‘The Mandalorian’ Just Pretended Like Its Big Cliffhanger Never Happened
Every episode of The Mandalorian begins with a “Previously On...” recap. The one that kicks off “Chapter 17: The Apostate,” the first episode of Season 3 — and the first new episode Mandalorian in well over two years — runs for about one minute. It consists of clips from four different scenes:
- Droid IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi) self-destructing at the end of Season 1, while stating “Manufacturer’s protocol dictates I cannot be captured. I must be destroyed!”
- Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) talking about the planet of Navarro, and explaining that now that its “scum and villainy have been washed away, it’s very respectable again.”
- A brief conversation between Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) about “the way of the Mandalore” and Din’s objection to Bo-Katan removing her helmet.
- A back-and-forth between Din and the Armorer (Emily Swallow), the leader of his Mandalorian sect. He confesses that he removed his helmet, and she tells him he is no longer Mandalorian until he is “redeemed in the living waters beneath the mines of Mandalore.”
These scenes were deliberately chosen because of their relevance to “The Apostate.” Over the next 30 minutes, Mando will reconnect with Greef Karga, attempt to resurrect IG-11, receive an important piece of information from Bo-Katan, and make plans to earn his redemption from the Armorer. But the recap never mentions the massive, show-breaking cliffhanger from the end of The Mandalorian Season 2, in which Mando relinquished custody of his adoptive son Grogu (played by the great Baby Yoda) to Luke Skywalker (a CGI double that vaguely looks like Mark Hamill), so that the Force-sensitive child could be trained in the ways of the Jedi.
The Season 3 recap shows a glimpse of this scene — because it contains the moment when Din Djarin committed the ultimate Mandalorian sin and removed his helmet — but the context is totally left out.
And yet when the Season 3 premiere officially begins after the Star Wars animated logo, the Mandalorian and Grogu are back together, saving the Armorer and other members of her Mandalorian sect from a giant space crocodile. The Mandalorian provides no explanation how, when, or why they reunited.
Technically, those events were shown, just on a different television series. Mando and Grogu got back together on The Book of Boba Fett, which, in Episode 5, inexplicably turned into an unofficial episode of The Mandalorian, with Pedro Pascal as a guest star —and, notably, Boba Fett pretty much entirely absent from the story. On Boba Fett, Mando attempts to visit Grogu at Luke Skywalker’s Jedi training school, but is rebuffed by Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson). He leaves a gift of Beskar armor for Grogu and departs. Skywalker then forces Grogu to choose: The armor and a life with the Mandalorian, or Yoda’s lightsaber and the ways of a Jedi. Grogu picks Mando, and returns to him during the Book of Boba Fett season finale.
But you wouldn’t know any of that unless you actually watched that show. If you skipped The Book of Boba Fett, then the last time you saw Grogu, it was when he left a tearful Din Djarin behind on an Imperial ship. The Mandalorian Season 3 acts like that moment never happened at all.
The decision to not only continue this crucial Mandalorian storyline on The Book of Boba Fett but to totally resolve it was surprising at the time and utterly baffling now. What was the point of that huge cliffhanger if it wasn’t going to have any bearing on Season 3? Theoretically, this new season’s storyline does flow out of those events, because it seems like the Mandalorian’s main quest this year will be returning to Mandalore to redeem himself in the eyes of the Armorer — something directly tied to the moment when he took of his helmet when he said goodbye to Grogu.
But Mandalorians like Din never take off their helmet — and certainly not just because someone wants to take a peek at their face. If Mando and Grogu were truly saying goodbye forever, then maybe you could justify the scene as this extremely meaningful decision. If Grogu was no longer a main character on The Mandalorian, you could argue that Mando made his choice and now he has to deal with the repercussions. But Mando and Grogu are still zipping around the galaxy; they’ve even got a new super-fast starfighter as a replacement for the Razor Crest. So taking off his helmet ultimately meant nothing — plus Mando has removed his helmet a few other times on the series anyway, meaning the show could have done a you-took-off-your-helmet-you’re-no-longer-Mandalorian plot even without the Season 2 farewell sequence.
Did the creators of the show have a change of heart about their decision to split up Mando and Grogu? The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau has said in interviews that it “became clear... as we were looking at what their lives would be like apart ... I guess you could do Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as like Butch Cassidy a few episodes and the Sundance Kid separately. But they’re both bumming. They’re both not their best selves without the other person.”
Favreau knows these characters better than anyone, so he’s probably right about that. But he’s the creator, writer, and producer of both The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. If the characters are better together, why did he split them up in the first place? If they were going to be reunited, why do so on The Book of Boba Fett instead of on The Mandalorian Season 3? And if you’re dead set on inserting them into Boba Fett — a show those characters had nothing to do with otherwise — why not more carefully recap the events of Boba Fett at the start of The Mandalorian Season 3 for people who didn’t watch that show?
Obviously, Star Wars is now an interconnected universe of films and shows. The Book of Boba Fett was a spinoff from The Mandalorian Season 2, so it wasn’t totally illogical or shocking that Mando might show up in it somewhere. But in an interconnected universe, there still needs to be some concessions for viewers who might miss a chapter or two. What Star Wars has done with Mando and Grogu between The Mandalorian Season 2 and 3 is a bit like if Marvel had killed half the universe in Avengers: Infinity War, resurrected everyone in Captain Marvel, and then began Avengers: Endgame with no explanation why Bucky, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and Nick Fury were all suddenly alive again. Audiences would be understandably upset about that — and I can’t blame anyone who turned on The Mandalorian season premiere and felt the same way.
What’s up on screen in The Mandalorian’s Season 3 premiere is solid. Pedro Pascal remains a compelling anti-hero, and he’s already got enough impossible goals on his plate to keep him busy for the next seven episodes. Jon Favreau has supposedly already written the series’ fourth season. But the bizarre, confounding way the Star Wars team handled the transition between Seasons 2 and 3 makes me wonder just how firm or thought through those plans really are.