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“The Mandalorian” Season 3 and the Future of the Star Wars Universe

Still from "The Mandalorian" Season 3.
Still from "The Mandalorian" Season 3. By Courtesy of Disney
By Kieran J. Farrell, Crimson Staff Writer

This article contains spoilers for Season 3 of “The Mandalorian” and Season 4 of “Star Wars: Rebels.”

What even is a Mandalorian?

While it may have taken three seasons of bounty hunting, space battles, and wholesome parenting moments, “The Mandalorian” finally got around to providing a full-fledged background on the planet and culture to which the series owes its name. The third season of the popular “Star Wars” series, which saw its finale release on April 19, largely deals with the journey of Din Djarin and his similarly armored compatriots in retaking the planet Mandalore, which had been rather dormant in the many years since its surface was destroyed and population decimated by the Galactic Empire. However, given that the season finds itself very rooted in the collective mission of the Mandalorians to reunite their people and return to their homeworld, it loses some of the strongest dynamics from the first two seasons: the adventure-of-the-week style and the father-son dynamic between Din Djarin and his foundling son, Grogu. At the same time, though, between including a number of veteran “Star Wars” characters and hinting at the return of others in future media, this latest season also does lay some exciting groundwork for what’s to come in this vast universe.

For fans who have seen the animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars: Rebels,” Mandalore is already a fairly well-known locale. The planet is portrayed as one that places a high value on tradition, especially when it comes to deciding on leadership; the right to rule is fully dependent on who possesses the darksaber — a one-of-a-kind Mandalorian weapon and a distinct variation on the typical “Star Wars” lightsaber. One Mandalorian who crosses paths with the darksaber on multiple occasions, but can never quite keep possession of it, is Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff). Bo-Katan, who joined the cast of “The Mandalorian” in Season 2 following prior appearances in both “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels,” regains possession of the darksaber in Season 3, and thus becomes the conduit in uniting the Mandalorians in their mission. While Bo-Katan’s arc shows significant character development and pays off events of the two animated series, the consequence is that she begins to feel more like the main character than Din Djarin himself, which is certainly perplexing from a narrative standpoint.

In a similar vein, the seeming conclusion of the story of Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), the main overarching villain of “The Mandalorian” to this point, is inhibited by an impending sense of something bigger. When Gideon re-enters the fold in the seventh episode of this season, he convenes with a secretive council of high-ranking loyalist imperial officers. However, Gideon’s schemes are overshadowed by the mention of Grand Admiral Thrawn, a savvy Imperial officer and a towering figure in pre-Disney canonical “Star Wars” media. While Gideon’s own pompous, maniacal tendencies certainly could have made for an interesting power struggle upon the re-entry of Thrawn onto the scene of “Star Wars” villainy, Gideon seemingly meets his demise in a fiery explosion in this season’s finale, in what feels like an unsatisfying death and a sudden truncation of the story of a villain who has been around since the series’ first season.

Shortcomings aside, if we do decide to unabashedly dive into the ways in which “The Mandalorian” builds towards the future of the “Star Wars” universe, there is a lot to unpack. Similar to how Bo-Katan first appeared in animation before making the jump to live-action, this season of “The Mandalorian” features a cameo by Zeb Orrelios, a prominent character originally from “Rebels.” As a purple alien with a very particular design, Zeb’s live-action CGI could have been a disaster, but it actually looks fantastic in his cameo, suggesting this could be leading to a prominent role for the character in future media. Perhaps more importantly, the aforementioned return of Grand Admiral Thrawn has been eagerly awaited by “Star Wars” fans since the character’s last appearance in “Rebels” in 2018, during which his fate, as well as the fate of the series’ main character, Ezra Bridger, are left curiously ambiguous. Beyond a return to this narrative being hinted at in “The Mandalorian,” both of these characters are set to appear in the upcoming series, “Ahsoka,” as gauged by a trailer released at the fan convention Star Wars Celebration in early April. Overall, the current “Star Wars” media landscape feels as if it is shaping up to be one big “Rebels” sequel, which would certainly be a welcome reality for fans.

Ultimately, with all of the crossing over, cameos, and easter eggs taking hold of “Star Wars” television these days, it is no surprise that Star Wars Celebration also saw the announcement of a future film that will allegedly wrap up the events of the so-called “Mando-verse.” It is currently unclear if Din Djarin and Grogu will have more seasons of father-son adventures in the meantime, but with the retaking of Mandalore now complete, one can only hope that “The Mandalorian” will now return to focusing on the kind of content that did wonders for its first two seasons. As for what exact characters and storylines may be interweaved for the aforementioned film, and how the creators will conclude the events that the first season of “The Mandalorian” kicked off back in 2019, we will just have to wait and see what’s in store for the galaxy far, far away.

– Staff writer Kieran J. Farrell can be reached at kieran.farrell@thecrimson.com.

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