“The Return” lives up to its title in multiple ways as Season 3 ends.
Hello friends and welcome to the season finale of The Mandalorian Season Three, “The Return.” The title covers a lot of ground this week. The return of Mandalore, the return of Moff Gideon, the return of kick-ass Din Djarin, and the return of my impulse to make a “Return of the Mack” joke. (Editor note: Oh my God)
Written by Jon Favreau, who needs to call me and answer a lot of questions, “The Return” wraps up Bo-Katan’s redemption arc, puts paid to some of our spy suspicions from last week, and tells us that sometimes it pays to bring your toddler to a warzone. After the reveal that the Empire is still clinging to power in a secret underground base on Mandalore, the gathered Mandalorians must deal with Imperial Commandos and the threat of Gideon’s cloning experiments. Everyone in Star Wars has to deal with cloning and its outcomes at least once. It’s a rule.
Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) and her remaining team of Mandalorians race through the caverns. Meanwhile, Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides) continues up to the Fleet. He has an extremely fueled-up jetpack. Axe makes it to the cruiser and sends the others down to aid Bo-Katan. Then he uses the cruiser to distract the oncoming TIE Interceptors.
This may seem suspicious. After all, as we discussed last week, Axe seemed like one of the top contenders for the other titular spy. Don’t worry, though, Axe Woves fans. He’s on Bo-Katan’s side. In fact, so is the Armorer (Emily Swallow). It seems we’ve all been led astray by a misleading or misunderstood title. That or these answers will wait for Season Four.
Bo and the others fight off Moff Gideon’s Imperial Commandos. They take brief refuge in an underground garden nurtured by the Mandalore survivors. It astonishes Bo that anything could still grow on Mandalore’s surface, long a planet of domed cities even before the Purge. This information boosts her confidence when the Armorer and the other reinforcements arrive. The Mandalorians take to the air for a breathtaking flying battle against the Commandos, with Bo-Katan leading (and clearing) the way with the Darksaber.
Meanwhile, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) fights off his Commando captors. They nearly take him out until Grogu grabs one with his IG-12 hand and a stern series of “Nos.” Not his dad! Not today! After politely declining a helpful spray of healing mist from Grogu, Din tells his toddler child that they can’t keep running. Moff Gideon has to die today.
Din calls a reluctant R5 to scomp into the base’s computers and find the way to Gideon’s command center. Din instructs R5 to deactivate the shields one at a time so that he can take out the Commandos in pairs. Everything goes swimmingly at first. Din reminds everyone why people throughout the galaxy are rightly terrified of him as he dispatches Commandos two at a time. It’s a fast-paced scene reminiscent of the hallway sequence in Season One’s “The Prisoner,” also directed by Rick Famuyiwa. Famuyima knows how to showcase Din’s warrior skills.
A mouse droid almost catches R5, but the astromech zaps it, chasing it away. Unfortunately for R5, the mouse droid returns with a posse of…fellow mouse droids. They surround and bump (very harshly!) into the astromech until he uses his rocket boosters to escape. Luckily Din is already through the shields and entering the creepy hallway of clone pods with Grogu.
Written by Jon Favreau, who needs to call me and answer a lot of questions, “The Return” wraps up Bo-Katan’s redemption arc.
Who do these pods contain? Snokes? Thrawns? No to both. It’s a collection of Gideons. Each, we’ll soon be told, complete with the Force. Din messes with the pods’ control panel and explodes them all, killing the clones. Sorry, New Gideons, not today.
Din and Grogu emerge on a landing platform, running directly into Gideon himself (Giancarlo Esposito). He’s decked out in his Dark Trooper armor and extremely pissed off that they killed all his wonderful copies. Din and Gideon begin to fight as Gideon’s Praetorian guards enter the fray. They attack Din until Grogu breaks in and draws them back into the hangar behind a closed door. Inside, one of the guards breaks IG-12, but Grogu Force-jumps to an overhead railing. This leads the guards on a merry chase as he flips and hops around the room just above their heads.
Outside, Bo-Katan joins the fight against Gideon. She sends Din to rescue the just knocked to the floor Grogu. Din battles the guards, aided by Grogu using the Force to throw them around the room. Father and son soon defeat the guards. Gideon taunts Bo-Katan to surrender the Darksaber once again, but she isn’t having it. Gideon uses his gauntlet to crush the Darksaber’s hilt, destroying it. He’s smug, having robbed her of her “trinket.” However, she reminds him that Mandalorians are stronger together as Din and Grogu join the fight.
Up in the atmosphere, Axe comms Bo-Katan, warning he’s driving the cruiser right into the Imperial base. He sets a course and jumps out of the falling ship. The Mandalorians also hightail it out of there, leaving Bo-Katan, Din, and Grogu on the platform, still fighting Gideon. The ship crashes into the cavern, overwhelming Gideon with the resulting flames. Grogu protects Bo and Din with a Force Shield that he keeps in place until the firestorm subsides.
Later, the Mandalorians gather at the Living Waters to watch Ragnar get a redo of his Creed ceremony, this one happily not interrupted by a giant monster. When Ragnar finishes, Din brings Grogu to move from Mandalorian Foundling to Mandalorian Apprentice. The Armorer points out that if Grogu is too young to talk, he’s too young to say the Creed. That’s fair. Din asks if, say, Grogu’s parent could give their permission for him to take the Creed. The Armorer, absolutely messing with Din at this point, breezily notes that Grogu’s parents aren’t there. This leads Din to formally adopt Grogu, solidifying what everyone else has known for years.
The Armorer declares him “Din Grogu.” That’s SIR Din Grogu to you. Also, wait. Is Din his last name? Has his first name been Djarin this entire time? Let’s wait for some official confirmation on this one, but what a fact to throw out at the end of Season Three. The Armorer tells Din it’s time to take his apprentice out on his journey. Grogu gazes into the Living Waters, where, deep below, the sleeping Mythosaur opens one eye.
Bo-Katan relights the Great Forge to the enthusiastic approval of her people. There’s been some talk that the destruction of the Darksaber renders its existence useless, but therein lies the very point. It’s like Din told Bo-Katan last week. The Darksaber itself means nothing. It’s about the person who carries it. Din wasn’t ready to be that sort of leader, hence his overall failure wielding the blade. Bo-Katan, though, is now prepared. She lost the Darksaber once in a moment of bad judgment that she let overwhelm her for years. She lost it this time defending her people and her world, making the loss worth it. The Mandalorians don’t want to follow Bo now because she has an arbitrary symbol of leadership. They’re following her because she is a leader. Of course, the Darksaber could be easily destroyed. It’s just a weapon. They blew up two Death Stars too.
“The Return” works best for its lack of cameos, even as fans predicted many.
Din and Grogu fly to Adelphi Base where they meet up with Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) in the cantina. Grogu helps himself to some snacks while Din offers his services as a freelance bounty hunter for the New Republic, hunting down Imperial remnants. Teva, having witnessed firsthand how bad the New Republic is with paperwork, says they’ll never approve it. Din shrugs that off. Just don’t tell them. As an advance, Din wants one of the trophies from above the bar: an IG droid’s head.
Clan Mudhorn returns to Nevarro, where Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) gives Din the deed to a cabin and piece of land where he and Grogu can lie low between jobs. Din presents a gift to Karga: a refurbished IG-11, now programmed to act as the Marshal of Nevarro. Din and Grogu retreat to their cabin, where Din lounges out front while Grogu Force-lifts a frog. For the moment, everything is perfect.
Season Three of The Mandalorian has been a collection of ups and downs, without question. “The Return” leaves as many questions as its idyllic ending answers: Where is Dr. Pershing? What is Elia Kane’s mission? What happens now that Gideon is (ostensibly) dead? Was the Mythosaur meant to be anything more than a cool monster cameo, or will we see more of it and its effect on the Mandalorians? Thankfully, this finale isn’t a series finale, so these answers may yet come.
“The Return” works best for its lack of cameos, even as fans predicted many. Name someone Din and Grogu have met, and they were on the list. Yes, even your recapper held out some hope for a post-credits Thrawn teaser. Instead, “The Return” lets the focal characters be the focal characters and wrap up this arc of their various plots. The Mandalorians have reclaimed Mandalore. Moff Gideon is dead. The First Order is forming in the background. Din and Grogu are back to bounty hunting. And hunting Imperials at that, leaving a nice open window for all the cameos anyone could want later on.
Probably the element that has stirred up the most debate is Din’s re-embracing of his covert’s helmet-on culture. Having seen that all Mandalorians don’t have to wear their helmets at all times, and having removed his helmet under his own power twice last season, why would Din even want to go back to that way of life? The real-world answer is so that they don’t need to have the very busy Pedro Pascal on set at all times.
The Mandalorian answer is: what else does he know? Yes, Bo-Katan and her people have shown Din that Mandalorians follow different parts of the same path. Yes, the Armorer even admitted as much when she told Bo-Katan to remove her helmet earlier this season. Still, for Din Djarin himself, he wears his helmet with pride as a symbol of the Creed he has sworn. Will he choose later on to do differently or to show his new son his face again? Maybe. Maybe not. The point is he now has a choice.
The Mandalorian has never made everyone happy. Nothing can. It’s fumbled storylines and overplayed its quirkiness at times. Nonetheless, Season Three stands with the others as a strong piece of this larger story. How Din and Grogu’s story will tie in with the others coming up remains a mystery. So does where their new (old) lives as bounty hunters will take them when they come back. A recurring joke states that Din is a Star Wars character who doesn’t know that he’s in a Star Wars; there’s no getting away from it now. You’re in it, Clan Mudhorn. See you next time.
- It was vaguely unclear (as many things in Star Wars can be) if Paz Vizsla died in the last episode. This week seems to verify that he did. RIP, Paz.
- Gideon, in his helmet, sounds very Kylo Ren-esque. Luckily we don’t hear him talking to any dead relatives.
- Eight episodes, Mandalore reclaimed, numerous Mandalorians present, and not a whisper of Satine Kryze. I remember you, Duchess.
- We can all see you back there in your hat, Trapper Wolf (Dave Filoni). Are you always at the cantina? Get to work.
- Our final Mando’a word this season is “bajur,” which means the educating and nurturing of children. Like giving them a yard to play frogs in.