A few years back, if you considered yourself to be even a remote Star Wars fan, then watching the latest episode of The Mandalorian as soon as possible was imperative in order to avoid spoilers for the acclaimed Disney+ series — that’s how ubiquitous and omnipresent it became.
It’s certainly no surprise that fans were so eager to keep up with The Mandalorian, as the series was widely beloved by both critics and audiences alike during its first two seasons, boasting Rotten Tomatoes critics scores of 93%, and more importantly, audiences scores in the high 90s. It even racked up consecutive Emmy Award nominations for Best Drama Series.
The current third season of the formerly beloved Star Wars series, however, has seen the show’s reputation take a severe hit, as the Rotten Tomatoes audience score for the latest batch of episodes sits at a relatively paltry 50%, which is a seismic dropoff considering where The Mandalorian was back in 2021 when it was arguably the biggest show on television.
So, what happened? As Harvey Dent once famously warned Bruce Wayne, you either die a hero and live long enough to see yourself become the villain. And while The Mandalorian might not be the villain of the television world just yet, it’s certainly displayed some glaring signs of losing its way.
Perhaps most crucially is the lack of narrative drive in season three of The Mandalorian, which used to be defined by the journey of Din Djarin and Grogu. In season one, Mando is trying to protect Grogu from the Empire. That represented a clear goal and therefore allowed for purposeful drama.
In season two, the plot was elevated yet still maintained its origin — not only was Mando trying to escape Moff Gideon and the Empire, but he was also trying to track down Grogu’s own kind, which ultimately culminated in an electric season two finale that saw a prime Luke Skywalker in his pomp.
That episode, if you recall, ended with Grogu going off to train with Luke Skywalker instead of remaining with Mando, a decision that simultaneously broke his and the audience’s heart and set the series up for a compelling third-season story arc that would see the pair eventually reunite.
The error that Lucasfilm made, however, was to eschew that arc entirely by not even building season three around it, but actually letting it unfold in a separate series entirely: The Book of Boba Fett. And while the two Mando-centric episodes of Boba Fett were certainly entertaining, they were also quite clearly episodes of The Mandalorian being used to bolster an obviously subpar spinoff.
And that, ultimately, is where The Mandalorian finds itself these days: instead of being Star Wars‘ flagship show, it’s now just one of many spinoffs being used to perpetuate and proliferate other franchises. Not only was the dramatic crux of Mando and Grogu’s split resolved in another series entirely, but these most recent batch of episodes have virtually relegated them to supporting players in order to build up characters like Bo Katan or facilitate jarringly distracting cameos from celebrities such as Lizzo and Jack Black.
Those issues are only compounded by the fact that Ahsoka is set to release in August and recent reports that Dave Filoni will direct a theatrical film that will serve as the culmination of the events of the “Mandoverse”, thus rendering what was once a legitimately compelling piece of sci-fi television detailing a loner with a heart of gold’s search for a home and a family into just another nondescript cog in the neverending Disney money-printing machine.
The Mandalorian might be dead yet, but if Lucasfilm doesn’t course correct in season four, it’ll only be a matter of time until it’s a zombified version of itself. Which is not to be confused with Pedro Pascal’s other massive show, of course.
Season 3 of The Mandalorian, in addition to its first two seasons, are currently streaming on Disney+, with the S3 finale set to air on Wednesday, April 19.
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