It’s that time of the week again! Time to check in with the beloved Mandalorian and his adopted son Grogu. But this time around, things feel different. And not just because the bulk of the story focuses on other characters. The Mandalorian 3×03 is an episode that takes a risk and succeeds, adding a new layer to this corner of the Star Wars universe.
Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) first encountered Baby Yoda, now known as Grogu, through his work as a bounty hunter. He located the child for clients who turned out to be Imperial loyalists, and they were doing questionable science involving cloning. They wanted Grogu for his sensitivity to the Force. Din rescued Grogu but anything left of the Empire will always be a threat to the adorable little green guy. Recently, Din has focused on his goal of atoning for breaking the Mandalorian creed by removing his helmet. He did that in the last episode by bathing in the Living Waters of Mandalore. Everyone thought the planet was uninhabitable after the Empire destroyed the surface, but Din persevered. He did need a bit of help from Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), though, because dangerous surprises popped up.
Now, while the Mandalorian story does take a brief step forward, most of The Mandalorian 3×03 is an unexpected but meaningful detour that enriches the setting of this series.
“You will forever have my gratitude.”
This episode picks up exactly where the previous one left off. Bo-Katan is still reeling from the fleeting look she got at the mythosaur at the end of the last episode. The creature is supposed to be a myth of her culture. If it’s real, her beliefs have all been thrown into question. She asks Din if he saw anything while he was falling in the water but he didn’t. Bo doesn’t press the issue, and you get the impression she is trying to put it out of her mind. Almost like maybe she can convince herself she didn’t see it. She turns her attention to getting Din back to his ship.
However, they are interrupted by a group of TIE interceptors attacking. The action scene that follows is fun and thrilling, with stand-out camera work. Plus, there’s a truly memorable stunt when Din jumps from Bo’s ship to retrieve his own for the fight. The most significant moment of the sequence comes just before, though. I mentioned in my last review that Grogu is vocalizing more, and he does that here. He does it seconds before the TIE interceptors fire on Bo’s ship, almost as if he sensed what was about to happen and was trying to warn them. (I still think we might hear his first word soon.) Din and Bo do get away but the Imperial fighters bomb Bo’s home first.
“I’ve done a lot of things I’m ashamed of.”
While Din sets them on a course through hyperspace to safety, another plotline takes center stage. On the central city planet of Coruscant, in the opera house fans saw in Revenge of the Sith, Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi) tells the crowd how he was forced to work for the Empire. He desperately wants to use his work on cloning for good in the New Republic. This doctor is the same one who was working under Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) to experiment on Grogu. He has been reintegrated into the New Republic, like a lot of Imperial workers. Including the Communications Officer from Gideon’s ship, who we learn here is named Elia Kane (Katy M. O’Brian).
The New Republic’s Amnesty program seems a bit like Operation Paperclip. This was the US recruitment of Nazi scientists to develop technology for the Cold War. Except Pershing doesn’t get to do his research. And he wants to. Kane senses this and creates a friendship with him, encouraging him to do what he wants to help the New Republic. Unfortunately, but predictably, she betrays him. The New Republic uses a frightening electro-shock brain therapy to treat “relapses” like this. It’s supposed to be a low-voltage procedure but when Kane is left alone with the controls, she increases it to a mind-wiping level.
This is a stunning way to show the audience how the seeds were sown for the fascist First Order, which has control of the galaxy in the sequel trilogy of Star Wars films. The New Republic may have tried to be different but the remnants of the Empire managed to survive. The writers still found time amid this seriousness for a fun reference to Return of the Jedi when Pershing insists about Kane, “It was a trap” to a Mon Calamari technician– the same species as Admiral Ackbar!
“This is the Way.”
Din and Bo arrive at the isolated planet where Din’s Mandalorian covert has settled. He proves to them that he has fulfilled the requirements for redemption under their Creed. Surprisingly, the enclave deems Bo to be a Mandalorian again because she also bathed in the Living Waters and hasn’t removed her helmet since. She does not protest. But she glances at art depicting a mythosaur hanging on the wall and we know she has not come to terms with what she saw. She also hasn’t told anyone about it yet, so how these two factions of Mandalore will mesh together remains to be seen.
The title of this episode could refer to Bo now that she has been accepted into the Children of the Watch. The fact that Bo is a member of Mandalore’s ruling family adds an interesting aspect to all this. But the title could also refer to Kane. She seems to be a committed member of the New Republic now, but the methods she uses have not changed from those of the Empire. This engaging examination of political themes was something that made the recent Star Wars series Andor so good. And I think it’s a positive addition to the storytelling of this series as well.
Though The Mandalorian 3×03 does something different from the other episodes, it turns out to be a substantive installment. It’s an episode that has provocative things to say.
The Mandalorian is streaming on Disney Plus.