Here’s the thing – I’m not one to ruin any surprises or even go through details of the plot of these first two chapters of the third season of The Mandalorian because that should be left up to the viewer to experience.
That said, I can give you my first impression based on what I’ve seen, so far, in the new 8-episode season.
What immediately stood out in the 36-minute season opener is that the show feels a bit more contained and focused. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t travel outside of Tatooine, for example (because it thankfully does), but it feels like this season will fix itself primarily on Din Djarin’s quest to restore his status as a Mandalore and continue protecting Grogu. His prime human sidekick seems like it will come in the form of Bo Katan (Katee Sackhoff), which just makes me happy for “Galactica” reasons.
I liked this format because, as someone who isn’t fully educated on the intricacies of the animated series, I didn’t have to worry about knowing a lot of backstories. This season’s focus seems straightforward, but that’s not to say it won’t be full of possibility and potential either. In the first two episodes alone, we get spectacular new creatures, intense battles, gorgeous new planets, and a more immersive look at Mando’s home planet.
The other thing that stood out this season is just how cinematic it looks. Every shot, vista, and staging setup looks like it should be on the big screen. The sets are expansive, the planets have singular looks (no more sand!), and the scenes in space are flawlessly executed. It felt happily familiar but wonderfully fresh at the same time.
As for the characters, Mando, aka Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), is doing his usual (and effective) brooding and protective Mando thing, which is now also his The Last of Us thing except hidden behind a helmet. Grogu continues to be an adorable coo-factory but still manages to have some genuinely heroic moments, and Bo Katan is the tough cookie longing for her home world to be what it once was. She isn’t a one-note character like, say, Fennec Shand (Ming Na-Wen) from The Book of Boba Fett. She has the “mask” she wears, but there’s more going on underneath it.
Carl Weathers’ Greef Karga returns for a bit, having evolved as a character nicely. And the always delightful Amy Sedaris is back as Peli Motto. We’ll see what other fan favorites return as the season unfolds.
To give credit where credit is due, Jon Favreau wrote both compelling episodes, making the season’s driving force feel focused. Returning director Rick Famuyiwa faithfully directs Episode 1, while Rachel Morrison (cinematographer of Black Panther) masterfully directs Episode 2.
My only small nit-pick is that, while I enjoy seeing the old-school alien species I recognize from the earlier films (and my action figure collection), I sometimes wonder if the creators will ever introduce some new designs, so we’re not just getting repeats like Grans, Aqualish, BIth, Mon Calamari, Rodians, and Twi’leks. Although to backpedal, I loved that they brought in the Anzellans (initially seen in Rise of Skywalker with the character of Babu Frik).
My only other minor complaint – and it’s been evident throughout the series – is that the show falls back on fight scenes straight out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We get the good guy being surrounded by the bad guys who attack him one by one, only to be taken out completely by the fight’s end. Add to that the practical alien costumes, and I feel like we’re back in high school watching the Scooby Gang fight demons from the Hellmouth.
Those minor quibbles aside, I was wholly invested in this season of The Mandalorian from the get-go. To be even more transparent, Episode 2 really ups the ante with character, visuals, and story. So, if there is any doubt after watching the first episode, fear not, the Force is forever with us.