'The Mandalorian' season three review: Early episodes burdened by backstory In the first few episodes of the new season there is way too much tell and not enough show — but it's too early to abandon the series.


TV Reviews

'Table setting' backstory burdens 'The Mandalorian' Season 3 debut

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The third season of the highly anticipated "Star Wars" series, "The Mandalorian," debuted Wednesday on Disney+. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says the season's slow start reveals a show that's facing one of its most important challenges yet.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: The first two episodes of "The Mandalorian's" new season reveal a common malady I've noticed among streaming TV series. I call it TSD, or table-setting disease. This is what happens when an episode spends too much time and energy putting characters in place to tell the season's real story - like this moment, which features our hero, superheroic fighter The Mandalorian, played by Pedro Pascal. He's ostracized from his people for a decision he made last season, as described by a Mandalorian leader known as The Armorer.


EMILY SWALLOW: (As The Armorer) You have removed your helmet. What's worse, you did so of your own free will. You are no longer Mandalorian.

PEDRO PASCAL: (As The Mandalorian) The creed teaches us of redemption.

SWALLOW: (As The Armorer) Redemption is no longer possible since the destruction of our home world.

DEGGANS: But The Mandalorian, whose name is Din Djarin, has a workaround.


PASCAL: (As The Mandalorian) If I visit the planet and I can bring you proof that I have bathed in the living waters beneath the mines of Mandalore, then by creed, the decree of exile will be lifted, and I would be redeemed.

SWALLOW: (As The Armorer) This is the way.

DEGGANS: Just like that, our Mandalorian has a new quest. Fans of the show may remember his old quest ended last season, when the show offered a scene some fans have dreamed about since "The Mandalorian" debuted more than three years ago. A de-aged Mark Hamill showed up playing Luke Skywalker to save a young being The Mandalorian had been protecting, known as The Child. Fans called him Baby Yoda.


MARK HAMILL: (As Luke Skywalker) He is strong with the force. But talent without training is nothing. I will give my life to protect The Child, but he will not be safe until he masters his abilities.

DEGGANS: So how does The Child - whose name is Grogu, by the way - wind up back with The Mandalorian? Well, that was covered in the last 2 1/2 episodes of another "Star Wars" TV show on Disney+, called "The Book Of Boba Fett." Grogu basically decided to stop his Jedi training and rejoin The Mandalorian. As part of all this table-setting, we see The Mandalorian revisit old allies, including Bo-Katan, played by Katee Sackhoff, a Mandalorian leader who thinks his plan to bathe in waters to find redemption is a little nonsensical.


KATEE SACKHOFF: (As Bo-Katan Kryze) You are a fool. There's nothing magic about the minds of Mandalore. They supplied beskar ore to our ancestors, and the rest is superstition. That planet has been ravaged, plundered and poisoned.

PASCAL: (As The Mandalorian) You said that the curse was a lie. Make up your mind.

SACKHOFF: (As Bo-Katan Kryze) There's nothing left.

DEGGANS: Let's just say, by the second episode, she changes her tune. Still, all this table-setting and legend-building, punctuated by action sequences like fighting monsters and gunfights, sets up a new quest which feels decidedly less important than the show's original motivating mission. One of my prescriptions for great TV is simple - show. Don't tell. And there are way too many moments where the characters here tell us things they should show us. If "The Mandalorian" wants to keep setting the pace as the "Star Wars" series that's recalibrated the franchise, they're going to have to pick up the pace a bit in future episodes because there's only so much table-setting you can do before people expect a really great meal.

I'm Eric Deggans.


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