This season of The Mandalorian has been frustrating in all new ways, delivering some of the best episodes of the series right next to some of the worst. But more annoying than the inconsistent quality has been its aggressively incoherent overall plot. Everything about Season 3 was disjointed, disconnected–a series of things that were happening on the screen, nothing more. Some of those things were very awesome, and some of them were very much not awesome, but none of them added up to anything. Season 3 of The Mandalorian is all parts and no sum.

It should go without saying that we are dealing with heavy spoilers from Season 3 of The Mandalorian from here on out. Consider yourself warned.

Here’s one illustration: Early in “Chapter 23: The Spies,” we got several shots of the massive Mandalorian fleet cruising above Nevarro. We saw several drop ships like the one Bo-Katan flies, we saw the gigantic Imperial light cruiser that served as the flagship, and we saw a bunch of other small and medium-sized ships that would serve as the fleet’s backbone. They all left Nevarro and flew to Mandalore together.

But something curious happened this week when it came time for our big climactic space battle. Moff Gideon’s TIE Interceptors and Bombers flew to space to attack the Mandalorian fleet, but the only ships they had were the light cruiser and a handful of drop ships. The drop ships fled to the surface of Mandalore, and the light cruiser didn’t even attempt to put up a fight. Axe Woves steers the wrecked cruiser down into Gideon’s base on the ground, and those TIEs, despite their easy victory, are never heard from again.

It wasn’t even really a battle, but why? Where did the many other Mandalorian ships go? Why did those TIE Interceptors and Bombers stop existing? The easy guess is that CGI costs were spiraling out of control and they had to cut a large part of the space battle. But there’s no evidence for that–it’s just a guess.

This case of the missing Mandalorian fleet is emblematic of how sloppy Season 3 was overall. Remember “Chapter 19: The Convert”? It was The Mandalorian’s longest episode ever, and it spent almost its entire running time focused on Dr. Pershing, the former Imperial scientist who was pulling blood samples of Grogu for Moff Gideon in the first two seasons. Pershing had been captured by the New Republic and defected, and now lives on Coruscant doing mundane data entry.

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It was an excellent episode. But now that the season is over I don’t understand why it exists.

The Pershing episode was setting up the reveal in the Season 3 finale that Gideon had not just been cloning himself–thanks to Pershing’s work before his capture, Gideon was able to give his clones the power of the Force. But that reveal itself was frankly bizarre.

In the finale episode, The Mandalorian Din Djarin frees himself from capture and, with the help of Grogu in his IG-12 suit, breaks into the heart of Gideon’s secret base on Mandalore. What he finds there is a room full of cloning cylinders containing clone Gideons. They destroy the pods and move on within seconds of discovering them.

Then, in the next room, Gideon delivers his second villainous “let me explain my master plan” soliloquy in as many episodes–we just had an identical scene at the end of last week’s episode, when Gideon revealed his beskar stormtroopers. But this reveal lacks weight because the clones are already dead and buried by this point. The threat had been ended in the same moment that it was discovered, and before we even knew what exactly the threat was.

The entire purpose of Chapter 19, the Pershing episode, was to set up this reveal. But why? It’s hard to tell, because Gideon gets blown up a few minutes later. Maybe there’s still a living Gideon clone, or the real Gideon is still alive and it was another clone we saw get incinerated (his facial hair was different this season), but the Season 3 finale didn’t hint in that direction at all beyond not providing us a corpse to examine. Right now, this clone thing means nothing, even though they had to give us a whole episode focused on two unimportant minor characters to set it up.

Season 3 was full of stuff like this.

Bo-Katan was the first Mandalorian to see the Mythosaur in thousands of years, but it was just a symbol that inspired the Armorer to propose reuniting the clans and has not even been discussed otherwise. Hard not to think about this as leaving Checkov’s Mythosaur on the table untouched, especially after the incident with the dinosaur last week.

We had a lengthy, action-packed flashback showing Grogu’s escape from the Jedi Temple with the aid of Jedi Master Kelleran Beq, who was played by former Jar Jar actor Ahmed Best. But we learned nothing new about Grogu from this scene, and Beq has never been referenced in canon in any way outside of this flashback. It’s a cool sequence, but it has no meaning in the story being told. I’m not even sure what the thematic thread is for Grogu with this, if he even has one.

We had several episodes that attempted to emphasize how dysfunctional the New Republic is, and these episodes provide some illuminating glimpses at everyday life in the Star Wars galaxy and under the New Republic in particular. It’s cool and much-needed world-building, definitely, and we like Jack Black, Lizzo, and Tim Meadows. But what did any of that contribute to our understanding of the story of The Mandalorian? Nothing at all. It was only flavor, without any actual food.

And all this comes after the cliffhanger at the end of The Mandalorian Season 2–Grogu running off with Luke Skywalker–was resolved on an entirely different show.

In the past I wouldn’t have fretted much about this stuff, because I didn’t enjoy much of the first two seasons of The Mandalorian. But Season 3 gave us some legitimately excellent episodes of Star Wars television that I couldn’t help but adore. I believe that this show could be actually great–not “great for Star Wars,” but actually just legitimately dope through and through, like Andor.

After “The Spies,” last week’s episode and frankly the best of the whole series, I thought we were close. But after the Season 3 finale, it’s clear that The Mandalorian still has a lot of work to do.

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