This Star Wars review contains spoilers for The Mandalorian.
The Mandalorian Season 3 Episode 1
“Being a Mandalorian is not just learning how to fight. You also have to know how to navigate the galaxy, because you never know where you might be headed next.”
The beautiful thing about The Mandalorian’s season 3 premiere, “The Apostate,” is that it reminds us that this show is all about adventure. It’s a deliberately paced episode with a few bursts of action, some pleasant quality time between Din Djarin and Grogu, and some enticing setups for the rest of the season. Following the duo’s stint in the less-than-stellar The Book of Boba Fett, this re-introduction to the mainline Star Wars series is a much-needed palate cleanser.
The sun-drenched opening sequence with the Armorer and the Tribe’s helmet bestowment ceremony re-establishes the importance of a Mandalorian’s oath to never remove one’s helmet and a good way to underline this year’s quest. Then the show promptly puts the beach-full of Mando armor and armaments to good use. The giant alligator fight is spectacular and the CG has a sense of weight to it, which the show has already proved it has a knack for (see season 2’s krayt dragon battle). And then as Daddy Din and Grogu swoop in for the save, we get to feast our eyes yet again on his bitchin’, souped-up Naboo N-1 Starfighter, which has got to be one of the coolest-looking signature starships in franchise history.
Meanwhile, Emily Swallow is back as the mysterious Armorer to remind the audience that Din’s sin of taking off his helmet can only be forgiven should he return to Mandalore’s mines and bathe in its “living waters.” This sends our heroic duo on their way, but this isn’t some arbitrary side quest on his way to reclaiming Mandalore. There are some deep-seated, philosophical quandaries at the heart of Din’s desire for atonement and redemption with his clan of religious zealots vs. his clear need for connection (at least with Grogu) that’s the reason he revealed his face in the first place. Hopefully, his pilgrimage to Mandalore will address these bigger questions.
Some of the best moments of the episode are the brief respites we get of Din and Grogu simply sitting together. It was heart-wrenching to see them separated last season, so to see Grogu plonked down in Din’s lap, gawking at the silhouette of a purrgil as they barrel through hyperspace feels like a homecoming. And Pedro Pascal’s ability to tell a soulful story without the use of his face, partnered with an animatronic scene partner, speaks to how great he is as an actor and why we’re all so obsessed with him at the moment. (He’s spectacular in HBO’s The Last of Us if you’ve not given that show a try yet!)
The return to Nevarro and reunion with Carl Weathers’ Greef Karga (that’s High Magistrate Karga to you) serves the sneakily profound purpose of giving Din and Grogu’s journey to this point a sense of scope and just how much time has passed since season 1. They’ve come a long way since their initial adventure together, and seeing Nevarro completely renewed and on its way to becoming a thriving, independent trade anchor is a reminder of their lasting impact on the galaxy.
Learning that Mando is insistent on rebuilding IG-11 is, frankly, fantastic news. The fan-favorite droid was one of the very best things about the first season, and while his death was a fitting tear-jerker, it’ll be great to see him (and Taika Waititi) re-enter the fold. As a side note, watching Grogu pick up and hug one of the Anzellans is adorable as hell and is yet another showcase for the series’ top-notch effects work.
All of the different droids and species we see on Nevarro — from the Anzellans and the spiffy white protocol droid, to the Kwokian monkey-lizards in the tree and the different alien thugs that make up the pirate gang — add to the depth of the world and make it feel alive. It’s this attention to detail that helped the Original Trilogy capture the imaginations of so many, and it’s nice to see the old tenets of the franchise still upheld so respectfully by Rick Famuyiwa’s camera.
Mando’s starship fight with the pirates in the asteroid field is a lot of fun, letting us see his Naboo starfighter in combat for the first time. The cool thing about this sequence is that it shows off how nimble the ship is, with Mando sneak-attacking the pirates from odd angles and from behind cover. The introduction of pirate king Gorian Shard (Nonso Anozie) is a standout moment just for the expert characters design. It’s tough to tell if he’s CGI, practical, or a hybrid of both, which is, again, a testament to the artists and craftsmen behind the design.
Din Djarin has been on a collision course with Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) since he wrested ownership of the Darksaber from Moff Gideon, and their tense meeting in Kalevala keeps that story moving. These two have some serious philosophical differences about what it means to be a Mandalorian, and it’s almost inevitable that they’ll one day do battle not just for the Darksaber but for perceived moral high ground. “Your cult gave up on Mandalore long before the Purge. Where were you then?” Kryze asks with venom in her voice. The dynamic between Kryze and Din is fast becoming one of the most fascinating aspects of the story, and it’ll be interesting to see how it continues to play out as the season moves forward. Sackhoff is, of course, wonderful as always in the role, this time displaying a quiet rage as she sits lounging in her lonely throne room.
While there’s nothing particularly lacking in the episode, it does mostly feel like setup for the rest of the season. Other than the IG-11 revelation, we already sort of knew the rest of the motivating factors behind Din and Grogu’s mission to Mandalore and the brewing conflict with Bo-Katan. Still, “The Apostate” is a nice way to ease back into the story and re-establish the stakes. Here’s hoping things really heat up in Chapter 18.