What’s the Matter with Mando?

Victor Catano and Mary Fan chat about the ups and downs of Season 3 of The Mandalorian

I can tell you the exact moment I fell in love with The Mandalorian show. In the very first episode, at 35:33, after Mando and IG-11 have blasted their way into the compound to get their bounty, the little blanket rustles, and the big ears and eyes of Baby Yoda (who we would later come to know as Grogu) come into view. From then on, I was hooked, and I loved every minute of the first two seasons.

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios

But, doing my weekly recaps of Season Three, I have felt that something was off. The show hasn’t been landing for me the way it did the first two seasons. So I spoke to my fellow Mandalori-Fan, Mary Fan, to discuss.

VICTOR: So I wanted to talk to you about season three and why I think it’s a step back from the previous seasons. First, do you feel that way or am I alone?

MARY: In this specific chat? You’re alone. I’m actually really enjoying S3. I’ll admit the first episodes were slow going for me — Mando should’ve gotten his holy bath in one episode — and the aside to Coruscant was weird. But I like the focus on Mandalorian society. Also, the show seems to be taking itself less seriously and generally feels like it has more… personality? I recall finding the middle episodes of S1 very mediocre because they felt like overly self-serious side quests (Mando spent, like, 5 episodes not even bothering to wonder where this random baby he rescued might have come from). S3 has side quests, sure, but they’re fun.

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios

VICTOR: See, there’s the thing. I have liked each episode of the season fine. I just don’t think they add up to a cohesive whole. Plus, so many of the quests Din has this year either take five minutes to complete, or they get discarded immediately. You have to bathe in the Living Waters. Ok, sploosh! Done. We have to fix IG-11. Oh, wait, no we don’t. Here are some pirates! Pew pew! They’re done.

S1 and S2 had a pretty clean story arc: Din becoming a reluctant surrogate father to Grogu while looking for the Jedi. This year has been all over the place.

MARY: That’s fair. I’m liking it and I’ll admit it’s been an uneven season. I think I’m partly biased toward it because I miss episodic television. Where you can have a low-stakes buddy-cop-type adventure in between your world-saving quests. S1 bothered me because it set up a story arc then failed to follow through for several episodes. S2 was much more focused and, in my opinion, much better. S3 is comparably silly, but it’s a nice respite. Sometimes, you just want to hang out with a bunch of Mandos.

VICTOR: Maybe that’s the core of it for me. I like the Mandalorians more when they aren’t explained. Like season one Mando, he couldn’t take his helmet off. Why? Because This Is the Way. Ok, that’s cool. Boba Fett never took his helmet off either. Now it’s all about the Mando-Lore, like Bo-Katan’s royal house and Mandalorian training camp. I liked it better when it was just Din & Grogu having Lone Wolf and Cub adventures.

Also, dramatically, the resolution of the helmet thing really annoyed me. It was a big, huge, emotional moment when Din took off his helmet to say goodbye to Grogu. It was heartbreaking. Din chose his love of Grogu over his clan that had raised him since childhood. And what happened after that? Grogu came back and Din was redeemed in less than two episodes. Just completely neutered the emotional stakes.

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios

MARY: Hah, see I agreed with Bo that the whole helmet thing was rather fanatical. Hey, Jango Fett was running around without a helmet. I know for a while there they tried to retcon things so that Boba wasn’t really Mandalorian, which irritated me to no end because it was literally his character design they based the whole civilization off of. But anyway, I digress. I think I’m less attached to Grogu than most which is why I’m glad there’s more going on this season than “must protect magic (morally questionable) baby.”

Though how bad ass was Ahmed Best’s appearance doing just that??

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios

VICTOR: Ahmed Best got the hero moment he deserved after having to eat shit for over 20 years because of Jar Jar. I hope he pops up again, although the sheer number of Jedi that survived Order 66 makes me question Palpatine’s effectiveness.

And I literally have about eight Grogu plushies and three Grogu coffee mugs. I bought a lot of them during the pandemic. Every time I got depressed or stressed out that year, my wife would get me Grogu merch. So, I have a lot of Grogu stuff. Which means I am very protective of my boy. And I’m not thrilled with his lack of screen time this season. Freakin’ Tim Meadows had more to do the other week than he did!

I know what you Star Wars fans want..More Meadows! | Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios

MARY: I think I’m just not as impressed by cuteness as a lot of people haha. Oh don’t blink your puppy dog eyes at me, that won’t work. Unless you’re an actual puppy. I feel like Grogu is mostly an accessory this season, and maybe that was inevitable. With the whole slow aging thing plus all the fans wanting Baby Yoda to stay baby-ish, I don’t think they’re going to be able to develop him as a character. Though it would be cute AF to see him get a little Mando helmet.

VICTOR: Who hurt you, Mary? Grogu is the cuteness singularly. And if he gets a little helmet I’ll be overjoyed.

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Perhaps it was inevitable that the show focused less on him. One of the producers confirmed this week that The Mandalorian was going to look at all Mandalorians more. Maybe that would annoy me less if the other Mandalorians weren’t so dumb? Like, they set up their base on a planet full of giant crocodiles and shriek-hawks that like to feast on their kids! I dunno, maybe go somewhere else? And no one checked Mandalore to see if it was actually poisoned?? Really?

MARY: Oh yeah the monster-infested base was hilarious. Especially since they got the same kid twice! I did like the peek at Mandalorian culture though. How you saw that our Mando isn’t the only one with a foundling. Also, the Armorer is getting more to do this season, which makes me happy. I hope she remains an enigma. I swear, if they give me some cheesy flashback of a teary-eyed little girl being rescued by Mandalorians… I don’t want her to ever take off her helmet or reveal a name! I’m not even gonna look up what the actress looks like!

VICTOR: Speaking of the actors… A big thing this season has been the uptick in the guest stars and the level of star wattage. For the past two seasons, the guests have been largely solid character actors, like Timothy Oliphant or Titus Welliver (Or Bill Burr, showing that South Boston existed a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.) But just last week, we had Jack Black, Lizzo and Christopher Lloyd. I thought they were fun cameos, but people on the interwebs were losing their damn minds about it. Star Wars fanatics haven’t been that angry since some kids on Book of Boba Fett rode scooters. What do you think about the guest spots?

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios

MARY: I think they were fun! The fanatics need to calm down. Lizzo and Jack Black were minor roles, so why not have fun with stunt casting? And Christopher Lloyd was excellent. Honestly, who cares if the Duchess can act? She’s just there to look outrageously Star Wars-y in that big ol’ dress and cuddle Baby Yoda. People will complain about anything these days.

VICTOR: Indeed. The whole point was to show a decadent but helpless society that can’t defend itself, and having Lizzo and Jack Black dress like Hunger Games Capital Region extras achieved that.

One thing I have bumped up against a lot this season is that a lot of the plot points seem to be getting pulled from Dave Feloni’s animated series, The Clone Wars. I have nothing against the Clone Wars show. I watched a couple episodes on Disney+ and couldn’t really get into it, in part because I found the animation style unattractive. But it seems like Feloni is not going to be happy until I watch all 200+ episodes of Clone Wars and Rebels. And one thing I really dislike is the feeling that I have to watch things as homework. I want to have fun! And now it feels like I need to go hunt out Clone Wars episodes to read about the Fall of Mandalore, Bo-Katan, Sabine Wren, etc.

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios

MARY: Hah, I haven’t watched Clone Wars for the same reason. I heard it gets better though, so I might give it a second chance. Agree on things starting to feel like homework. I stubbornly haven’t watched Andor yet, partly because it feels like homework, and partly because I’ve heard it’s glum and I don’t like glum Star Wars. But I think there’s enough context in The Mandalorian for those of us who haven’t watched the animated shows yet. (Though if you haven’t watched Book of Boba Fett, you’re SOL if you’re wondering why Grogu isn’t training to be a Jedi.)

VICTOR: Honestly. My mom watches The Mandalorian, but none of the other Disney+ shows, and she called me up to ask why Mando and Grogu were back together. Did she miss an episode? And I had to tell her all about season 2.5 hidden in BoBF.

And I would urge you to watch Andor when you’re in the mood. It’s great! Although, I think that part of the reason for the trip to Coruscant in episode 3 was because Feloni & Favreau were annoyed about all the glowing reviews Andor got, and they went “Oh, you like Andor? Well, we can do Andor!”

Any final thoughts about where you’d like to see the season end? Personally, I’m hoping we get the return of Moff Gideon, our excellent villain from the first two seasons. They’ve teased that pretty hard.

MARY: Oh for sure, I want Moff Gideon back! And I want to see a huge showdown at Mandalore where the Imperials try to take it and the united Mandalorians chase them off. Also, Grogu flying on one of those baby birds they adopted, preferably while wearing a baby helmet.

VICTOR: If Moff Gideon comes back and Grogu flies in on a Baby Shriek-Hawk and uses the force to defeat him, I’ll forgive a lot of the problems with pacing and pirates.

Victor Catano
Victor Catano
Victor Catano lives in New York City with his adorable pughuaua, Danerys. When not writing, he works in live theater as a stage manager, production manager, and chaos coordinator. His hobbies include coffee, Broadway musicals, and complaining about the NY Mets and Philadelphia Eagles. Follow him on BlueSky and Instagram at @vgcatano and find his books on Amazon

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