So far, while not everyone agrees with whether or not “The Mandalorian” is a great show (especially in this era of Peak TV), it has been a blast watching brand-new live-action “Star Wars” content delivered each and every week. The first episode is a bold introduction to the world and its broken-down, politically and morally rudderless landscape (following the events of ‘Return of the Jedi‘) and that distinct world’s lead character, a faceless bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal) tasked with retrieving some very special cargo. While the second episode, a galvanizing burst of action-adventure storytelling that felt more stand-alone than canonical, saw the Mandalorian face more elemental challenges while protecting his charge. And with the third entry (titled “The Sin”), “The Mandalorian” enters epic “Star Wars” territory. This is certainly the biggest and boldest episode yet — and sets the entire series on an entirely new and unexpected path.
At the end of episode 2, the Mandalorian and his pint-sized asset had just left the hostile planet of Arvala-7, having successfully supplied the Jawas with what they were after and pieced his ship, The Razorcrest, back together (with the help of a grumbly little Nick Nolte). Episode 3 sees him returning to the planet from the beginning of the first episode (which looks suspiciously like Batuu, the planet of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the new “Star Wars”-themed land at Disneyland and Walt Disney World) and fulfilling his obligations. That’s about all that can be said without spoiling anything (although you might see some characters from the first episode), but prepare yourself for the biggest and most explosive episode yet. The previous two episodes felt like episodes of a very expensive television series; this episode feels more like a genuine movie.
The episode was nimbly directed by Deborah Chow. “Star Wars” fans should be very excited after they see what she does here. The significance of Chow’s inclusion as director for “The Sin” can’t be overstated, not just because she has given fans a strong entry in the first season, but because this episode marks the first time that a live-action “Star Wars” project has been directed by a female filmmaker. And apparently, Disney and Lucasfilm are well aware of the quality that she brings to the project, as Chow has already been selected as the sole director of the upcoming “Obi-Wan” streaming series. However, her first episode of “The Mandalorian” is far from flawless.
Some of the problems that the show has already butted up against continue to be an issue. While Pascal does an admirable job with his vocal performance and gesturing, conveying emotion through what is essentially a blank slate. This, so far, has worked pretty well, and it’s a testament to his acting prowess and the general technical proficiency of the filmmakers that anything is communicated at all. But it becomes more complicated in this episode when he’s making big decisions and having heated conversations when you can’t actually see any facial expressions. In a way, these conversations, especially when he’s having a discussion with somebody else in a mask, is reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s first “Spider-Man” and the goofy scenes between the Green Goblin and the masked hero, where they both look like human-sized bobble-head dolls jiggling at one another.
Another element that encroaches on the enjoyment of this episode is a reemergence of deep cut mythology. This stuff was handled fairly well in the premiere, partially because Dave Filoni, that episode’s director, has long-standing connections to the franchise. (He shepherded several animated series that “The Mandalorian” draws heavily from.) There’s more of that type of storytelling in Episode 3 and it feels somewhat clunkier and more ham-handed. Still, when the episode really needs to bring it, it does, and the spectacle is so spectacular that the more awkward elements drop away.
Episode 3 hints at a bigger, more expansive series than what we’ve seen so far. This is definitely the most cinematic installment and the end of the episode suggests that this could become the status quo. Still, it’s unclear where the series will go and how it will get there. But if it’s one thing “The Mandalorian” has established, in just a few (very brief) episodes, it’s to expect the unexpected. That sense of adventure and surprise is intrinsic to the DNA of “Star Wars,” inspired by the old comic books and movie serials of old, and “The Mandalorian” totally delivers. [B+]