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How to train your Baby Yoda

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 05, 2023 5:00 am

Pedro Pascal plays a gruff and grizzled mentor, guiding a plucky but exasperating young mentee with exceptional healing powers through a bunch of adventures. No, it’s not that series involving killer mushrooms—we’ll get to that one later. We’re talking about the return of Disney’s The Mandalorian. Season 3 just dropped its first eps on Disney+, and we got a little preview of what’s to come.

As Season 3 opens, Din Djarin (Pascal) is on a hunt for the sacred Mandalore waters that can restore him to the fold after removing his helmet in Season 2 (a definite Mandalorian no-no). Pascal has a knack for playing mentors, whether it’s his role as the Federal Drug Enforcement trainer of two young newbies in Narcos Season 3, or the reluctant guide to brash-but-inexperienced Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us.

Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) in "The Mandalorian"

But the most permanent bond we remember him making was with a tiny green nugget whom Din called “The Child”—one we came to know as “Baby Yoda” in the Jon Favreau-headed series but soon revealed by personal trainer Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) to actually be named “Grogu.”

Much of the same quick-turnaround energy resurfaces in Season 3. Not to spoil anything, but after Grogu finishes his tutelage under Ahsoka Tano (and briefly with Luke Skywalker), he’s back riding shotgun with Din. As always, there’s a mission, usually one per episode, loaded with the same screen wipes and humor that made the original Star Wars IV: A New Hope such a gas.

Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu take the ride in Season 3 of "The Mandalorian."

Favreau has always had a knack for the humor that drove the original Star Wars. Lucasfilm gave him free rein to tap that energy, just as Tony Gilroy was given carte blanche to reverse-engineer an entire world in Andor. While the Gilroy series made adult Star Wars fans cheer with sophisticated writing and themes, The Mandalorian still manages to tap into the kid in us all. A bit cuter than previous outings (with bickering, furry mechanics and an abundance of comedic droids), Season 3 soon takes a darker turn as we encounter Bo-Katan (Katie Sackhoff), the jaded former Mandalorian royal who lost her Darksaber to Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and then Din, and now resides in an empty castle after her home planet and entire culture have been nearly decimated.

'The Mandalorian' still manages to tap into the kid in us all.

After learning from The Armorer (Emily Swallow) last season that he can only restore himself to “The Way” of the Mandalorian by bathing in the Living Waters of Mandalore’s mines—well, that becomes Din’s mission, and he visits Bo-Katan to get directions to said mines. But she’s pretty much given to lounging around the castle bitterly, sans helmet, now that the Mandalore party is over.

Emily Swallow as the Armorer surrounded by other Mandalorians 

She doesn’t believe in the lore. The planet is now “poisoned,” she tells Din. “The rest is superstition.”

Still, keep an eye on Sackhoff. Throwing off heavy Battlestar Galactica Starbuck energy, she quickly finds herself pulled back into the action—and she’s gonna be amazing here.

Pedro Pascal as The Mandalorian with Katee Sackoff as Bo-Katan Kryze

We get bits and pieces of the coming season in the opening. Carl Weathers returns as Greef Karga, now High Magistrate of Nevarro. Amy Sedaris adds comic relief as scrap dealer/mechanic Peli Motto. But it’s the mentor/mentee relationship that makes the show click: “A Mandalorian must understand maps and know his way around,” Din explains to a wide-eyed Grogu (now doing more gurgling than before). “That way he’ll never be lost.” We’re ready to take another ride with these two. 

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The Mandalorian Season 3 is now on Disney+.

The mentor vs. The Mushrooms 

Meanwhile, over in another galaxy, The Last of Us prepares to wrap up its first hit season. Based on a video game, the nine-part series stars Pascal as (again) a reluctant mentor type, a survivor named Joel in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, guiding young Ellie (Bella Ramsey) safely from one adventure to the next.

The show was an unexpected phenomenon, and one has to conclude that it has something to do with the mentor-guide formula that works so well on The Mandalorian. (It probably helps, too, that it’s created by game designer Neil Druckmann and Chernobyl writer Craig Mazin.)

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey face another deadly adventure.

People did a double-take when I insisted The Last of Us was basically a zombie version of The Mandalorian, what with Pascal dispensing wisdom to the young and gifted Ellie (her resistance to the Cordyceps virus that turns humans into flesh-devouring fungal zombies makes her special) about how to fire weapons, hunt for food and generally not get killed every week. Sporting a Texas twang instead of the deadpan delivery behind a steel mask of The Mandalorian, Pascal does the mentor thing pretty well, even though characters have a tendency not to last very long on the show. There’s a Walking Dead quality to the series’ narrative arc, pushing the two characters further into new survivor communities each week, where we quickly discover humans are just as scary and threatening as any mutated deadly fungus (and possibly more so). It’s also a reunion for Ramsey and Pascal, of sorts, as both were featured on Game of Thrones (though in different seasons, different worlds). Something they also share from Game of Thrones: Both of their characters died fighting. And as we know, if you’re going to go down in GOT lore, that’s the way to do it.

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The Last of Us is on HBO.