Rick Famuyiwa returns from last week’s episode of The Mandalorian to direct the season three finale. And it was fine. Wasn’t bad by any means, was a fun, action-packed way to close out the third season, but it was a far cry from the superb season two finale. Let’s dive into why.
Chapter 24, dubbed The Return, picks up right where we left off last week, with Bo on the run and Din in captivity. I wrote that I was concerned that one of these two would get it, but I shouldn’t have been worried. Din escaped (with the help of Grogu) pretty quickly and Bo was able to flee the base with the rest of the Mandalorians to a lush cave to retreat and recover. This sense of ease persists throughout the episode, I didn’t feel a sense of urgency, risk or danger. Everything felt fairly convenient and easy. Even R5 got it pretty easy, the fearful droid got mobbed by a few Mouse Droids, hardly something to raise some pulses. If the initial droid went to get a trooper and R5 had to outwit said guard, which would’ve resulted in him finding his courage, I think the scene would’ve played better. I think it was played for laughs, but I don’t know, it didn’t land for me.
The episode was heavy on the action this week. There were some memorable and notable camera rigs this week, getting us up close with the Mandos as they flew through the base. I liked the set-up where it felt like the camera was on the jetpack of a Mandalorian. Crank zooms also showed off a sense of scale while the hand-to-hand combat felt tight and entertaining. A sequence involving an aerial jetpack battle was pretty great, with the Armorer channeling her inner Thor, smacking troopers around with her hammers. Since it was action-heavy, I can’t help but think this episode should’ve just aired with last week’s episode as an extended finale, which would’ve opened the door for an additional episode of must-needed narrative development. This week’s episode was just over thirty minutes excluding credits and shorter runtimes have been a common criticism of this show from myself and fans alike.
The reveal that Gideon was cloning himself should’ve been a big deal, but it was dealt with so quickly that we barely had time to register it, let alone care. Din destroys all the clones moments after we learn about the clones, making me wonder why bother even reveal them. What was the narrative benefit?. Again, no tension, and no stakes. The same can be said for Bo versus Gideon or Din versus the Praetorian guards. I didn’t feel like anyone was in danger, so I didn’t feel as engaged. Last week I felt certain that either Din or Bo-Katan would die saving the other, but I quickly felt that fear fade away. The season two finale saw our heroes with their backs against the wall with no way out, but here I’m not even sure the red shirts got it. Seriously, I’m pretty sure no one on team Bo got it save the Darksaber, which Gideon crushed, which ouf, I’m not sure about that one. Less because of the act but because it felt empty, consequence-free. I get that the Mandalorians are growing beyond “the ways” that define them, but I would’ve liked to see them say they don’t need the saber and what it symbolizes considering characters like Axe making a big deal about it only two episodes ago.
The Return concluded with Gideon dead, his base destroyed and Bo and company reclaiming Mandalore. IG-11 is restored and Din gets a cozy little homestead to return to as he and his new apprentice, Din Grogu, will use it as a base of operation as they return to adventuring the galaxy. I did like Din formally adopted Grogu, the little guy looked so happy during the ceremony. It felt very rewarding. But all this felt, once again, easy.
Side note but just who was the other spy from last week’s episode titled The Spies? I theorized (along with seemingly every other YouTuber) that the Armorer was going to be Rook Kast, the other spy working for Gideon but this turned out to be false, so I’m left wondering why to pluralize the word “spy”. Strange choice in hindsight. Making the Armorer an Imperial Spy at this point, without a seed being planted for season four, would be misplaced.
Season three felt like a bit of a letdown. It was fine, but it just wasn’t as good as what came before. Maybe focusing too much on the set-up for Filoni’s movie hurt the season, along with major character moments being undone in The Book of Boba Fett. It also suffered narratively, with too many threads and a lack of clear direction for most of the season. As soon as that direction became clear, the show opted for a side quest in the sixth episode that failed to push the plot forward save for the final few minutes, making that resolution feel tacked on.
The season also had quite a few random action sequences, like the dragon chase episode, which felt like action for the sake of action rather than action bound by narrative. The strongest episodes of the season were episode two and episode seven because they emphasized character. Episode three was interesting but wildly out of place, which would’ve benefitted as a one-shot special akin to Marvel’s Werewolf by Night. While Din was kinda sidelined this season, I did like Bo-Katan’s arc, but I feel I benefitted from it more thanks to having watched The Clone Wars and Rebels. I’m not sure this season would hit as hard for those less familiar with the character, I’d be interested to get your take so feel free to comment. Season three had its moments, but of the three seasons to date, it comes out as a bit of an outlier. Hopefully, the fourth season of Mandalorian brings it back to its roots.