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‘The Mandalorian’ Season 3 Episode Eight Recap: “The Return”

Scene from Lucasfilm's THE MANDALORIAN, season three, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

*Warning: the following article contains spoilers for episode eight of The Mandalorian – Season 3*

After a relatively uneven season, The Mandalorian – Season 3 ends on a relatively high note. Most of the episode is a 42-minute action sequence, and it’s done terrifically well. The cinematography is stunning, the one-on-one fights between Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), and Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) are well choreographed, the aerial battles with Koska Reeves (Mercedes Varnado) and Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides) imbue classic Star Wars sensibilities, and the overall visual look of the episode is excellent.

One can easily forgive an episode of mindless action if the rest of the show was stronger than that. Unfortunately, this season has been more than lackluster. There were a couple of enjoyable episodes, to be sure, but it wasn’t on the same level as the first season’s level of quality, even if that was still uneven. The problem with The Mandalorian is that it wants to be two things simultaneously, which seem incompatible if they aren’t handled properly.

On one hand, it wants to tell a larger story and cohere all “filler” episodes into a giant payoff. It’s partly why a feature film that will culminate the Mando-verse has been announced at Star Wars Celebration. But on the other hand, it also wants to be an episodic Star Wars show, where we follow the adventures of a lone bounty hunter as he slowly peels the curtain behind the “larger story.” However, it’s far too episodic for the larger story to cohere itself and become engaging when the finale airs. Moff Gideon sounds like a great villain. Giancarlo Esposito is always a welcome presence on screen and seems to have tons of fun playing the role.

However, you’d be lying if you said the villain is one of the best in Star Wars history. He’s sparsely in the show and barely has a glimmer of an arc. He appears in the seventh episode of the first season with lightly developed motivations. It wouldn’t be a problem if Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni expanded upon Gideon in subsequent seasons, but they did not do it in seasons two and three. Because of this, audiences are now asking themselves where this is all going. I’ll tell you: nowhere. If you can’t properly pay off everything you’ve set up by the time the finale airs while insisting that this isn’t solely an episodic show, it’s guaranteed that you will lose audiences as the show continues. Some of my close friends who were huge fans of The Mandalorian Seasons One and Two are now asking themselves if it’s worth continuing in the world of Star Wars with shows like Ahsoka and Star Wars: Skeleton Crew.

I can’t blame them: if the shows aren’t leading to anything clear, then the audience will slowly check out. That’s what’s currently happening with the MCU. There were too many “solo” storylines in Phase Four that didn’t amount to anything by the time it ended. Now, with Phase Five, they quickly introduced Kang the Conqueror and the Council of Kangs to hopefully excite the audience for what’s coming up next (but with what’s currently happening with Jonathan Majors, their plans may change). Of course, some will say that modern-day audiences lack patience and want the “big crossover event” now. That may be true, and Phase Four of the MCU set up a significant amount of stuff in regard to events that will occur in Phases Five and Six. The same could be said for The Mandalorian.

However, the problem with The Mandalorian is that 90% of the episodes are pure episodic filler, intending to have these guest stars appear down the line without a clear goal. Sure, Grand Admiral Thrawn (Lars Mikkelsen) is coming to Ahsoka, but that seems to be it. With Marvel, we knew that Kang would be the big bad of The Multiverse Saga as soon as they introduced him in Loki. That’s where it’s leading to. With The Mandalorian timeline, we have no idea. And the finale of this season of The Mandalorian saw a rather fitting end for the show: The Mandalorians are reunited and have reclaimed Mandalore from Moff Gideon, who is [hopefully] dead (though we didn’t see a body), Din has taken Grogu as his apprentice where they settled in Nevarro.

That seems like a good way to end The Mandalorian. All of the loose plot threads have been resolved, and Din, Grogu, and the Mandalorians are happy, why continue? Of course, they will because Disney needs to make money, but they could do far more by spinning things off a bit instead of returning to a story that closed their chapters quite well. I’m curious to see what will come of Ahsoka, and hope that the future of Star Wars television will be brighter than whatever the hell season two of Star Wars: The Bad Batch and season three of The Mandalorian were.

All episodes of The Mandalorian – Season 3 are currently streaming on Disney+.

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Written by Maxance Vincent

Maxance Vincent is a freelance film and TV critic, and a recent graduate of a BFA in Film Studies at the Université de Montréal. He is currently finishing a specialization in Video Game Studies, focusing on the psychological effects regarding the critical discourse on violent video games.

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