We’ve spent a week praising Chapter 23 and the balance that co-writers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, alongside director Rick Famuyiwa, struck between delivering weighty character moments and big spectacle. Hopes were high for the finale, and it mostly hit all the right notes. No unexpected pirouettes though.
Season 3 has been an uneven but ultimately satisfying ride, and it’s now clear that Favreau bet most of his chips on Bo-Katan and the retaking of Mandalore. Grogu also solidified his position as the future bridge between the Jedi and Mandalorian cultures, and maybe it was Din who got the short end of the stick; until this last episode, there wasn’t much going on with him after since he bathed in the Living Waters in Chapter 18.
Spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian Chapter 24: ‘The Return’
The return of who? Well, of the Mandalorians to Mandalore… we guess? Maybe the return of IG-11 is the closest thing this episode has to a twist? It’s hard to nail down what the last two titles were exactly referring to, as ‘The Spies’ set the Internet ablaze for seven days, only for ‘The Return’ to never answer that question. If the only spies were Elia Kane and other “reformed” Imperials like her who we haven’t seen, then that was an odd choice of a title for Chapter 23.
Although the recap puts the focus on the cloning subplot, Doctor Pershing never comes back into the picture, and we have to wonder whether we’ll see him again at all. What does come up later in the episode is the endgame of his and Moff Gideon’s research, giving a resolution to the plotline that kicked off the show.
Back on Mandalore, Bo-Katan and the remaining members of the party that got tricked hard in Chapter 23 are getting to safety and waiting for reinforcements to head back into Gideon’s base. A rescue of Din isn’t needed though, as he frees himself – with Grogu’s timely help – even before the title credits roll. A helmet-less face-to-face with the main villain would’ve been nice before things got hectic, but Favreau (sole writer once again) had other plans in mind. We have to guess Pedro Pascal really was quite busy with HBO’s The Last of Us.
Essentially, ‘The Return’ feels like your average Star Wars finale on a smaller scale. The good guys are in trouble, and there’s a starship battle, a cool-looking duel, and armies clashing with some neat moments. Because of that – and because Famuyiwa’s direction remains strong – it’s hard to get mad at the safest season finale the show has had so far. In fact, it largely feels like an amped up version of Chapter 8 that reminds us of how far the main characters have come before ending Gideon’s threat for good.
Perhaps the biggest surprise comes from outside the episode itself and is something that affects the entirety of season 3 – there has been a distinct lack of big Star Wars cameos versus season 2 and The Book of Boba Fett. As scattered (and often redundant) as the narrative has been, we can say The Mandalorian limited itself to being The Mandalorian this time around, even if it did recycle bits and pieces from the cancelled Rangers of the New Republic spinoff show.
As mentioned before, there are no spies to be found among the Mandalorians who followed Bo-Katan into battle, so Axe Woves gets to the fleet before the Imperials and orders everyone to abandon ship and reinforce Bo-Katan’s forces on the surface of the planet. The lack of treacherous Mandos marks one of the season’s many red herrings, with the second most important being the mythosaur's role. More on that later.
Meanwhile, R5-D4 continues his personal odyssey and helps Din navigate Gideon’s base, shutting down the laser gates we saw in the last episode. R5’s heroic deeds after being denied a spot in Luke Skywalker’s story is one of the many little things we enjoyed about this season, and the A New Hope vibes of his scene hacking the system and dealing with pesky mouse droids were very welcome.
After clearing the path to Gideon’s command center with some sick melee moves that instantly make Din cool again, we see that Gideon’s cloning program was all about… himself. It’s presented as this huge reveal, but the writing was on the wall after the last episode. Project Necromancer surely has to do with Palpatine’s return and/or Snoke’s creation, but the script underlined that project had nothing to do with Gideon’s own agenda even though both endeavors use Pershing’s cutting-edge research.
Gideon himself also confirms shortly afterwards that his ultimate goal was to “put the Force” into himself and his clones. Again, something that was pretty much established last episode with his expository dialogue after capturing Din. It underlines why Grogu was so important to his research and is another strong callback to storylines from the Legends canon, including the cloning of Starkiller in The Force Unleashed 2. So yeah, midi-chlorians very much mattered in the long run.
A brief respite underground before the decisive battle gives Bo-Katan an almost surreal look at the beauty of Mandalore that still survives in some hidden places. It’s the last push the different factions of Mandalorians need to feel re-energized and ready to take the fight to Gideon’s troops.
The ensuing large-scale clash is pretty spectacular and reminds us of how freakin’ cool Mandalorians can be. The highlights come from Bo-Katan leading the charge with the Darksaber and the Armorer going wild in melee combat, even when flying, and the entire thing (once we get over the lack of spies and curveballs) feels like the logical finale to the Mandalore storyline told so far in this show.
The final duel between Din and Gideon is tense, as the Imperial warlord is anything but a pushover, and makes good use of his shiny, beskar-covered dark trooper suit, which is full of gadgets as well. We half-expected him to also reveal he was a Mandalorian once, given his obsession with their weapons and culture, but that never came.
While we were worrying about Din’s life, Grogu also gets himself into big trouble… with the Praetorian guards! Those red guys sure like to make dramatic entrances. Unsurprisingly, the IG-12 mech suit lasts two seconds once they start slashing at the foundling, so he has to resort to Yoda flips to survive. Once again, it was hilarious to see a small puppet in distress jumping and running around.
After struggling with Gideon for a while, Din gets to Grogu and manages to take out the guards with his little son’s help. This is only possible because Bo comes down for the rematch Gideon owed her. Again, the traditional Star Wars vibes took over most of this episode, and their duel leaned hard on the Luke vs. Vader showdowns and even pays homage to Finn vs. Phasma in The Last Jedi.
Much like Captain Phasma, Moff Gideon is consumed by the flames after Axe Woves drops a whole Imperial light cruiser onto his base. Woves doesn’t even have that much screentime in Chapter 24, but he’s low-key as much of an MVP as Bo and Din. By the way, the Darksaber is no more too. Leadership won’t be linked to a weapon anymore.
The “amplified Chapter 8” energy returns when Grogu shields himself and his two Mando guardians with the Force from the hellish flames. No small nap required afterwards, he’s a well-trained Padawan now.
So… what’s up with the mythosaur? Well, we do witness a ceremony at the Living Waters, bookending the season with the “baptism” of Ragnar Vizsla, who we’ll surely meet again. Din and Grogu’s father-son arc is also completely resolved here, with the titular Mandalorian (now that Bo-Katan has done her thing) officially adopting him, which allows our cute friend to fully become a Mandalorian… named Din Grogu. Yes, we also have many questions regarding the Mandalorian naming conventions.
Grogu reaches out to the Living Waters and (clearly) senses the mythosaur, which seems to react back as well. No kaiju-sized monster wrecking the Imperial base nor Din or Bo riding it to reclaim the planet. Jon Favreau used the legendary beast on a more spiritual level, and that’s kind of cool when all is said and done. Grogu’s destiny is now fully linked to Mandalore and its people.
As for Bo-Katan Kryze, well, it appears she’ll finally get her true chance to rule over all Mandalorians now that the Empire’s presence has been cleansed from the planet. She’ll remain a centerpiece of the overarching narrative moving forward for sure, but it might be a while before the spotlight is put on her again.
The final stretch of the episode sees Din and Grogu visiting the New Republic base we saw earlier in the season. Dave Filoni and other creatives have background cameos, but Zeb doesn’t show up. It’s just a conversation between Carson Teva and the Mandalorian regarding work. Let’s not forget Din was a bounty hunter before he got roped into this whole mess, and there are many high-value targets out there, so maybe he can put his skills to good use while helping the New Republic take down troublesome individuals.
We also check back with Greef Karga, who still wants to give Din and his son (he’s officially a space dad now) a home on Nevarro. And this scene suddenly becomes Christmas (or should we say Life Day), as Din has also fixed IG-11 with the parts he desperately needed earlier in the season and which Carson Teva provided in the scene before. Was that IG-88’s destroyed head? We may never know. But one thing’s for certain: Taika Waititi has now replaced Gina Carano as the marshal of Nevarro.
The season ends with Din and Grogu taking some well-deserved rest in the outskirts of Karga’s town, cottage included. The episode, overall, kind of feels like a “soft ending” for the show so far, and frees the main characters from their many obligations to the larger narrative that will now evolve through the Ahsoka show. These two will of course return sooner rather than later (season 4 is already in the works), but a new horizon of possibilities has opened up for the next chapter of their own story.
Was season 3 good? Yes. Could the writing have been better? Also yes. But we can argue it’s perhaps the most thematically rich of all three seasons so far, even when its shots didn’t land or its commentaries on religion and politics felt a bit murky. Its biggest success is giving fans and casual viewers alike a proper look into Mandalorian culture and their post-Empire diaspora, all while retaining the “adventure of the week” feeling for the most part, and that’s no small feat. Maybe Favreau could use an actual writers’ room to really chew on some of the richest ideas being thrown around, but this is still the Way.