I went into tonight’s third-season finale of The Mandalorian both wanting and expecting a lot of things, and I don’t think I got that many of them. And yet, I can’t really come up with a good reason why I should feel as unsatisfied as I do.
“Chapter 24 – The Return” certainly tidies up many of the plot threads that season three of the smash-hit Disney+ live-action Star Wars series set up during its eight-episode run, but at the same time it delivered much more action than information. And maybe that’s why I walked away from my first time watching this finale with something of a hollow feeling in my gut.
“The Return” picks up where the previous episode, “The Spies” (I still don’t understand that title, as its plurality was not addressed whatsoever this week, despite many fans– including myself– assuming it would be) left off: with Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) and her Mandalorian allies battling the force of Imperial warlord Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) in his secret base on the planet Mandalore. There’s some great-looking fight choreography between the Mandos and Gideon’s beskar-armored jet-troopers, and then we check in on a captive Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), who quickly breaks free and declares that Gideon must die or his and Grogu’s struggles will never end. It’s a frustrating way to immediately undo one of last week’s cliffhangers, but this episode seems to be more about cleanup than payoff. Din puts R5-D4 into action remotely helping them break into Gideon’s command center but not before battling more troopers and taking out a dozen or so pods full of Gideon clones– in the episode’s only big reveal, we get confirmation that the Moff was indeed attempting to give himself Force powers using Dr. Pershing’s research.
Meanwhile, Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides) jetpacks up to the Mandalorian fleet in orbit around the planet and calls down reinforcements to help in the battle, while he himself pilots the flagship down toward the Imperial base, kamikaze-style. On the surface, Bo-Katan is shown a garden of plants growing in an underground cave– I’m gonna have to watch this episode again just to figure out what the point of this scene was, I guess to show that repopulating Mandalore won’t be as difficult as once suspected?– and Grogu proves his mettle by going up against the Praetorian Guards that took out poor Paz Vizsla last week. There’s a bunch more action, both Din and Bo fight Gideon to varying levels of success, and eventually the base blows up from the crashing Light Cruiser, with Grogu ultimately saving himself and his friends from certain death by creating a protective bubble with the Force. This is all fine, story-wise, but it also feels a little rushed and lacking any real threat or complications along the way, almost like the powers that be at The Mandalorian just kinda wanted to get this season over with. Anyway, the denouement sees Bo-Katan and the Armorer (Emily Swallow) working together to settle Mandalore again– I guess all those theories are out the window– and Din officially adopting Grogu as his son and apprentice.
Then our heroes travel to Adelphi Base to meet with Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) to pitch the idea of working as bounty hunters for the New Republic, while also grabbing a discarded assassin-droid head from the bar while they’re there. Next it’s off to Nevarro, where Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) bestows Din Djarin and Din Grogu– yep, that’s what we’re calling him now– with a nice little homestead, and in exchange IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi) returns as the much-needed new marshal of the planet. This is what I mean about everything just feeling a little too tidy, like I kept waiting for another shoe to drop, though it never did. There was no tease for Star Wars: Ahsoka, no hint of a second season of The Book of Boba Fett, and no mention of Thrawn at all, even after last week seemed to set up a conflict between Gideon and the Grand Admiral. I think “underwhelming” might be a good word to describe “The Return” as a finale and The Mandalorian season three as a whole. It’s definitely the most uneven batch of episodes that the series has delivered so far, but at the same time it took some daring chances in the middle of the season that I actually admire quite a bit, even if they weren’t always home runs. What bugs me most about the finale is the opposite of that: in packing everything away in neat little boxes it comes across as by-the-numbers and safe, instead of new and exciting like the best hours of this show– including last week’s episode– have been. At the end of season two I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, and here I’ll just kind of shrug my shoulders, turning my attention toward Ahsoka.
All three seasons of The Mandalorian are now streaming in their entirety, exclusively via Disney+.