Christmas 2020 was a big one for Star Wars fans. The last time we saw The Mandalorian it left jaws on the floor after landing the biggest of all franchise cameos – Mark Hamill returning as digi-faced Luke Skywalker to whisk Baby Yoda off into the sunset. More than two years on, Disney’s biggest, grandest, cutest show has a lot to live up to. One episode into season three, The Mandalorian is already well on its way.
A lot has happened since then. Barely unmasked star Pedro Pascal is now showing up everywhere (see The Last Of Us), the show’s main story thread has been picked-up in another series (see The Book Of Boba Fett) and Star Wars has downed-gear into more grown-up TV (see Andor). Maybe that’s why, then, the first time Ludwig Göransson’s whistly Western theme kicks back in it feels so much like coming home.
A fight with a 300 feet tall space crocodile in the first few minutes reminds us that this is a very different beast to Andor’s straight-laced dramatics – and an episode of pirates, puppets and old-fashioned swashbuckling puts the show firmly back on the rails we last left it on. Grown bigger and baggier than the stripped-back samurai epic it started as in 2019, The Mandalorian still runs like classic Saturday afternoon telly on a blockbuster budget.
Even after tidying some of the loose threads in The Book Of Boba Fett, there are still plenty left dangling for the series to toy with in episode one. The Mandalorian isn’t really a Mandalorian anymore (since he took off his helmet and broke the rules of his ancient Spartan-esque tribe), so his first new job is to try and get back to his ruined home planet and redeem himself. Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) is still upset about losing the sacred Darksaber, and Greef (Carl Weathers) is now a respected bigwig, but the show keeps most of the big story rumours (the return of Moff Gideon? A Snoke debut? Wookies?) in the dark for the moment.
What we do get, though, is plenty of Baby Yoda – and that’s all that really matters. Still doing his best to steal Pascal’s thunder, the smallest star of Star Wars remains the weird heart and cheeky soul of the show, burbling and gurgling his way through all the big action scenes to keep his face on pyjamas, lunch boxes and birthday cards everywhere. There’s an extra dose of cute to look out for too, as the little grumpy Scottish gremlin from The Rise Of Skywalker, Babu Frik, gets re-introduced as a mechanic who’s busy resurrecting Taika Waititi’s heroic droid IG-11 (a call-back to season one).
As before, the show still looks the money. Of late, Disney has been pouring just as much love and detail into their small screen set-pieces as they do at the cinema. Pascal’s performance anchors yet another super-slick action scene that dances us around asteroids and whips Baby Yoda through the sky squealing – and The Mandalorian is right back where it belongs.
‘The Mandalorian’ season three episode one is streaming on Disney+ now