The third season of The Mandalorian continues apace, and almost wraps up Din Djarin’s sin redemption plot arc before yanking the carpet from underneath its audience in the very final scene. It’s a straightforward episode with a very tight narrative focus, which is both a good move, and a misstep at the same time. Despite the awkwardness of certain episode elements, it’s a solid second chapter for the season.
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Things pick up immediately after Djarin confronts Bo-Katan Kryze over the fate of her Mandalorian forces, as well as the state of their devastated home planet Mandalore. Determined to bathe in the living waters of the planet in order to satisfy an ancient requirement for redemption from exile, Djarin prepares for the journey by seeking out a droid memory chip for IG-11.
Unfortunately, his local source Peli Motto has none to spare, and neither do her Jawa cohorts. Instead, Motto swindles Djarin into buying an old R5 astromech droid, who she claims is worth every penny. The claim is dubious, but with a navigation droid inside his customized Naboo starfighter, it’s not a total loss.
Djarin immediately heads for Mandalore, braving the turbulent weather and the devastated surface. There, he discovers not only that the air is breathable, but that they also aren’t alone. Native species of Mandalore still scurry about, some of which are highly aggressive and dangerous, such as the Alamites. However, Djarin finds he’s outmatched when he’s captured by a mysterious cyborg with horrifying intentions for him.
Grogu manages to escape and head back to Bo-Katan, who takes up arms to rescue Djarin. After successfully defeating the cyborg alien, she decides to accompany him to the location of the living waters, which gives a glimpse into the storied history of the Mandalorian people and their fractured culture. The episode ends on a failed cliffhanger after Djarin barely survives an attack by a gigantic underwater creature, which will doubtlessly get some screen time next week.
“The Mines of Mandalore” is a visual treat, and it’s the first time audiences get to see the planet in a non-animated form, which is a major plus. Set designs and visual effects are excellent, especially the haunting wide shot of a devastated Mandalorian city, which feels expansive, true-to-life and engaging. There’s a lot to see in the episode, even if does take place predominantly in the same area, with similar aesthetics.
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In terms of narrative, this is about as straightforward as the story gets. Din Djarin is a man on a mission, and his one track mind acts as the catalyst for the trouble he gets into. However, in so doing, he also brings Bo-Katan Kryze out of her emo girl funk long enough to get back into the swing of things. That’s a good thing, especially given how out of character she was in the last episode.
Personally, I was already quite certain that season 3 would tack up this anomaly somewhere along the line. It’s obvious that the showrunners intend to have Kryze stop feeling sorry for herself, and rally her forces. Her decision to accompany Djarin to the living waters is an opportunity for her to become re-immersed in her own culture, which she admits she did not fully appreciate as a child.
Also, seeing her wield the Darksaber in combat is obvious foreshadowing to something greater that is yet to come down the pipe. Perhaps she’ll find a way to acquire it, or perhaps she will ignore it completely, and forge a new path forward for her people. Either way, it seems Bo-Katan is destined to stick around for at least one more episode before parting ways, only to return somewhere in the penultimate or final episode. That’s just a hunch, but I’m sticking to it.
In essence, the episode is a clash between two cultures – Bo-Katan’s mainstreamed Mandalorian traditions, and Din Djarin’s radical cult ideology. Whether one wins out over the other remains to be seen.
Grogu, for his part, is more than just set dressing this time, which is a plus. His quick thinking allows him to slip away and bring help to save Djarin, who would certainly have perished without his actions. While this could be read as a convenient and lazy plot device, it could also be a sign that Grogu is moving beyond his infant stage, and taking his first steps forward. Even Peli Motto believes that he spoke his first word in the opening act of the episode, which suggests something is afoot.
As good as the episode is, it does hit a few snags. The back-and-forth to Tatooine and then Mandalore seems awfully weird. Why wouldn’t Djarin go to Tatooine first, try to acquire a memory chip, and then make the pit stop to visit Bo-Katan before visiting Mandalore? They’re both in the same neighborhood. That’s a minor gripe, but there are bigger ones, particularly related to how the episode is structured.
It’s obvious that the writers only have a finite amount of time to cram in the plot arcs necessary to generate a riveting story, but when there’s no exposition, rhyme or reason to it, things get odd real quick. The cyborg alien that captures Djarin is never given any backstory, and there’s no explanation as to why it’s even on a dead planet, leaving traps for Mandalorians all day long.
One shot shows a stack of Mandalorian helmets in the creature’s lair, suggesting he’s been at this game for quite some time, but that doesn’t make much sense, given that Mandalorians avoid the planet altogether. You’d be forgiven for thinking the creature was General Grievous outside of its hulking droid shell, as well, and the lack of any communication or backstory does it a great disservice.
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The pacing of the episode also goes rather haywire in the third act. Bo-Katan and Djarin manage to find the living waters, at which point the latter descends to wash away his sins, only to be dragged underneath by something large and menacing. The episode would have done better to cut to credits right there and provide a solid cliffhanger, but instead, Kryze jumps in after him to save his life a second time.
In fact, Djarin’s instincts seem to have waned considerably since his debut in season one, which suggests the writing team may have ulterior motives. Having Bo-Katan rescue him twice in one episode is not exactly a stellar look. Was it done to push a feminist narrative? Quite possibly, but it may simply be lazy writing. The first rescue seems entirely plausible, but the second feels tacked on and rather suspect. Bo-Katan saves Djarin an awful lot in this show.
“The Mines of Mandalore” is another great episode with a few cuts and bruises to show for it. It’s not best the show has to offer, but it’s certainly more tight and focused than some episodes are. With only eight to a season, the show needs to establish its main storyline by the end of episode three if it wants to patch together a meaningful end. That means the redemption arc feels a bit rushed, and there’s no real way to avoid that.
A better question is how Bo-Katan Kryze will fit into all of this, and whether her Mandalorians will rally around her at some point before the final episode. Then, the question becomes “to what end?”
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where season three is going at this point, which stands in stark contrast to the first two, both of which had a clearly defined plan. The season might be solid, but it feels as if it’s walking forward in pitch darkness without tripping on anything, through nothing but sheer luck.
Either way, it’s an entertaining, albeit fidgety episode tinted in copious amounts of Matrix green, with Mandalore itself taking center stage as the main star of the show. That alone is worth a watch, even if it’s a planet well past its glory days. What comes of this revelation remains to be seen, but so far, The Mandalorian season three is treading decent ground. It isn’t yet certain if it’ll reach the heights of season two, however. Those days might well be gone.
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- A live-action Mandalore is a sight to behold.
- Bo-Katan vs. the cyborg alien.
- A tighter, streamlined plot.
- Din Djarin's counterproductive travel itinerary.
- No backstory or logical reasoning behind the cyborg alien being on Mandalore.
- The episode robs itself of a good cliffhanger.