The Mandalorian Season 3 Finale Review: Classic Star Wars Finish That’s Both Too Much And Not Enough
The Mandalorian Season 3 finale delivers some glorious action, but with a story that seems crammed to fit with a lot forgotten.
The Mandalorian Season 3 finale — “Chapter 24: The Return” — on Disney+ is about as close as the series has come to delivering the same kind of exciting and multi-layered final showdown Star Wars features like Return of the Jedi made famous. Unfortunately, so much happens in this finale that it all feels crammed in at the last minute, and a lot of story seems to be forgotten; including something that the Internet has been abuzz about since last week.
In fact, so much is missing from The Mandalorian Season 3 finale, that I’ve gone back and rechecked four times to make sure there wasn’t a post-credits scene I missed (there isn’t).
Like Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, and Rogue One , “The Return” gives us engrossing battles on multiple fronts to finish the season. Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), Grogu, and Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) have their final confrontation with Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and the same Praetorian Guard trio who killed Paz Vizsla (Tait Fletcher) last episode. Meanwhile in the skies above Mandalore Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides) holds off Gideon’s TIE Fighters, and the rest of the Mandalorians clash with the Beskar-reinforced Imperial troopers.
The action and the visual effects are spectacular and keep you cheering for The Mandalorian finale, unless you make the mistake of stopping to have thoughts about what’s going on.
I’d rather not drop big spoilers: suffice to say a lot of very consequential things happen in The Mandalorian Season 3 finale, both in terms of the series and the Star Wars mythos as a whole. But “The Return” proves to be one of the shortest episodes of the season, and it all feels rushed.
One of the things fans have been expecting the most from The Mandalorian Season 3 finale is the reveal of who, if anyone, among the different tribes of Mandalorians has been secretly working with Moff Gideon. The three most oft-mentioned suspects were The Armorer (Emily Swallow) whose actions have been suspicious all season, Axe Woves who conveniently left as soon as the heroes were ambushed last episode, and the ragged survivors discovered on Mandalore. Boosting these theories was the title of the season’s penultimate episode: “Chapter 23: The Spies.”
The Mandalorian Season 3 finale reveals that the traitor was… no one? Axe Woves’ stated intent to save the fleet turns out to be genuine, and both The Armorer and the Mandalore survivors join in on the battle against the Beskar-reinforced troopers. With Star Wars fans debating this character’s suspicious behavior or another’s was a red herring, it turns out the very notion of there being a traitor was the red herring all along.
Rather than coming off as a clever twist, the absence of a traitor — or of anyone even mentioning the possibility of one — comes off as a sloppy omission. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that there was originally meant to be a big turncoat reveal, but that the episode was rewritten at the last minute.
The main reason Axe Woves was in contention for a traitor reveal is because in “The Spies” he hightails it above ground almost as soon as the Imperial troopers reveal themselves, claiming he wants to warn the fleet. His explanation for leaving seemed like another big hint that he’d gone bad, considering the notion he could make it to the fleet seemed impossible. Yet he makes it, doesn’t seem to have much problem making it, and it’s one of the toughest things in The Mandalorian Season 3 finale to swallow.
Now I am usually the last person to complain about stuff like this in Star Wars content; both because I’m not exactly a font of scientific knowledge, and because it seems to me that getting bothered about scientific inaccuracies in Star Wars is kind of like complaining that the latest John Wick sequel had too much violence, or that one of the Lord of the Rings films had too many swords.
But in the case of Axe Woves somehow managing to reach his the Mandalorian fleet in the Season 3 finale with nothing but his jetpack — which was at least in the upper atmosphere if not orbit — it isn’t about scientific inaccuracies. It’s about previous Season 3 episodes going out of their way to show us why what Woves did shouldn’t have been possible.
In every episode this season featuring characters traveling to Mandalore, we see how difficult it is for them to penetrate the atmosphere even when flying a ship designed to fly through space. Meanwhile in “Chapter 20: The Foundling,” after Paz Vizsla’s son is first taken by the winged beast, all the pursuing Mandalorians are forced to stop their initial chase because they run out of fuel, after not traveling nearly as far as Woves or through the same kind of atmospheric pounding.
The Mandalorian Season 3 finale also fails to give us any more of Elia (Katy M. O’Brien), Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi), or any more of Grogu’s mysterious backstory.
“The Return” is a fun watch, but it feels like more and more we’re getting all the spectacle of Star Wars with The Mandalorian, but that the story supporting the spectacle is left wanting.