Star Wars has had a busy few years. Since the debut of The Mandalorian (and the Disney+ streaming channel) in November 2019, we’ve got the final Star Wars movie (Rise of Skywalker), the final season of Clone Wars, two seasons of Bad Batch, Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christiansen returning in Obi-Wan, Boba Fett crawling out of the Sarlaac pit in the Book of Boba Fett, and sparks of the rebellion in Andor. That’s a lot of Star Wars! And there’s still more to come like the new Ahsoka series later this year.
I am not complaining. I have been a die-hard fan since I saw Episode IV: A New Hope while sitting on my mom’s lap at a drive-in when I was four years old. I’ll watch almost anything Star Wars, yes even the infamous holiday special.
Still, critical reactions to the new series have varied wildly. Andor was widely considered to be one of the best shows of the year in a serious look at how fascism spreads and what it takes to fight it. Meanwhile, people on Twitter are still whining about the Vespa Kids in Boba Fett.
So now Mando and Grogu are back, the duo that kicked off this new era. When last we saw them, Grogu had chosen to be with Mando rather than train at CGI-Luke Skywalker’s academy. (Definitely, the wise choice, considering what we know from the sequel movies.) Mando had been expelled from his Mandalorian sect because he voluntarily took off his helmet in front of other people. And now they’re tooling around the galaxy in a repurposed Naboo fighter.
The season opens with the Armorer (Emily Swallow) creating a new helmet to initiate a new recruit to the order, an initiation interrupted by a giant alligator monster. It’s a tough fight until Din and Grogu show up to blast it into their ship. The Armorer doesn’t even thank him for the help, just reminds him that he has been cast out. He can only be redeemed by bathing in the Living Waters under the Mines of Mandalore, but Mandalore has been razed and the mines destroyed and poisoned. But what if they weren’t, asks Mando?
Well sure, I guess…
Mando’s plan is to head off to Nevarro and check in with his old friend Greef Carga (excuse me, High Magistrate Greef Carga) and get the remains of bounty droid IG-11 to help him. Nevarro has been transformed from a wretched hive of scum and villainy into a respectable trading outpost. The pirates and bounty hunters are mostly gone, except for the few who haven’t gotten the word yet – like Vane and his crew who demand to be served drinks in their old bar, which is now a school. And look, Vane, I am also annoyed when my old haunts get gentrified, but I don’t go to the bagel shop that replaced the comic book store in my hometown and demand they sell me Spider-Man. Carga disarms him, and then Mando kills his crew when they try to attack. Carga lets him go to spread the word amongst the other pirates. Nevarro is a legitimate business now.
Mando needs a droid to help explore the mines, and IG-11 is the only droid he trusts. He plucks the remains of IG-11 out of his memorial statue and tries to rebuild him. When he powers him up, he still has his old programming and immediately tries to get the “asset,” aka Grogu. After squashing IG with a bust of Carga, sorry HIgh Magistrate Carga, they take him to the best droid techs on the Outer Rim, the Azelleans, aka the Babu Fricks (Hey-HEY!) They work in a tiny basement where Mando is hunched over while they try to fix the droid and avoid hugs from Grogu, who treats them the way everyone else treats their Grogu plushies. The droid is too badly damaged. They need a new memory chip, and they aren’t being made anymore. If Mando can find one, they’ll fix IG right up.
Mando and Grogu take off to search one out, only to be waylaid by space pirates. Vane was waiting for him to get revenge. After a quick dogfight, Mando runs into the flagship, captained by Gorian Shard. Shard threatens to blast him out of the sky unless he surrenders his ship. Mando peace outs into hyperspace.
They head to Kalevala, another planet in the Mandalorian system, to check in with Bo Katan and join her on her quest to retake Mandalore. However, Katan has pretty much given up. She’s all alone in her castle, moping around. Her fellow Mandalorians deserted her when she didn’t have the Darksaber. They scattered to become mercenaries, and now she’s all alone. If Din has the Darksaber, they’ll follow him, but Mandalore is destroyed and poisoned anyway. The episode ends with Mando heading off to prove her wrong.
While I am happy to see my favorite little force user return and act all cute, this episode was a bit of a wheel-spinner. There is a ton of setup, but so much felt like a sidequest tacked on to a sidequest. Mando needs to redeem himself by bathing in the waters under the Mines of Mandalore. But first, he has to get IG-11 back, because that’s the only droid he trusts. But first, he needs a new memory chip. But first…pirates!
And it doesn’t seem to matter? Because as long as he has the Darksaber, other Mandalorians will just follow him to Mandalore, which may or may not be poisoned?
The arc of the first two seasons was Din Djarin being a reluctant Dad to Grogu while trying to find Jedi to train/raise him. The arc of this season is so far pretty muddled. Will Mando find the Living Waters? Or will he retake Mandalore with the Darksaber? Or become a Marshall on Nevarro?
Who knows. But as long as Grogu is using the force to get snacks and hugging little Babu Fricks, I’ll be back for more.
Episode Rating: 3 out of 5