The Mandalorian has returned to Disney+ with a third season that picks up where the ramshackle season 2 and Book of Boba Fett narrative left off, and there’s a lot of ground to cover. The showrunners knew that going in, which is why they attempted to hit that particular ground running by churning out an episode designed to reignite excitement in a beleaguered fan base forced to endure the dismal quality of Obi-Wan and Andor.
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Does it succeed? Has showrunner/writer Jon Favreau managed to get things back on the rails and in proper focus? It’s too early to tell, this being the first episode, but he’s clearly focused on selling a tighter and leaner narrative. As such, “The Apostate“ is far from a bad episode. In fact, it’s quite good, save for a few glaring pitfalls that hint at some severe speedbumps yet to come.
The biggest draw of the first episode is how it picks up Din Djarin’s story following the events of The Book of Boba Fett. That spinoff series made a Death Star-sized mistake when it sidelined its titular bounty hunter with a story that was completely out of character, not to mention bland and directionless. Only when Din Djarin and Grogu made a reappearance did the show finally pick up some steam.
It wasn’t enough to save The Book of Boba Fett, but it did act as a precursor for this third season, and it’s clear that Favreau is trying to right a few wrongs. If the story can stick close to the formula laid out in the first episode, perhaps there’s an entertaining season to be had. If it starts going cross-eyed by the time the third or fourth episode drops, it could be curtains for Disney’s most critically successful Star Wars product.
“The Apostate“ wastes no time setting the table for Din Djarin, who is forced to deal with excommunication from a radicalized splinter group of Mandalorians known as the Children of the Watch, all for the cardinal sin of removing his helmet. Determined to get back in their good graces, he returns to the group just in time to save them from the jaws of a massive crocodile-like creature which interrupted one of their ancient ceremonies.
It isn’t enough to earn the thanks of the Armorer, however, who reminds him that his sin has not been forgiven. The two discuss an ancient ritual whereby an exiled Mandalorian may bathe in waters located in mines deep underneath the planet Mandalore, which washes away transgressions. The question is whether these “living waters” remain, following an horrific bombing campaign of the planet by the Galactic Empire.
Before heading to Mandalore, Djarin makes a few pit stops – the first to Nevarro, where he reunites with his old friend Greef Karga, who is now presiding over a massive economic and industrialization boom. Djarin’s intention is to rebuild the broken and destroyed body of IG-11, the bounty hunter droid who helped keep Grogu from the clutches of Moff Gideon and the Imperial remnant in season 1.
The second stop involves visiting Bo-Katan Kryze for assistance, only to learn that her Mandalorians have abandoned her in the wake of Din Djarin securing the Darksaber. It’s clear that her animosity towards Djarin is growing, despite acknowledging and following her own peoples’ code. How it will play out remains a mystery, for now.
Star Wars fans have been forced to endure one Disney-led blunder after another since the corporation bought out the rights from George Lucas. Over the last two years, however, it has become progressively worse, with Obi-Wan Kenobi destroying the titular character’s legacy with one of the most incompetent scripts ever written. Next came Andor, an incomprehensible mess of a story slightly more entertaining than filing a tax return.
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The Book of Boba Fett, however, was the first sign that something was going significantly wrong in Star Wars TV land. If the rumors of internal conflicts between Jon Favreau and Kathleen Kennedy were to be believed at the time, it seemed as if a power struggle was underway, which seemed to have thrown the franchise even farther off course than what happened with The Last Jedi.
The Mandalorian is the only Star Wars property to date that has managed to insulate itself from some of this damage, and seems to be the one property where fans can rally around. It’s never been perfect, but it has more Star Wars heart in it than anything else LucasFilm has put out under Disney’s taskmaster whip. The same holds true for “The Apostate.” Like most Mandalorian episodes, it knows what kind of story it wants to tell, and it wants to do so while entertaining its audience.
The opening battle between the Mandalorians and a giant alien crocodile is the perfect way to kick the season off. It also does so in a very clever way, by tricking the audience into thinking the entire scene is a flashback sequence to when Din Djarin was but a wee lad getting his first helmet. The fight itself is a nice way to set the tone for what’s to come, which includes sprawling and detailed set designs, ship-to-ship space battles, shootouts, and some references to lore.
It’s worth noting that Cara Dune is mentioned in this opening episode, albeit very briefly as a means to give some reason why her character was jettisoned out of the Star Wars limelight. Fan animosity against Disney over the firing of Gina Carano for tweeting out that Americans should be treating each other like neighbors, instead of mimicking the behavior of Nazis circa WWII has not waned one bit, and perhaps that’s the reason for the mention.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t exactly jive with what we know about Dune’s character thus far, but let’s face it – this is the best we’re going to get in an era when Lucasfilm and Disney are run by knowing hypocrites who gave lead actor Pedro Pascal a free pass, despite him equating 74 million Americans with the the Third Reich on Twitter, which was the opposite message of what Carano was preaching at the time.
There’s a lot of fun to be had in this first episode, and that’s what counts. There’s more Star Wars in “The Apostate“ than Andor could scrape together during its entire tragic and abysmal run, and, like season 1, it isn’t interested in political overtures, identity politics, or diversity hires. It’s brisk, fun to watch, and a nice way to lay the groundwork for whatever follows.
The episode does misstep in a few ways, notably the aforementioned Cara Dune reference, which is like a cloud clinging to the back of a silver lining. Beyond that, the notion of Djarin trying to resurrect the blown-up corpse of IG-11 seems odd, especially when he could simply purchase and program a similar droid of equal lethality. Even Greef Karga makes this abundantly clear. This business of giving characters an emotional sendoff, only to see them make a return shortly after is one of Hollywood’s worst clichés.
It was also done to underwhelming and self-defeating effect with C-3PO in The Rise of Skywalker. Why, oh why are these mistakes allowed to repeat?
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The worst moment of the episode occurs when Djarin visits a team of Anzellans. They’re annoying, unfunny, and a terrible reminder of the plague that was Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I’m old enough to remember the good old days when a team of Ugnaughts could have handled the job just fine, thank you very much.
There’s also something to be said of the decision to keep Grogu in the show, since his character does little more than act as background scenery. When he’s not glancing at Purrgil traveling through hyperspace, he’s using the Force to spin himself around in Greef Karga’s office chair, or watching other characters engage in banter. Yes, he’s funny and charming, but does he really need to be here?
This could end up biting the show square in the behind if Grogu can’t make himself useful, or advance the plot in any meaningful way. His appearance in the third season is doubtlessly to keep his marketability in the upper stack, but how many more toys can the little guy really sell at this point?
There’s a strong case to be made that Grogu should have stayed with Luke Skywalker, but there’s no denying these two have great on-screen chemistry together.
There’s also an awful lot of careless contradictions in this episode that don’t line up with past Star Wars continuity, most notably Bo-Katan Kryze and her unfortunate new predicament. It’s possible that Favreau has written in some sort of second wind arc for the character, but for the moment, Bo-Katan’s situation doesn’t line up at all with established Star Wars canon, be it references to the Darksaber, or her campaign to take back Mandalore.
I’m not going to bash this first episode of The Mandalorian purely because I loathe what Lucasfilm and Disney have done with the franchise as a whole. Neither will I heap oodles of praise on it for trying to course correct in the wake of one bad decision after another. ‘”The Apostate“ is a solid and entertaining episode with a lot of energy running through it, and despite its flaws, it is, in fact, watchable.
What I will say is that so much damage has been done to this particular timeline and set of characters that I’m not convinced it can patch all the holes. Favreau might have tightened his script considerably since The Book of Boba Fett, but the plot holes and contradictions strewn throughout cannot be swept under the rug. They’re here to stay, and things may get ugly real fast.
It’s also important to remember that The Mandalorian will inevitably stray into the territory of the sequel trilogy at some point, and there have already been hints and rumors to back that up. That won’t lead anywhere good, which is the entire point – no matter how many rabbits the Mandalorian team manages to pull out of its hat, we’re still heading down the same path of broken and incompetent fan fiction masquerading as official Star Wars canon.
For now, I will keep an open mind and attempt to push my biases to the side as much as an imperfect human being can manage. It’s easy to put a microscope and a loudspeaker to all of the first episode’s flaws, but it’s also important to evaluate the presentation based as a collective whole. “The Apostate“ is a good episode, but the overarching story may spiral out of control like a damaged TIE fighter plunging directly into an asteroid.
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- Follows an entertaining and straightforward formula
- A good mix of action, exposition and narrative focus
- Great pacing
- The Anzellans drudge up horrible memories
- Character contradictions galore
- Grogu is just there to pad the scenery