place and thus the whole thing starts to feel like a parody of Star Wars as a result. We have another guest role played by Christopher Lloyd...who turns out to be the obvious villain and he's dispatched very quickly and easily. What a waste of Christopher Lloyd to play such a nothing character in a single episode! He's an actor who could've played a great role in Star Wars but instead he's just completely throwaway. I wouldn't even have bothered casting him as a man of his talents is too good to waste on a villain-of-the-week character.
Aside from Bo Katan, the characters this season range from being poorly-used, poorly-developed or just plain unnecessary and it definitely feels like the cast weren't used to their best this time around. It was a great season for Bo, but not so much everyone else...
Section 3: The Cinematography
I always get bored talking about the cinematography because with these Disney+ shows, I kinda sounding like I'm saying the same thing over and over. The visuals look great, what else can I say about them?
Let's cover the costume work first. In a series all about Mandalorians, naturally the Mandalorians have to look great and they keep it up in this season. There's various Mandalorians depicted here and we get a variety of designs to make them all look distinct from one another with some having different designs in their armour, different shaped visors on their helmets, different helmet shapes or especially varying colour schemes so they don't all look the same. The costumes look great and they really sell how strong and mighty these Mandalorians look from the awesome design work put into their armour. They also get creative in some of the other costume work like Moff Gideon and his troopers with their Mandalorian inspired outfits. His troops look like a perfect mix of a Mandalorian and a Stormtrooper with their armoured appearances and white colour schemes and Moff's outfit especially looks badass with the mostly black armour that mixes design traits of a Mandalorian and an Imperial officer and the helmet especially somewhat looks a little similair to the kind of helmets Darth Maul's Mandalorians (or Mauldalorians as the fans nickname them) wore in The Clone Wars. The large cape especially gives Darth Vader vibes for the outfit. The Praetorian Guards also appear again and their costumes look as fantastic as they did in the sequel trilogy.
I also have to applaud the costume work that went into Gorian Shand. He has a design quite unlike any we've seen before where he looks like he just came right out of the ocean with what looks like seaweed all over his head and the fact they were able to depict such an alien design physically and not with CGI is quite impressive. The droids also look great too in their appearance with them looking more real and convincing than in their prequel days. It was even weirdly nostalgic just seeing the B-1 and Super Battle Droid models just walking around in this live-action Disney era show, you know? I also wasn't expecting to see Zeb Orrelios from Rebels make a cameo and look as good as he did in CGI. Yes it may have been a pretty random cameo but it was nice to see him looking so good at least. ^^
Also the puppetry on Grogu remains as endearing as ever, even if it gets rather silly to watch whenever he starts jumping around like he does. That's when he really starts to look like a puppet. XD And much like with previous shows, they do a great job on depicting giant alien monsters in this series too such as the crocodilian style beast that attacks the group in Episode 1 or the huge pterosaur-ish monster we see in Episode 4. While they're obviously CGI creatures, they look so realistic that they could be mistaken for real and the lighting effects and rendered textures looking quite convincing. I swear SFX artists don't get enough credit in the entertainment industry, especially the ones who manage to do impressive work like this on a TV budget...
And of course, the ships look incredible too. We get a lot of old favourites here like the TIE Bombers and Interceptors looking as cool as ever and it was especially pretty awesome to see the Mandalorians manning an Imperial light cruiser with their logo painted underneath.
How can you not love an image as striking as that? ;)
The backgrounds are also pretty good too. We don't exactly get a lot of creative looking worlds, but we do get a variety of different backgrounds and scenery to look at so it never gets dull to watch. We get to see the planet of Mandalore depicted in live-action. Needless to say, it's a HUGE stepdown from how it looked in The Clone Wars, but that's OK since this is a post-war and ravaged Mandalore. The whole place looks like a post-apocalyptic nightmare with huge crystalline coverings blocking out civilization from most sunlight, the surface world is practically a barren wasteland and the sun can barely get its light out through the thick clouds. Seeing what Mandalore has been reduced to is just sad to see and further helps us in sympathizing with their plight. You get other places like Coruscant once more as it's now the home of the New Republic and is just as spectacular and sizzying as ever to see onscreen with its huge cities and towering skyscrapers, you have the dome city of Plazir-15 which looks like an opulent, pristine dwelling fit for the wealthy folk who live there and you have Nevarro in where we can see the changes that have been made to the place thanks to Greef and Djarin's actions in the past and Greef's position of power allowing him to make changes for the better. They put a lot of work in designing the sets and making these locations feel real and like we're really in these places and once again, I'm astounded they can pull this off on a TV budget. Disney sure knows how to use its resources well when it comes to making these shows with the money they have.
And naturally, it wouldn't be Star Wars without the action scenes. I wouldn't say this show has the best action or even the most memorable action scenes out there, but they do deliver some cool fights to watch throughout the season, namely the rescue mission to save Paz Visla's son, the sky battle with the pirates and especially the climax with Gideon's forces vs. The Mandalorians. The action does what it needs to do and it delivers it adequately, and that's enough for me. As I say, they could've given us some cooler battles and more memorable action, but they did a good job regardless. Though I have to agree with some that it does look a bit silly when the Praetorian Guards are struggling to catch Grogu as he hops about on those support beams above them. Come on guys, you can do better than that. XD
As is, the visuals remain my most consistent form of praise I give to these Disney+ shows because it feels like most of their efforts go into the cinematography rather than the writing. They can make them look great, now if only the writing could match these incredible visuals...
Another day, another disappointing Star Wars show is all I can say here. The writing feels like a downgrade from before with haphazard pacing, glaring plot holes, lack of a proper focus, poor build-up and a tone that gets too silly at times. Yes it has those redeeming factors like Bo Katan's story, the visuals, the action scenes and a satisfying ending for the Mandalorians but they're not enough to salvage what's otherwise another disappointing season from a Disney+ Star Wars series. Their handling of the franchise isn't doing any favours here and because they keep putting out mediocre show after mediocre show, I'm no longer looking forward to these shows. Why should I show any kind of optimism if they're going to keep letting me down? I'm sure some might think I'm being a Negative Nancy and just wants to hate Star Wars because "Nobody hates Star Wars more than the fans" right? Well take this into account:
I re-watched the entire prequel trilogy earlier this year. And I STILL love those films and have a great time with them! I also re-watched Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and find it to be among the best Star Wars content that Disney has so far produced. I also watched the Tales of the Jedi miniseries, and I absolutely ADORED it! So it's nothing against Disney or the franchise as a whole. It's just these particular shows that aren't doing it for me. As is, I'm giving them one last chance in this scenario. All I can say for now is...
Help me Ahsoka Tano. You're my only hope.
And that's it for my review of The Mandalorian Season 3. I hope you enjoyed it and I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below. Do you like this season? Do you not like it? I'm all ears.
Next week I'll be covering some of my favourite YouTuber creators. See you then everyone!