By Matthew Moorcroft
- Directed by Rick Famuyiwa
- Starring Pedro Pascal, Katee Sackhoff, Carl Weathers, Emily Swallow
And we are back! After a nearly three year wait (kind of, more on that in a second), The Mandalorian has reached our TV screens once again. For better and for worse, the show continues to be one of our true remaining “event TV” programs, able to get news cycles and people to stop talking about literally anything else and just focus on it for about a day before getting back to regular, everyday routines. And The Mandalorian, as a show, probably realizes it at this point – at three seasons in they have become rather adept at knowing what the audience wants and how to give it to them.
They also know that saving your big surprises till later tend to be the best move, as this season premiere is almost entirely setup and serves to mostly reintroduce viewers to the world of The Mandalorian after the long hiatus, as well as to catch some viewers up to speed in case they didn’t watch a certain other show. Yes indeed, the remnants of The Book of Boba Fett are everywhere here as the show pretty much opens up with the statement of “did you watch it?” and leaving other viewers in the dust. It’s a move that’s sure to alienate many fans who probably didn’t bother watching the spin-off for whatever reason, and while I don’t doubt that a simple Google search could answer any questions you have you shouldn’t have to Google search it in the first place.
In fact, this entire episode can summed as homework as it almost feels like we have to go through the motions before we actually get to the good stuff. Half the episode involves Din and Grogu going from place to place learning about whatever new task they need to accomplish before they can begin their real goal – which is returning to Mandalore and “redeeming themselves”. This is actually a really great setup, as it delves fully into the internal struggle of Din that has been the key focus of the show for so long. Despite the multiple opportunities to leave his past behind he clings, just waiting for the chance to really prove himself worthy of a group of people that will, ultimately, never accept him.
But before that, we have to go to Navarro and meet up with old characters and have a little bit of a side trek, and it’s a fun romp. Hard to hate Carl Weathers in his role here, especially now as he’s clearly getting a beefed up presence in the wake of him becoming a High Magistrate. The stuff with the pirates is campy, pulpy fun, and while it’s definitely not high stakes stuff it’s the kind of premise that wouldn’t be outside of a smaller stakes Clone Wars arc or Rebels episode, which isn’t a bad thing. The leader, Gorian Shard, also has a wickedly cool design that’s almost Swamp Thing-esqe, and I wish frankly the entire episode was centered around dealing with him and his group of cronies. Instead, we are saddled with the possibility of an IG-11 resurrection and… ok, fine? I guess? He was a fun character but his death and sacrifice was one of the more impactful and thematically resonant scenes in the show so I’m hoping that something else comes from this.
It’s hard though to talk about an episode like this when there is so little in the way of actual meat, especially when it’s clearly trying to save said meat for future episodes and storylines. Sure, Katee Sackhoff is as great as ever, but she’s mostly just on a throne not doing a whole lot. Pedro Pascal’s vocal and physical performance continues to be fantastic and his relationship with Grogu is as infectious as ever, even if it does has elements of “same old, same old” baked into it. It’s a solid enough premiere, but it’s just that – solid enough. And after Andor last year and even the season prior “solid enough” might not cut it anymore.