My favorite show is back! After a two-year wait to make room for The Book of Boba Fett (which really turned out to be “Mando lite”), The Mandalorian‘s third season is finally here, and the premiere has a lot to establish. In a roundtable interview, showrunner Jon Favreau revealed the timeline for Din Djarin’s (Pedro Pascal) journey. Din and Grogu spend “many years” together before the baby goes to train with Luke for two years. This revelation was controversial on Twitter, where “Favreau” ended up trending, and many people voiced confusion over differences between his statements and the sense of temporality they gleaned from the show. Episode 1 of the new season works to pick up on loose ends that both the second season and The Book of Boba Fett left hanging, but it zips through quite a lot of content without feeling fully weighted. We’ll get to that later, though.
The episode, directed by Rick Famuyiwa and written by Favreau, starts with the Armorer (Emily Swallow) crafting a helmet for a child. It’s the boy’s induction into Mandalorian culture; receiving his helmet he can never take off in front of others on the threat of banishment. Just as the Armorer swears the boy in, an enormous crocodile-like creature surges from the waters to attack the Children of the Watch. The fight is bleak, and the Mandalorians struggle to gain ground and hold back the beast. Even their bombs do little to deter it, and their fiber cord whips only result in them being dragged around. When hope begins to look lost, a blast comes from the sky. It’s Din, sailing in his still-freshly-acquired Starfighter, with little Grogu peeking out of the droid bubble.
But not even Mando’s timely rescue will get him back into the good graces of the Children of the Watch. The Armorer reminds him that he took off his helmet, a decision that results in his permanent exile from the sect. Only if he returns to the mines under Mandalore could he be redeemed, but Mandalore was destroyed long ago. Except maybe not–Din is convinced there’s a possibility it’s still accessible. He found an artifact another person retrieved from the surface of Mandalore, and if this piece was extractable, then it’s possible the planet is not poisoned. The Armorer agrees that if Din can prove he has gone to the mines and bathed in the waters, he will be pardoned.
Din decides to visit Nevarro to see if he can rebuild the IG nurse unit (voiced by cultural juggernaut Taika Waititi) destroyed at the end of season 1. Downtown Nevarro has changed drastically–it’s pristine, with a tour guide droid strolling the streets and a band of musicians playing nearby. Din finds the IG-11’s remains, placed in the town as a statue in honor of his sacrifice to save the baby.
Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) is now the High Magistrate of Nevarro, sporting a cape with two little droids that carry his train. Greef tries to talk Din into moving to the planet to retire, but Din rejects the offer. They’re interrupted by a droid who alerts them to the presence of pirates in the courtyard. A pirate named Vane (Marti Matulis) and his men have a bone to pick with Greef, and they insist on having a drink at the bar-turned-school (to be obstinate? Threatening to kids?). Vane shows his gun to initiate a dual, and Greef returns the action. He’s a faster draw than Vane and shoots the gun out of the pirate’s hand. Din and Greef shoot them all except Vane when another pirate goes for his gun. Greef lets him escape to tell his leader to stop menacing Nevarro.
After the firefight, Greef tells Din that he needs a new marshal. This is a convenient way to write out Cara Dune (Gina Carano, who was fired by LucasFilm after comments she made about the Holocaust), the former marshal who was recruited by Special Forces after securing Giancarlo Esposito‘s character Moff Gideon (who himself was sent to a New Republic War Tribunal). The episode ties up these plot issues succinctly, if not a little awkwardly, but it’s good to know the fallout of season 2.
Din finally gets down to business and asks Karga for the remaining parts of IG-11 to try rebuilding him. The attempt to fix the droid is in vain, and disturbingly so. IG-11 comes back to life, but he’s reverted back to his original programming–the one designed to kill Grogu on sight. Another droid manages to crush IG’s head before he can do any real damage, but it’s clear the nurse unit will need a lot more work if he’s to be reliable.
OK, and here’s where it gets good. They need a droid engineer. And who else in the Star Wars universe but some Anzellans, characters from the same species as Babu Frik (Shirley Henderson) from The Rise of Skywalker? The droidsmiths work to repair the IG, but his memory circuit is broken. It can’t be easily replaced because they no longer make the circuit for this unit. Din is obstinate though, and he’s willing to look for it himself. Unfortunately for one Anzellan, Grogu gets confused, wrapping the little guy in a big embrace. Din makes him let go, telling him he is “not a pet.” The Anzellan continues to shout “No squeezie, not squeeze!” and “Bad baby!”
Din cruises through space with Grogu, explaining to him how the ship works. An alarm goes off, however, alerting them to oncoming enemies. It’s Vane, with a fresh set of goons. They dogfight their way through an asteroid field, with Mando taking out plenty of pirates before being unknowingly led to Vane’s leader, Gorian Shard (Nonso Anozie). After Din clears the asteroid field, Shard’s ship looms closer. No problem. After exchanging words with Shard, Din simply disengages and blasts into hyperspace. The mini-battle in the asteroid field feels like vintage Star Wars, and it adds some actiony “pop!” to the episode.
The episode ends with Din and Grogu taking a trip to another planet in the Mandalore system, to visit a castle. For those of us waiting for some more of Katee Sackhoff’s Bo-Katan, we need wait no longer. Bo-Katan is sitting in a throne room alone, one leg cocked so-cooly over the chair. Din tells her he’s ready to join her, but she says her people have left her after she returned without the dark saber. She dismissively instructs Din himself to lead them, now that he possesses the weapon. She blames Din’s “cult” and others like it for fracturing the Mandalorian people and making it impossible to rebuild their culture. When Din tells her that he is committed to returning to Mandalore, she scoffs. Their parting is cold, and the episode ends.
A lot has happened and been revealed here. Din saves the Children of the Watch, commits to gaining forgiveness, hangs out with Greef, gets bad news from the Anzellans, fights pirates, and rejects counsel from Bo-Katan, all in roughly 32 minutes! While the presentation is clean and simple, it might be a little too simple. I didn’t get a sense of real weight to the exposition like I usually do from the best episodes of The Mandalorian. Not even the pirate lord, who will undoubtedly pop up again in a later episode, seemed particularly noteworthy, and the fun Anzellan inclusion feels like an attempt to beef up a rather slim episode. With that said, look, it’s still Mando. It’s still my favorite show! I’ll take whatever Din and Grogu content given to me. Based on this episode alone, I’m still not worried for the season. In fact, what this episode does do well is build intrigue around Din’s quest to go to Mandalore and discover its current state. While the subplot with IG-11 is not set-up quite as well, it does allow Din to go on a MacGuffin hunt that could take him to an interesting corner of the galaxy.