The Mandalorian has always been a show of sidequests. Mando needs something, so he finds someone who has it, but he has to do some arbitrary task to pay for it. It could be as monumental as slaying a mythical dragon in a ghost town or as mundane as driving around a Frog Lady. It doesn’t matter: Mando will do it. It’s a formula that’s worked for two seasons, even if it’s become a bit predictable. But in Season 3’s premiere episode, this formula goes off the rails to produce an episode that feels both overcrowded and sparse.
The simple formula relies on one key element: our heroes have to see their quest through to the end and receive a reward. But in Episode 1 of Season 3, there’s no firm resolution to any of the adventures Mando goes on.
Mando visits the Armorer, who says he has to atone in the Living Waters of Mandalore. He visits Navarro to try and revive IG-11, but fails. He brings IG-11 to the Anzellans, but they too fail, noting a lost memory circuit.
In any other episode of The Mandalorian, Mando’s next stop would be somewhere with a circuit where he could do an odd job to acquire it. But in this episode, his next destination is the Mandalorian system to see Bo-Katan and ask about the Living Waters. Did he just give up on IG-11? What happened to his mission?
Episode 1 fails because it gives Din Djarin too much to do. Reviving IG-11 is part of his plan for atonement, so why didn’t we see him follow through? Alternatively, why didn’t he just focus on finding out more about the waters? It feels like Episode 1 contained the first half of two adventures but resolved neither of them.
To make up for this wheel-spinning, there’s a random pirate guy we’ve never seen before who serves no purpose but to give us an excuse for a dogfight. That’s a welcome enough experience for any Mandalorian episode, but it does nothing for the story. Add on an ending that seems to come out of nowhere, and the whole episode feels unfinished.
Hopefully, this won’t become a bad habit for the series. As a premiere after such a large time gap both in-universe and out, there’s a lot to catch the viewer up on, and to do so required a sacrifice of the well-worn side quest formula. Episode 1 instead established the two overarching quests that will hang over Din’s head this year: being forgiven by his people, and reuniting with an old friend. Those should be enjoyable adventures, as long as progress is actually made in them.
The Mandalorian Season 3 Episode 1 is now streaming on Disney+.