The third season opener for Disney+’s “The Mandalorian” is available to stream now. While Chapter 17 “The Apostate” isn’t quite on a par with the “Return of The Mandalorian” (an episode of the otherwise forgettable “The Book of Boba Fett”) it does manage to offer a few nuggets for Star Wars fans in an otherwise (frustratingly) short season opener. Written by series’ co-creator Jon Favreau, and directed by Rick Famuyiwa, “The Apostate” sees the return of a few familiar faces, as well as a few new ones.
With some decent action set pieces, and typically high production values, there is enough to hold interest in its scant 37 minute running time, though it does feel awfully slim. Having watched the episode twice today—once on an iPad and later on a 7 ft. (2 meter) screen—bigger is definitely better for this series, as it best supports the show’s slick visuals, which continue to impress…
The chapter opens with a group of Mandalorians, led by the Armorer (Emily Swallow), initiating a boy into their fundamentalist “Children of the Watch” sect. The Armorer has designed and created a new helmet for the child, as her tribe gathers on a rocky cliffside shoreline for his entry into adulthood (like a Mandalorian bar mitzvah). With the newly-helmeted boy standing shin-deep in the water, the ceremony is interrupted by a low rumbling sound. The Armorer quickly leads the boy out of the water, as a giant crocodile-like creature emerges for a little surf and turf…
Note: The massive, crocodile-like dinosaur emerging from the surf to attack the assembled Mandalorians reminded me of the giant turtle (“Acheron”) attack upon the shell tribe in Ray Harryhausen’s “One Million Years B.C.” (1966), or the attack of the green gargantua upon seashore fishermen in “War of the Gargantuas,” released that same year. Clearly writer/producer/co-creator Favreau, who is my age, was clearly inspired by these movies as well.
The Mandalorian warriors swing into action, using their collective assortments of blasters and other weapons to halt the hungry creature’s attack. Activating their jetpacks, some of the Mandalorians fly onto the creature, planting small explosives directly onto its body, but to no avail, as they inflict too little damage on the massive beast. Salvation arrives in the form of the titular Mandalorian, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), also known as Mando. Our hero swoops onto the scene in his recently-acquired Naboo N-1 starfighter, slaying the monster with his ship’s high-yield firepower. One dead giant crocodile, coming up…
Excommunicated by his tribe for the unforgivable sin of voluntarily removing his helmet (Chapter 16: “The Rescue”), Mando has arrived to speak with the Armorer about some recently acquired artifacts he got from Jawa scavengers. These artifacts, crystallized from heavy bombardment by Imperial weaponry, have ancient Mandalorian text on them, and appear to be taken from their deserted homeworld of Mandalore. Mando holds hope that the deserted Mandalore may no longer be a poisoned wasteland, and that he might even return to partake in an ancient ritual of redemption that can only be performed deep in the mines of the planet. The Armorer agrees to let him try; “This is the way.”
Note: When Mando talked about seeking redemption in the mines of Mandalore, I kept hearing the late Prince, from 1984’s “Purple Rain,” telling Apollonia Kotero that she needs to be purified “in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.” That’s how arbitrary and silly this latest series of hoops to jump through feels to me. Mando already redeemed himself when he saved his tribe’s collective asses from being eaten by a giant crocodile.
Realizing he needs to call a few favors to aid in his quest, Mando hops back in his N-1 and jumps into hyperspace with his adopted son, Grogu (formerly known by fans everywhere as Baby Yoda). In the clear canopies of their sleek little starfighter, Mando and Grogu enjoy the intoxicating blur of spacetime as their ship navigates a glowing corridor of hyperspace. Grogu even makes out whale-like shapes that seem to be riding along with them in the hyperspace currents.
Note: I love moments like this, when the show stops, and allows us to enjoy being in the Star Wars universe for a moment or two. One of the greatest thrills of recent memory for me was when my wife and I got to ‘fly’ the Millennium Falcon at Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge a few years ago, right before the COVID pandemic lockdowns. It was a blast! Flying the Falcon through hyperspace was a dream I’ve had since I first saw “Star Wars” as a 10-year old kid, in the summer of 1977.
Landing at the recently liberated world of Nevarro, Mando calls on his former boss, rival, and current friend; the planet’s High Magistrate, Greef Karga (Carl Weathers). Greef welcomes Mando, who is impressed by the tremendous turnaround in the planet’s infrastructure. The bustling streets are lined with vendors, markets and musicians. There’s even a statue of IG-11; the reprogrammed bounty hunter droid-turned-ally that gave its life to the cause. Under Greef’s leadership, Nevarro has successfully transitioned from an outlaw hangout to a thriving hub of commerce.
Greef points out the many changes to the planet since Mando last saw it, as they proceed to his office. Once there, Greef makes Mando an offer; stay on Nevarro as his new deputy, and he’ll earmark a nice plot of real estate for he and Grogu to live in peace. Mando appreciates the offer, but he has a favor to ask; he needs IG-11, or at least whatever can be salvaged of the droid from the statue. Mando hopes IG-11 can help him safely navigate the mines of Mandalore. The meeting is then interrupted by a nervous protocol droid, who tells Greef that a squad of pirates want to meet with him down by the school…
Note: I love Mando, but he’s an absolute idiot for not accepting Greef’s offer. Being excommunicated from his people, Mando’s priority should be raising Grogu, and Greef’s offer of a stable job with a nice new place to live fits that bill perfectly. Also, Greef mentions to Mando that his former deputy, Cara Dune (Gina Carano), left to rejoin the New Republic forces. In truth, actress Gina Carano was fired from the series for inflammatory remarks she’d made on social media. At least her character’s lack of presence wasn’t ignored.
Greef and Mando arrive at the village’s school, which used to be the bar where Greef handed out various assignments for the sector’s bounty hunters. There, they see a surly squad of alien pirates standing outside, led by horn-faced Vane (Marti Matulis), who insists on having a drink in the bar. Greef reiterates it’s a school, now. Accusing Greef of selling out, Vane points out that Nevarro’s ‘High Magistrate’ used his own share of profits from local pirate captain Gorian Shard to rebuild this now-thriving world. Once again, Greef patiently asks the pirates to step away from the school. With his own formidable firepower, Mando steps in, asking if there’s a problem. With Vane refusing to back down, it becomes a duel between he and Greef. Fortunately, Greef’s reflexes are still plenty quick, as he shoots the pistol out from Vane’s hand. Before Vane’s men can react, Mando mows them down with his own blaster. His patience exhausted, Greef orders Vane off his planet, and to send a message to Captain Shard that Nevarro is no longer a seedy sanctuary for pirates…
Note: Greef’s situation reminds me of Lando Calrissian’s story in 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back.” In both, we see a former criminal/con-man trying to redeem his past by becoming a ‘respectable’ administrator of a planet. In Lando’s case, his operation also gave refuge to some of his less-than-respectable former colleagues, but Greef wants no further association with his past or his old underworld connections. Same story, but different outcomes.
After Mando’s welcome assistance with the space pirates, Greef helps him dismantle the statue of IG-11, in hopes that the salvaged pieces might be resurrected. We then see the statue, with most of its vital components removed and taken to the local droid-smiths—the doll-sized Anzellans, whom Greef vouches for.
Note: Mando’s plan of ‘resurrecting’ IG-11 is completely bonkers. In Chapter 8’s “Redemption” we saw IG-11 self destructing into a massive fireball while traversing a river of molten lava. There was nothing left of the droid, certainly no pieces large enough to reassemble, let alone use in a statue. I realize actor Taika Waititi’s character was very popular in Star Wars fandom, but this is ridiculous. It’s as nonsensical as Rey finding the Emperor’s throne room intact on a moon of Endor, even though Death Star II was clearly vaporized in “Return of the Jedi.”
With their ‘office’ located in a tiny crawlspace along the street, the Anzellans welcome Greef and are given IG-11’s parts to sift through. Through thick accents ‘translated’ by Greef, the Anzellans tells Mando that IG-11 can’t be reactivated without a new part required for its brain. Through much trial and error, Mando manages to piece together the refurbished parts into a reconnected head, arm and torso. Once activated, the droid defaults to its original programming of killing Grogu (as seen in Chapter 1). The deadly reanimated torso swiftly scurries across the floor, trying to get its lone arm on the child, before Mando and Greef shoot it dead (again).
Note: The resurrected torso trying to get at Grogu is an obvious homage to 1984’s “The Terminator,” as the severed torso of the T-800 endoskeleton tries to grab Sarah Conner in the automated factory, before Sarah smartly crushes the bisected robot with a convenient hydraulic press.
Putting IG-11’s resurrection on hold for now (and leaving its deactivated parts in Greef’s care), Mando needs to return to the planet Kelvara, in the Mandalore star system, to seek another favor in his increasingly convoluted quest for redemption. After climbing into the cockpit with Grogu, Mando exchange goodbyes with Greef before the sleek N-1 starfighter streaks off into the sky…
Note: I know this is a minor nit, but if he’s going to be a responsible dad, Mando really needs to think about getting a bigger spaceship for he and Grogu to live aboard between adventures. The Razor Crest (RIP) was a much roomier ride for the two of them; more like a space SUV than the N-1’s space Corvette. While the rebuilt N-1 is certainly snazzy, poor little Grogu only has his tiny rear bubble and Mando’s lap in which to crawl around…
Once in space, they are soon tracked by several pirate fighter-ships. The formation of ships are being led by Vane, who’s still sore over that whole ‘killing-several-of-my-mates’ mishap earlier. Vane’s ships fire at the N-1, which manages to lead them on a helluva chase. Though outgunned, the N-1’s maneuverability allows Mando to take out several of the pirate craft, before he realizes the fighters were a distraction—herding Mando directly to the pirates’ mothership. On the bridge of the mothership, we meet the aforementioned Captain Dorian Shard (Nonso Anozie), who looks like a really pissed-off kelp salad. With baby onboard, Mando has no choice but to punch the N-1 into hyperspace, leaving an enraged Shard to leap angrily out of his (its) captain’s chair in frustration.
Note: Once again, the subtle pop-culture influences of producer/writer Jon Favreau can be gleaned by others of his generation (like myself). The pirate captain, Shard, looks quite a bit like the monster “Garamon” from the 1960s Japanese keiju-eiga TV series, “Ultra Q” (which led to a more popular 1966 spinoff, “Ultraman”).
Arriving at Kalevara, Mando lands on a platform overlooking the sea, near a large castle. The castle is home to Mangalore’s rightful leader Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), whom we last saw in Chapter 16, when she was unable to accept Mando’s offer of the Dark Saber. By rights, she couldn’t be a legitimate heir to the energy-bladed weapon unless she’d won it in combat. That ‘dishonor’ cost her much popular support, including the “Children of the Watch”; the same fundamentalist sect for whom Mando is so desperately trying to redeem himself.
Note: I have great admiration for the talented Katee Sackhoff, whom I met in 2007 at a convention where she was promoting the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” (2003-2009); one of the finest sci-fi series of this century, in my humble opinion. Sackhoff first voiced the role of Bo-Katan for a 2012 episode of the animated Star Wars series “The Clone Wars” (“A Friend in Need”). Her character proved popular in that series, and would return for “Rebels” (2014-2018), which also delved into Mandalore’s culture and politic via its Mandalorian regular character Sabine Wren (Tiya Sircar). Given Sackhoff’s tremendous acting chops and fan following from “Battlestar Galactica,” the decision to have her segue Bo-Katan into live-action seemed inevitable.
When Mando sees Bo-Katan, she is unmasked, slumped in her throne, with one leg draped over the chair’s arm. Defeated. Her once zealous followers have deserted her, and her home planet is uninhabitable. She’s a ruler with nothing left to rule. Bo-Katan asks if Mando still has the Dark Saber. He does. She tells him to hold onto it, because so long as he does, the zealots will follow him anywhere. Mando then tells her of his quest to go deep into the mines of Mandalore for redemption; a quest to which she’s unsympathetic. She sees the masked Mandalorians as a cult, and she sees Mando as a fool for wanting to rejoin it. They part company.
Summing It Up
There were online rumors that”The Return of The Mandalorian” was meant to be the season 3 opener, but this is unverified by the production team; as it is, “The Apostate” feels like a middle chapter. This season opener is certainly not unwatchable, by any means, but it’s not particularly special, either. There is action and event, yes, but nothing that raises the overall stakes very high. The illogical (and unnecessary) return of IG-11, combined with Mando’s pointless wish to endure hell just to reconnect with Mandalorian zealots feels more like a character in search of a story, rather than a story that honestly compels a character.
I agree with Bo-Katan; the “Children of the Watch” are a cult. Their brutal rituals are also an indulgence that newly committed dad Mando should abandon in favor of his responsibility to his adopted son, Grogu. Greef Karga made Mando a very sweet offer, and Mando is (in Bo-Katan’s words) “a fool” for not taking it because he needs to fire-walk for some silly redemption—a redemption he already achieved in the episode’s opening act, as far as I’m concerned. I hope we see Mando breaking free from the close-minded “Children of the Watch” cult. Mando is too cool a character to jump every time they snap their fingers.
Kowtowing to fundamentalism is not the way.
Where To Watch
“The Mandalorian” is available to watch exclusively on Disney+.