‘The Mandalorian’ Season 3 Episode 1 Review: “The Apostate”
The Mandalorian has finally returned after a long wait for its third season. Despite a bumpy road between seasons, including the spin-off series The Book of Boba Fett, a series that had promise but awkwardly turned into a prelude for Mando’s next adventure instead of focusing on its titular character. Despite that odd decision for that series, Mandalorian is back in full force with the return of his own show on Disney+. The premiere episode, The Apostate, picks up where the character left off in the previous season—having been declared an outsider by his people due to his decision to remove his helmet to save Grogu, Mando has been set on a quest for redemption, and rebirth.
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa, the premiere episode is much more low-key than previous seasons, focusing on Mando preparing for his upcoming journey. The Apostate also revisits vital characters and locations from the series’ first season, making the premiere feel like the earlier episodes of Mando. But before all that, viewers are treated to an incredible opening scene that shows what’s become of the remnants of the Mandalorians. Overall, the first episode is an excellent mixture of old and new locales. Moreover, it’s clear that Favreau, Famuyiwa, and the rest of the team behind the series understand what made the series so popular in 2019.
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In an “adventure-of-the-week” type of episode, Din Djarin arrives with Grogu on the planet that they once made an intense final stand in, as seen in the season 1 finale of The Mandalorian. Nevarro is a planet that’s rarely, if at all, been touched upon in the series since that climactic battle. Perhaps the most refreshing part about the return of this locale is how it evolved since we’ve last seen it. Greef Karga, played as charming as ever by Carl Weathers, has gone from a seedy agent of the bounty hunter’s guild to a magistrate of the planet, which is now trying to rely more on becoming a trade sector rather than a cesspool for bounty hunting and piracy.
Because of these drastic changes to the planet, Din’s quick visit turns into Mando becoming involved in a conflict between Karga and pirates, who want things to return to how they were. It’s a swift and fun segment that feels disconnected from the larger arc. Still, the promise of a bigger (and fantastically designed) pirate villain allows the series to feel like a callback to the adventure serials of the old while also not feeling too out of place in the pacing and structure of the episode.
While there is a clear objective for Din set up at the beginning of the episode, how he goes about it can feel aimless in the episode’s runtime. While it provides entertaining space dog fights and some cool gunplay, the show hasn’t done enough to make this newest season stand apart from the previous two. There’s a strange dichotomy going on with The Apostate, as while it shows genuine growth and evolution for some of its characters and settings, it still retreads beats and action set pieces that we’ve seen from the series so many times before.
The Mandalorian has a potent formula going for it, and it’s hard to deny that despite the repetitiveness, it’s still an entertaining show. However, there’s still a need for real character growth. Hopefully, Din’s search and need for repentance, paired with Grogu’s decision to become part of his culture, will bring the much-needed development and character work that the show needs. – Ernesto Valenzuela
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