It’s no secret that The Mandalorian season 3 has been a little rockier than its preceding seasons. Although it definitely had some stand-out moments — including Grogu’s interactions with Anzellans, Ahmed Best’s return, and Lizzo’s cameo — the adventure-of-the-week format the Star Wars series prides itself on has fallen a little flatter this time round.
Similarly, the increasing focus on Bo-Katan and the deviation from Din Djarin and Baby Yoda has made countless fans homesick for the ‘glory days’ of the TV series. And I’m pleased to announce that with this episode, The Mandalorian is not only back to its best, but also, quite possibly, surpasses the standard set so high by seasons 1 and 2.
The episode opens with Elia Kane briefing a hologram Moff Gideon (he’s back, boys!) about the events of episode 5, with the Star Wars villain expressing a shock that quickly turns into a resolve to kill when he’s told that the Death Watch and Children of the Watch have finally joined forces. One of the largest, ongoing concerns of the series so far has been its lack of stakes and clear direction — so it’s something of a relief to hear that these episodes were more than confused fillers and actually had consequences.
It’s unclear at this point where Gideon is, but it quickly ceases to matter as we see Gideon meet with members of the Galactic Empire’s Shadow Council. Previously, the Shadow Council had only appeared in Star Wars novels, so tying it into The Mandalorian feels less like overt fan service, and more like well-researched, carefully-constructed world-building with a meticulous commitment to the broader Star Wars canon.
In the meeting, which includes characters like Brendol Hux and Gilad Pelleon, Gideon then goes on to mention Grand Admiral Thrawn. This, I’ll admit, is blatant fan service, as it doesn’t feel entirely relevant to The Mandalorian in and of itself — but it at least makes sense within the context of the story and in establishing ever-incresing Mandoverse, so I’ll let it slide. Gideon asks for more reinforcements to help him take down the Mandalorians, and from there it becomes clear that the Star Wars bounty hunters are gonna get into some deep, deep shit.
Contrasting the looming threat of Gideon is a light-hearted return to Nevarro, as we see the rest of the two warring Mando tribes come to an uneasy alliance. I like the fact that, with the tribes’ fraught history, the Death Watch and Children of the Watch don’t become besties overnight. It feels more grounded and realistic for this unification to take some time. Meanwhile, we circle back to episode 1 and revisit what happened to IG-11 (as I said, there’s a lot of revisiting in this episode as a lot of loose threads from the past episodes start to make more sense).
The Anzellans (whose interactions with Grogu are as comedy gold as ever) have managed to turn the remnants of IG-11 — now known as IG-12 — into a mechanical droid that little critters can operate, and Greef Karga has one specific “bad baby” in mind… Ever the protective father, Din is against this. Still, Grogu is able to manipulate the Star Wars droid‘s voice function (which allows him to say “no” and “yes” by pressing buttons) to basically annoy him into changing his mind. Needless to say, this paves way for several hilarious moments for the rest of their time in Nevarro, with the added narrative benefit of Grogu finally having something of a voice after three seasons.
Those who watch The Mandalorian for Grogu will be well-fed by this episode, but what about people who watch it for the storytelling? Yes, The Mandalorian has got its comedy voice back, but what about the drama? Well, there’s plenty of that in the latter half of the episode, as Bo-Katan leads a volunteer team to Mandalore consisting of Din, Grogu, The Armorer, Paz Vizsla, and Axe Wothes, among others.
After two seasons of it being reinforced that Mandalore was uninhabitable following its attack by the Galactic Empire, Bo-Katan insists that it’s the perfect place to rebuild their now-united group, so they set off to scout for areas where the helmet-loving cult can set up base. On the flight, as we see the full extent of destruction, we see the two warring factions end up bonding over their shared trauma regarding how they saw Mandalore destroyed: scenes that strike an especially powerful blow in the context of the ongoing Russia/Ukraine conflict.
However, this tentative peace doesn’t last. But it’s worth it, because we get some fun jet-pack scenes where the Mandos fight another ungodly mythical creature. We also see Bo-Katan, quite literally, confronted with her past as the refugee Mandalorians, who had been living on the desolate planet, collided with the rest of the volunteers and promise to take them to what used to be the Forge on their derilict ship. With nothing else to do but sit with each other, tensions quickly bubble over between Paz Vizsla and Axe Wothes.
At the same time, a guilty Bo-Katan confides in Din about how she betrayed her fellow Mandalorians, as she reveals how she was the one who handed the darksaber over the Gideon in the first place. She tells Djarin how in return, Gideon promised he would spare the life of the Mandalorians — but then proceeded to orchestrate the Purge.
I’ll admit, I am one of those people who, for a while, was more than a bit weary of so much focus being on Bo-Katan. But that’s because the character felt underdeveloped and somewhat one-dimensional. Now that she’s been provided with much-needed (and arguably overdue) depth, her increasingly-central role in The Mandalorian makes a lot more sense. An anti-hero through and through, she’s the embodiment of the moral greys that Star Wars is all about.
So, The Mandalorian has returned to form both in terms of its comedy and its storytelling. But with little over ten minutes left, there’s still one thing missing: thrilling action sequences laced with explosive plot twists. Fortunately, the climactic portion of the episode delivers that and so much more. We discover that the Empire has been using Mandalore as a base this whole time. Beskar-reinforced Stormtroopers march out, led by Gideon in a beskar Darktrooper suit, and haul Din away from interrogation. Gideon then reveals his bone-chilling plan: to build a master race combining “the best parts of cloning, the Jedi, and The Mandalorians.”
Suddenly, the extended episode focussing on Doctor Pershing makes sense. While the Nazi allegories by Favreau and Filoni are about as subtle as a sledgehammer, it continues to build upon the same imagery and historical backdrop that George Lucas always intended in the Star Wars movies. Further to this, with fringe far-right movements and neo-Nazis becoming worryingly more mainstream, it’s clear to see where Filoni and Favreau got their inspiration from in fleshing out this era of the Empire. This makes the story they’re telling all the more powerful and provoking, as it seamlessly builds upon Lucas’ source material by connecting it with contemporary ideological crises.
When you think the tension in the episode can’t get any higher, we see Paz Vizsla make a heroic sacrifice to allow Bo-Katan, Grogu, and the other Mandos sans Din to escape the trap set by Gideon. We see him easily bulldoze the Stormtroopers in an enthralling action sequence demonstrating his brute strength and force. I can’t tear my eyes off the screen. For a moment, it feels like everything might be okay. But then, the choir music kicks in, the Prateorian Guards show up, and it’s clear that Vizsla is fucked.
In the best-choreographed action sequence I’ve seen since The Last Jedi, the guards slaughter him with a fluidity that is somehow both unrelenting and effortless. Then, the episode ends. At this point, in order to provide a testament to the episode’s extraordinary impact, I think it’s worth mentioning that I watched this episode as part of an advanced screening at Star Wars Celebration. As the credits roll, and we file out of the theatre, the live audience that was cheering, screaming, and hooting moments before is now stunned into silence. You could hear a pin drop.
While we’re on the subject, here’s a guide to everything announced at Star Wars Celebration. Or, if you want to go back to basics, check out our guide to the best Mandalorian characters.
The Mandalorian season 3 episode 7 review
By far the best episode of the season — and possibly the whole series.