The first episode felt more like a summary of “The Book of Boba Fett” for the people who skipped it than anything new.
After a two-year absence, “The Mandalorian” is finally back with Chapter 17: The Apostate. (Okay, technically just a one year absence of Din Djarin and Chapter 20 if you count “The Book of Boba Fett.”) When we last saw Mando, he was in Mos Espa fighting back-to-back with Boba Fett against the Pyke Syndicate for control of the city, reuniting with the rancor-taming Grogu at the end of that episode.
It was surprising to see the reunion of Din and Grogu so soon after “The Mandalorian” Season 2 finale, as most of us assumed that would be the story of the entire third season. The plot twist in “The Book of Boba Fett” left things fairly open-ended for the pair, so this first episode of season 3 had a lot of heavy lifting to do in terms of exposition and moving the plot forward.
The episode begins with some beautiful imagery of The Armorer crafting a new, child-sized helmet. I personally loved the fact that the top half of the T-visor was larger than what we usually see for adult characters, matching the kids’ helmets you can find in stores that require that larger window for safety reasons.
At first, it seems to be a flashback; the child receiving the helmet during the ceremony looks as if he could be a younger version of Pedro Pascal. And then a “giant dinosaur turtle” as the subtitles call it appears to ruin the whole affair. The battle against the creature doesn’t go well for the Children of the Watch. But then, the signature sound of a recorder and the appearance of a silver N1 starfighter announces the arrival of an adult Din Djarin to save the day.
In the next scene, the Armorer is still extremely upset that Din removed his helmet to save his foundling son, as it goes against the tenets of the Children of the Watch’s religious beliefs. She reiterates what she said to Din during their meeting in “The Book of Boba Fett:” he is no longer Mandalorian.
The scene is obviously there to remind viewers of what will ostensibly be the plot of this season: Din is going to seek redemption by bathing in the Living Waters beneath the mines of Mandalore, a planet that everyone believes has been destroyed and poisoned by the Empire. I found it unnecessary, though, because it literally already happened in another series that was essentially “The Mandalorian” Season 2.5. We even saw pieces of what came before in the plot synopsis before the episode. Grogu toddling along making adorable sounds saved the scene for me.
We next see Grogu and Din in the N1 traveling through the blue of hyperspace, giving “Star Wars Rebels” fans some exciting crumbs. Grogu looks out the window to see a pod of purgills, the hyperspace-traveling whales that Ezra Bridger Force-connected with to get Grand Admiral Thrawn’s Seventh Fleet away from Lothal. We will probably be seeing a lot more of the purgills in “Ahsoka” coming up later this year as she searches for the missing Ezra and Thrawn. The music in this scene with its twinkling chimes and jazzy brass was the perfect accompaniment to Grogu’s wide-eyed inquisitive looks at the creatures.
They emerge from hyperspace to travel to Nevarro, where this story originally began. But the Nevarro of today is much different from the bleak lava fields of Nevarro then; there’s a bustling marketplace full of species of all types and a protocol droid promoting all of the great things about this “gem of the Outer rim.” There’s even a statue of IG-11, the bounty hunter droid who sacrificed himself to save Grogu in season 1. Magistrate Greef Karga is now High Magistrate Karga, wearing even more opulent robes than before with a cape that’s carried by two tiny droids.
Karga brings Mando and Grogu to his office, imploring them to settle down on Nevarro and live off the “fat of the land.” It seems Karga is still the opportunistic, kind of slimy guy who was previously head of the Bounty Hunters’ Guild, he just has a more respectable power now. Unfortunately, this scene, like the previous with The Armorer, is superfluous because the dialogue is solely designed to let the viewer know what happened in “The Book of
The Mandalorian Boba Fett.” And once again, Grogu steals the show by using the Force to swivel around on an office chair and grab what looks suspiciously like orange Reese’s Pieces. Luke would not be happy about this misuse of the Force.
They’re interrupted by a droid, played by droid-of-all-trades actor and friend of Boba Fett Fan Club Chris Bartlett, who says there are pirates in the courtyard that want to speak with Karga.
Mando and Karga are greeted by a gang of alien pirates led by a Nikto named Vane. It’s nice to see costumes from “The Book of Boba Fett” getting some reuse. Apparently, a former cantina the gang frequented has been cleaned up and transformed into a school, and they are not happy about it!
The lackeys of Pirate King Gorian Shard keep pressing the issue until Vane and Karga engage in an old-fashioned duel right in front of the school. Karga still has a quick draw and a message for Shard: Pirates are no longer welcome on Nevarro. When it looks like the other gang members are about to strike, Mando and Karga shoot them all, leaving Vane alive to tell Shard what happened. I’m not sure why they all needed to die, though, it seems like overkill. Grogu is going to be so scarred from this.
We then get the line we’ve all been waiting for since Gina Carano was fired: Cara Dune is no longer the marshall of Nevarro, having left to join the New Republic Special Forces, and we won’t be seeing her again! Karga really just needs a new marshall to keep the new Nevarro in line, but Din declines because he is BUSY, jeez.
So what is Mando here for? I was genuinely surprised when Din points to the statue of IG-11, saying he needs him back because he needs a droid he can trust to help him explore Mandalore. Din famously HATES droids, but IG-11 left a mark on him.
Unfortunately, IG-11 is not the droid Mando should have been looking for, because after a montage of Din trying to fix him, IG reverts back to his old programming and lunges at his previous quarry, The Child. Din protects Grogu, throwing him like a football to Karga (seems safe) before Karga’s droid hilariously smashes IG’s head using a bronze bust of Karga. Din then quips, “Now that’s using your head.” Look, fatherhood is a journey, and it includes throwing your child and making really bad Dad jokes.
My favorite scene of the episode comes as the trio meets with some droidsmith Anzellans (like Babu Frik, remember him?) to determine whether IG-11 can be fixed. How did Din get into the Anzellans’ tiny workshop? I don’t know, but the imagery of a big Mandalorian in full armor sitting cross-legged in a crawlspace will never leave me. The Anzellans say they’re going to need a new, hard-to-find memory circuit in order to bring IG back to life. Side quest: identified. Between Karga unhelpfully translating the perfectly intelligible Basic of the Anzellans and Grogu trying to squeeze one to death, that scene was Star Wars at its camp finest.
As Din and Grogu leave Nevarro, a cute father-son lesson in flying is interrupted by a battle with the dreaded Pirate King Gorian Shard’s men. We even catch a glimpse of Pirate King Gorian Shard himself (10/10 great name, I will not be shortening it for readers’ convenience), who is honestly just Swamp Thing in space. Our heroes escape, but this probably isn’t the last we will be seeing Pirate King Gorian Shard…
Finally, Mando and The Child arrive on Kalevala, another planet within the Mandalorian system. They enter a foreboding stone castle on a cliff to find former Mand’alor Bo-Katan Kryze sitting on a throne, alone. Apparently, because she returned to her crew without the Darksaber, they abandoned her to become mercenaries. It’s honestly pretty sad. Does Bo-Katan just spend her days depressed and looking forlornly out the window like an album cover? Honestly, relatable.
Bo has become bitter and jaded, telling Din she’s given up on retaking Mandalore and that he should do it himself because he has the Darksaber. Her dialogue highlights even more the tension we’ve seen between the Mandalorian society ruled by Duchess Satine Kryze in “The Clone Wars” and extremist factions like the Children of the Watch. Rather than coming together to create a new and prosperous Mandalore, the remaining Mandalorian people are captured instead by superstition, willing to follow only the person who has the Darksaber, rather than the person who could lead Mandalore back to greatness. In the end, Bo-Katan gives Din the information he was seeking: The Living Waters of Mandalore can be accessed by going beneath the civic center of Sundari, the capital city.
Din and Grogu leave Bo-Katan to wallow, and the episode ends.
The premiere episode’s highlights for me mainly came from Grogu being a rambunctious scamp and Din trying to figure out how to be a Dad. But it felt mostly like a lot of exposition crammed into 35 minutes for the people who didn’t bother to watch “The Book of Boba Fett.” We see familiar faces and places, which has become a calling card of “The Mandalorian,” but there was a lot more telling than showing in the episode.
I’m hoping that as the season gets going, we will see Din grappling with the religious values he’s held most of his life, spurred on by encountering Mandalorians who are vastly different from the ones with which he grew up. He desperately wants to belong in his old family, who has rejected him as an apostate, but Star Wars is all about found family, and I think Din will come to realize that as the season goes on.
My hypothesis is that this season will get into the rebuilding and politics of the Mandalorian society after the fall of the Empire. Din has the Darksaber, and that makes him the Mand’alor. He has previously indicated that it’s a role he wishes he didn’t have. Perhaps that will change as the season goes on and the Mandalorians are in danger because of an as-of-yet-unseen threat. Maybe Boba Fett will show up with his new leadership experience gained as the daimyo of Mos Espa to instead become the leader Mandalorians have wanted? After all, The Armorer said that the mythosaur would rise up to herald a new age of Mandalore, and who better to ride a mythosaur than the man himself? Anything to get Boba Fett his rightful two episodes we were denied in “Book.”
I’ll be back at the end of “The Mandalorian” season three to recap the finale and the season as a whole, and I’m looking forward to finding out if any of my hypotheses actually become plot points. Make sure to come back to Boba Fett Fan Club every week as my fellow contributors write their reviews on each episode.