It can be argued that season 3 of The Mandalorian started last year when Din Djarin hijacked the latter half of The Book of Boba Fett and reunited with Grogu outside their own show, so fans were half-expecting season 3 to hit the ground running with its first episode.
In Chapter 17 ‘The Apostate’, we find the titular Mandalorian and everyone’s favorite little green child trying to get stuff done and prepare as best as possible for the perilous journey to Mandalore. But it’s not your average “mission of the week” episode, as the (roughly) 30-minute runtime provides more than enough space for visiting several locations and meeting a handful of major characters.
Spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian Chapter 17: ‘The Apostate’
Things get off to an unexpected but rocky start as we witness a Mandalorian initiation ceremony that is interrupted by a giant gator-turtle-like creature. This is Din Djarin’s former clan, The Watch, and they seem to have found a new (probably temporal) home since they had to leave Nevarro in season 1; only the Armorer and Paz Vizsla appeared on the Glavis Ringworld space station in The Book of Boba Fett episode 5, so they probably were looking for something there.
Speaking of Paz, he appears to be the father – or at least a close relative – of the child that was about to fully become a Mandalorian. Amidst all the chaos and confusion, he risks his life to save the kid from getting devoured before Din Djarin saves the day with a plasma torpedo from his shiny new N-1 starfighter. The massive beast, which reminds us of the krayt dragon from Chapter 9, is dead. As a result, the apostate Mandalorian has at the very least earned an audience with the Armorer.
The following scene feels a bit redundant, as the Armorer doesn’t share any new info on what Din must do to atone for the sin of removing his helmet, and he’s there just to show her a piece of rock and glass that supposedly comes from Mandalore’s surface. Despite what legend and Mandalorian pessimism says, the planet isn’t poisoned nor completely uninhabitable, and some scavengers are even making a profit out of stuff and minerals they find on the planet with little trouble. It seems like the Armorer knew Din wouldn’t be able to redeem himself, since Mandalore was off-limits according to them, but that wasn’t made clear at all in Chapter 5 of The Book of Boba Fett.
With her unnecessary approval earned, Mando’s next step is the planet of Nevarro, home of (now) High Magistrate Greef Karga and where it all started. But before we arrive there, we get the season’s first “deep cut” moment for hardcore Star Wars fans when Grogu is looking with amazement at the hyperspace surrounding them during their trip; purrgils are back and for the first time ever in live-action! The image of massive whale-like creatures travelling through space at such speeds is awesome on its own, but this links directly to Star Wars Rebels’ final season, which (spoilers ahead) saw Jedi Ezra Bridger hyperspace-ing away alongside Grand Admiral Thrawn with the help of a group of purrgils. I’m sure we’ll see them again in the near future as Ahsoka keeps searching for Ezra and Thrawn’s location.
On Nevarro, things are simple and the town has quickly grown into a bustling trade spur of the Hydian Way, one of the galaxy’s busiest trade routes. Moreover, there’s a construction boom, and Greef Karga promptly offers Din and the Child the chance to settle down and live off the land. This isn’t the first time Mando has received such an offer, and once again, he’s far from being done with all the high-stakes drama, so he automatically turns him down.
There’s a good reason why he returned to Nevarro, but the conversation is interrupted by Karga’s protocol droid; the town has grown big enough to attract unpleasant visitors, such as the pirates working for (pirate) king Gorian Shard. This small group is led by Vane, an annoying Nikto. For some stupid reason (probably just to rile up Karga), his gang wanted to have a drink at the former bar, which is now a school. After some back-and-forth, a showdown ensues – The Mandalorian likes to remind viewers it’s a Western at its core – and everyone but Vane falls dead to the ground. Din doesn’t agree with letting the troublesome Nikto go, but Karga says it’ll be a good warning for other undesirables.
With the pirates out of the way (for now), Din states he’s come back to try to resurrect IG-11 in order to get some extra help on Mandalore. It’s the droid bounty hunter which sacrificed itself during the season 1 finale to save Grogu and our heroes. Only its upper torso appears to have survived the explosion, but it’s now part of a statue that reminds the town’s citizens of their atypical hero. Regardless, Din talks his old friend into letting him power up its remains, and what follows is a rather awkward scene in which IG-11 reverts back to its original programming and tries to terminate Grogu. Despite the Terminator vibes on display, it’s funny to see Din and Greef struggling to destroy a crawling torso after gunning down with precise shots an entire gang of criminals.
Din won’t have a “no” for an answer though, and so off we go to meet the Anzellans (Babu Frik lovers rejoice), who live and work inside a hilariously small workshop that seems straight out of the Men in Black movies. Seeing Din trying to understand the Anzellans’ broken Basic (English in the Star Wars universe) while uncomfortably sitting inside the cramped space is exactly the kind of zany Star Wars imagery we’ve come to expect from The Mandalorian. Furthermore, Grogu has finally found sentient beings that are smaller than him, so he tries to hug the Anzellan leader over and over again as if he were a toy.
IG-11 is a no-go unless Din can find a rare droid part to restore its AI. Since he’s by far one of the most optimistic Star Wars characters ever, off he goes again. But we’re due for another action scene, and Vane and his pirates are back for revenge. Unfortunately for them, Din is an excellent pilot with an amazing custom ship. A brief space dogfight ensues, and director and executive producer Rick Famuyiwa (Chapters 2, 6, and 15) gets to flex his directing skills in a mostly CG environment. The cuts are quick, the shots go from wide to close smoothly. Even if we know Din is coming out on top, it’s still a tense and immensely fun watch. We also get a callback of sorts to Chapter 6’s “prison escape” sequence, when Mando went all “slasher mode” on his former bounty hunter comrades that betrayed him – he gets sneaky and begins picking the pirates off one by one, using the asteroids for cover.
Unsurprisingly, the renowned king Gorian Shard shows up with a sizable capital ship, and he might be the best-looking costume plus humanoid animatronic (?) combo we’ve seen in these shows so far. He’s an ugly but majestic alien, and his face is covered in what appears to be ivies and swamp plants. The first influence that comes to mind is DC’s Swamp Thing, and we can’t wait to see behind-the-scenes footage of how they put this character together. But also, we’ll see him again causing trouble, as Din simply scampers off to his next location for now.
The final scene of the episode sees Din and Grogu visiting a Mandalorian castle on Kalevala, another planet (seemingly untouched and peaceful) in the Mandalorian system. The droid quest will have to wait, as our protagonist also wants to join Bo-Katan Kryze in retaking Mandalore. Bo-Katan doesn’t appear to be in a rush though, as her followers disbanded once she failed to recover the Darksaber, which went to Din instead by accident. Since these people are all about tradition (more or less orthodox) and Din isn’t willing to duel the Kryze heir, they’re at an impasse.
Din walks away without Bo-Katan’s support and probably looking to find the droid part he needs next, but these shows have told us in the past that we should expect the unexpected, so who knows what adventures await next week. Chapter 17 does more than enough heavy lifting to open up several storylines, so next week’s episode could be much spicier. There’s no final cliffhanger – like Grogu and Boba Fett’s reveals in the previous season premieres – either, so ‘The Apostate’ just kind of ends. Despite how unfocused it really is and a couple of redundant scenes, this season premiere is a more than pleasant reminder of everything we love about Jon Favreau’s series.
More importantly, Chapter 17 plants the seeds for a re-evaluation of both Din Djarin and Bo-Katan Kryze’s Mandalorian codes, which are restraining them more than anything. As it stands, it seems like The Mandalorian season 3 will mostly deal with breaking down how their semi-dead, fragmented culture and religion work and fixing the mistakes of the past. And that’s one hell of a pitch.