I have never felt more intensely attached to a character than when I watched The Mandalorian for the first time. Not attached to the Mandalorian, the titular character and intended central protagonist played by Pedro Pascal. Not to any villain, comedic side character or even a character with intelligible lines. No, it was to the real star of the show: Grogu, also known as Baby Yoda.
If I could watch a montage of just Grogu being his overwhelmingly adorable, gurgling self, I would. It’s honestly unhealthy how emotionally invested I am in his story arc. I’ll admit that I’m a little biased when it comes to The Mandalorian because, as long as Grogu makes an appearance, I love it. I would probably still love it even if its plot and storylines were terrible.
Luckily, The Mandalorian happens to have a great plotline in addition to sporadic cuteness overloads. As a quick recap, The Mandalorian on Disney+ is an extension of the Star Wars universe centered around tough bounty hunter Din Djarin, dubbed the Mandalorian for his faith in the Way of the Mandalore and for his signature Mandalorian helmet, which he never removes in observance of this religion. However, as the series progresses, Din and Grogu become closer and, when Grogu’s life is threatened, Din is forced to choose between his faith and rescuing him.
The first episode of season three, “Chapter 17: The Apostate,” was released on March 1. The episode is centered around Din facing exile from the Way of the Mandalore for removing his helmet to save Grogu. Not accepting his punishment, Din and Grogu set off on a quest to the mythical Living Waters under the mines of Mandalore to absolve him of his transgressions.
This episode is interesting because it’s not necessarily the most action-packed. In the style of the previous seasons of The Mandalorian, it begins slowly, steadily building tension and introducing the major players. By the end of the episode, we have a clear sense of Din and Grogu’s mission and see his potential allies, including returning reformed bounty-hunter leader Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) and Mandalore leader Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff).
However, the major villain from the last season, Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), seems to have exited the scene, leaving a gaping hole in his absence. Except for a few mercenaries and a giant crocodile creature, Din and Grogu don’t face a lot of opposition, so it’s not clear who will be stepping up to be the major evil lead in the coming season.
Part of me likes that the future of the season has been left so open-ended and uncertain, but I did crave some sort of shadowy figure lurking in the background. Star Wars villains are just so legendary, from Darth Vader to the Emperor to Darth Maul. I found myself wanting some hint as to who the next person to don an oversized, black cloak will be.
I also like that this plot delves deeper than the more superficial lightsaber and blaster-filled battle sequences (which are also cool, don’t get me wrong). Building off previous seasons, this episode continues the intra-faith tension between Din’s religious practices and Bo-Katan’s more progressive outlook. It also addresses how Mandalore and the old ways have been plundered and polluted by outside invaders.
But maybe the best part of this episode was the continuation of Din and Grogu’s father-son relationship. On the outside, it seems kind of weird to say a puppet and a masked man have adopted-family energy, but they do. Even though this relationship has led to Din’s exile, there is no apparent resentment or rifts between the two. Din is a believable parent wanting and willing to make the sacrifices needed to save his child.
All in all, I am excited to see where this season leads; this episode is a promising start.
Disney+ is releasing one episode every Wednesday to stream on their platform.
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