The Mandalorian seasons 1 and 2 were mostly met with praise and adoration from new and longtime Star Wars fans, with some even claiming that it was the best Star Wars story ever, or at least the best Star Wars story since the original trilogy.
While the series continued to be popular in season 3, the reception was much more divisive than in the past. What changed from seasons 1 and 2?
Less focus on Din and Grogu’s relationship
One of the main differences is that season 3 had less of a consistent focus on Din Djarin and Grogu’s bond. For many, their relationship was the main draw of the series. Their lone wolf and cub dynamic has universal appeal. It fits perfectly with classic Star Wars themes and the franchise’s focus on found family, while also appealing to those who don’t usually watch Star Wars.
Din and Grogu were in every season 3 episode and were obviously still important to the story, but their relationship was no longer the primary focus of the show, with this season’s main focus being about Mandalorians uniting and reclaiming Mandalore.
The series was clearly building to this over the course of seasons 1 and 2. Both Din and Grogu had important roles to play in this story and it deserved to be the focus for a season. Still, there are many who would rather the focus remain on Din and Grogu’s relationship, especially following their reunion in The Book of Boba Fett.
Din and Grogu barely interacted and barely shared any scenes together in episodes 3, 5, and 6 this season (3 episodes is almost half of the 8-episode season). There were many genuinely meaningful and fun moments between them throughout the season, from Din’s encouragement when he has Grogu face Ragnar, to Grogu causing some lighthearted trouble when he first gets in the IG-12 suit. Yet, there wasn’t the same amount of exploration and focus on their bond as in the past, and this is a dealbreaker for some fans.
More focus on Bo-Katan and the New Republic
After making her live-action debut as Bo-Katan Kryze in season 2, Katee Sackhoff became a main cast member alongside Pedro Pascal in season 3. In many ways, season 3 was just as much her story as it was Din and Grogu’s.
For many Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels fans who’ve been invested in Bo-Katan for years, this was a thrilling development, and it also worked for some viewers who were following her story for the first time. For others, there just wasn’t the same level of investment in Bo-Katan as in Din and Grogu.
Another significant shift was that season 3 focused far more on the New Republic than it had in the past. Most of “Chapter 19: The Convert” took place on Coruscant and explored the New Republic through Dr. Pershing, Elia Kane, and the Amnesty Program that rehabilitated former Imperials.
Carson Teva’s attempts to aid Nevarro when they were attacked by pirates in episode 5 laid bare the frustrating and ultimately detrimental nature of the New Republic’s bureaucracy. Jack Black’s character in episode 6 also showed the New Republic’s impact on planets such as Plazir-15.
Ever since The Force Awakens‘ release in 2015, many fans have been craving to learn more about the New Republic in canon and the political state of the galaxy after Return of the Jedi. The Mandalorian season 3 does more to showcase the New Republic than any other onscreen story in Star Wars canon.
This was exciting for some, but there are also plenty of people watching The Mandalorian who don’t care about the New Republic, galactic politics, or the time period that the series takes place in.
Season 2 & The Book of Boba Fett changed expectations
In season 1, many viewers were just willing to go along for the ride. With new characters, new stories, and Grogu left out of the marketing and kept a secret until the end of the first episode, there weren’t too many fan expectations in place.
This changed in season 2 as nearly every episode prominently featured familiar characters from other Star Wars stories, including Cobb Vanth, Bo-Katan, Ahsoka Tano, Boba Fett, and Luke Skywalker. All of these characters were incorporated into the story in a way that felt accessible to all audiences, and their role was always about serving the development of Din, Grogu, and their relationship.
Despite how effectively these characters were used in season 2, it arguably changed expectations for the worse. Season 2 trained some fans to expect a surprising, albeit familiar character to appear in a big way in almost every episode. The Book of Boba Fett also did this by bringing in Din, Grogu, Luke, Ahsoka, Cad Bane, and numerous supporting characters from The Mandalorian.
There were some surprise characters in season 3, including Kelleran Beq in episode 4, Zeb Orrelios in episode 5, and Commandant Brendol Hux and Captain Gilad Pellaeon in episode 7, but these were more along the lines of cameos that only appeared in a single scene as opposed to the season 2 characters who’d work alongside Din for the course of an entire episode or two.
Some fans became too fixated on familiar characters returning (such as Boba Fett) or characters making their live-action debuts (such as Grand Admiral Thrawn) and set themselves up for disappointment when they didn’t appear.
Beyond surprise characters appearances, The Mandalorian season 2 and The Book of Boba Fett set up a lot of expectations surrounding the Darksaber. Season 3 subverted these expectations in numerous ways, which elicited a mixed response from audiences.
Will The Mandalorian season 4 be more or less divisive than season 3?
The final scenes in the season 3 finale indicate that Din and Grogu’s relationship will once again become the focal point of season 4. The Mandalorians are united and have successfully reclaimed Mandalore. Now that Grogu is officially Din’s son and a Mandalorian apprentice, Din will be taking him around the galaxy on adventures, and in the meantime, they have a home on Nevarro.
Din does strike a deal with Carson Teva to work for the New Republic on a case-by-case basis hunting down Imperial remnants and protecting the Outer Rim. This suggests that the New Republic could get even more focus in season 4, but getting more of Din and Grogu’s bond as a tradeoff may be worth it for those who didn’t enjoy the New Republic storylines in season 3.
Other than this setup, little else is known about The Mandalorian season 4, so it is difficult to speculate further.
The Mandalorian season 3 worked for some and didn’t work for others, and either way is perfectly fine in a franchise and fandom as vast as Star Wars.