The Mandalorian Starts Season 3 with a Good Episode but an Okay Premiere in “The Apostate”
The Mandalorian season 3 starts off with a good episode that successfully brings us back into this universe even if it’s not a great premiere
The Mandalorian Season 3, Episode 1
“The Apostate” Review
When The Mandalorian started, it was exactly what Star Wars needed. No longer focusing on the Skywalkers or any Jedi, it was a breath of fresh air. Giving us a look at a side of the galaxy far far away we never really got to see before, set in a time period rarely explored. The adventures of Din Djarin and Grogu in the first season were a space western focused on its own pocket of the Star Wars universe.
The second season lost its way a bit with a more intense focus on character cameos and more familiar elements of the franchise for audiences to cheer at. My hope for Season 3 is that The Mandalorian goes back to what made that first season so special. The first episode of the season, “The Apostate” is a promising sign that my hopes for the season will be fulfilled even if the episode itself failed to really impress me.
“The Apostate” wastes no time in getting your blood pumping. The episode starts with a Mandalorian baptism of sorts as a kid gets his helmet and is sworn into the order. Before they can finish they’re attacked by a giant alligator-looking creature. Seeing a bunch of Mandalorians in action together is very cool and the sequence is directed with aplomb. It’s a set piece that efficiently could have functioned as an episode climax and starting the season with it is a great way to bring us back into the universe.
Overall, that’s what this episode is, a way to bring us back into the universe. It very much feels like an episode of the first season in that it’s very contained to Din’s side of the galaxy. He’s on a journey, so he goes to places and people he knows for help. There are no wider-reaching characters or references here. After season two felt like it was bringing in Star Wars characters from other films and shows every other week, it’s refreshing. “The Apostate” brings the shoe back to its western serial roots of Din going on mini excursions to help him complete his journey.
While I’m happy the season is starting off by going back to the series’ true strength, there is a flip side to that coin. Much of the episode feels like it’s meandering. There are definitely a lot of set-ups in the episode for things that will no doubt come into play later on, but much of it feels like a side quest. That’s not bad in itself but as the first episode of the season, I’d rather they just get right to the point of what the seasonal arc will be. Here, that seasonal arc is set up in dialogue and then put on the back burner for Mando to go on a mostly dull side quest to prepare. It feels like a prologue, not an opening chapter. There’s nothing important here that can’t be summed up in a few seconds during an episode recap should you skip this episode.
That’s not to say it isn’t worth watching. It’s great to see Greef Karga now running a much nicer and more respectable Nevarro as its High Magistrate. Carl Weathers is as charming as ever in the role. There’s a nice western stand-off with some pirates that again harkens back to the series’ roots and leads to the climactic space battle. It’s a good episode; it just doesn’t feel like an episode that should have been the premiere.
The other problem is less to do with this series as much as it has to do with The Book of Boba Fett. That series, which was not advertised as being anything more than a spin-off, featured two episodes that were essentially episodes of The Mandalorian. Those episodes featured important story beats that continued where season two left off. This episode continues from those story beats and doesn’t do anything to explain them beyond a throwaway line that essentials boils down to “it’s like this now”. This episode is Chapter 17 but if you go from Chapter 16 straight to this one you’ll have missed a Chapter.
It feels wrong to have such important story moments happen in a spin-off that was never advertised as being essential viewing, but that could have been forgiven if this episode did a good job of filling in those blanks. It doesn’t though. Again, this isn’t a problem if you watched The Book of Boba Fett but it’s worth mentioning if you’re only a viewer of The Mandalorian.
All in all, “The Apostate” is a good episode of The Mandalorian, and it promises a season much more in line with the self-contained nature of the first. As a season premiere though, it leaves something to be desired. It does set up things for the future, but it eschews setting up the main arc of the season in favor of a side quest that just doesn’t seem important enough to be the main focus of a season premiere.