This contains spoilers for Season 3 of The Mandalorian, as it discusses major plot points. Read further at your own discretion.
Season 3 of The Mandalorian is a flat-out mess. It has no apparent direction, plan, or point. The show has wandered the wilderness, with a series of pointless side-quests and abandoned plot lines. Sure, it was cool seeing Christopher Lloyd, Jack Black, Lizzo in Chapter 22, and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee in Chapter 21. But Chapter 22. like the previous 5, was verging on stupid and was entirely pointless.
This whole season has been like that, feeling more like they’re making it up as they go along rather than having some broader season-long story to tell. We start with Mando deciding he needs IG-11 to “make sure the air is safe” on Mandalore. He starts to search for the necessary parts (well, for about 10 minutes), and instead ends up with an astromech droid. That droid screws up (and Grogu loses his little dome), so Mando has to “seal his helmet” and go in on his own anyway. He needed a droid for what, exactly, then?
Return of Bo-Katan
We get exploring ruins, a few no-too-bad fights, and the setup for Bo-Katan having a legitimate claim on the Darksabre. A pointless “let’s rescue the foundling” side mission reveals just how stupid the “don’t remove your helmet in public” thing is. The rescue team, “hiding” under a cliff while LIGHTING A FIRE, has to eat, so they scatter to private locations. Yeah, that isn’t a tactically stupid thing to do at all. And for all the concern about “the creature will kill if it knows we’re here”, one would think a fire would be the last thing you’d want.
Then we get the “oh yeah, we had pirates, forgot about them” episode (although with a cool aerial battle). Of course the one pirate got away, so we can expect another pointless and meaningless diversion when he pops up. And the Mandalorians now have a home, no more hiding in the shadows. Okay, then. At least we got to see Carson Teva again, and a taste of the ineptitude of the New Republic. They were clearly not ready to actually govern after beating the Emperor.
Let’s Take Back An Empty Planet
On the planet of over-indulgence, we get another pointless side quest. And somehow Lizzo being disappointed in her chief of security is enough to cow a man who was prepared to unleash massive death on the population. “I’m going to kill everyone here!” leads to “I’m disappointed in you” with, essentially “sorry, Mom” and he’s sent to his room without supper. Good grief. But this episode isn’t done. This useless side mission is followed by the lamest fist fight so far, and it ends when Mando basically hands the Darksabre to Bo-Katan with a “oh yeah, you dropped this back on Mandalore”. Bo-Katan back in charge, the next step is to “take back Mandalore”.
And that “grand quest” should be a ten-minute on-screen sequence. Pack up the ships, hyperspace to Mandalore, touch down, drop the ramp, step off. There, you’ve taken back Mandalore. The planet is entirely empty. Sure, there’s a few monsters you might deal with. But it isn’t like they have to plan some grand campaign to take it back from someone else occupying the place. Unless, of course, the “what happened to Moff Gideon” thing resolves to “he set up his base here”. Odd, since there was zero indication there were any ships or anything there during the “let’s stumble upon a mythosaur” sequence. You’d think that anyone entering the system would detect the constant radio noise of the comms from hundreds of TIE fighters and multiple cruisers of various classes.
An aside: in the scene where Mando and Bo-Katan enter the droid cantina, there was a perfect opportunity to make a callback to Episode IV. A droid bartender could have pointed at them and yelled “hey, we don’t serve your kind in here”. With all the other pointless callbacks, this was one that might have actually been funny and on-point. Instead we get a lame line from Mando about “our kind”.
So What’s The Point Again?
Season 1 of The Mandalorian was brilliant. It was focused, every episode moved the plot forward, and while the real destination wasn’t obvious up front, it at least had one. The second season was less cohesive, but still had a main mission: get Grogu to the Jedi. That season was, however, littered with multiple “let’s set up another spinoff” episodes. It wasn’t horrible, but it felt less satisfying. Luke showing up at the end and basically mowing down droids like a Weedeater was pretty cool.
Season 3 is meandering around the galaxy, feeling more like a bunch of characters searching for a story, or at least for something to do. All the key plot points that got us to where the story is at the end of Chapter 22 could have been done in a single episode, two at most. Seriously, none of the side quests have done anything to advance whatever the main story is supposed to be.
The Mandalorian has evolved into a mess similar to the one in Book of Boba Fett. That was a series that appeared to be more about fan service than telling a compelling story. There was no larger story arc, and it felt far too much like they were making it up as they went along. This season of The Mandalorian feels like that. A series of “let’s have an adventure!” with only a notional idea that maybe there’s a bigger thing happening.
I Guess We’ve Been Spoiled
Trying to hold up against some of the best Star Wars TV is a challenge. Living up to the standards set in Season 1 are hard enough. But then you add in The Bad Batch, Obi-wan Kenobi, and Andor, and that sets the bar incredibly high. The Mandalorian started out so well, and it has since decayed. I’m not giving up on it just yet. But unless they turn it around, I’m not sure I’ll bother watching a season 4, should such a thing come out.