The Mandalorian Season 3 Has an Action Problem
Why does the action in The Mandalorian Season 3 feel so lifeless?
Four episodes into its run, The Mandalorian Season 3 is shaping up to be a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the Disney+ series has delivered a handful of legitimately shocking moments and twists. On the other hand, the series’ pacing has been wildly uneven up to this point and its plotting has felt similarly disjointed and unfocused.
The season’s action sequences have all felt disappointingly shoehorned in and inessential, too. Even in an installment like this week’s “The Foundling,” which finally reveals who saved Grogu’s life during Order 66, The Mandalorian Season 3 continues to struggle to make the most out of its action sequences. Instead, the season’s various battles and set pieces have landed with similarly disappointing thuds.
The Mandalorian Season 3 opens with an attack on Din Djarin’s (Pedro Pascal) Mandalorian tribe. For several minutes, the tribe’s members all fly through the air and fire their weapons at a massive underwater creature that has attempted to feast on one of their youngest members. Unfortunately, from the moment it begins, the sequence feels narratively and visually confusing. The CGI throughout the sequence is spotty at best and director Rick Famuwiya’s attempts to track all of the scene’s participants aren’t entirely successful.
More importantly, the sequence seems to exist purely for the sake of it. The audience has no real attachment to any of the characters involved, nor do they know what the creature is that’s even at the center of the scene. The superfluous nature of the sequence is made all the more apparent when it’s revealed that it was created solely so that Din and Grogu could have a cool entrance as they save the day by hitting the scene’s central monster with a surprise attack from their ship.
The sequence in question isn’t the only action set piece that has fallen flat this season. Din’s space battle with Gorian Shard and his pirate crew suffers from the same absence of dramatic stakes as the attack that opens The Mandalorian’s Season 3 premiere. The same goes for Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) and Din’s air battle with a squad of Imperial Remnant fighter pilots on Kalevala, which ends with the bombing of Bo-Katan’s castle and her and Din’s retreat. As well-directed as the sequence is, it’s dramatically lifeless.
Why did the Imperial Remnant suddenly choose to attack Bo-Katan? The character says that she’s “scugged off” a lot of Imperial warlords throughout her life, but the explanation does little to actually crystalize the dramatic context of the scene. What’s worse is that the destruction of Bo-Katan’s castle isn’t impactful because The Mandalorian never invested any time in really exploring the location or its meaning to Bo-Katan prior to its destruction.
Bo-Katan and Din’s attack on the raptor nest in “The Foundling” suffers from similar issues. In specific, it’s revealed offhandedly halfway through the sequence that one of Din and Bo-Katan’s teammates, Paz Vizsla (Tait Fletcher), is the father of the Mandalorian boy who was kidnapped by the episode’s central, adult raptor.
Rather than establishing that early on and letting the emotional intensity of the sequence build, Paz announces his relationship to the kidnapped boy and then immediately screws up Bo-Katan and Din’s plan. From that point on, the sequence is chaotic, geographically confusing, and difficult to keep track of. As a result, the set piece ends up coming across more as a sketch of an action sequence than a colored-in, completed version of one.
The Inverse Analysis — The Mandalorian Season 3’s action sequences have been disappointing for a number of reasons, and their flaws have been particularly difficult to look past coming off the recent first season of Andor. Unlike The Mandalorian Season 3, that live-action Star Wars series only featured one actual space battle. In just four episodes, The Mandalorian Season 3 has already delivered twice as many, but none of them have been as impactful as Andor’s.
That’s not just because Andor was a more visually impressive show than The Mandalorian, either. The former series’ patience and unwavering focus on its characters’ motivations and the dramatic stakes of their encounters ensured that every one of its action scenes hit as hard as possible. The Mandalorian, unfortunately, hasn’t done the same. The series has, instead, focused on delivering as many action sequences as possible without doing the necessary work to set them up or effectively execute them.
That fact was made particularly clear this week when The Mandalorian Season 3 chose to recycle one of its own sequences by having the same Mandalorian child that was put in danger in its season premiere get picked up and dragged away by yet another nameless, bland alien creature.
New episodes of The Mandalorian premiere Wednesdays on Disney+.