Bad Guys, Bad Decisions, Bad Baby
FREE TO SUBSCRIBERS: My reviews of the Season 3 premiere of The Mandalorian and Part 3/Season 3 of Star Trek Picard! Action is outweighed by yakking, but I have few complaints. SPOILERS AHEAD!
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While arguments over which franchise — Star Wars or Star Trek — is best will rage on until at least the 25th century, if not the 32nd, or until humans from Earth finally reach a galaxy far, far away, fans on both sides of the universe are fortunate this week to have new episodes of each!
My only beef is that both of these episodes are burdened with extra cargo: A large shipment of exposition, which is accompanied by a heavy load of dialogue, and requires patience from fans who only stream for the shoot ‘em ups and space battles. That’s not to say there isn’t action this week; Picard, and to a lesser level of success, Mando, both manage to balance the yakety-yak that the season requires with plenty of pew-pew-pew as well as new bad guys: aliens and pirates aplenty!
So, here is a reminder that you’ve been warned: Avast! Spoilers ahead!
Here Now the Reviews:
Star Wars — The Mandalorian, Season Three, Episode One: The Apostate
The third season premiere begins with a detailed look at how a Mandalorian helmet is created, and it is soon revealed that this smallish model is made for a youngling. Is this Din Djarin as a child? Is this a flashback?
Nope, a giant crocodilish creature interrupts the helmeting ceremony and reveals these last Mandalorians now living in hiding are still quite agile as a fighting force, although the fight seems to be lost, until… Djarin (Pedro Pascal) flies to the rescue!
Thanks to him, the monster is vanquished, and now it’s time to catch up those fans who skipped the “previously on” segment. With Grogu (“Baby Yoda” to casual fans or those who don’t really watch the show) choosing Djarin over Luke Skywalker, Djarin breaking Mandalorian Rule Number One to never take off your helmet (twice) and now an apostate (the title of this episode), the plot this season is laid out: Djarin will take on a new quest for redemption. Okay, let’s go!
But instead of Mandalore, Mando and Grogu head back to Nevarro, where they reunite with his former bounty hunter boss and friend, Greef Karga (Carl Weathers). Karga, now the “High Magistrate” on the planet — with robes and droids who carry his train to match — has a scene in which he stands-in for those fans who keep calling Grogu “Baby Yoda” so that Djarin can remind him and everyone, “His name is Grogu.”
Got it? Good! It was a nice touch to show Karga is fixated on correcting people who don’t get his title right, but dismisses the idea that it matters to get Grogu’s name right. Trans people like me can truly identify with that!
The boys then have a run-in with space pirates, who must have learned how to shoot from Stormtroopers, and Djarin finally explains his only reason for returning to the new, peaceful and prospering Nevarro is to retrieve the one and only droid in the universe he trusts: the late IG-11.
I had a bad feeling about this. And that turns out to be prescient when the droid, once returned to “life,” resumes its original programming and tries to terminate Grogu. How they stop IG-11 from accomplishing its mission was a nice twist, with Pascal delivering the kind of clever line Star Wars was once famous for.
From there, Djarin takes on another quest (wait, what? What happened to the quest for redemption?), to find the part the Anzellans need to fix IG-11. The last time we saw an Anzellan was in The Rise of Skywalker, the tiny droid repairman called Babu Frik. Grogu, like all of us, find the Anzellans too cute to resist, and starts to hug one (or is he about to eat him?). This is when the little guy calls
Baby Yod— sorry, Grogu, “Bad Baby!”
There’s an asteroid battle straight outta Empire and the all-too brief introduction of a new big baddie, Chia Pet-esque space pirate Captain Gorian Shard (Nonso Anoziei). Then, the episode makes what seems to be yet another strange segue; Djarin and Grogu visit Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff, best known as Starbuck in the Battlestar Galactica reboot).
Djarin’s bad decisions for the sake of exposition and “whatever happened to…” screenwriting just keep piling up.
Bo-Katan is now the queen of… nothing, and lounging away in a vast, empty Mandalorian castle on a moon adjacent to Mandalore. That’s because in season two, Djarin acquired the Darksabre from Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito, whose character, as well as Gina Carano’s Cara Dune, are name-dropped in this episode) and unless Bo-Katan challenges him for it, she cannot rule. So… she just… sits there?
And they talk about that. Quite leisurely, in fact, given Bo-Katan has nothing but time on her hands.
That’s when Djarin explains his next stop is Mandalore (FINALLY!), which we expect to learn soon enough is either a barren, poisonous wasteland of a world, or the place where he will finally find redemption in its living waters.
And that’s that.
In sum, BANG BANG blahblahblahblah BANG blahblah BANG blahblahblah, interrupted by scenes of Grogu cuteness, Force-grabbing candy and hugging Djarin, which just gave me all the feels and made me forget some of the blahblahblah.
But whereas exposition in Andor had me on the edge of my seat, I caught myself checking to see, “Is this episode almost over?” About the best thing I can say about the new season of The Mandalorian is, Boba Fett isn’t in it.
I give the first episode of Season Three of The Mandalorian two Jawas!
HOW TO VIEW SEASON THREE OF THE MANDALORIAN AND OTHER STAR WARS SHOWS AND MOVIES: Click here to subscribe to Disney+
Star Trek Picard, Season Three, Part Three: Seventeen Seconds
WARNING YOU AGAIN: SHIELDS UP! SPOILERS, DEAD-AHEAD!
Part three starts with a de-aged Admiral Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) and Titan Captain Riker (Jonathan Frakes) reuniting in late 24th Century Los Angeles, specifically Ten Forward, to celebrate the birth of the Troi-Rikers’ firstborn child, their son, Thaddeus, five years before the events in parts one and two.
In this flashback, we see Deanna (Marina Sirtis) for the first time since the first season of Picard, and we learn the episode’s title refers to how long it took for a Titan turbolift to reach Sickbay from the Bridge.
We are again reminded of the road not traveled for our protagonist, fatherhood, which is especially significant now that he’s finally conceded, with a dramatic, wordless face-to-face exchange with Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) in part two that her adult second son, Jack Crusher (Ed Speleers) is, in fact, his son.
Let me just warn those who are reading this despite the spoiler warning: If you thought the end of part two was dramatic, buckle up for the scene in which Picard confronts Beverly Crusher. WOW. Such great writing by Jane Maggs and Cindy Appel and directing by Frakes, a team led by executive producer Terry Matalas!
The admiral asks her about this secret she’s kept from him from their days aboard the Enterprise, and where she’s been, and why Jack speaks with a British accent. Having seen the first six episodes, I can tell you Jack is in his early 20s despite being played by an actor in his early 30s, and as we learn this week, this secret dates back to just before the events depicted in Star Trek Nemesis, the Next Generation’s last film together, in 2002.
Riker and Jack Crusher have a nice scene here, too, showing us a side of each man, as they are, honest and direct.
But beyond the Crushers, there’s a woman hellbent on destroying the Titan chasing the ship ‘round Perdition’s flame (oops, wrong, sorry, that’s from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which also featured an enemy chasing Starfleet folks through a nebula, submarine-movie style).
I get that there’s criticism among some fans in that Mandalorian rehashed the asteroid chase from the first Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, and Picard is borrowing from the first Star Trek sequel, Wrath of Khan, but hey: It worked then, it works now.
And after some more really bad decisions by some really smart Starfleet folks, the Titan is doing just what submarines do when all is lost: she’s sinking.
Capt. Liam Shaw (Todd Stashwick), the new character everyone loves to hate, chews up some more scenery (and it’s clearly d e l i c i o u s) but then he is wounded in the battle with Capt. Vadic (Amanda Plummer) of the Shrike, and apparently it’s not just his leg that’s messed-up; he must have also bonked his head, hard enough for him to turn over command to Riker, which seems an odd choice, given his distaste for the Titan’s previous captain. But with Seven (Jeri Ryan, aka Cmdr. Hansen) relieved of duty, Shaw picks the experienced man he hates rather than one of his junior crew members.
Their roles reversed, Adm. Picard sits on his hands while acting-Capt. Riker makes bad decisions, and then they do something never seen in TNG or the movies, except when one of them is possessed, Borgified or a duplicate or some such plot device: They argue. These two longtime friends cannot agree on a battleplan, and Picard pours salt into Riker’s open wound when he says what is true but way out of line in that setting: That the captain is so afraid of losing that he is unwilling, unable to take a risk that might save them all.
When Riker finally takes Picard’s advice, it nearly kills them all. “This is the end, my friend,” Riker tells his former captain, admitting his error, his regret, his attempt to avoid coming face to face with the dark reality of death.
Beverly, meanwhile, demonstrates that despite being 20-years behind the times, she still knows her stuff, and saves Capt. Shaw’s life in Sickbay. And her son Jack is no slouch, as he figures out how Vadic has been tracking them, and together with Seven, save the Titan while making a critical discovery.
But wait, there’s more! WORF!
The Klingon character played by Michael Dorn, who’s appeared in more Star Trek episodes than any other in the 56-years the franchise has been entertaining us, has grown, evolved, and has a new mission as the handler for Starfleet Intelligence agent Raffi (Michelle Hurd). Just as Jack and Seven discover on the Titan, Worf and Raffi also learn there is a plot involving shapeshifters from the Gamma Quadrant, the Dominion baddies of Deep Space Nine known as Changelings.
But these shapeshifters are different from what we’ve seen in the past. And this plot of theirs predates Vadic’s attack, and indicates something far larger is about to happen, in part four next week!
Although Picard also has a lot of blahblahblah this week, I could listen to Dorn read the Klingon yellow pages and find rapture. Stewart and McFadden are at the absolute top of their game, conveying such emotion and gravitas. And hats off to Frakes for not only holding our attention but also directing himself in scenes that depict perhaps the most broken version of Riker we’ve ever witnessed. Dorn lends an air of Kung Fu master to Worf, Hurd is playing her character as if she is a live wire, about to explode at any moment.
Ryan has taken Seven to a new dimension unseen even in Voyager and prior seasons of this series. Stashwick and Speleers steal every scene they’re in and I join those fans who hope we see them in a new series, post-Picard.
Most of all, the writing is top-notch: “Beheadings are on Wednesdays,” and “You’re insane,” are two of my favorite bits of dialogue, delivered with dry wit by Dorn and Ryan, respectively. To sum up, Seventeen Seconds is my favorite of the first three episodes, cleverly tackling the need for plot and character development with style, grace and drama. Kudos to all.
I give Part Three of Season Three of Star Trek Picard three out of four pips!
Here’s a preview of Part Four: No Win Scenario, streaming next Thursday:
HOW TO VIEW SEASON THREE OF PICARD AND OTHER STAR TREK EPISODES: Click here to subscribe to Paramount+
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