The Mandalorian Season 3 Corrects The Premiere's Mistakes In Episode 2

Warning: This article contains major spoilers for the second episode of "The Mandalorian" season 3.

After a long(ish) break, it was good to have our beloved tin can himbo father and his tiny green son back on our screens with the season 3 premiere of "The Mandalorian." Yet, the actual episode, entitled "Chapter 17: The Apostate," was a bit ... ungainly. Perhaps it was unavoidable after "The Book of Boba Fett" morphed into "The Mandalorian" Season 2.5 part-way through its run. This left the season 3 premiere in the awkward position of having to address what went down in that spinoff series, but not without bringing those who skipped "Boba" up to speed first. Add to that the necessary Poochie-fying of Cara Dune, and the cards were always stacked against the episode.

Quite honestly, though, that wasn't my problem with "The Apostate." In trying to be the most "Star Wars," the episode amplified many of the show's recurring issues, beginning with its tone. On its good days, "The Mandalorian" capably balances light-hearted moments and fan service (or, as I think of them, comfort food) with spectacle and more substantial drama the way the best "Star Wars" animated series do. Frustratingly, "The Apostate" overdid things, starting with a somewhat superfluous prologue featuring a generic giant "Star Wars" monster (granted, a tasty-looking one). It then proceeded to pile recycled Grogu gags, cutesy non-humans, and silly villain encounters onto a plot that amounted to a bunch of video game-styled retrieval quests.

If I sound grouchy, it's because "The Apostate" embodies most of the common failings of Disney-era "Star Wars" and specifically its live-action series — from the over-emphasis on kid-friendly, easy-to-market characters to the lack of a distinct narrative structure. Thankfully, the show quickly course-corrects with its latest episode, "Chapter 18: The Mines of Mandalore."

Mando gets down to business

Keep in mind, when I say "The Mines of Mandalore" is better than "The Apostate," I don't mean it's devoid of humor. The episode opens with some broad comedy on Tatooine (Peli Motto! What a scamp), before settling into its groove as a more serious and action-driven outing. Moreover, the opening sequence with Peli (Amy Sedaris) and her droids pulling a fast one over on a Rodian customer is the type of glimpse at everyday life among the working-class civilians of the "Star Wars" universe that "The Mandalorian" really thrives at providing. It also feeds right into the plot, with Peli convincing Din (Pedro Pascal and friends) to take her nervous droid pal R5-D4 with him and Grogu to Mandalore rather than continue his ill-advised quest to restore IG-11. (For now.)

From there, "The Mines of Mandalore" follows a clear trajectory as Din and his companions journey to the devastated world of Mandalore in search of the Living Waters located within the planet's mines. By giving Din a firm objective and allowing him to realize said objective before ending on a cliffhanger that logically progresses season 3's overarching story, the episode feels like, well, an actual episode, as opposed to a collection of scenes that abruptly stops like in "The Apostate." Granted, embracing long-form storytelling might seem like a given when it comes to television. Yet, even after four years, live-action "Star Wars" shows on Disney+ are still getting the hang of this whole being TV thing.

That there's no attempt to undermine the legitimate (and terrifying) dangers Din, Grogu, and later Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) battle on Mandalore also comes as a welcome relief. When I argue "Star Wars" animation generally knows how to juggle pulpy genre elements with family-friendliness, this is what I mean.

Fun with Grogu and Bo-Katan

It's equally comforting to see "The Mandalorian" letting Grogu develop in "The Mines of Mandalore." Where "The Apostate" kind of lent firepower to those who argue there's no real depth to the character, this new episode proves it's possible for him to be adorable while also having a genuine arc. In this case, all that Force training he did with Luke on "The Book of Boba Fett" pays off as Grogu and Din effectively reverse roles and it's the former's turn to save his dad. That he's able to do just that despite his own fears and doubts is all the more satisfying narratively, coming after Grogu's decision to forgo his calling as a Jedi on "Boba" in order to face a relatively uncertain future with Din.

This latest episode is just as rewarding for those who found themselves miffed that all we got with Bo-Katan in "The Apostate" was a brief moment of her sitting dejected on her castle's throne in Kalevala. "The Mines of Mandalore" is the first time the character has gotten to really display her combat skills in live-action, both with and without the Darksaber. Perhaps more importantly, we finally get to glimpse the pain she's been keeping buried beneath her toughened surface over her stolen heritage and the fate of her home planet. That we're treated to all this in the midst of some sick monster fights is just the icing on the cake.

Add it all up and it becomes clear why the first two episodes of season 3 were screened together for critics. Does "The Mines of Mandalore" make "The Apostate" better in hindsight? That I'm not sure of. I am, however, more intrigued about where this is going now.

New episodes of "The Mandalorian" premiere Wednesdays on Disney+.