Almost three years after Disney+ released The Mandalorian Season 2 finale, the wait for a new full season finally ended in March of this year. In between Seasons 2 and 3, I found something to like in each of the other Star Wars shows I watched. However, to me The Mandalorian barely remained the overall most appealing live-action TV serial about the galaxy far, far away.
Now that I’ve begun reviewing Pedro Pascal performances in media without AAPI co-stars or directors, I could review any of Din Djarin’s appearances. The Book of Boba Fett provided a disheartening choice for the last Star Wars TV series to receive its own articles from me, yet my difficulty finding any Obi-Wan Kenobi or Andor Season 1 episodes that stand well on their own prohibited me from writing whole articles about any of them. Regarding The Mandalorian Season 3, I ultimately decided to review my favorite chapters in which an Asian actor plays an important and ostensibly human role, as well as the season finale.
These reviews were originally posted on two separate pages, combined in August 2023 to save space. For context’s sake, I have retained the separate headlines and publication dates for each review.
Chapter 19 Review/Another Spotlight on Dr. Pershing
Published April 3, 2023
The middle of this Mandalorian episode, the longest one yet, shifts attention towards Dr. Pershing, one of the non-Mandalorians responsible for Grogu repeatedly both falling into and escaping from Imperial clutches. When Disney+’s Star Wars shows explore another character’s dilemmas, they don’t always succeed at keeping track of the main plot. In this instance, Din Djarin still advances his own goals, but doesn’t interact with Dr. Pershing. Now that Chapter 21 has given fans a stronger grasp of the New Republic’s importance to The Mandalorian, the best way for me to judge this episode seems to involve determining if it successfully makes me interested in Pershing’s fate.
Airdate: March 15, 2023
Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Writers: Jon Favreau and Noah Kloor
We were close to making some incredible breakthroughs. In the right hands, our discoveries could have helped a lot of people.
-Dr. Penn Pershing/Amnesty Scientist L52
Din Djarin, Grogu, and Bo-Katan Kryze visit the other Children of the Watch with proof of Din’s redemption on Mandalore. Meanwhile, Dr. Pershing seeks his own redemption by joining the New Republic’s Amnesty Program. Longing to prove that his outlawed cloning discoveries could fulfill a benign purpose, he accepts assistance from Moff Gideon’s former comms officer, Elia Kane (Katy O’Brien), in acquiring resources to resume his experiments.
When Chapter 16: “The Rescue” set up a struggle for power between Bo-Katan and Din, I hoped to see him unite Mandalorians from different tribes, and assume a leadership position. By guiding her to the Children of the Watch’s covert, he takes a small step towards these achievements. Seasons 2.5-3 often make me worry that Lucasfilm and Disney have reverted too much of Din’s status quo: The former’s finale returned Grogu to him, while the end of this chapter welcomes the Clan back into a tribe once described as “a cult of religious zealots,” thanks to Din surviving a trial that rebuilt a barrier between Grogu and his humanity. Bo-Katan’s life changes more drastically across this and the next few installments, helping create the impression of her replacing Din as the main character.
Even if Din doesn’t feel like the central character anymore, his decisions still feel important to the future of Mandalorians as a whole. After Chapter 18: “The Mines of Mandalore” presented several instances of Bo-Katan saving his life, this chapter reinforces the wider impact of his atonement. The Imperial destruction of her castle suggests that without the circumstances that resulted in her following him to Mandalore, she would have suffered an untimely and inactive demise. The stimulating dogfights preceding and following the destruction allow for more direct and obvious instances of Din rescuing Bo-Katan. Promisingly, the dynamic gradually shifts from Bo-Katan ordering Din, to Din firing at Imperials that Bo-Katan overlooks, to Din leading Bo-Katan to safety from a fight they ultimately can’t win.
During the very long tangent on Coruscant, the New Republic ultimately dehumanizes Dr. Pershing through explicit and relatable means. Among various factors affecting the impact of these means, the most important one concerns whether or not Pershing feels human in the first place. As detailed in the article linked to at the top of this page, his previous appearances hinted at him valuing life more strongly than his superiors did. However, those appearances occurred so sporadically, and ran so short, that I doubt the average Mandalorian viewer thought much of him. I probably only paid so much attention to Dr. Pershing for biased and convoluted reasons, but the hints of his potential for goodness, combined with this episode’s new details on his past and research, help strengthen my desire to see him achieve his most beneficial role to the rebuilding society. I also relate more strongly than I should to the scenes where he finds his job less productive than his side interests, even if mine have less potential to change the world.
Omid Abtahi’s performance also promptly compensates for the minimal effort The Mandalorian Seasons 1-2 put into humanizing Dr. Pershing. Abtahi continues to pull off Pershing’s nervous tendencies through his tones and gestures, appropriate for the doctor’s overwhelming new environment and situation. He also manages to convey Pershing’s delight at taking risks; not just whenever Pershing considers continuing his cloning studies, but also whenever he accepts mischevious dares from Elia. This sounds expected of a scientist, but especially one willing to defy authority, and also to stand up to Mandalorians. Thanks to some Empire-level mercilessness from the New Republic, the former two qualities eventually help result in his apparent downfall.
Whether or not I think this chapter needed to spend so much time establishing the faults of the New Republic will depend on how prominently they affect future events in The Mandalorian, and/or its spin-offs. The strongest thematic similarity I could find between Pershing’s and Din’s stories concerns society’s pressure for individuals to conform. Incidentally, Korean-American Lee Isaac Chung previously explored the risks and benefits of mundane nonconformity with the semi-autobiographical Minari. (The movie earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay nominations for Chung, and a Best Supporting Actress win for Youn Yuh-Jung.) When Elia Kane reveals Pershing’s retrieval of Imperial lab equipment to the New Republic, they punish him by either killing or mind-wiping him, possibly depriving the Galaxy of life-saving knowledge. Similarly, previous chapters saw Din foil Imperial schemes by removing his helmet, then almost die during his trial of atonement.
Later Season 3 chapters hint at the importance of nonconformity, although in the newest ones I’ve seen as of this writing – #20-21 – the hints come mainly from Mandalorians other than Din. The parallel further weakened when I remembered that even though Din survived with help from a Jedi nonconformist, Pershing experienced betrayal from someone else defying the New Republic. “The Convert” shares several planets’ worth of intriguing plot elements, but relies too strongly on other chapters to effectively tie them together.
Chapter 21 Review/Another Spotlight on Carson Teva
Published April 5, 2023
I privately swore not to review The Mandalorian Season 3 unless I found an episode that could earn stronger praise from me than Chapter 16.625 did. This took quite a while, partially due to my sense of Lucasfilm repeating some of my biggest frustrations with that series. Similar to when Boba Fett decided to become a Daimyo, Din Djarin embarked on a quest that I thought* seemed inconsistent with his characterization at the end of The Mandalorian Season 2, and often became overshadowed by other characters. If I compare Chapters 17-21 to the state of The Book of Boba Fett before Din’s hijacking, Mando‘s advantages sound so simple, that writing down would condemn Boba Fett‘s basic failures – including some I’ve already spent plenty of time describing – more effectively than they would praise The Mandalorian. Fortunately, Din does play a major role in this chapter, my favorite of the season so far. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee also earned higher billing than in his first three Star Wars appearances, which means I should detail whether or not I found his role in this story intriguing.
*past tense regarding Din Djarin.
Airdate: March 29, 2023
Director: Peter Ramsey
Writer: Jon Favreau
Perhaps it is time for us to live in the light once again on a planet where we are welcome. So our culture may flourish and our children can feel what it is to play in the sunlight.
Din Djarin and the other Children of the Watch receive a visit from Captain Carson Teva, who forwards a distress message from Nevarro to the tribe. Pirates led by King Gorian Shard (Nonso Anozie) have begun attacking the capital, but the New Republic can’t help High Magistrate Greef Karga fight them. Din convinces the rest of the tribe to help free Nevarro from the pirates by offering the Mandalorians some land that Greef had previously attempted to sell to Din.
This chapter reinforces evolution that Din and the Children of the Watch have undergone since The Mandalorian Chapter 1. While Din initially concentrated only on his bounty-hunting, his respect towards various foundlings has forged tighter connections to the rest of the tribe. Additionally, his proposal to relocate the covert to a less secluded area reflects how helping out a wide array of the Galaxy’s denizens, for reasons beyond earning credits, has helped him understand the importance of widening his impact. Even if he could easily convince the other Mandalorians to obey him by pulling out the Darksaber, it remains admirable that he continues to earn others’ respect and compliance through altruism and determination, rather than weaponry alone. Din and Grogu could have easily formed their own Mandalorian tribe after the former’s banishment from the Children of the Watch, but considering all they did to bring up the orphaned Din, it would have looked uncharacteristically dishonorable of him to abandon them in a state of disarray.
Compared to The Mandalorian‘s previous attempt at exploring the faults of the New Republic, this chapter boasts an inverted structure. Chapter 19: “The Convert” relegated the Mandalorians to the bookends, focusing the entire middle on the Galactic Empire’s successor. “The Pirate” relegates the New Republic to the near-beginning and the very end, focusing the entire middle on the Mandalorians’ efforts to save Nevarro’s people. Everything that happens by the time Teva receives Greef’s message remains engaging due to how emotionally attached the viewer has become to Greef and the city that once provided Din with income, while seeing them evolve beyond a disgrace and a scumhole across The Mandalorian Chapters 1-17. Some might think it takes too long for any Mandalorians to appear, but I can’t complain; it makes sense for Teva to seek help on Coruscant first, and I appreciate another appearance from Elia Kane.
Peter Ramsey had previously won an Academy Award for helping direct Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, an action-packed, emotionally-charged demonstration of how embracing both similarities and differences with potential allies can help accomplish a common good. (And a movie I feel more fondly of than any other I’ve seen from a future Mandalorian Season 1-3 director, except maybe Jon Favreau’s Elf.) This makes Ramsey a fitting choice to helm a team-up between a Mandalorian who has begun rediscovering the importance of traditions she abandoned, a Mandalorian who holds onto his old beliefs while acting courteous to those who disagree with their worth, and Mandalorians who insist upon the superiority of their ancient Way above all others. Of course, they all provide thrilling contributions to this chapter’s action scenes; unique when centered around any of the four central Mandalorians. Even though Ramsey specializes in animation, this episode proves that he can direct compelling performances from live-action actors as well.
Among the Mandalorian fan circles I frequent, Carson Teva became a popular choice to replace Cara Dune as Disney+’s most prominent Ranger of the New Republic. He promotes inclusivity not only through his casting, but also through his varied, yet logical, choices on who deserves a chance to prove their worth. His absence from the climax fortifies how strongly he believes in Din’s capability of contributing to society, and allows him to keep his word not to find out where the Children of the Watch will settle next. Most of these qualities seemed apparent ever since Din first met him, but his open mind becomes especially admirable after Chapter 19’s demonstration of other New Republic officers’ difficulties accepting intellectual non-conformists. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee also pulls off material more serious and urgent than in his earlier, fleeting Star Wars appearances – or in the typical Kim’s Convenience episode – including an unsettling teaser for the return of a foe from Din’s clan’s past.
While the Children of the Watch begin settling on Nevarro, the Armorer assigns Bo-Katan with uniting Mandalorians on other planets. This conflicts earlier impressions that since Din twice won ownership of the Darksaber, he would have to unite them alone. Bo-Katan has indeed proven more capable than him of adjusting to Mandalorians’ conflicting beliefs – we haven’t canonically seen his face since December 2020, after all – but her assignment creates more opportunities for her to steal Din’s spotlight. He badly needs more focus before this season ends, but since I’m writing this review before watching Chapter 22, I don’t know exactly how much focus the latter gives to him. “The Pirate” overall both triumphantly and ominously heralds future-reshaping developments for the Galaxy’s Mandalorians.