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Why isn’t The Mandalorian season 3 bothering to tell a story?

The Mandalorian season 3 has so far been a major downgrade on previous seasons, because it somehow forgot to tell a story. This is not the way.

The Mandalorian season 3 - Din Djarin, Baby Yoda, and Bo Katan

We’re now halfway through The Mandalorian season 3 if you can believe it. It’s fair to say that so far, the Disney Plus show’s approach has been unexpected.

Before the new season of the Star Wars series aired, we all thought we had a pretty solid idea of where this latest adventure would be heading: it was going to be about Din Djarin learning more about Mandalorian culture with Baby Yoda at his side. At the same time, Bo-Katan would continue her quest to take the Darksaber from him.

Well, apparently, The Mandalorian loves surprises because the new season of the TV series hasn’t been about that at all. Instead, The Mandalorian season 3 episode 1 raised an entirely new (and potentially exciting) storyline. Din Djarin looked set to embark on an adventure to Mandalore in order to redeem himself for the sin of having taken off his helmet, breaking the rule set by the Mandalorian creed.

Great! With Bo-Katan hanging around and the ever-present Baby Yoda, this promised to be an exciting new development. There’d be plenty of enemies to fight, worlds to explore, and lessons to learn. Perhaps, through all this, he might actually begin to question the rigid dogma of the zealous Mandalorian religion, which set such absurd guidelines in the first place. It certainly wasn’t the plot that we had predicted, but we all like surprises, and this one had lots of potential as we settled in for the next few months of the show.

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Cut to one week later, and that plot was done. Over. Finished. Finito. He accidentally sank into some water, knocking himself unconscious along the way, and now he’s redeemed. Since then, what’s happened? What plot lines has The Mandalorian season 3 established for itself?

Let’s see. We’ve got the stuff that happened on Coruscant, but that wasn’t actually about The Mandalorian so… We’ve also got the three orphan bird things that The Mandalorian characters now have to look after. So there’s that. What else? Something about a Mythosaur.

To be honest, not much has happened, and what little has happened feels inconsequential and like treading water. Yet somehow, we’re halfway through the season. Next week is episode 5 of an 8-episode season. Really, we aren’t far away from the end.

The Mandalorian season 3 - baby Yoda

So where on Earth is The Mandalorian season 3 even going? It is, frankly, almost impossible to imagine what next week’s episode will look like. Sometimes, that can be a positive: it can make things exciting and fresh, and with the recent final season of Better Call Saul, for example, no one knew where it was headed, but we all had our guesses and were delighted when it subverted them.

However, it had something that The Mandalorian lacks: a coherent direction. The next episode could see the return of Moff Gideon, Boba Fett, or Ahsoka. Alternatively, Bo-Katan might decide she finally wants the Darksaber back. Maybe Grogu will get kidnapped by one of the many, many creatures on the hellish, monster-infested planet that the Mandalorians inhabit. Each of these random possibilities is as likely as the other.

This is because The Mandalorian season 3 has failed in the most simple task: it hasn’t given itself a story. After season 2, it seems to want to take a more episodic approach with a series of standalone adventures like we had back in season 1. But, back in season 1, there was an overall plot, and the adventures happened within that framework. This time, we have nothing. There is no grand villain or great goal that people are working towards.

The Mandalorian season 3 - The Armorer

Every week, events are happening and then concluding, all with no meaningful consequence. One week, Mando is booted out of the clan. The next, he’s back in, and the Star Wars characters have no desire to explore what’s just happened or why. They’re passive bystanders.

That lack of direction, purpose, and narrative momentum isn’t just an issue with the stories The Mandalorian chooses to tell but also those it chooses not to tell.

Do you remember when Din Djarin got attacked by pirates who wanted revenge on him? There’s no sign of them anymore. They might come back, or they might not: who knows? Do you remember when Din Djarin was going on a quest to repair the Star Wars droid IG-11 and then didn’t? That was something that happened. Do you remember when Bo-Katan joined a religious cult on a whim, only to never speak about or interrogate that decision?

So, what makes The Mandalorian season 3’s total lack of any direction worse is that the sci-fi series doesn’t even care about the stories it is actively telling. There is so much storytelling potential in the idea that Bo-Katan is joining a group she’s always mocked, but The Mandalorian season 3 just isn’t interested. It’s like a toddler picking up a toy before getting distracted and choosing to do something else and play another game.

The Mandalorian season 3 - Din Djarin and Baby Yoda in ship

Here’s a theory to help explain this inexplicable flaw: the story of The Mandalorian – about a rogue bounty hunter who forms a connection with a child before learning to let them go – is done. It was told over the course of two whole seasons. It was good, and often great, while it lasted.

When that arc was effectively retconned (and in an entirely different show, no less), The Mandalorian was forced to start a new story from scratch. But it hasn’t got one anymore. The baddies were defeated, our characters developed, and the emotional journeys were complete. So in the absence of a story to continue, The Mandalorian season 3 is flailing around, grasping at straws. No amount of practical effects – as lovely as they are – or exciting action and cameos can distract from the fact that it should be over.

The Mandalorian season 1 would often be compared to a videogame: Din Djarin would get quests, complete them, and then progress. The Mandalorian season 3 feels like the post-game: all the quests are done, and the villains are defeated. Now, you just wander around waiting for something – anything – to happen.

For more on The Mandalorian and Star Wars, check out our guide to Kelleran Beq, or find out who plays the Armorer. Or, take a look at our guide to the Andor season 2 release date, as well as the Obi-Wan Kenobi season 2 and Skeleton Crew release date.