The Mandalorian is back, and you know what that means. Episode 1 of season 3 is a concentrated burst of entertainment showcasing all the best bits of Star Wars: laser gun shootouts, soaring space battles and tentacle-faced pirate captains.
Hang on, is this still Star Wars we're talking about? It sure is -- after season 1 and season 2 of the Disney Plus series were influenced by the cowboys 'n' gunfighters of the Western genre, season 3 of the Mando's adventures sails into uncharted waters: the kind of monstrous swashbuckling we know and love from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Avast, me hearties!
Read on for our recap of The Mandalorian season 3 episode 1 (or chapter 17 in the series as a whole), complete with Star Wars Easter eggs and some first thoughts on how the new season will shape up. Beware spoilers, ye scurvy sea dogs!
OK, before we get into chapter 17, let's remind ourselves where we're up to in the adventures of the titular Mandalorian bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal, also currently searing the screen in the acclaimed HBO series The Last of Us), and his cute buddy Grogu (aka Baby Yoda). In the finale of season 2 the Mando dropped off Grogu with everyone's favorite Jedi, Luke Skywalker. So why are Grogu and Din back together?
Well, in between seasons, the stars of the Mandalorian appeared in an episode of another Disney Plus series, The Book of Boba Fett. It was one of the best installments of the otherwise underwhelming series and is well worth a watch, but that doesn't change the fact that season 3 of the Mandalorian only just started and you already have homework. Thanks, Disney.
The fifth episode of Boba Fett's series explained why Mando and Grogu got back together and why they're traveling in a modified version of one of the Naboo N-1 Starfighters seen in The Phantom Menace. That episode also reveals a chunk of backstory about the Mandalorian's sect, the Children of the Watch, and why they left Mandalore.
The new series also opens with a brief recap showing droid IG-11 self-destructing in a battle with Imperial stormtroopers in this show's season 1 finale. The story of that droid, voiced by Taika Waititi, clearly doesn't end there.
As for the show's other major characters, the villainous Imperial Moff Gideon was carted off to face a New Republic war tribunal after his capture. And Cara Dune is no longer a marshal, having been recruited by New Republic special forces. Given actor Gina Carano's very public dustup with Disney, that's probably the last we'll hear of Cara.
This is the Way
The episode opens with the sound of hammering. (Like the Mandalorian warriors themselves, their beskar armor is forged in fire and repeatedly beaten.) Their leader, the Armorer, builds a new helmet in a fetching shade of turquoise, and it's carried onto a beach where a youngster feels the sun on their face for the final time.
"The words of the Creed shall be forever forged in my heart," the youngling intones, but they never actually complete the vow to keep the helmet on because they're interrupted by a gigantic space alligator. Woo, Star Wars!
That kicks off an intense battle in the air and beneath splashing waves. Luckily Mando swoops in to save the day. See you later, alligator!
Is the Armorer grateful? No, she's still banging on about Mando (real name Din Djarin) removing his helmet. She insists that redemption is impossible, as the mines of Mandalore were destroyed by the Empire, but Mando offers some hope with a crystal that may be a relic of their home planet. Our hero reckons this is proof that Mandalore is no longer poisoned, and the Armorer seems to agree to welcome the apostate back into the fold if he can prove it. That sounds like a quest to me!
Pirates of the Outer Rim
So once again Mando and Baby Yoda head for Nevarro, the planet where he dropped off and subsequently rescued his little green buddy in season 1. This scummy fringe planet has gone up in the world under Magistrate, sorry, High Magistrate Greef Karga, to become the "gem of the Outer Rim."
Karga even offers Mando a parcel of land to hang up his blaster. But it isn't long before old trouble finds them, as they face Vane, henchman of pirate king Gorian Shard. Vane and his thirsty pirates insist on a drink for old times' sake, reminding Karga that he paid them for murder and mayhem back in the good old days.
The High Magistrate is having none of it but shows he hasn't grown soft, drawing back his fine robes to reveal a blaster. A proper Western-style shootout ensues, and Vane is sent packing with a message for the pirate king.
After a classic Star Wars asteroid-dodging dogfight, Mando and Grogu encounter Gorian Shard in space. This seaweed-encrusted freebooter looks inspired by the fantastical creatures of the Pirates of the Caribbean and warns Mando that he better start believing in ghost stories because he's in one. Wait, wrong movie -- actually, he demands the Mando's ship. But our hero sails away, leaving the pirate king cursing. We're guessing we'll see more nautical naughtiness from the space pirates soon.
IG'll be back
Nevarro has raised a statue of the bounty hunter droid IG-11, which sacrificed itself fighting Imperials. It turns out the statue is made of the droid's actual remaining parts, allowing Mando to resurrect the bot. He quickly changes his mind when it defaults to old programming and goes all Terminator on little Grogu. Leave Baby Yoda alone! Another statue solves the problem, though there was no need for Mando's dreadful pun.
Mando takes the remains of IG-11 to the Anzellans, jabbering animatronic mechanics in delightfully Star Wars style (you might remember Babu Frik from The Rise of Skywalker). It's great to see The Mandalorian continues that grand Star Wars tradition of delightfully fleshy aliens coming in all prosthetic shapes and animatronic sizes. It's a massive squee from us when Grogu tries to give the little cutie a squeeze.
Sadly IG-11's memory is fried, but we're sure something will turn up.
Next stop: Kalevala, a world in the Mandalorian system, complete with a concrete-gray brutalist Mandalorian castle.
The helmetless and bitter Bo-Katan Kryze is on a throne but overthrown, because without the fabled Darksaber -- a symbol of Mandalorian leadership -- her forces have melted away to become mercenaries. She's presumably still furious that Mando inadvertently took ownership of the weapon when he defeated Moff Gideon in combat.
Katan insists there's nothing magic about the mines of Mandalore and that Mando's quest is based on superstition. But we're sure her interest could be revived if Mando & Co. prove her planet isn't as ravaged, plundered and poisoned as everyone thinks.
Easter eggs and observations
- The episode is directed by Rick Famuyiwa, a director usually known for more grounded stories like coming-of-age drama Dope, the true story Confirmation and the TV series The Chi. That said, he was originally set to direct DC's The Flash movie, but given that film's troubled history, he's probably glad to be working on Star Wars instead.
- While in hyperspace, Grogu sees some space whales -- fans who've watched CGI animated series Rebels will remember these as the Purgill. All four seasons are on Disney Plus.
- These hyperspace-traveling creatures dragged Imperial baddy Grand Admiral Thrawn and trainee Jedi Ezra Bridger off to an unknown destination in that show's finale. This story is likely to continue in live-action Mandalorian spinoff show Ahsoka, which is expected to hit Disney Plus this year, so the Purgill might be showing up here to establish them for live-action audiences.
- The pirates include a Klatooinian, a Trandoshan and a Warthog.
- Klatooinian criminals were among the antagonists in the Book of Boba Fett (and whose name calls to mind the famous alien catchphrase "Klaatu barada nikto" from the 1950s sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still).
- The Trandoshans also appeared in the Boba Fett series. A notable member of the lizardlike race is Bossk, a contemporary of Fett on the bounty hunting scene.
- A warthog is, er, a warthog.
- Look out for those Salacious Crumb monkey dudes in a tree.
- The Anzellan mechanics are voiced by Shirley Henderson, the award-winning actor who also lent her distinctive voice to Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter films.
- Pirate king Gorian Shard is voiced by Nonso Anozie, who played Xaro Xhoan Daxos in Game of Thrones.
- Vane is played by Marti Matulis, who played the Monstrosity in 2022 horror hit Smile.
- For the scenes in which The Armorer forges baskar armor, the credits list a "forging double" -- blacksmith and artist Heather McCarty.
Come back next Wednesday for the next Star Wars adventure, as The Mandalorian season 3 episode 2 streams on Disney Plus on March 8.