The Mandalorian and Baby Grogu Celebrate “The Return”

Welcome to the somewhta belated final instalment of my episode by episode reviews of season three of The Mandalorian. Previous installments may be found here.

Warning! Spoilers behind the cut!

The previous episode ended on a huge cliffhanger with Din captured, Paz Vizla dead and the rest of the Mandalorians on the run and in mortal danger from Moff Gideon and his Imperial forces enhanced with Mandalorian technology. Things do not look good for our heroes at all.

The episodes opens with Bo-Katan and what remains of her exploration force on the run from Moff Gideon’s enhanced Stormtroopers. Bo-Katan hails Axe Woves, who managed to escape and is en route to the Mandalorian fleet in orbit. Bo-Katan tells Axe that there’s an Imperial base on Mandalore and that Moff Gideon has launched TIE interceptors and bombers to take out the fleet. Axe is to use the command cruiser as a decoy for the TIE fighters and evacuate all the Mandalorians to the surface in the smaller Gauntlet ships (apparently, Gauntlet is the name of the type of ship and not specifically of Bo-Katan’s ship), because there’s no way they can beat the Empire in orbit. Axe barely manages to acknowledge Bo-Katan’s orders before contact breaks off due to the atmospheric disturbances. BTW, I found it quite impressive that Mandalorian armour is space-worthy and that his jetpack allows Axe Woves to fly from the surface all the way into orbit, escaping the planet’s gravity well.

Axe does as he is ordered and boards the command cruiser, ordering the bridge crew and everybody else to evacuate into the Gauntlets. I hope they remembered to evacuate the weakened and wounded survivors the Armourer took back to the fleet, too. We also get some more scenes showing us that yes, Mandalorian armour is space-worthy. Which surprised me, because almost all Mandalorians have armour joints and parts of their body covered only in fabric. Mandalorian fabric must surely be tough.

Axe Woves remains on the bridge alone, having automated many functions of the cruiser to hold off the TIE interceptors and bombers as long as possible. He doesn’t do too badly a job either and manages to take out several TIE interceptors and bombers with the cruiser’s cannons, though it’s obvious that he doesn’t stand a chance. And in fact, I strongly suspected that this would be the heroic last stand of Axe Woves, just as we saw the heroic last stand of Paz Vizla last episode. Emmet Asher-Perrin also points out that all the cues for a heroic last stand/suicide mission are there. However, Axe Woves is still alive by the end of the episode.

Meanwhile, back at the Imperial base, some of the new model beskar Stormtroopers are dragging Din away for “debriefing”. Din is briefly unconscious, but he comes to and starts taking out his captors. He does pretty well, too, considering that his hands are bound, but eventually the Stormtroopers gain the upper hand. At one point, the new model Stormtroopers attack Din with a flamethrower – which is after all a weapon that a lot of Mandalorians have installed into their armour. The flames don’t harm Din thanks to his armour, but his fabric cape miraculously survives unscathed as well. Like I said, Mandalorian fabric is tough.

What saves Din in the end is the timely arrival of Grogu in his IG-12 droid. He crushes the blaster in the hand of a Stormtrooper, saying “no”, “no”, “no” over and over again. Together, Din and Grogu make short work of the Stormtroopers. Din holds up his bound hands and asks Grogu “Are you going to cut me loose?” “Yes”, Grogu says.

Even though he just saved his Daddy’s life, it’s very obvious that Grogu is scared and just wants to get away from this terrifying place. However, Din asks him to be brave, because the mission is not yet over. There’s still something they have to do and that’s take out Moff Gideon once and for all. Grogu nods, for even though he’s very scared, he trusts Daddy.

Din now contacts R5-D4 and tells him that he needs his help and that R5 needs to get into the Imperial stronghold, log into their system and find out where Moff Gideon is. Of course, sneaking through Imperial strongholds and trying to sabotage and/or locate the bad guy and using a droid plugged into the Imperial system is absolutely classic Star Wars. Though considering how often rebel affiliated astromech droids plug into Imperial bases to find and transmit crucial data, I honestly wonder why the Empire hasn’t installed some kind of protection yet. A firewall or even just using different ports – since astromech droids don’t seem to have Bluetooth or Wi-Fi or the Star Wars universe equivalent thereof – would do the trick.

Another issue is that R5 appears literally out of nowhere, since the last we saw him was in “The Pirate” on the nameless planet which looks a lot like the Southwestern US. We haven’t seen him in Nevarro, let alone on Mandalore. I guess a scene showing R5 travelling with the other Mandalorians to Mandalore ended up on the cutting room floor, so R5’s appearance feels very deus-ex-machina. Though it is ironic that R5 finally gets to have the great adventure that he lost out on, when he blew his motivator and Owen Lars purchased R2-D2 instead. Though I suspect R5 wouldn’t see that as much of a loss, since he’s not really an adventurer, though he is a rebel droid.

R5 also does pretty well for himself on his first big adventure infiltrating an Imperial base. He sneaks into the base, finds an unsecured port, plugs in and transmits Gideon’s location to Din, marked on a handy map of the base. However, in order to get to Moff Gideon, Din first has to pass along the walkways with the laser barriers that is guarded by more new model Stormtroopers. So Din tells Grogu to stay back and orders R5 to open and close the barriers one by one. Then Din goes in and takes out the new model Stormtroopers one by one or rather two by two, since there’s always two stationed in every section.

As many reviewers point out, the fight in the laser corridor is very reminiscent of videogames, because Din is unarmed at the start – obviously, he was disarmed, when he was captured –  and so takes the weapons of the Stormtroopers he defeats. And the Stormtroopers have successively better weapons. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense – why wouldn’t all the same Stormtroopers have the same weapons? – but it does make for some fun action scenes. One bit I particularly liked is when Din stabs a Stormtrooper with a knife and then struggles (and fails) to pull the knife out of the body, before the Stormtrooper falls into a bottomless abyss.  So does AV-Club reviewer Sam Barsanti.

There’s a bit of extra tension, when R5 fails to open a laser barrier on time, because he’s got a problem of his own in the form of a mouse droid who has discovered him. R5 manages to fight off one mouse droid, but he comes back with a bunch of friends, forcing R5 to engage his jets to escape across a bottomless abyss (It’s Star Wars, so there’s always a bottomless abyss). That’s the last we see of R5 in this episode and season. I really hope he escaped and will live his best droid life somewhere.

Eventually, Din has dealt with all the Stormtroopers and Grogu comes traipsing along the corridor in his IG-12 droid. However, they still haven’t reached Moff Gideon. First, they have to cross another room, which is lined with rows of bacta tanks with bodies in them. We saw a similar row of tanks in the season 2 episode “The Siege” and the season 2 finale, where they contained clone troopers. So it stands to reason that this row of tanks will contain clone troopers as well. Which it does – with a twist, because it turns out that all of the clones are clones of Moff Gideon – yes, the guy is so full of himself that he cloned himself. Worse, they seem to be waking up, so Din hacks into the control console and destroys them all.

Meanwhile, Moff Gideon learns that “the Mandalorian” has escaped. He fumes, struts around his base and decides to deal with the problem of Din Djarin once and for all. Giancarlo Esposito really makes a great villain, though I found it a bit weird that he keeps referring to Din as “the Mandalorian”. Dude, you’ve got approx. twenty Mandalorians running around your base with more inbound and “the Mandalorian” could theoretically refer to every single one of them. So why doesn’t Moff Gideon use Din’s name, especially since we know he knows who Din is? After all, Moff Gideon is the one who first addressed Din by his name in the season one finale.

While Din and Grogu are going after Moff Gideon, the Mandalorian survivors lead Bo-Katan and her exploration force to some subterranean caves, where they have been cultivating native fauna. Bo-Katan is surprised, since she didn’t believe that any native flora was still growing on Mandalore. The leader of the survivors replies that life finds a way.

As for me, I wonder what happened to the native flora on Mandalore in the first place. In “The Mines of Mandalore”, Bo-Katan tell Grogu that Mandalore was once a beautiful world, but her surprise at seeing native flora thrive and grow underground suggests that it wasn’t the Imperial bombing that killed off most native flora, but that this happened sometime before, likely due to extensive industrial activity (all that mining, smelting and weapons making) and pollution. Come to think of it, if Trask – the aquatic homeworld of the Mon Calamari and Quarren species – is the Bremerhaven of the Star Wars universe, does this mean that Mandalore is the Ruhrgebiet of the Star Wars universe? Highly industralialised and a centre of traditional heavy industry, originally very religious, repeatedly fought over and eventually ignored and abandoned, when the coal and steel it had to offer cease to be important. For Ruhrgebiet, you can also insert the coal and steel region of Pennsylvania (i.e. the region Billy Joel described so perfectly in “Allentown” to the point that even as a young kid who had no idea where Allentown was, I recognised what he was singing about, because I knew the Ruhrgebiet) or the industrial towns of middle and northern England or any other decaying and rusting industrial area in the world.

The sojourn of Bo-Katan and the exploration force in the caves is short-lived, because the Armourer and the rest of the Mandalorians have arrived. “Let’s take back our planet”, Bo-Katan calls out and then there’s a massive free-for-all aerial battle between the Mandalorians and the new model Stormtroopers. Bo-Katan leads her forces into battle, brandishing the darksabre, while the Armourer uses her forging tools to knock out and demolish enemies. nerds of a feather reviewer Haley Zapal points out how awesome both the Armourer and Bo-Katan are in this fight, but then Star Wars has always been about awesome women being awesome.

The various Star Wars TV series have taken inspiration both from the movies and TV shows that are known to have inspired the original Star Wars – westerns, Kurosawa films, Flash Gordon – as well as from movies and TV shows that were popular around the same time as Star Wars – biker movies, the Billy Jack films, really depressing 1970s dystopian science fiction films starring a guy a in a turtleneck, 1980s kids cartoons, Cyberpunk – and influenced the landscape into which the films were released. However, for the season finales, The Mandalorian has always used Star Wars itself as its model. We have our heroes sneaking around Imperial bases, fighting Stormtroopers and bad guys with laser weapons, we have droids hacking into Imperial systems and we have a massive aerial battle, though this one features armoured humans with jetpacks rather spaceships. Still, it’s all very classic Star Wars, but it works.

While the massive Mandalorian vs. new model Stormtrooper battle is going on above, Din and Grogu finally find Moff Gideon, who is wearing a brand-new Mandalorian inspired super-suit – basically as if Darth Vader were wearing Mandalorian armour. Moff Gideon is also in a murderous mood, since Din just blew up all of the clones he laboured so hard to create.

In true supervillain mode, Moff Gideon also explains his evil plan of evil once again. Basically, he wants to rebuild the Empire with himself at the top, using useful bits of technology from all the people the Empire conquered and exterminated, because “everybody has something to offer”. The cloning technology the people of Camino used to create the original Stormtroopers, the late mind-flayed Dr Pershing’s gene-splicing methods, Mandalorian armour and weapons technology and the Jedi’s command of the Force. And because Moff Gideon is really, really full of himself, he used himself as the model for his clone army, but gave his clones the one thing he always lacked, namely Force abilities. That’s also why he wanted Grogu in the first place to get his genes and his Force abilities.

Now Giancarlo Esposito plays Moff Gideon as a delightfully evil villain. However, he also is a supervillain driven by deep insecurity. You can just imagine Moff Gideon, standing somewhere in the second row at some Imperial propaganda parade and wishing he were Darth Vader, while knowing that he will never be Darth Vader, because Vader has one thing Moff Gideon doesn’t have, namely his Force powers. reviewer Emmet Asher-Perrin points out that Moff Gideon’s new armoured supersuit also makes odd clanking noises, as he moves, suggesting that Moff Gideon is quite possibly as much machine as man at this point.  And since Moff Gideon did not have an unfortunate accident involving a lava pit like Anakin Skywalker, it suggests that he did this to himself to become more like Darth Vader. It’s really quite pitiful, if you think about it.

Not that Din has much time to think about that or anything else, because Moff Gideon summons his three Praetorian Guards and the fight is on. Din is a good fighter, but against a beskar-armoured and possibly cybernetically enhanced Moff Gideon and three Praetorian Guards, who already killed Paz Vizla, he is quickly outnumbered. However, Din is not alone and so Grogu and IG-12 join the fray to rescue Din from the Praetorian Guards, while Grogu hammers the “no” button over and over again, because those Praetorians are hurting Daddy and frightening Grogu.

The Praetorian Guards drag IG-12 and Grogu into an adjacent room, so Din is left alone with Moff Gideon and unable to help Grogu. However, from above Bo-Katan notices that Din is in trouble and swoops in to take on Moff Gideon. “Go save your kid”, she tells Din, which Din promptly does.

Even though he has a mech suit, Grogu is no match for three Praetorian Guards and so poor IG-12 is chopped to pieces. However, Grogu has the Force and he uses it to jump out of reach of the Praetorians onto the light fixtures. Infuriated, the Praetorians start chopping at the light fixtures, until Din shows up and takes them out – with a little help from Grogu and the Force. As Haley Zapal of nerds of a feather points out, Grogu uses the Force not to attack – something we absolutely know he can do, since we have seen him using the Force offensively in season 1 and season 2 – but only defensively, to move weapons out of reach and confuse the Praetorians. I strongly suspect that this is the influence of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi teaching. In many ways, Grogu truly is both Mandalorian and Jedi and may well be the way forward for both groups.

While Din is busy rescuing Grogu from the Praetorian Guards, Bo-Katan finally has her rematch with Moff Gideon. She handles herself well, too, but then Bo-Katan is an excellent fighter, probably better than Din. And she certainly knows how to use the darksabre, since she has been trained how to use it since childhood. However, Moff Gideon eventually gains the upper hand – quite literally – and crushes the darksabre in Bo-Katan’s hand. Crushing it into scrap metal is certainly a new way of defeating a lightsabre (or darksabre) wielding opponent and also another hint that Moff Gideon is at least part machine at this point, because even with beskar armour, no normal human would have the strength to crush a lightsabre.

So the darksabre, subject of so much conflict, strife and angst, is no more and so it seems is Bo-Katan. Moff Gideon has one more gloating supervillain moment, where he tells Bo-Katan that she can’t defeat him. Bo-Katan replies that he forgot something. Mandalorians are stronger together. At the same moment, Din reappears behind Moff Gideon, carrying Grogu. It’s his turn to save Bo-Katan now and save her he does.‘s Emmet Asher-Perrin points out that the line “Mandalorians are stronger together”, though fairly rote in itself, is pretty much the mission statement of the entire season 3.

But though Moff Gideon may be down for the count, Din and Bo-Katan have another problem. Because Axe Woves is still aboard the Mandalorian light cruiser battling a squadron of TIE Interceptors and Bombers. However, the cruiser is shot to hell by now and Axe can no longer hold it in orbit. So he aims the cruiser at Moff Gideon’s base and contacts Bo-Katan and Koska Reeves (and I still think that Axe and Koska are a couple) to tell them to get the hell out of there, because he’s coming in hot. Once again, it seems as if this is the end of Axe Woves. But no, he uses his handy jetpack to escape through a broken cockpit window and survives.

Koska Reeves, the Armourer and the other Mandalorians escape the base, but Bo-Katan, Din and Grogu are not so lucky and cannot get out in time. And so the base is consumed by flames all around them. Bo-Katan activates her arm forceshield – which is almost identical in design to the arm shield that King Randor uses in the 2002 He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon, so maybe a Mandalorian crashlanded on Eternia – to protect Din and Grogu, but it’s not enough. However, then Grogu uses the Force to protect Din and Bo-Katan. Afterwards, he is very exhausted and has to sit down. io9 reviewer Germain Lussier points out that Grogu does pretty much the same thing – use the Force to shield Din, Cara Dune (whose name Lussier refuses to mention for some reason), Greef Karga and IG-11 from fire – in the season 1 finale, but it’s still a great moment and also once more illustrates the motto of this season, namely that Mandalorians are stronger together.

As for Moff Gideon, we last see him engulfed in flames. Is he dead? Well, we never see a body and Moff Gideon does have beskar armour and is very likely at least part machine, though he’ll probably be back. Besides, he is too good a villain to kill off.

The main conflict has been resolved by this point, but the episode still has quite a bit of runtime left and so we get a series of codas. First of all, the Armourer and Bo-Katan as leaders of their respective factions relight the Great Forge on Mandalore. The Mandalorians have returned to their home world and in true Star Wars fashion, they’re being led by a pair of awesome women.

Next, the Armourer finally completes the ceremony she began way back in the first episode of the season, only this time at the living waters underneath the city, and formally accepts Ragnar Vizla as a Mandalorian apprentice. I feel sorry for Ragnar, because he lost his Dad in the battle for Mandalore and is now an orphan. Though knowing the Mandalorians and their commitment to raising lost children, he will be well taken care of.

Din steps forward with Grogu in his arms and requests that the Armourer perform the ceremony for Grogu as well. However, the Armourer points out that Grogu can’t speak and therefore can’t say the creed. Din insists what if Grogu’s parents gave permission, whereupon the Armourer points out that they have no idea who Grogu’s parents are and if they’re even still alive. If my theory that Grogu is the secret love child of Yoda and possibly Yaddle is correct, then the answer is “no”. However, the Mandalorians have no way of knowing that. So Din says, “Well, what if I formally adopt the kid and give permission?” “THIS is the way”, the Armourer replies and the way she says it pretty much implies that what she really wants to say to Din is, “Dude, you are a little slow, aren’t you? This kid is yours now and has been since the moment you found him.”

Still, Din finally formally adopts Grogu, who shall henceforth be known as Din Grogu, which is a bit confusing because so far, all Mandalorians we’ve seen have had a given name – surname naming pattern, e.g. Jango and Boba Fett or Paz and Ragnar Vizla. So why do Din and Grogu seem to have a surname – given name naming pattern? Of course, it’s possible that Din’s original people – he was not born a Mandalorian, after all – use a surname first naming pattern, but it’s still an odd departure. Also, apparently we should have been calling him Djarin all along.

Grogu also gets formally accepted as a Mandalorian apprentice, which means that he and his mentor/father Din must travel around the Galaxy for Grogu to learn the way of the Mandalore. Thus, there is no quiet retirement on the newly rebuilt Mandalore for Din and Grogu – at least not for now – and also no romantic future for Bo-Katan and Din – at least not for now. Still, Din and Grogu can always visit.

During Grogu’s intiation ritual, Grogu is dipping his little toes into the living waters and suddenly closes his eyes, a sure sign that he is using the Force, in this case to contact someone. The camera then appears to dive into the living waters and there, far below the surface, Grogu’s Force call is answered by none other than a mythosaur, who briefly opens its eye and then closes it again. So there definitely still is at least on mythosaur living in the waters under Mandalore, though it isn’t interested in wrestling with anybody or giving them a ride or even just surfacing to freak out the assembled Mandalorians, at least not today. But considering how important the mythosaur is to Mandalorian lore, I suspect we might have seen yet another clue that Grogu rather than Din or Bo-Katan or the Armourer is the future of the Mandalorians.

But in the present day, Grogu is still a toddler, even though he is officially a Mandalorian apprentice now. And since Grogu needs to have some adventures around the Galaxy with his Dad, we see Din land his shiny spaceship at the New Republic base on Adelphi to seek out Captain Teva, who is happy enough to see Din and Grogu again.

As for why Din has come to see Captain Teva, he has a proposition for him. Now that he’s a father, Din wants to become more selective in his choice of clients and bounties (and yes, that’s exactly what he says). Therefore, he offers Captain Teva to do some jobs for the New Republic, deal with the sort of problems that the New Republic doesn’t have the resources or the will to solve. Captain Teva is clearly interested, but points out that he’d never ever get approval for such a scheme. “Well, it’s not as if you have to tell them”, Din says.

Meanwhile, Grogu is nibbling on the bar snacks, which happen to be rice crackers, specifically these hot and spicy rice crackers. This little moment made me ridiculously happy, because I discovered the joy of rice crackers and Star Wars around the same time, so both are forever linked in my mind.

I first found rice crackers at the nut bar in the Hema department in Rotterdam in December 1983, when Return of the Jedi was in European cinemas (the Star Wars films were always winter movies here). At the time, snack foods in Germany were limited to potato chips, almost always paprika flavoured, and tinned peanuts, so a Dutch nut bar was an unimaginable delight. An incredible variety of nuts, dried fruit, licorice and candy on offer and you just had to point at something (I didn’t yet speak Dutch at that point) and the nice person behind the counter would dip in a metal shovel and fill your choice into a paperbag and the result would taste better than anything on offer in a German supermarket.

And then there were rice crackers, little bite-sized bits, brightly coloured and shaped like stars, squares, crescents and spheres. I’d literally never seen anything like it before. I don’t quite remember why I decided that I wanted some of those crackers rather than any of the other fabulous things on offer. I think the nice lady behind the counter of Hema‘s nut bar let me try some, because she must have noticed how fascinated I was. And damn, they tasted good. Spicy, savoury, crunchy, a little sweet and unlike any snack food you could find in Germany at the time. At any rate, I fell hard for rice crackers, much to the dismay of my parents who never particularly liked them. And since the rice crackers looked like food from an alien planet, I pretended that they were just that, crackers from an alien planet and what the people in the Star Wars universe (remember, it was 1983, Return of the Jedi was in theatres and Star Wars was everywhere) would eat inbetween missions. So rice crackers and Star Wars not just became linked in my mind, but for many years it was also a personal tradition that whenever I settled down to watch a Star Wars movie or TV show, I’d have a bowl of rice crackers by my side. To me, rice crackers are the taste of Star Wars.

However, Star Wars has never been very good about depicting food. Yes, there is the famous blue milk and there are fennel bulbs of all things in Aunt Beru’s kitchen, we see Luke eating a ration bar and Mandalorians sipping soup, Grogu will pop anything into his mouth and Elia Kane tempts Dr. Pershing with crackers. However, food isn’t really a big part of Star Wars worldbuilding and we’ve never ever seen anybody eat the one thing they should have been eating all along, namely rice crackers. Until Grogu decided to pop a handful of rice crackers into his mouth at Adelphi base and trust me, kid, I would have loved to share that bowl of rice crackers with you (I no longer eat them as much as I used to, because unfortunately rice crackers tend to trigger blisters, aphtous ulcers and other adverse reactions in my mouth, so I have to be careful).

While Grogu is nibbling rice crackers, he also becomes very fascinated by a display of war trophies, i.e. Stormtrooper helmets and the like, above the bar, which also includes the head of an IG droid. Captain Teva notices Grogu’s interest and even remarks on it. “That head just reminds him of someone he used to know”, Din replies and then he has an idea. He asks Captain Teva if he may have the IG droid head. “What do you want it for?” Teva asks. Din replied that he needs the memory circuit and that he will take the droid head in  lieu of a fee for his first job for the New Republic.

The scene then shifts to Nevarro, where Greef Karga is only to happy to welcome Din and Grogu and the gift that Din has brought for the people of Nevarro, namely a restored IG-11, thanks to the droid head and memory circuit he got from Captain Teva. And since Nevarro needs protection – after all, the Mandalorians buggered off back to Mandalore –  IG-11 will now serve as Nevarro’s marshal – with some backup from Din and Grogu, if necessary.

Greef Karga also points out that the offer he made Din for a plot of land on Nevarro still stands and that it will make a great place to rest and relax inbetween missions. Which is exactly what we see Din doing in the very last scene, sitting in front of a housing container somewhere on Nevarro, while Grogu Force-lifts a frog from a pond, but refrains from eating it, which is progress.

If the series had ended here, it would be a good ending. The Mandalorians are back on Mandalore, Din and Grogu are officially a family and have a home of their own and everybody is happy. True, there are still a few loose ends, but not too many.

That said, since Din and Grogu will still go on missions for Captain Teva, the powers that be could easily make another season or five. Or Din and Grogu could pop up in other Star Wars films and series set during the same time period such as the upcoming Ahsoka series. Apparently, there’s also a movie in the works that will tie up loose ends from The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett and Ahsoka and will likely feature the battle against Grand Admiral Thrawn. Though I’m pretty confident that we’ll see our favourite Clan of Two again.

A lot of people seem to have been disssatisfied with season 3 of The Mandalorian, but I quite enjoyed it, even though it was not the story I expected to see. Because what I expected, based on the trailers, was a quest for Din to bathe in the living waters of Mandalore to redeem himself in the eyes of his people as well as a conflict between Din and Bo-Katan about the darksabre. However, both plotlines are resolved by episode 2 and Din and Bo-Katan bury their differences and become a team – almost a family, in fact. In many ways, the season we actually got – namely the story of how the various Mandalorian groups set aside their differences and retake their planet – was better than what I expected and also a perfect illustration of this season’s motto that Mandalorians are stronger together.

At io9, Bryant Francis points out how the story of disparate groups of Mandalorians working together to find a new, old home mirrors the story of the Jewish people and the founding of the state Israel. Apparently, the title of the penultimate episode of the season “The Spies” is an Old Testament reference, though I completely missed that. However, I certainly picked up on the Jewish parallels and found it interesting, especially since neither Jon Favreau nor Dave Filoni are Jewish as far as I know.

And yes, season 3 of The Mandalorian was meandering, but then the show has always been meandering from day one and always took plenty of detours to get where it’s going. But unlike the mess that was The Book of Boba Fett, The Mandalorian knows whose story it wants to tell, namely the story of Din Djarin and his adopted son Grogu, whose journey occasionally intersects with big intergalactic politics, though they’d much rather be left alone to watch the sunset and play with frogs.

Andor was a huge success and a lot of fans really liked it (I liked it, too, though I didn’t get around to reviewing it), because it told a story about fighting a fascist regime that a lot of people needed to see right now. Plus, it was a very good show. However, it seems that as a result a lot of folks were disappointed by season 3 of The Mandalorian, because they wanted something more in the style of Andor and that’s not what The Mandalorian is or will ever be.

Of course, The Mandalorian can be very political at times – the season 2 episode “The Believer” is the most blatant example – because Star Wars is always political. However, The Mandalorian is not as in your face political as Andor nor are its politics as straightforward. Because at their heart, Andor‘s politics are very straightforward: Those are the bad guys, the fascists, so let’s fight them. Here’s a brick, let’s throw it at the nearest cop. And considering that Andor is set at the height of the Empire’s power, in the darkest hour just before the dawn (literally), that makes sense.

The Mandalorian‘s politics, on the other hand, are far less clear. For starters, the most blatantly political episode of The Mandalorian also an episode which gives us the POV of the Empire or what’s left of it and which has a character utter the very nihilistic statement that it doesn’t matter for what grand political ideal Rebels, Stormtroopers, Mandalorians, Ewoks, etc… died, because they’re still dead. What is more, The Mandalorian also consistently portrays the New Republic not as a force for good and the restoration of justice and order to the galaxy, but as ineffective at best and barely better than the Empire it replaced at worst. And yes, that’s not how any Star Wars fan wanted the story to go. We all wanted the battles and sacrifices of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2-D2 and C-3PO to mean something, we all wanted them to build a better world and live happily ever after.  However, in the real world countries that managed to shake off and kick out tyrannical regimes often slide back into tyranny and end up with leaders worse than the one they kicked out within a generation. The 1980s were a long story of liberation as country after country got rid of terrible dictators – the military dictatorship in Argentina, Ferdinand Marcos in the Phillippines, Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti, etc… – and then the impossible happened: the Iron Curtain just collapsed and all those countries in Eastern Europe kicked out their shitty leaders. As a bonus, Augusto Pinochet in Chile was kicked out of office and Apartheid ended in South Africa, too. As someone who was a teenager during those years, it was literally seeing the end of Star Wars become true. All the bad guys were going one by one and we’d get the rest of the bunch – the Admiral Thrawns of the world – too. The future looked bright and happy for everybody.

Except that’s not how it went. A lot of countries now have regimes that are as bad or worse as those of the 1980s, though they have nicer cars and clothes and more stuff to buy now. But the brave people who fought for freedom in those countries saw all their hard work crumble to nothing. And yesterday’s good guys are all too often today’s bad guys. Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau are about my age (Filoni is a year younger, Favreu six years older) and lived through all this as well and saw it happen. They literally saw the “This time, we’ll get it right” feeling of 1989/1990 crumble to dust.

The US is currently having a problem with creeping fascism and one of its two political parties turning steadily more fascist, so it’s no wonder that Andor resonated with US viewers. However, in Germany and other European countries, we are having both a problem with creeping fascism and the rise of the Far Right, but also with an equally creeping and far more disturbing (because everybody expects fascists to be evil) strain of leftwing and green authoritarianism, coupled with a government that’s either completely incompetent or actively evil or both. And though you’re not supposed to talk about any of that – and I may well get in trouble for writing this, vaguely worded as it is – but everybody who’s not a complete idiot can see it happening. So that’s probably why The Mandalorian with its messy politics and its good guys going bad due to incompetence or malice or both resonated with me so much, because it matches what I see happening around me.

The greatest strength of Star Wars has always been that it’s so very easy to project the politics of a galaxy far away onto our own world. Plus, Star Wars has always been fuelled by anger, anger at a world that could be better and that authorities, media, propaganda and parents insist is better, only that it isn’t. It’s that anger paired with the glimpses of hope of things getting better somewhere – the Mandalorians uniting and getting their planet back, Greef Karga rebuilding Nevarro, Boba Fett doing the same on Tatooine, Captain Bombardier and the Duchess installing a direct democracy on their ridiculous planet – which has always been why Star Wars resonated with me so much, more than Star Trek or any other science fiction franchise.

So yes, I thoroughly enjoyed season 3 of Tha Mandalorian. If this is the last we’ll ever see of Din Djarin and Grogu, it’s fine. But if Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have more adventures for our favourite Clan of Two up their sleeves, I certainly will be watching.

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