Pedro Pascal is pop culture’s current-favorite surrogate daddy in search of absolution and redemption. On the heels of cementing that status with The Last of Us, he returns to his initial caregiver role in The Mandalorian’s third season, again pairing his lone warrior Din Djarin with beloved baby Yoda himself, Grogu. Sticking to the template that’s made it the best Star Wars work since Disney purchased the property from George Lucas, the series proves to be in fine form in its latest go-round—even if, at outset, it doesn’t bother explaining how it got from its Season 2 finale to its present point.
For those who need a refresher, when last we saw The Mandalorian, Grogu was heading off with digi-Luke Skywalker to be trained in the ways of the Jedi. That he’s back in the care of Din will thus be a surprise to anyone who didn’t watch the spin-off series The Book of Boba Fett, which reunited Din and Grogu during its closing episodes. But that fact is completely ignored here, to the point of not even making it into the “previously on” preface. To say this storytelling path is rocky would be a vast understatement, but creator/writer Jon Favreau barrels forward without giving it much apparent thought. Ultimately, it doesn’t significantly interfere with the ensuing proceedings, considering that they swiftly provide just about everything fans have coveted.
There are reunions aplenty in The Mandalorian, beginning with Din finding the Armorer (Emily Swallow), to inform her that he intends to seek forgiveness for the sin of removing his helmet in front of Grogu (a big no-no in Mandalorian culture). His atonement requires him to travel to their home world of Mandalore and, per tradition, bathe in the Living Waters beneath its mines. The Armorer reminds him that the planet is a cursed wasteland thanks to the Empire, but Din has an artifact that suggests otherwise. She therefore acquiesces to his plan—but only after Din saves the Armorer and her fellow Mandalorians from a titanic, alligator-like monster that’s interrupted a beach ceremony to induct a child into the ranks of their ancient clan.
From there, Din and Grogu head to Nevarro to reconnect with Greeg Karga (Carl Weathers), who’s now the High Magistrate and determined to transform the former lawless outpost into a respectable trade anchor and hyperlink port. Karga is happy to see his old pals and generously offers them a cozy home and lifestyle, only to learn that Din, having completed his prior mission with Grogu, has assumed a new personal one. To succeed in that endeavor, Din seeks IG-11 (Taika Waititi), the bounty-hunting droid from Season 1 now-memorialized on Nevarro with a statue. The robot is tailor-made to act as a scout capable of analyzing the toxicity (or lack thereof) on Mandalore.
As before, The Mandalorian’s stories strike a smart balance between familiar stomping grounds and recognizable faces, and fresh frontiers and foes. Din runs afoul of the latter on Nevarro in the figure of Vane (Marti Matulis), a scoundrel working for pirate king Gorian Shard (Nonso Anozie). Shard picks an unnecessary fight and, when he loses, gets typically bitter and vengeful about it. A subsequent aerial skirmish goes no better for the baddie and his boss, although the series suggests that both Vane and Shard will factor into Season 3’s forthcoming action – a welcome turn of events, since this saga is strongest when populating its adventure with diverse original heroes and villains.
At the same time, The Mandalorian recognizes that its bread and butter is alien adorableness. To that end, it features not only copious babbling and gurgling from Grogu but also an encounter between the Force-wielding tyke and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s diminutive, squinty tech whizzes, the Anzellans. Their appearance is fan service designed to tether the series to the larger Star Wars world, and if it amounts to little narrative-wise, it’ll likely prove to be additional grist for the meme mill.
When the Anzellans can’t fix IG-11 without a memory circuit board, Din and Grogu search for that component on Mos Eisley. Here marks an appearance from Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), who instead convinces them to take a cowardly R5-D4 droid that’ll do the trick. Off they then go to Mandalore, albeit not before first stopping in for a visit with Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), the former royal Mandalorian who laments her planet’s destruction and scoffs at Din’s superstitious, cult-like ethical code.
In the second episode (which premieres March 8), Din, Grogu, and R5-D4 make it to Mandalore, where they confront an array of creepy, well-designed organic and mechanical adversaries, and discover that much of Mandalorian lore may be true. The Mandalorian expands its universe through unique locations and incidents, as well as via the introduction of myths, rituals and legends that contextualize, and deepen, its present-day story. Like Din’s recurring mantra, these tales of yore make his odyssey feel like a small chapter in a bigger novel. That fable-like quality is amplified by Pascal’s stoic performance as a nomadic gunslinger committed to the old ways, despite a modern reality that seems to have little use for them.
At this point, The Mandalorian’s episodic plot formula and CGI-ified visuals—the latter courtesy of Lucasfilm and ILM’s impressive StageCraft technology—are equally sturdy, and Favreau continues to find ways to keep his hero and sidekick both united and moving forward. Moreover, he consistently sneaks in nods to other Star Wars efforts without turning the proceedings into a nerd-fest; those who recognize the purrgils as creatures from Star Wars Rebels can geek out, while others can simply accept them as intriguing facets of a grand fictional reality. In a manner superior to its most recent feature-film brethren, The Mandalorian tells a distinctive stand-alone genre affair that also feels spiritually and narratively linked to Lucas’ galaxy.
Staying true to the past while forging a promising future: For the better, this remains the way for The Mandalorian.
New episodes of The Mandalorian drop every Wednesday.