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The Mandalorian

The Return (The Mandalorian - S03E08) - Live Action Series

Series: The Mandalorian

Title: Chapter 24 - The Return

Season: Three

Episode: 8

Original Air Date: April 19th, 2023

Runtime: 37 minutes

Credits: Review & Text: Thomas; Page layout & Design: Chuck Paskovics

Discuss the latest Chapter! (Discussion)

"No! No! No! No! No!" SPOILERS.

No! No! No! No!

If the season 3 finale of The Mandalorian proves anything then it's this: it is a simple show about simple fun and all those people who went to M Night Shyalaman's Sunday School of Script Writing fell into the same trap. People greatly overanalyze a show that is about smashing action figures together while making pew pew sounds.

Wait... the Empire DOES have motion trackers and security systems after all????????

People leaped to wild conclusions over last episode's title "The Spies", when it merely used the word in the meaning of "Scouts" and thus referring to the Mandalorian vanguard scouting the planet. People were so convinced the Armorer must by a spy and traitor now, just because her helmet also has small horns, just like Gideon's helmet, even if horns on Mandalorian helmets are nothing all new. Anyway, in the end no one was a spy or traitor, not even Axe Woves. No hero dies. Neither Din nor Bo. And Boba Fett is still the most benevolent and peaceful crimelord of the galaxy, and a peaceful person like him would have none of this carnage, so he's absent and never shows up. So much for fan theories...

Axe Woves won't throw the entire senate at Gideon, but at least a light Imperial cruiser

I hope this is a cautionary tale for wannabe pundits: never overthink a simple show about simple things that is usually pretty straightforward and is about old school fun. Ok, but how was the finale, does it make up for an overall pretty lackluster season? Well, the finale, the final two episodes really, certainly were lots of fun. Mindless fun. But fun. There are so many shootouts, duels and other action scenes that almost no one will probably ever feel bored. The only thing missing really is a plot, now a few important things do happen, but those story moments are very, very short and almost the entire (very short) episode is mostly about smashing action figures together.

Mandalorian repack with Mandotrooper jetpack incoming in 3... 2... 1...

Actually, The Mandalorian once more proves it is a true successor to all those 1930s and 1940s serials when the cliffhanger from last episode, you may remember that Din Djarin was captured, gets resolved almost immediately in the next episode. Zorro will not be unmasked after all... in fact Din manages to free himself of his captors right at the start of the episode. But when the troopers give him a hard time, Din has no weapons, Gundam Suit Grogu aka Metal Gear Grogu appears out of nowhere, it seems he did not stay with Bo and instead went looking for his daddy. And Grogu tips the scale with his walking IG zombie.

The true hero of the Star Wars saga 

What follows is a colorful pastiche of action scenes... so let me summarize... Din wants to find Moff Gideon to end the craziness once and for all. Meanwhile Axe Woves successfully manages to fly up to the stratosphere where he boards the Imperial cruiser which is meant to be used as a decoy, so the Mandalorians can use the other ships to escape and regroup, while Gideon's fleet attacks the cruiser. And while Woves flew back up to the ship for a long, long time I thought to myself... wasn't it a big point in the space kaiju that eats children episode that the Mando jetpacks ran out of fuel after what felt like 5 seconds and thus they could not pursue the critter? This proves it once more... Star Wars should never ever be about running out of fuel, one would think The Last Jedi would be a cautionary tale here. Anyway, Axe has apparently all the fuel the script requires him to have and he can fly the extremely long way back up to the ship...

No Snoke after all... just more Gideons

Bo-Katan meanwhile is lead to an oasis where plant life thrives, proving that Mandalore is not as dead as it's believed to be. But we have no time for contemplation, because the Armorer joins Bo with the Mandalorians who escaped from the Imperial ambush in low orbit and together they want to defeat the Imperial remnant on Mandalore once and for all.

The woman who brings smithing tools to a gunfight...

We also get some comedy and humor in the episode. Din tells a very reluctant R5 that he has to infiltrate the facility so he can access the plans of the compound and tell Din where the command center is. We then see how R5 - very carefully - infiltrates the compound, but a mouse droid spies (see, what I did there? ha ha) him, but R5 shoos him off. Only for a small army of mouse droids to return who then harass R5 quite ineffectually... they just bump into his frame blinking their cute police lights. R5 simply flies away after relaying the info to Din and disabling several laser barriers, so Mando can take out all the Mandotroopers. R5 will live to be a careful and reluctant hero yet another day! We also learn in this episode that for some weird reason Gideon's compound does have a security system with motion trackers. Gideon knows exactly where Din and Grogu are. Now I need to ask... is this a very new thing? Why would a super evil Empire not have this tech at some of its most secret facilities... like... say... the Inquisitor HQ? Or the Death Star? Or... anything really? Ok, let's not overthink it... it's Star Wars... dumb and fun. Ok, moving on...

The sequeltorians spy (giggle) a new victim... Grogu

Din and Grogu make it to the command center after getting the directions from R5 and Din tells Grogu to stay back. He encounters Gideon and they fight for a bit but Din hardly makes a dent into Gideon's all Beskar armor. And then Gideon is joined by his three Praetorians who gang up on Din and wound him. But then they spot Grogu and go after him, the door is shut and Gideon now fights Din. Now what will three adult Praetorians do to a mere toddler? It turns out the Praetorians are no match really... ok, they do eventually manage to pin down Grogu underneath some rubble, after he evaded them quite for some time.

Take that... and this... and that.... and now they are all dead!

But before Grogu can get sliced and diced Din joins the fight and the two manage to defeat the three guards. And it's a joint effort between Din's weapons and Grogu's use of the Force, it seems he's become pretty great at it, he can even stop melee weapons midair now. And Din could only go after the Praetorians because after battling their way back in the compound, and yes, the Armorer actually pommeled some troopers midair with her smithing tools, Bo separates from the main force and goes to find Gideon, she arrives in time for Din to go after the Praetorians while Gideon and Bo duel it out.

Bo-Katan and Gideon find out who the better melee fighter is

It turns out Gideon in his beskar armor is quite the match for Bo-Katan. Earlier in the episode we also finally found out what his cloning project is all about. Sequel haters can breathe a sigh of relief (for now), it was not about Snoke after all... no, in true megalomaniac fashion he merely wanted to create a force sensitive clone of himself, which is why he needed Grogu's midichlorians (Pershing extracted them in season one from Grogu). Chances are that Gideon was also looking into giving himself force powers. But even without them he turns out to be too much for Bo-Katan.

Mandalorians are more than their trinkets after all...

Actually, Moff Gideon manages to crush the darksaber with his mere fist, destroying the coveted weapon. He mocks Bo that Mandalorians are nothing without their trinkets. But of course he's wrong. Also, Axe Woves is still very busy steering the Imperial cruiser right into the gap that leads straight into the compound. It is burning like a meteor after the attack by the TIEs, but all it needs to do is come crashing down in one specific spot. And as Gideon is about to finish off Bo-Katan he gets distracted by Din and Grogu who join the fight. Gideon then pommels Din with blaster fire and Bo protects her future husband with her cute energy shild that is the size of a dinner plate... but somehow it works. Axe Woves meanwhile has left the ship through the cockpit window, he's not suicidal after all, and the cruiser happens to crash into the compound just as Bo is protecting Din from blaster fire.

Gideon will certainly return with a bad case of sunburn

Gideon gets engulfed by the fiery explosion and we are meant to believe that he may be dead, perhaps... but this being Star Wars and the fact that we never actually see a crispy body it's all but guaranteed that Gideon will return. Either with a bad sunburn or maybe Gideon was smart and had more than one super secret cloning facility, some backup plan with a backup clone somewhere. Anyway, I am not convinced that was the last we ever saw of Gideon.

The perfect patchwork family: future Mrs Djarin is amazed at Grogu's force powers! Now if only Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor had had their own cute Grogu pet! They would still be alive!

But what about our heroes? A fiery explosion is, well, quite fiery after all... but fear not... Grogu has it! Bo's cute shield would be no use of course, but Grogu forms a protective bubble around his daddy and (future) mommy and no harm comes to them! Now who wouldn't want to have a force sensitive toddler? The day is saved! Gideon is slightly inconvenienced for a while, Mandalore has been rid of pesky Imperials, and not even one hero died. Other than Paz Vizsla, But his offspring becomes a proper Mandalorian in a ceremony and thus clan Vizsla lives on to die on yet another day in the future.

Bo-Katan reignited the forge. Mandalore is reclaimed!

What follows are several codas to tie up some loose ends... Ragnar the Unlucky, the son of Paz Vizsla, is baptized. Din wants Grogu to take the creed as well, but the Armorer remarks that Grogu can't talk and thus can't recite the creed. But as usual there is a loophole. Because a parent could pledge for their child, so Din officialy adopts Grogu (no papers necessary, this is Star Wars) and Grogu no longer is Din's foundling but adoptive son now and thus bcomes his apprentice (is having an apprentice with force powers a wise idea in Star Wars? Asking for a friend...). And because we need a season 4 that is not about Bo-Katan, Din and Grogu playing house on Mandalore the Armorer comes up with a random BS rule out of the blue and proclaims that Grogu, as an apprentice, must now roam the galaxy. How convenient we have this rule! Which means Din gets to do his weekly random adventure of the week going forward! For some reason it also means Din can't have his home base on Mandalore... probably just a ploy by the Armorer who is jealous of Din and Bo. Ok, I am kidding. Or AM I???

Oh look... IG-11 is back from the dead... of course he is! It's Star Wars! Where death is not even an inconvenience anymore! Get ready for the lousy Hasbro repaint in 3... 2... 1...

What else... now that Din Djarin needs a proper job again he flies to the New Republic outpost where he has a chat with Carson Treva. He offers his services as an independent contractor who will do things for the New Republic - inofficially. Treva tells Din that the New Republic would never support this, but Din quips that this is exactly why Treva will never tell them about their arrangement. Oh, and then Din spots an old IG droid head as deco at the bar. he asks for it and takes it with him.

The little house on the prairie...

Back on Mandalore the Armorer hands a torch to Bo-Katan who reignites the forge. For now they seem to be cool with her not having the darksaber. We cut away to a shot of the Mythosaur chilling out in the lake. Bo did not ride it into battle in this episode... I suppose we will see that when she tramples Thrawn or so in the movie. Din Djarin meanwhile travels back to Nevarro, accepts the deal offered by Greef Karga, so Din gets his own little house outside of town and gets to live on Nevarro with his new adoptive son. And Din also comes bearing gifts. The old IG droid head allowed the Babu Friks to restore IG-11 (how that works with all new memory banks I have no idea, but this is not science fiction, it's Star Wars) and this newly restored IG-11 with a differently colored chest piece (Hasbro probably asked Favreau to write as many potential repaints and repacks as possible into the finale) becomes the new town marshall. Because an assassin droid is just perfect for the job! And the episode ends with Din relaxing on his porch while Grogu is torturing poor little frogs with his force powers. Now the only thing missing is a loving wife... and I wonder why Din is not allowed to have a home base on Mandalore when he can have a home base on Nevarro? Now Nevarro is certainly a much nicer place, but still, the whole "you must now travel the galaxy with your apprentice" rule the Armorer pulled out of her lovely rear end is extremely convenient for the series.           

Well... so can the season finale save the season? Not really. Sure the finale was big dumb fun and it never was boring. There was lots of action but if you look behind the curtain you can tell that The Mandalorian is very lightweight. Now that must not be bad, in fact, not everything should be grimdark and serious and lighthearted entertainment is sorely needed. So when The Mandalorian is all about happy endings and mindless fun that is not a criticism, it is a statement though. You simply must not overthink things here. Like the Empire suddenly having motion trackers. Or a tiny baby outsmarting three seasoned Praetorian guards. Or how the entire plan revolves around throwing an entire fleet at Moff Gideon's head. Or how the Armorer flies into battle with smithing tools as her weapons of choice. So it's all good fun. But also always bordering a bit on silly. And at times the series falls on the wrong side of silly or dumb.

Overall season 3 was a very mixed bag for me. I think that only three episodes were actually good, episodes 2, 7 and 8. With everything else either very average, very weird or outright annoying and stupid. And even though Din and Grogu received some miniscule character development in the final few minutes it can't conceal the fact that the alleged main character of the show had no character arc to speak of. This season was all about Bo-Katan.

Also, we never got a single unmasking scene, which speaks volumes. Pedro must have been so busy with Last of Us that he did not have time even for a day or so to be on set for an emotional unmasking scene in the finale. Maybe when he adopts Grogu or so. Or when Grogu tries to spray a liquid on his face after Din was getting roasted by a flamethrower. This really needs to change again in season 4. Din really should not be this helmet character all the time, this feels like a regression compared to seasons 1 and 2. Either convince Pedro to be on set at least for a few days each season... or just fire him and use someone else. In this episode it was mostly Lateef Crowder in the suit anyway, because of all the stunts. With Brendan Wayne in the suit in all the character moments.

All in all I am somewhat disappointed with season 3. It zigzagged, had some horrible guest stars that have no place in Star Wars and it gets even worse when you consider the fact that only 7 out of the 8 pretty short episodes were actually about Din Djarin and Bo-Katan, with 40 minutes worth of material wasted on a Pershing subplot that was not needed at all, not like that. It should have served as the b plot for several episodes, cut down to 15 minutes perhaps, nothing more was needed here.

Jon Favreau should really abandon these weird segues. In Book of Boba Fett it kind of worked because the shoehorned Mandalorian episodes were quite good. But the Pershing episode was about a second tier character, someone who had maybe 5 minutes of screentime before and didn't need or deserve the spotlight for an entire episode. The New Republic worldbuilding was not bad, but the execution was just plain weird.

What else... it must not be a negative thing that Din, as a character, is going mostly nowhere... he started as a bounty hunter... and in season 4 he will once more be a bounty hunter... just like Zorro is always Zorro. The Mandalorian is not a character driven drama. It's all about the journey, the fun and smashing action figures together. But that formula only really worked in seasons 1 and 2, season 3 strayed from the formula and while Bo-Katan is a good addition to the series, as is Katee Sackhoff, it is unforgivable that Favreau had no meaningful episodes for Din Djarin. Even if the show is not really about characters, some character development would be welcome. Even worse, the little we had was undone with Din never removing his helmet anymore, thanks to Pedro Pascal who rather wanted to be a star in an HBO series. All that being said I praise Favreau for his decision to give all the relevant characters their moments to shine in the finale. And Bo, in the finale, never ever takes away anything from Din ore vice versa. In fact, they work as a team, have each other's backs and ultimately triumph all together. In short: Bo isn't awesome because Din is such a useless klutz now. I believe modern Hollywood could learn a thing or two from Favreau here. You can have a kickass heroine without turning all men into either bumbling fools or villains. Din was, even though he had no character arc to speak of, still the competent and tough fighter throughout the season, but especially in the finale. This is how you create a great team of male and female heroes, never at the expense of anyone else. That final fight against Gideon where it literally takes the effort of Din, Bo and Grogu with some help by Axe Woves who throws an entire ship at Gideon is a perfect example of how to do it right. Everyone is competent. Everyone is a hero. No one is "better". They are all a team.

Considered in isolation the final two season 3 episodes were big fun. Ultimate fan service. And we also learned a few things: Gideon was not working on Snoke, it was all about his own ambitions. We also learned why Grogu was needed (as suspected it was all about his Midichlorians). And I hope what every fan learned is that overanalyzing The Mandalorian can make you look very foolish. The series is pretty straightforward, there are no trap doors no "I can see dead people" moments. I am happy The Mandalorian avoided all that and didn't turn the Armorer into a spy, which would have made literally no sense. And it's also good that none of the real heroes died. Yes, all roads may eventually lead to the sequel trilogy, that does not mean people like Din, Bo and Grogu can't find their own personal happiness. Let's hope season 4 will get back on track again and be much more like seasons 1 and 2. Bo can and should be a recurring guest star and go on some adventures with Din here and there. But the focus should be Din travelling the galaxy, seeing people and places. And shooting things to bits. And Grogu should keep munching all the snacks he can find.

So when I rate this episode, the entire series, then against other lighthearted shows. You would not compare something like "Bringing Up Baby" to "Citizen Kane", different genres, different movies, different goals, so The Mandalorian is not Andor, and some may be very happy it is not. In fact, there is place for both in Star Wars. So when I give the final season 3 episode 4 holocrons then in this context: as far as mindless somewhat silly fun goes it hardly gets any better. If you accept The Mandalorian for what it is and is not the last two episodes are peak Star Wars entertainment. And it's apparently very much made with the fan in mind, which is always appreciated. Deconstruction and Star Wars don't go together. I hope the people who wrote the sequels have learned this lesson. And finally... I rate the entire season 3 holocrons, the finale saved the season from utter mediocrity. But it is decidly worse than seasons 1 and 2. Favreau should think hard about where season 4 is going.

And while this is not the end of the series, it has to be pointed out that season 3 could also serve as some kind of (semi-open) end to the entire series. The Gideon arc, for now, is over, Din has found a permanent home with his new adoptive son, he has a new job, doing jobs the New Republic can't do but still needs being done. Season 4 can go anywhere now. But I feel Bo-Katan should definitely return for at least a couple of episodes, too much time was spent on her this eason to relegate her to mere guest star. In short: the season 3 finale is a perfect example of a "HFN" ending: "Happy For Now". Of course everyone will hope that there will be a true "HEA" ending, "Happily Ever After". Future seasons will tell us more. Favreau has been busy writing season 4 already and he is on record saying the show can go on for as long as people want to see it.

Added: April 20, 2023
Category: The Mandalorian
Reviewer: Thomas
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