The Mandalorian review: Season three begins big and bold with astounding visual effects

The Star Wars spin-off returns, with the chemistry between Din Djarin and Grogu, aka Baby Yoda, as strong as ever

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The crown jewel in the Star Wars television franchise, The Mandalorian is back for its third season, and it’s as sparkling as ever.

While the recent Andor made great strides in showing how to make an adult-skewed Star Wars show, there’s nothing quite like watching the chemistry of Pedro Pascal as the helmeted Mandalorian warrior Din Djarin and Grogu, aka Baby Yoda.

The end of season two was a triumphant jaw-dropper, as a certain Jedi Knight returned to the Star Wars universe, taking Grogu away for training. After that, Din Djarin and Grogu reunited in the slight misfire The Book of Boba Fett, hijacking the second half of the series.

The opening recap of The Mandalorian season three reminds us that Djarin is now in exile after removing his helmet, breaking the Mandalorian code. To be redeemed, he must travel to Mandalore and bathe in the living waters beneath the planet’s mines.

But these are said to have been destroyed in the Great Purge, when the Galactic Empire swept in and committed a horrifying genocide. Since then, Mandalore has been “ravaged, plundered and poisoned”, we learn, but that won’t stop Djarin in his quest.

Directed by Rick Famuyiwa, episode one of season three truly starts as it means to go on. A young boy is inducted into the life of a Mandalorian warrior in a ceremony beside tranquil water. At least until a huge alligator-like beast leaps from the water, attacking all and sundry. It’s a fantastic scene — big, bold and a perfect blend of live action and astounding visual effects. Exactly what The Mandalorian does well.

By the opening credits, you’ll already be hooked right back into these interplanetary adventures.

Even though we’ve recently seen Pascal in HBO’s The Last of Us, in another story of a protector of a young charge, it doesn’t diminish the relationship he has with Grogu, which remains the show’s heart. Once again, one of the major pleasures of The Mandalorian is watching Grogu simply just be.

The puppetry of the green-skinned creature remains utterly charming, and Famuyiwa gives us real moments of beauty. Like in the scene where Djarin and Grogu are travelling in his vessel through hyperspace, and Grogu gazes up in wonder at the blue colours that streak past him.

The Mandalorian season 3 episode 1

Director: Rick Famuyiwa

Stars: Pedro Pascal and Katee Sackhoff

Rating: 4/5 

The show never lets us forget that Grogu is a child still (The Child, in fact). He's swivelling in a chair, then using his growing Force powers to pull a sweet from a bowl. Later, he’s trying to hug a droidsmith like its a pet, in a so-cute-you’ll-melt moment.

It’s another thing this episode does well, reintroducing familiar species. The droidsmiths belong to the Anzellan species, like the diminutive Babu Frik, introduced in 2019’s Episode IX, The Rise of Skywalker. You’ll also see Kowakian monkey lizards hanging from trees, reminding us of Salacious B Crumb, Jabba the Hutt’s excitable pet glimpsed in 1983’s Return of the Jedi.

There are also some old faces, too, as Carl Weathers’ character Greef Karga makes a return (now High Magistrate Karga, as he keeps reminding people) when Djarin takes a trip to Nevarro.

“A lot has changed around here,” remarks Pascal’s character, and Karga seems surprised that he’s still with Grogu, long after completing his mission. There’s also an appearance by IG-11, the killer droid, who has a particularly creepy moment of robotic malfunction. Katee Sackhoff is also back as the sardonic Bo-Katan, draped over her throne and telling Djarin “to go home – there’s nothing left.”

Scripted by Jon Favreau, the episode also doesn’t forget that this show is primarily a western, with Djarin facing more than one encounter with space pirates. The action is fast-flowing, packing in a tremendous amount across 35 minutes. With the tantalising prospect of Djarin visiting his devastated home planet to come, this season looks like it’ll be another sublime experience for Star Wars fans.

As they say in the show: “This is the way.”

New episodes of The Mandalorian season three will be released every Wednesday on Disney+

Updated: March 02, 2023, 3:27 PM
The Mandalorian season 3 episode 1

Director: Rick Famuyiwa

Stars: Pedro Pascal and Katee Sackhoff

Rating: 4/5