[Editor’s note: The following review of “The Mandalorian” contains spoilers for the third episode, “Chapter 3: The Sin.”]
“The Baby Yoda Show feat. Pedro Pascal as the Mandalorian” hits its stride in the Disney+ series’ third episode and sets itself up for an exciting midseason arc. Though the marquee Disney+ launch title still hasn’t managed to shake that nagging feeling of predictability, it’s an issue largely offset by the series’ genuinely fun moment-to-moment action and oodles of fan service.
As expected, “Chapter 3: The Sin” focuses on the Mandalorian delivering his Force-sensitive quarry to Werner Herzog’s mysterious Imperial-connected character. But since abandoning Baby Yoda to Herzog would be a jerk move, the Mandalorian, armed with some impressive new gadgets and armor, sets off to rescue the series’ true breakout star.
That’s the gist of things, and it plays out more or less how one would expect. That the early story beats on “The Mandalorian” play things so safe should be a more pressing issue, but it’s still a consistently enjoyable adventure, despite the sense of unerring familiarity. Three episodes in, “The Mandalorian” still isn’t breaking new ground, but it nails everything fans have come to love to about “Star Wars,” and that’s probably enough for most viewers.
No matter the kind of “Star Wars” project, there’s something viscerally satisfying about watching Stormtroopers and hostile aliens get bested by a better-equipped and more skilled adversary. While the chattier moments that constitute the first half of Episode 3 are solid enough, the nonstop action in the latter half is undeniably its stronger point. “The Mandalorian” isn’t quite “John Wick: The TV Show,” but the action and choreography are more than good enough to please action fans of all stripes.
Chief among those is a sweet facelift, as is mandatory for every Disney action hero. Goodbye crummy multicolored patchwork armor and hello gloriously shiny Jango Fett-esque plating. The Mandalorian’s new Beskar armor can withstand blaster bolts and holds a good deal of Star Wars lore significance. The first scene where he shows off his new look has the same effect as watching a Jedi protagonist ignite their lightsaber for the first time or seeing Tony Stark gear up in his latest Iron Man suit: If you’re into that kind of thing, it’s awesome. If you’re not…well, “The Mandalorian” knows its audience and is out to please them, so as you were.
It’s entertaining to see all the sci-fi gadgetry in action, and the locations of Episode 3’s shootouts are also suitably diverse, ranging from claustrophobic rooms to chaotic street corners. Thanks to the direction of Deborah Chow — who will also helm the upcoming “Obi-Wan” series starring Ewan McGregor for Disney+ — it all continues to look and sound very pretty, too. Though there aren’t any colossal alien beasts this time around, the blaster fire lights up the environments with aplomb and the griminess of the unnamed world the story takes place in is plenty convincing. The series doesn’t manage to fool viewers into thinking its main characters’ circumstances are genuinely perilous so early in the series, but the episode’s fight scenes still manage to convey respectable tension.
Action aside, fan-pleasing references to broader “Star Wars” canon continue to be scattered throughout— a flashback scene showing brief snippets of the prequel trilogy’s super battle droids and a Separatist starfighter, both gloriously rendered, is a particular highlight—and, excluding a cutesy reference to being someone’s “only hope”, they never come across as overly pandering.
As for the show’s leading characters, they’re perhaps the largest remaining question mark of “The Mandalorian.” Baby Yoda continues to be precious, but the titular protagonist doesn’t boast quite the same presence. That’s not so much a slight towards Pascal—he delivers his lines with an icy, curt conviction befitting his character—but he isn’t given much opportunity to stand out underneath all that heavy armor. Herzog continues to be the series’ acting highlight, though his Episode 3 screen time is fairly limited.
“The Mandalorian” has done an admirable job of establishing its premise and most of its main characters in its first three episodes, but it remains to be seen if the rest of the season can move those elements in an interesting (and hopefully inventive) direction. Perhaps most impressive is that despite the relative lack of originality, most viewers—especially the “Star Wars” fans this show was designed for—will be dying to know what happens next. Co-stars, such as Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon and Gina Carano’s Cara Dune, have yet to be introduced, and there’s still plenty to explore in the Mandalorian’s motivations and backstory. Finding out what happens to Baby Yoda may singlehandedly be worth subscribing to Disney+ for another month.
Series creator Jon Favreau has referred to “The Mandalorian” as a serialization of “Star Wars,” where viewers will be dying to figure out what happens next in each episode’s weekly installments, and he’s not far off. We might’ve all seen some iteration of this sci-fi story elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean that “The Mandalorian” isn’t a journey worth taking.