The Star Wars franchise has been a bit directionless for a while now. As the feature film side of the series has struggled to produce anything since Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker in 2019, the original series on Disney+ have been doing all the heavy lifting. While The Mandalorian was undeniably a massive hit, and other shows like Andor and Obi-Wan Kenobi have provided fans with the quality Star Wars content they’ve been looking for, it has all been in a strange state of limbo. It was unclear where this was all going, as the brand as a whole seemed to be stuck in a rut.
Thankfully, it seems like the galaxy far, far away is finally getting back on track. At Star Wars Celebration in April, Lucasfilm did a lot of work to simplify their approach to the Star Wars franchise and give fans an idea of what to expect in the future. They did this by unveiling a coherent timeline of the galaxy, which provides an easy way to differentiate one project from another.
On top of that, they unveiled three new films, which will each take their own individual approaches to furthering the breadth of the franchise. While all of this was happening, the third season of The Mandalorian was also in the middle of its run on Disney+. Although this season may not have been as universally beloved as the two that preceded it, it did a lot of work to further establish this new direction for Star Wars, here’s how:
Grand Admiral Thrawn
One of the three films that was unveiled at Star Wars Celebration was a crossover finale of sorts to the Mandoverse, which will be directed by Star Wars guru Dave Filoni. This film will build on the stories of all the live-action shows Filoni and Jon Favreau have been building in the aftermath of Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. That means the events of The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett and the upcoming series Ahsoka and Skeleton Crew could all factor directly into this new movie. While little is known for certain about what the movie will actually be about, there are some solid guesses that can be made from what Filoni has said and what fans have already seen.
To get right to it, Filoni’s Star Wars movie is more than likely going to be a depiction of the New Republic’s war against the Imperial remnants led by Grand Admiral Thrawn. The character of Thrawn is a long-time fan-favorite, and his return to the galaxy has been consistently teased since he disappeared in the finale of the Star Wars Rebels animated series back in 2018. He was mentioned briefly in the second season of The Mandalorian, but season three spent a lot more time directly setting up his return.
Though Thrawn did not appear this season, his right-hand man Captain Gilad Pellaeon did make a surprise appearance toward the end of the season. When Moff Gideon meets with the Shadow Council to discuss the future of the Empire, Pellaeon pushes hard for the group to await the return of Thrawn as a leadership figure.
This was a big moment for long-time Star Wars fans, as it was the first time Pellaeon has appeared on-screen. He debuted alongside Thrawn in the book Heir to the Empire from the early ‘90s. That book and its two sequels, which centered on Thrawn’s attempt to take over the galaxy, essentially served as Star Wars: Episodes VII, VIII, and IX before those movies actually existed.
Now, with Thrawn confirmed to play a central role in the Ahoska series later this year, it appears that Filoni is building toward some kind of Heir to the Empire adaptation in his film. The Shadow Council sequence in season three of The Mandalorian is one of the first explicit indications of that story.
Back to Basics
Beyond setting up stories for other series and new films to build upon, season three of The Mandalorian also made the smart choice to take the series back to its roots. The second season of the show saw it grow much further beyond the Western-inspired approach of season one, as it introduced all kinds of legacy characters like Bo-Katan Kryze, Ahsoka Tano and even Luke Skywalker.
Season three had the difficult task of building upon all of those stories that were introduced, while still keeping the core of the series intact. While some episodes certainly did this more effectively than others, the season eventually comes around to an ending that sets up a much simpler and streamlined season four.
Season three of The Mandalorian had a lot of fans perplexed, as the role of the titular Mandalorian seemed to shift with every episode. Some episodes focused on the core character of Din Djarin, while others focused more on Bo-Katan and Grogu. It could be argued that all three of those characters were “The Mandalorian” at different points in the season. However, the season three finale pretty nicely tied up Bo-Katan’s story by seeing her finally become the Mandalorian leader she was meant to be, as she led her people to retake their home world of Mandalore and defeat their enemy Moff Gideon. Following that, Djarin and Grogu are much freer to go on their own adventures in the galaxy.
The final shot of the finale shows the two of them living on their own piece of land on the free planet of Nevarro. They’ve made an agreement to serve as independent contractors for the New Republic, which will lead them on all sorts of adventures to quash the rise of the Imperial remnants in the Outer Rim. This sets up a fourth season that can more closely focus on the two of them, as they go from one job to another as bounty hunters with a good conscience.
This will allow The Mandalorian to return to its roots and be a simple show about a lone warrior and his child traveling from one settlement to another and helping where they can. That approach is what made people love The Mandalorian to begin with. Now that the show has passed off the broad world-building of Star Wars to other shows like Ahsoka, The Mandalorian will finally be able to refocus on the more straightforward and accessible storytelling that made the first season so great.
This story originally appeared on Movieweb