Spoilers for The Mandalorian seasons 1-3 and The Book of Boba Fett below.
Somehow, Grogu has returned. At least, that’s what many people will assume when they tune into the first episode of The Mandalorian’s third season. When last we left our lone bounty hunter and cub, Grogu was heading off to Jedi training with a creepy de-aged Luke Skywalker. Mando took off his helmet and braced for solitude. We all shed a tear. (How did a show manage to make us care so much for a monosyllabic man in armor and a green puppet? Bless you, executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni.)
But at the start of this season, Mando (AKA Din Djarin) and Grogu are paired up once again, saving people from gigantic monsters, fighting space pirates and generally being adorable. To a casual viewer, it’s like that dramatic season two finale was Jedi mind-tricked away. It turns out if you wanted to get the full story – which also explains why Din is flying a Phantom Menace-era ship, or why Grogu is becoming a more adept force user — you had to watch the final few episodes of The Book of Boba Fett.
If I wasn’t already a hopeless Star Wars fan, I’d be pretty confused and annoyed. How are normal people supposed to know that The Book of Boba Fett basically served as a stop-gap between Mandalorian seasons? Disney didn’t promote the connection between the shows much, so if you weren’t reading geeky news sites, or talking to nerdy friends, it was easy to miss.
The first few episodes of Boba Fett made it seem like a far less ambitious series – did we really need to learn the specifics of how he survived the Sarlacc pit? And who cares about his future as Jabba the Hutt replacement? I’ve talked to several Star Wars fans who tapped out early on, only to catch up once they heard Mando and Grogu popped up. (Honestly, it almost seemed like Favreau and crew got tired of the Boba Fett story – so did we.)
It’s not like I’m against the idea of narratives shifting between different shows and films. Everything Marvel’s done since Iron Man has practically trained us to consume pop culture this way, with the rise of the Avengers initiative to the ultimate smackdown with Thanos in Endgame. The geeky side of me is overjoyed when I discover connections between films I love. (You should have seen me in the theater at the end of M. Night Shyamalan’s Split.) But the idea that viewers have to keep tabs on everything is beginning to feel like homework, and it’s particularly frustrating when one piece of media is inexplicably crucial to something that comes later.
It doesn’t help that The Mandalorian barely referenced The Book of Boba Fett during its introductory episode. Even a bit of a nudge during the “previously on” opening section would help. Instead, the premiere episode just wants to get us back to normal, with Mando on a video game-like quest and Grogu having fun along the way. It’s a shame, since the end of season 2 made it seem like The Mandalorian would actually change things up moving forward.