The Mandalorian season 3, the returning crown jewel of the Disney Plus empire, has apparently hit a snag when it comes to viewership. And, I hate to say I told you so, but this news is entirely unsurprising, for a trio of reasons I'll get to below.
The news of Mando's struggle to hit the ratings highs that Disney Plus may have expected comes — as it always does with streaming shows — indirectly. As you may know, streaming services hold keep viewership data private, so it's up to third-party sources to try and sleuth out what they can deduce.
A new report from The Wrap and Samba TV suggests the premiere’s performance may be “weaker than one might have hoped.” Yes, Mando's third season premiere outpaced Andor's by huge numbers (nearly 50%), but that was a show that took time to find an audience. Instead, look at how The Mandalorian's new run trails behind Disney's bigger shows: down 35% to Loki and down 28% to Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Heck, the often-maligned The Book of Boba Fett viewership numbers beat the new The Mandalorian by 2%.
1. The long wait, and The Book of Boba Fett, didn't help
The Mandalorian season 2 ended at the end of 2020 — which feels like three lifetimes ago at this point. Then, The Mandalorian's story continued — somewhat quietly — into The Book of Boba Fett, which finished last February.
Speaking of Mr. Fett's show, let's all take a moment to wonder whose great idea it was to throw away Mando's big cliffhanger ending to finish it in another show you didn't expect to see him or Grogu in?
If someone was really excited for the new season of the show to see Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) reconnect with his tiny friend, they either had the Book of Boba Fett deflate this cause for excitement, or they didn't hear about it at all.
All of the above just feels like the death of enthusiasm by a thousand cuts.
2. The Mandalorian's premiere didn't help
I don't think people remember that The Mandalorian used to come out on Fridays, as over two years passed since Mando's S2 finale (December 18, 2020) but Disney's decision to move it to Wednesdays could be seen as a reason why people might not have expected it.
Instead, I'd like to point my blaming finger at The Mandalorian season 3 premiere, which was (in my eyes) a total dud. References to how Grogu and Din reunited were kept at a minimum — Disney properties just expect you've seen every chapter — and the episode was all about boring space pirates who looked janky.
Oh, and I still believe that The Mandalorian team's done a shoddy job of explaining why Din wants to be redeemed with his people so much. Sure, there's the easy answer: they're his people, he grew up as an orphan and he wants to belong. But the premiere did nothing to really hammer that home.
3. The Mandalorian feels aimless
The Wrap and Samba TV's measurements were taken over the course of the first seven days of The Mandalorian season 3's premiere, and that makes me think about one of the most important things when it comes to modern TV watching: word of mouth.
With its premiere lacking any big surprise — a neat space fight where Mando's N-1 Starfighter hid in the shadows of space rocks and attacked — this episode played things far too safe. The die-hards, who likely watched on day 1, probably arrived in the expected numbers.
But without a whole lot of chatter, I didn't see anyone say "oh you gotta see this thing that happened!," it's hard to really assume this episode could be a big draw for more casual fans. Hopefully The Mandalorian season 3 episode 4 gives us something closer to that.
Outlook: The Mandalorian's next episodes helped and hurt its causes
When it comes to episodes 2 and 3, I think that there's a chance the audience could be coming back. The second episode featured a pretty cool new enemy, and a mood that felt like a fantastic thriller. The third episode? Well, it nearly went full-Andor.
And while I was happy to see episode 3 switch things up by following cloning scientist Doctor Pershing (Omid Abtahi), who you may remember from early Mando episodes. Here, we saw one person dealing with bureaucracy, and the episode tried to surface emotional themes of trying to do the right thing under a government that won't let you.
Unfortunately, the episode (the longest of the series so far) felt like a snoozer. At least, though, I can say that now, more than before, it seems like The Mandalorian is building to something surprising. Especially since Din Djarin's gotten the redemption he so desired.
With that side-quest out of the way, we have five more episodes to figure out what this show is all about. If it's just "space adventures," that might be disappointing, though I'm starting to see the connection between Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) and Din as something of real possible thematic value.
It's just very unclear if that's enough to make sure The Mandalorian is one of the top Disney Plus shows.