Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers about the third-season premiere of “The Mandalorian,” “The Apostate.”
Success has its privileges, including the freedom to get off to the relatively slow start that “The Mandalorian” indulged with its third-season debut, reintroducing the central players and a few peripheral ones, while laying out the bones of a plot that might be called Mission to Mandalore.
In one of the stranger aspects of Mandalorian tradition, removing his helmet has branded Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal, or at least, his voice) an apostate, prompting him to go to his home world in an effort to atone.
The journey, however, requires a few pitstops first, beginning with a muscular action sequence involving a giant creature, followed by a visit to his old friend Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) and another to Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff), who doesn’t understand Djarin’s commitment to the Mandalorian code. (Karga did explain the absence of Cara Dune after Disney opted to part ways with the actor who played her, Gina Carano, due to offensive social-media posts.)
What that left, in an episode written by executive producer Jon Favreau, were enjoyably small bits of comedic business, most of them involving Grogu, a.k.a. Baby Yoda, who amused himself in a variety of ways, from mistaking a small alien for a pet to exploring the wonders of a swivel chair.
To the extent that the previous seasons of “The Mandalorian” were driven by the quest to find a home for Grogu, before the two reunited in “The Book of Boba Fett” (really “The Mandalorian Season 2B”), the premiere felt low-key in its narrative scale. The saving grace stemmed from the savvy that Favreau and fellow producer Dave Filoni bring to mining the “Star Wars” universe, from the recent movies to the animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels,” which is where Bo-Katan got her start.
Disney+ didn’t make the episode available to critics in advance, which fed expectations the first episode might contain some kind of revelation or surprise, perhaps like the major cameo that capped off the second season.
“The Apostate,” however, was really the opposite of that, more a case of easing into the season than blasting into it, while setting the stage for a dive into Mandalorian politics – relying upon the impression, seemingly, that a year after “Book of Boba Fett” the show’s fans, like Grogu, are ready to simply sit back and enjoy the ride.