Season three of The Mandalorian is here and in its first episode, it’s basically the same old show. Is that a good thing? A bad thing? Depends on what you’re expecting to get from it. If you’re expecting fun action sequences, interesting Star Wars Easter eggs, and Grogu being incredibly adorable, the show’s return won’t disappoint. If you’re hoping for something new narratively and not just “Mando needs to complete this mission so he can complete another mission that leads to the bigger mission,” well—sorry to say, that’s exactly what happens.
I will say I do love that The Mandalorian keeps things cohesive in terms of titles. So, instead of being referred to as season three episode one, it’s Chapter 17 (though, as we’ve covered, it’s really more like chapter 19, with two chapters over on The Book of Boba Fett). Chapter 17’s title, “The Apostate,” refers to Mando’s apparent disconnect from his Mandalorian ways since he took off his helmet to say goodbye to Grogu last season.
The importance of that creed to his way of life is probably why the episode starts as it does. The Armorer is crafting a new Mandalorian helmet. She brings it out onto a beach where several dozen Mandalorians stand, all wearing bright, burly pieces of armor. Everyone has a helmet on, except a boy standing in the water. This young man, named Ragnar in the credits (played by Wesley Kimmel), begins to pledge allegiance to the Way of the Mandalore, putting on a helmet he can never take off. It’s an important ceremony to these people that seems to be going well—until a massive creature that looks like a huge snapping turtle jumps out of the water.
A battle ensues. And despite Mandalorians being known for their prowess in battle, all the bombs and cables and blasters aren’t doing a thing. People are dying, young Ragnar almost buys it, and even the Armorer herself can’t do anything. Until an N1 Starfighter flies in and saves the day.
It’s a fun action sequence to start the season to be sure; the visual effects are second to none, and seeing so many Mandalorians fighting with their awesome weapons is satisfying. Still, you do get the sense that maybe these Mandalorians, the ones beholden to the Way, aren’t quite the warriors they’re cut out to be if 50 of them can’t defeat this creature but one starship can.
Nevertheless, Mando (Pedro Pascal) is obviously flying the N1. He’s saved the day along with countless lives, but that’s no matter to the Armorer. Before he can even say a word she reminds him that because he took off his helmet, especially of his own free will, he is no longer a Mandalorian. He brings up what she said previously—that he can redeem himself by bathing in the living waters in the mines of Mandalore—but she doesn’t even think that’s possible. In response, Mando shows her a relic that’s apparently from the surface of Mandalore, and suggests the planet isn’t completely inhabitable. The Armorer is skeptical, but begrudgingly she agrees that if Mando can go to Mandalore and bathe in the waters, he’d be redeemed.
And so that’s the first goal. One that we kind of knew from The Book of Boba Fett episodes, but now it’s locked in. Mando and Grogu set off to their next destination. While in hyperspace, Grogu sees something. It looks like… flying whales. The flying whales that saved Lothal back on Star Wars Rebels and were last seen with Ezra Bridger, the very Jedi Ahsoka Tano and Sabine Wren are looking for. It’s a deeper-cut moment for Star Wars die hards, and also a way of just letting us know that story is out there.
Though we think Mando and Grogu are heading straight to Mandalore for that bath, they instead come down upon a more familiar planet, one with a now bustling marketplace. It’s Nevarro, the main planet in the first season of The Mandalorian, and it offers the best example yet of the controversial idea that “many years” have passed on this show so far. There’s new construction, peaceful interactions, friendly greetings, music in the streets… this is a happy place that has changed greatly since the last few times we saw it.
Mando and Grogu are there to meet “an old friend,” which could mean many people. They have a lot of friends here. One who is no longer with them though is IG-11, the Taika Waititi-voiced droid who gave his life to save them way back in the first season. There is, however, a monument to his bravery in the town square and that’s where none other than High Magistrate Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) comes out to greet Mando, a man so important he’s got droids whose only job is to keep his cape off the ground.
Karga is very proud of everything he’s done for the city. He’s taken it legit and offers Mando a chance to settle there and make some money. Mando isn’t interested though. He’s more concerned about being an apostate than putting roots down anywhere—and before the High Magistrate can continue his pitch, some urgent business arises.
A handful of pirates are standing in the courtyard, led by Vane (played by Marti Matulis). They’re trying to get a drink but a droid is preventing them from entering, so Karga explains that what they think is a bar is now a school. Nevarro has changed, after all. Vane not-so-subtly mentions that it was money from Karga’s score with their boss, Pirate King Gorian Shard, that allowed the school to be built. Tensions continue to rise as Karga tries to keep the peace, but Vane and the pirates aren’t having it. It builds to a standoff, one that Karga wins by mercifully only shooting the blaster out of Vane’s hand. Vane isn’t so gracious, but just as he’s about to retaliate, Mando, who has been watching this all very carefully, starts picking off the pirates. They’re all killed, except for Vane, who runs away.
Continually impressed by his skills, Karga asks Mando if he’ll stay in Nevarro to be a marshall. Mando mentions that the last time he was on Nevarro, there already was a marshall named Cara Dune. This is when the show gracefully writes Gina Carano into oblivion by saying she was recruited by Special Forces after she brought in Moff Gideon. As for Gideon, last seen cowering on the floor in the season two finale, he was “sent off to a New Republic War Tribunal.” Mando asks why Karga doesn’t ask the New Republic for a marshall but the High Magistrate wants to keep Nevarro independent as long as he can.
Finally, Mando gets to the reason he came to visit his old friend: he wants to bring the droid IG-11 back. Yes, the same IG-11 who sacrificed himself for the group and whose leftover parts are now displayed in the center of town. Mando needs a droid to help him figure out if Mandalore is poisoned or not and he knows and trusts IG.
Let’s take a quick pause here. Up until this point, I’ve been with this episode. Fun action, good mythology, it’s working. But once you start talking about resurrecting characters who clearly died—even if they’re machines—you lose some of your stakes. It’s true that we know Mando doesn’t trust droids, so his wanting to bring back a droid he did trust makes sense, but it’s just such a weird narrative jump. Out of all the options in the galaxy, the show went with, “Let’s take down this statue and try and rebuild him”? It just didn’t sit right.
Anyway, they dismantle the statue and get to work. Mando powers up the droid’s torso and head but, instead of going back into kindly Taika mode, IG-11 reverts to his original programming which was to find and kill the Child. A Terminator-inspired mini-action scene occurs, complete with a hot potato Grogu toss, and IG-11 is silenced by a bust of Karga himself. He’s dead. Again. Even so, Mando doesn’t give up and Karga tells him about Nevarro’s fine droidsmiths—a line that, if you’re a Star Wars fan, means only one thing. Yup. Anzellans. Otherwise known as “Babu Friks,” they’re maybe the only good thing to come out of that other thing.
In the episode’s most adorable scene, Mando tries to understand the droidsmiths while Karga translates and Grogu gets so excited by their cuteness he attacks them with hugs. Amid all that humor though, one fact emerges. IG-11 is beyond repair. He needs a new memory circuit which is basically impossible to find. However, if by some chance Mando can find one, the Anzellans can bring his old buddy back.
And so The Mandalorian falls back into its oldest, most familiar trap. Din needs to get back to Mandalore. To do so, he needs a droid he can trust. To get a droid he can trust to work, he needs a specific part. And so now we assume we’re going to see our heroes go on some kind of adventure to get one dumb droid part as opposed to taking Karga up on his offer for another droid or—I don’t know, anything else in the world. It just feels so lazy.
But, as tends to happen on The Mandalorian, there’s yet another detour and this time it’s in the form of our pirate friend Vane. He’s been waiting for Mando above Nevarro to get some payback. and so just as we see Mando begin to impart some of his Mandalorian teachings to Grogu for the first time, they’re attacked. It’s another cool, exciting sequence in which Mando once again wastes a ton of pirates before Vane leads him back to the Pirate King himself, Gorian Shard (Nonso Anozie). He looks like a skeleton covered in green bean sprouts (or maybe Salad the Hutt?) and is about to take Mando out when the N1 does its thing and they escape. We’d imagine we haven’t the last of Shard.
Instead of immediately going memory circuit shopping, Mando and Grogu swing by Kalevala, a planet in the Mandalorian system that happens to be where none other than Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) hangs her helmet, in an elaborate, desolate, and empty castle.
When last we saw Bo-Katan, she was angry that Mando had won what she sees as her Darksaber from Moff Gideon, and was planning to attempt to retake Mandalore. But the Bo-Katan Mando meets in her castle seems defeated. Lost. She explains that since she didn’t get the Darksaber herself, her allies disappeared. Plans to retake Mandalore stopped and she’s bitter about all the cracks and divisions in the Mandalorian people, including the ones who follow the Way.
Insistent as ever, Mando explains his desire to redeem himself in the mines of Mandalore and Bo-Katan tells him there’s nothing special about that place. It’s all superstition. Nevertheless, she gives him the location: beneath the civic center in the city of Sundari. She wishes him a sinister goodbye as Mando leaves on his mission.
“The Apostate” was just about the perfect mix of everything good and bad about The Mandalorian. The good? Exciting action, gross creatures, and teases of mythology. The bad? That wash, rinse, repeat narrative structure of completing side quests like a video game. And, in this case, those side quests are leading towards resurrecting a character who died a noble death. We’ll see if that happens or not but nevertheless—The Mandalorian is back. Let’s see where the N1 takes us.
Oh, and in case you didn’t notice in the credits, this season Brendan Wayne and Lateef Crowder, the two men who are primarily in the Mandalorian suit for all of this, are given their proper due with a card during the concept art. Nice work, Lucasfilm.
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