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Star Wars Show in Its Flop Era

Season 3 of the Star Wars series The Mandalorian has begun, meaning that the galaxy’s favorite bounty hunter/adoptive dad and his adorable son are back: As set up by the end of The Book of Boba Fett, the Mandalorian known as Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and young Grogu (still feels weird to call him that) have been reunited, with Din now committing to full-time parenting of his smol but powerful son.

Din does have another mission, though — having removed his helmet in front of other people back in the Mandalorian Season 2 finale, he’s been officially designated an “apostate” by his religious order (the season premiere just so happens to be titled “Chapter 17: The Apostate”). The only way to get back in good standing is, according to Din’s old acquaintance the Armorer (Emily Swallow), to swim in the living waters beneath the mines of Mandalore, and so that’s just what Din’s going to do — despite the fact that as far as anyone knows, the planet in question’s been bombed to hell. As we’ve seen in the past, though, Din’s a pretty determined guy…

Without getting into spoilers, the first two episodes provided to critics reflect a troubling start to the Emmy-nominated series’ return, primarily because they reveal the flaws often lurking beneath the storytelling. Both episodes feature the same creature fun and space hijinks that are Star Wars signatures. Unfortunately, what they lack is the momentum of the previous two seasons, as Din Djarin’s quest to restore his status as a true Mandalorian is… not exactly a quest as urgent as “save Baby Yoda from Giancarlo Esposito!”

It’s not that The Mandalorian was ever a very plot-heavy show — as led by executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, it’s a series that loves its interludes, whether it be an episode where a small village defeats a relic of the Empire, or an episode where Din ferries a frog lady and her eggs to a new home. But while the first two episodes of Season 3 do introduce some potentially key plot threads, moments destined to be included in a future “Previously on The Mandalorian…” the focus of the story thus far is on this aforementioned pilgrimage.

A character’s motivation is a pretty fundamental building block of storytelling, so perhaps it’s a bad sign that as Din goes on his single-minded quest to atone for the sin of taking off his helmet, every other character tells him he’s being ridiculous.

Religious devotion can work as motivation, of course. Have you heard of this book called The Bible? There are a few examples there. However, we’re talking about a space religion about which the casual viewer may know very little; certainly not any more than what’s been explained in the show, which is not much.

The Mandalorian (Disney+)

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