The Mandalorian S3, Ep 8 Review

When the season finale for The Mandalorian went live on Disney+, I got up at 3 AM to watch it. I promised myself that, at least once, I’d be there for one of the live watch parties held by prominent Star Wars Youtubers. I hoped we’d get another banger as we did for Seasons One and Two, the latter breaking the Internet! With that kind of bar, fans went crazy with speculation. Was one of the Mandalorians a spy? Would Mando even survive the episode? Would Grogu ride that Mythosaur? 

None of these hardcore theories were right. The Mandalorian season finale gave us something with great action but a’ meh plot.’ It became a victim of its hype.

Did You Think Mando Would Die?

To recap the end of the last episode:

  •  Mando had been captured 
  • Jon Favreau’s character, Paz Viszla, died!
  • Gideon had a new army of beskar-clad Dark Troopers.
  • Gideon’s TIES were ready to destroy the Mandalorian Fleet.

In other words, things look bad for the Mandalorians, with fans speculating that at least one major character would die before the dust settled. Once the episode got underway, things went differently than fans thought they would.

Regarding Mando’s capture, some fans speculated that this set things up for Grogu to rescue his Dad. That, at least, turned out to be right, with Baby Yoda almost immediately coming to save Mando. It’s a nice moment that shows how Grogu’s no longer the tagalong that always needs help. Slowly but surely, he’s becoming stronger. Combined with his long lifespan, many fans think he could become one of the strongest Mandalorians in history, and I really hope we see that come to pass. In the meantime, though, both father and son resolve to take down Gideon for good. He won’t stop until he’s dead, and Mando’s fed up with him.

This is where things start to go off the rails, though.

Convoluted Even by Star Wars Standards

The Mandalorian S3, Ep 8-Mandalore Lives
Source-Disney, YouTube

Contrary to expectations, the show does not give us a big fleet battle that pushes the Mandalorians to the brink. Instead, Axe Woves, who flew off to call for help, makes it in time to warn everyone. I found this hard to believe, though. How could a Mandalorian jetpack have enough fuel or thrust to get Woves from the surface to the atmosphere? That shouldn’t be possible, even with some of the stuff that Star Wars gets away with!

It only gets crazier from there as we finally see what Gideon’s been doing with his cloning project. Instead of teasing up the tech enabling Darth Sidious to return in TROS, Gideon was doing something crazier. This whole time, he tried cloning himself, using Pershing’s tests on Grogu to try and make his clones Force-Sensitive. On the one hand, this shows Moff Gideon’s big ego. On the other hand, it will have a lot of older fans shaking their heads.

Cloning Force-Sensitives was a controversial idea in the original Expanded Universe. People would argue both in-universe and in the fandom whether this was possible. While possible, it had mixed results, so it was only sometimes reliable. So, while it aligns with Gideon’s character and sense of superiority, it also sounds… dumb. Thank the Force Din and Grogu nip that plot thread.

A Decent Final Battle, At Least

The Mandalorian S3, Ep 8-For Mandalore!
Source-Disney, Twitter

The one thing that I will not dispute about the episode is how cool the final battle is. After rallying their forces, the Mandalorians launch a counterattack. What follows is an aerial duel between Mandalorians and Dark Troopers that calls back to the fights from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It’s fast, deadly, and just fun to look at. Meanwhile, Din and Grogu face down Gideon, who we see furious for the first time. And with his cybernetically-enhanced Beskar armor and the Praetorian Guard, he almost pushes them back. Worse, when Bo-Katan tags in, he crushes the Darksaber with his hands. RIP to one of the coolest lightsabers ever. 

For all his posturing and intellect, though, Gideon proves he’s just a Darth Vader wannabe. I would even describe his obsession with the Force, cloning, and Mandalorian culture as signs of envy. He wants to be special and powerful so badly, but he’s just a chump. And he goes out like one when Din, Grogu, and Bo kick his butt, and Axe drops their flagship on his base. Considering how he rained death on Mandalore, it’s a case of poetic justice. 

An Underwhelming Ending

The Mandalorian S3, Ep 8-That's all, Folks!
Source-Disney, Twitter

The remaining minutes of the episode serves as a happy ending for everyone left alive (so, everyone not Paz Viszla). The Mandalorians finally reclaim their home after years of exile and being hunted. Mando officially adopts Grogu as his son and apprentice, and the two head out to travel the Galaxy as part of Baby Yoda’s training (and do jobs for the New Republic). Bo-Katan finally earns the right to call herself Mandalore. Din even gets the parts to return IG-11 as Nevarro’s new Marshal. So, why does all this seem like such a letdown? Because it’s too safe an ending to the season.

The Mandalorian S3, Ep 8-Mandalore Lives
Source-Disney, Twitter

As someone who’s followed the Canon Mandalorian story since the days of The Clone Wars, I’m happy to see them reclaim their home. After decades of infighting, genocide, and more, they earned this chance to rebuild. Even the planet’s starting to rebuild, with the episode revealing that the land, thought to be barren for centuries, is recovering. It’s sad to see the Darksaber destroyed, but given how much trouble it’s been, it’s probably for the best. 

On the other hand, the finale proved almost all of the fan theories wrong, and we feel bad about it. Besides Paz and Gideon, no major characters died, and that Mythosaur appearance did little for the plot since it doesn’t get involved. Most of all, seeing Mando and Din relaxing on their own land on Nevarro feels off. Like it’s something meant for a series finale rather than a season finale.

Bring on Ashoka and Thrawn

Overall, this season of The Mandalorian feels like a letdown. Fans spent years hyping it up, and as a result, that left us feeling disappointed with what we got. Given time and focus, the show’s next season could have it bounce back. However, I fear this might be a dropping-off point for many fans.

In the end, it may not matter. This show has been part of a larger story within an even larger story. In this case, it’s leading up to the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn. We know that The Mandalorian was building up towards that, Ashoka will continue it, and the eventual movie we get will tie everything together. If the overarching story succeeds, then The Mandalorian isn’t a lost cause. 

For now, though, it’s best to say goodbye to Mando and Grogu. Bring on Ashoka Tano and Thrawn!

I Give “The Return” a 2/5