The third season of The Mandalorian draws to a close, signaling the potential end of the series with a letdown episode tacked onto the back of a nosediving story. Though it started off strong, the entire thing came unraveled by the middle of the season, with no possible hope of changing trajectory. The result is a final episode that is rushed, disappointing and confusing.
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In truth, this was not the least bit surprising, especially given the counterproductive nature of every single Disney-led Star Wars show to date. What strong momentum The Mandalorian had in its first two seasons has since fizzled out, leaving the field wide open for bad writers to pen silly scripts that waste time, go nowhere, and take up space necessary to flesh out a proper story.
‘The Return’ is more of the same – an attempt to cram as much into the final episode in an effort to wrap things up in the hopes that the audience will buy it. It’s practically a note-for-note rehash of the final episode of The Book of Boba Fett, replete with the series’ main character once again getting sidelined in favor of another.
The main difference is that in The Book of Boba Fett, Din Djarin rescued the show whilst one-upping Boba Fett in the process, whereas here the bounty hunter gets replaced by Bo-Katan Kryze and the show craters because of it.
The episode picks up immediately in the aftermath of the Mandalorians’ return to their home planet Mandalore.
After discovering that Moff Gideon has since claimed squatters rights and is using the planet to build a new Imperial remnant army, the death of Paz Vizsla at the hands of the Praetorian Troopers, and the capture of Djarin, it’s up to Bo-Katan to rally the remaining forces against Gideon’s Beskar-armored Stormtroopers.
Meanwhile, managing to free himself with a little help from Grogu, Djarin and his companion pursue Gideon for a final battle, while Axe Woves manages to make it back to the fleet and rally the remaining Mandalorians to reinforce Bo-Katan’s ground team.
Once assembled, the two sides engage in a full-on shootout for all the marbles, while Djarin and Grogu square off against Gideon.
The final battle is a test of skill, tactics, and luck, with Bo-Katan, Djarin and Grogu all taking part in the final sequence of events.
Eventually, Gideon and his forces are seemingly defeated, in turn allowing the Mandalorians successfully reclaim their home world and Djarin and Grogu to finally get some much-needed R&R.
Unfortunately, like the past several episodes of the show, “The Return” has very little good to go on besides its visuals.
Yes, Moff Gideon’s presence is a welcome one, but even here, his charismatic villain persona is starting to border on the edge of caricature. He’s got a cool new suit of armor to be sure, but it still feels like a shark-jumping moment for the series.
The frantic battle between the Mandalorians and Stormtroopers is inventive and creative, but there are times when it borders on silly and/or implausible. Beskar-armored troopers were a neat idea, but when they can be felled from a distance with little-to-no trouble, it robs them of their menace.
And of course, it’s good to see Grogu actually contributing something to the show instead of simply filling the scenery. However, the manner of his participation in the final battle is absolutely ridiculous from start to finish.
In the final moments, he does save the day in a big way, but it comes out of nowhere with no buildup to speak of. Considering his Clone Wars-era flashback sequence earlier in the season, this entire plot twist feels like a massive missed opportunity to flesh out his character.
For every good part about “The Return,” there are caveats that stick out like giant warts. There’s no ‘win’ here; only a series of moves that end up in a stalemate each time.
The worst part of this final episode is how it felt the need to rush to a conclusion. I’ve remarked before on how the bookending of Star Wars TV shows means that unnecessary, garbage filler ends up packing the middle, leaving the writers no time to wrap up the final act.
By jettisoning the more ridiculous plot arcs of the season’s middle chunk, the buildup to a more satisfying end could have been achieved.
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Instead, things end as predictably as they first began. Djarin escapes his captors, Grogu’s new IG-12 suit fulfills its foreshadowed task, the Praetorian Guard are vanquished in predictable fashion, and Moff Gideon no doubt lives to fight another day. The entire subplot involving Gideon’s clones has now been wasted, including the whole idea of infusing them with Force powers.
Naturally, Bo-Katan Kryze continues to make The Mandalorian her show, and turns up in the final act to – wait for it – save Din Djarin’s hide for…what, the seventh or eighth time this season? There’s a brief moment in the first act of the episode where it seems as if Djarin is fighting like a competent Mandalorian warrior again, but he falls apart again the second he squares off against Gideon.
Speaking of, Bo-Katan must once again save the day by facing Gideon in a duel with the Darksaber in hand. Of course, this was all foreshadowed as far back as episode two of the season, but here, the fight ends with Gideon destroying the Darksaber outright – and in the process robbing Star Wars of one of its most important and influential weapons.
An interesting choice, given how much emphasis was put on the weapon in the first place. But, like all-things Mandalorian over the course of season three, pre-established canon and understanding goes out the window with shocking ease.
The writers have no clue what they’re doing, which means they’re fine tossing important plot points and devices into the dustbin – tacking up the broken narrative with masking tape and staples as needed – in order to keep things moving,
The worst part about “The Return” is how it fails to actually tie up any loose ends at all. There’s no big, satisfying payoff here.
Sure, The Mandalorians have taken back Mandalore and Djarin has learned that he must take Grogu on a series of journeys in order to prepare him for a rite of passage into his culture – the first of which apparently involves sitting on a porch on Nevarro while Grogu plays on the front lawn.
But meanwhile, entire plot arcs are abandoned, with no explanation as to why. Elia Kane’s reasons for flaying the mind of Dr. Pershing back in episode three are still a mystery, and her character is still running amok amok inside New Republic spheres of influence with no issue.
Is this a hint of things to come in either season four or the newly-announced Mandalorian movie? It doesn’t matter! Who cares? None of it is relevant, thanks to atrocious writing.
Like the other Star Wars TV shows that have fallen into the proverbial Sarlacc Pit over the last few years, The Mandalorian has now walked the same plank.
And with it goes Disney’s single-strongest Star Wars property to date, which means this thing is effectively overcooked to a charcoal slab. Disney is in some serious trouble, especially given the tanking ratings for this season.
The Mandalorian should have ended at the end of season two, but because LucasFilm couldn’t let go of Grogu’s merchandising appeal, the few remaining fans are left to drink dirty dish water in the form of an illogical and obtuse third season that ends by writing itself into a corner. With season three, Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have both proven that they can no longer helm Star Wars effectively, which is a huge turnaround from the days when they were considered the two most competent guys left in the company.
No wonder Disney has greenlit a bunch of new Star Wars projects set in different time periods in the franchise’s chronology. It’s a desperate bid to try and mine new territory that hasn’t already been exploited and cheapened by people who have no clue how to handle Star Wars.
Unfortunately, it also means that they’ll continue to trivialize and destroy whatever fertile ground is left.
There’s no reason to watch “The Return,” or the third season of The Mandalorian as a whole. If you haven’t tuned in yet, don’t bother with this particular turkey. Let The Mandalorian die in the same pit as The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Andor.
Disney will keep resuscitating their corpses in desperation, but all it will do is give us more reason to bash the cheap writing, incompetent direction and total lack of vision over at LucasFilm.
NEXT: ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 3, Episode 7: “The Spies” Review
- Visuals. Yes, they're pretty. Not much else to say.
- Grogu actually does something.
- The story races to the finish, instead of fleshing out the final battle.
- Every plot arc ends predictably, with absolutely no payoff.
- More lore-destroying plot twists penned by incompetent scribes.