"The Mandalorian" has finally returned with its third season after a lengthy wait, and the season premiere dives right into the heart of the action without missing a beat. Although a handy pre-episode recap brings the audience up to speed about the key highlights of season 2, those who skipped "The Book of Boba Fett" will be visibly confused with Grogu's reunion with our beloved bounty hunter, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal). There is an undercurrent of well-meaning self-assurance in the latest season premiere, and for good reason, as the first episode, titled "The Apostate," plays out every beat that is quintessential "Star Wars," and manages to have a gala time with it. While employing every "Star Wars" cliché under the sun in a highly-anticipated show's season premiere might seem like a recipe for disaster, episode director Rick Famuyiwa succeeds in keeping things fresh and thrilling in a way that works in favor of the show's greatest strengths.
Understanding the undeniable appeal of the Grogu-Mando combination, series creator and writer Jon Favreau presents their reunion in the latest season in the most matter-of-fact way: The duo function as a deus ex machina during a sticky situation in Concordia. This is most baffling for those who missed the pair being truly reunited after Grogu chooses Din over being a Jedi in "The Book of Boba Fett," but the sheer joy of seeing them together trumps any initial confusion or surprise. While they undoubtedly remain the core of the episode, the events that unfold around them are standard "Star Wars" fare — the sudden attack of a giant alien creature, a battle of (the speediest) blaster shots, and the presence of Anzellans (no Babu Frik, thankfully) as droid smiths at a workshop, among other shenanigans.
Impossible Odds, Sudden Intervention
The age-old trope of a group of heroic figures being engaged in a battle with near-impossible odds, only to be saved last minute is not peculiar to the franchise but has been used ample times for dramatic effect. One can trace variations of the trope back to "Star Wars: A New Hope," where the destruction of the Death Star requires one exceptional stroke of courage, exhibited by none other than Luke Skywalker. (This was later paralleled by a young Anakin in "The Phantom Menace.") The new season of "The Mandalorian" opens with a child taking the vows for The Children of the Watch, but the ceremony is interrupted by a huge reptilian creature who chomps on a Mandalorian while the others struggle to take it down. Enter the N1 Starfighter, which swoops in and shoots blasts at the creature, who is immediately blown to bits.
Mando and Grogu's entry into the midst of action works on many levels here. For starters, it sets up Din as a competent fighter who works smarter to defeat an opponent, while setting up his meeting with the Armorer in the next scene seamlessly. Perhaps, one might argue that bringing in Din/Grogu as a last-minute intervention in a fight where the Mandalorians would have eventually won appears forced, but I present the counterargument that the best deus ex machina moments in the franchise have always been delightfully predictable and somewhat corny. Moreover, Din's presence at Concordia cements his apostate status — he has diverged from "the way," but is doing his best to atone for what he deems is a sin that needs to be washed away in the seemingly holy waters of an underground mine that might or might not be a radioactive wasteland. Now here's a morally-complex, double-edged redemption quest worth embarking upon.
A Good Ol' Shootout And A Space Battle
"The Mandalorian" wears its Western and Samurai influences proudly on its sleeve, as it succeeded in creating a high-tech fantasy world with some characters that still adhere to old-fashioned codes of honor. In this instance, High Magistrate Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) has a sudden pirate problem in Nevarro, and there's some delicious tension before a shootout in the streets, with Din offering crucial backup support, of course. Shootouts have always been a vital aspect of the show, which lovingly takes inspiration from Sergio Leone's Westerns and pays homages to shots from classic genre entries such as "A Fistful of Dollars" and "The Magnificent Seven." Here, in true "Star Wars" tradition, Greef Karga shoots first and disarms the rather dung-headed pirate, Vane.
The shootout is absolutely unnecessary when one considers the context: Karga invites the pirates inside his office for a drink, but they insist on drinking inside what was once a bar but is now a school. Although a pretty dumb thing to fight over, the shootout offers the perfect outlet for low-stakes thrill, which escalates into the space battle that Din finds himself involved in as a result of this shootout. No, there is nothing groundbreaking about this particular space battle — it does not hinge on life or death stakes, nor does it offer anything creatively different. But does it work? Heck yes. The image of Din maneuvering his Razor Crest to evade dumbfounded pirates with Grogu cooing in delight is enough to sustain interest.
Moreover, Din's "never trust a pirate" lesson makes for a solid escape moment, in which he zooms away despite being locked on by a tracking beam, leaving a rather leafy pirate king comically enraged. All is good in the galaxy (for now).
It Is The Little Things
Apart from Din undertaking the quest to travel to Mandalore and meeting up with Bo-Katan (who has given up on her quest all of a sudden), nothing of note really occurs. There's Mando's unsuccessful attempt at reviving the remains of IG-11, as he needs a faithful droid to navigate the potentially-dangerous surface of Mandalore.
However, the delight of "The Apostate" lies in its details — Grogu having a great time on a revolving chair and force-summoning an orange treat for funsies, IG-11 menacingly crawling towards Din like some horror creature from beyond, and Din having to take the mangled droid to the Anzellans for repair. "Star Wars" is incomplete without a quick visit to a droid-repair shop, where some sort of alien creature offers some seminal piece of information that makes the plot a-going. It is a time-honored franchise tradition that works in this case, thanks to Grogu, who grabs an Anzellan and squeezes him like some squeaky toy (forcing Din to embody dad mode).
In essence, the season 3 premiere of "The Mandalorian" whips out time-tested franchise tropes that have had their hits and misses in the past, but the show somehow manages to create a breezily fun, thrilling opener that will undoubtedly raise the stakes as time passes. We glimpse a droid rapidly chopping meat on the street, a hostile IG-11 being squashed with Greef Karga's bust, and Grogu intently absorbing Din's pearls of wisdom when it comes to planet-hopping and bounty hunting.
These unstated moments — along with ones that are a big deal, such as the presence of Purrgils, or the space whales Grogu sees while they are traveling through hyperspace — make the episode a solid jumping-off point for an adventure that is only about to get better. This is the way.
Read this next: The Biggest Questions The Mandalorian Season 3 Needs To Answer
The post The Mandalorian Season 3 Premiere is 'Now That's What I Call Star Wars' appeared first on /Film.