TV

The Mandalorian season 3 finale: Is this too much Star Wars?

Season three of Disney+’s Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian has come to a satisfyingly spectacular conclusion. So why are fans complaining?

Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu in Lucasfilm's The Mandalorian, season three, on Disney+. Image: ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd

Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu in Lucasfilm's The Mandalorian, season three, on Disney+. Image: ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd

Season three of Disney+’s Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian has come to a satisfyingly spectacular conclusion after its now-standard eight-episode run. Swashes were buckled, nerfs were herded and rights were wronged. Baby Yoda / Grogu was adorable, Pedro Pascal’s Din Djarin was enigmatic and cool, Katie Sackhoff’s Bo-Katan kicked ass, the Empire was defeated and all was well. This is the way.

So why have fans been complaining? According to several reports this season has been the lowest rated so far in fan reviews, and for the first time since the show’s 2019 debut it has, admittedly, felt less essential and less exciting, a feeling that the stats appear to back up. But why? And is that fair?

We’ll start with the last question. Has this season of The Mandalorian been that bad? Well… not really. Pound for pound there’s been some really good stuff. The set pieces have been stunning, pretty much from the word go – the dogfight in ‘Chapter 17: The Apostate’, the season opener, was great. The big Mandos vs Troopers smackdown in the finale was as good as any battle the series has given us so far. The season had a nice, self-contained arc – reuniting the Mandalorian tribes and retaking their homeworld – that broadened the in-universe pallet with new planets and characters and deeper takes on existing lore. There’s been dozens of great touches.

Grogu, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) in Lucasfilm's The Mandalorian, season three. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd.
Grogu, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) in Lucasfilm’s The Mandalorian, season three. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd.

What’s more, the two most divisive episodes of the season were, for my money, two of the best. ‘Chapter 19: The Convert’ took us on a diversion to Coruscant to see the lives of former Imperial agents “deprogrammed” and rehabilitated by the galaxy’s post-Imperial New Republic. It had more in common with last year’s darker, more grown-up Andor, sure, but it also helped to deepen our understanding of this Star Wars era, and it had plenty of twists and turns of its own.

Meanwhile ‘Chapter 22: Guns for Hire’ went the other way, dropping Mando, Grogu and Bo-Katan onto a new planet to solve an adventure-of-the-week, with cameo performances from Lizzo, Jack Black and Christopher Lloyd. It felt very prequel-era, with its bright colours, elaborate costumes, digital sets and battle droids. This was a diversion into another type of Star Wars, one that’s always been in the DNA of the franchise.

Far from spoiling the series, these two episodes felt like they pushed at the edges of what the show could be, acknowledging that Star Wars has always been a wide Galaxy, one that could contain both Ewok treehouse parties and psychological “mind-flaying”; that could have Threepio’s head being pulled along by R2-D2, moaning that “this is such a drag” in one movie, and burning Luke Skywalker’s Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru to a crisp and showing us their charred remains in another.

Why can’t we have dystopian intrigue and Lizzo playing hoopla with giant insects? That’s pure Star Wars right there.

So if the season was good, then what’s the problem? Star Wars fans, of course, will moan about anything. Lucasfilm is still smarting from the brutal, and largely unjustified backlash to The Last Jedi (and the mostly-justified one received by Rise of Skywalker). There’s a portion of its fandom that will never be satisfied until they’re seeing shot-for-shot remakes of whatever movie era they first fell in love with. And let’s not give the “it’s too woke” brigade the time of day. It’s commendable that showrunners Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni pushed on and made the show they wanted to make. Perhaps we’ve just become accustomed to The Mandalorian now?

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When it first appeared it felt fresh, because it was a version of Star Wars we’d never really leaned into before – the lone gunslinger, and his adorable friend having weekly adventures. It was a pulpy space western. That format was never going to sustain though. We had to get to know these characters, and that was always going to ruin their mystique. There wasn’t really another way to go. Was the season patchy? A bit. I could have done without ‘Chapter 20: The Foundling’ and its Mando’s vs monsters plot. The over-all season arc wasn’t as neat and compelling as the “save Grogu” stories of the first two seasons. But then the previous two seasons had their share of filler, too. Objectively it was no worse. Perhaps, dare we say it… there’s just too much Star Wars now.

Since The Mandalorian debuted in late 2019, Disney+ has served us up 128 episodes of Star Wars media across live action and animation (and we’re not even counting the Star Wars Lego shows in this). 2022 alone had 12 episodes of Andor (amazing), six episodes of The Book of Boba Fett (disappointing), six episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi (mixed) and six of Tales of the Jedi (great). It’s only April and we’ve already had full seasons of The Mandalorian and The Bad Batch, with Ashoka, Skeleton Crew, Visions and Young Jedi Adventures all to come before the year is out. The committed fans are also well served in comic books, games and spin off novels. It’s… a lot of Star Wars.

Very little of this is actually bad. I loved every minute of The Bad Batch this year, and it’s a hard heart that didn’t enjoy Grogu in his IG-12 exosuit saying “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!” over and over again. The upcoming Ashoka looks amazing. Fans of a certain age will remember the barren 90s when all we had was Expanded Universe novels and the vague promise of movies that might get made one day. We’re living in a time of Star Wars abundance. Maybe the problem is that we’re starting to take it for granted?

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