The Mandalorian Season 3 Review: Chapter 23
Much has been written about season three’s seeming ambivalence toward addressing the emotional ramifications of Mando and Grogu’s reunion that happened on someone else’s show. It seems likely that Grogu was not originally supposed to be in this season, at least not by Mando’s side. The season has barely featured Star Wars’ only current cultural sensation, perhaps the single most valuable character across Disney’s vast empire, for any purposes that don’t involve cute memeable moments for the internet. His only substantive character moment came in episode four, itself a handcrafted viral moment featuring the return of millennial icon Ahmed Best.
The baby that singlehandedly redeemed the launch of Disney+ has been sidelined in favor of a character who made her debut in the eightieth episode of a children’s cartoon which The Mandalorian heavily leans on to fill out its own lore. Convolution may be one of this show’s predominant issues, but the bigger problem is a simpler matter. This show is absolutely horrible at basic plot progression.
“Chapter 23: The Spies” essentially starts off by abandoning the accomplished objective of the entire pro-helmet Mandalorian sect two episodes prior, to fight off space pirates so they can build a settlement on Nevarro. After putting up a few tents, the arrival of Bo-Katan’s anti-helmet buddies and their repurposed Imperial light cruiser apparently has them ready to pivot completely toward the imminent, impromptu reconquering of Mandalore. What’s the rush? This show has endless time for side quest antics but can’t even bother to explain anything resembling a plan, something each of the three original Star Wars films made time for.
The sight of the Mandalorian fleet was a bit jarring when juxtaposed against the handful of helmet people we’re used to seeing. The idea that Bo-Katan would continue to fly her ship The Gauntlet with Mando, Grogu, and R5-D4 just after reclaiming her leadership spot was beyond clownish. Who exactly is flying all these ships? What was the point of Greef welcoming them all if they’re just going to leave two episodes later?
This show has never featured more than two dozen or so Mandalorians on screen at the same time, obvious limits of the StageCraft technology. This dynamic is unnecessarily complicated by the show’s refusal to engage in any sort of meaningful exposition. If you don’t show more than twenty people ever, and you don’t say there’s more than twenty people ever, how is anyone supposed to take this whole war seriously? These people have supposedly survived for thousands of years yet there’s barely enough to field a football team, let alone garrison several massive ships.
The return of Moff Gideon is a bit of a mixed bag. Giancarlo Esposito is always fun to watch, especially when he’s setting up Grand Admiral Thrawn, the crown jewel of the no-longer-canon expanded universe. The obvious strides toward the sequel trilogy serve as an unwelcome reminder of how little has happened since Gideon was captured just a handful of episodes ago. This show apparently has nothing else to do but reuse its own villains.
Baby Yoda gets to ride inside IG-11’s (IG-12**, because there are fewer droids in the galaxy than helmet people) corpse, for some reason. Mando left Grogu behind to hang out with complete strangers last episode, but now he feels comfortable bringing a baby to war instead of leaving him with Greef, despite claiming that he’s not able to pilot the droid. This would all feel more like nitpicking if it wasn’t all so stupid.
The Mando-chess fight between Paz Vizsla and Axes Woves served as a microcosm for everything wrong with this episode. Bo-Katan claims it was a matter of time before the two cultures clashed after a minor board game dispute. Maybe if they spent more than five minutes together as a people before going off to war, they might not get so easily pissed off at each other. There are barely ten Mandalorians on the ship and they’re ready to kill each other over the Star Wars equivalent of the designated hitter.
The action sequence was fairly silly. The jet troopers had the high ground, Star Wars 101, while many Mandalorians, including Din himself, didn’t even have rifles. The sets looked repetitive, sequences that were eerily similar to those from Chapter 12 of last season, as well as Part V of Obi-Wan Kenobi. The return of the Praetorian guard was certainly fun, but the uninspired fight choreography kind of sucked the air out of the room.
Mando’s capture and evil Gideon speech aside, the Mandalorian could have easily killed the troopers in their convenient bottleneck. Paz Vizsla took out most of them himself, only succumbing to foes that Bo-Katan didn’t know about when she ordered the retreat. This whole sequence was a pointless mess that couldn’t be redeemed by Esposito’s charismatic acting or the emotional ramifications of Mando’s capture.
Chapter 23 packs no narrative punch, the production of the season’s ambivalence toward cohesive plot progression. This show’s creative braintrust is as lazy as its CGI. The cute puppet is finally not enough to save this lazy experience masquerading as prestige television.