In a show that utters the phrase “This is the way” more than anything else, this week’s episode of The Mandalorian finally felt like it found its way. After four episodes, each of which felt almost detached from the others, the fifth episode of season three finally wrapped several of those storylines back together—and, for the first time this season, the show has a direction... and an antagonist.
Season three, episode five of The Mandalorian is called “The Pirate,” and it instantly provided that sense of cohesion when things began back on Nevarro. High Magistrate Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) is doing a little city planning when a hostile ship enters the atmosphere. It’s Gorian Shard (Nonso Anozie), the salad-covered pirate from the season’s first episode, who is ready for payback after Karga killed his men. (“He shot first,” Karga explains in one of those Star Wars callbacks that’s so bad it’s good).
Karga warns Shard that Nevarro is protected by the New Republic, but we and Shard both know that’s not the case. It’s been made very clear this is an independent settlement—and even if it wasn’t, Shard makes passing claims to the New Republic’s lack of ability to protect anything anywhere. So things very quickly go to hell when Shard’s ship starts blasting up the streets of the peaceful city. What’s a High Magistrate to do?
In the next scene, a Y-Wing lands at a remote beach base alongside a fleet of X-Wings. Those ships, and the unmistakable orange, white, and black flight suits, alert us this is a New Republic establishment, complete with its very own cantina. (And the music was like an alien version of a 1970s rock song I can’t put my finger on. A nice touch in setting the tone.)
This is Adelphi base and inside, pilots such as Trapper Wolf (Mandalorian executive producer Dave Filoni), Sash Ketter (Obi-Wan Kenobi executive producer Deborah Chow), and Jib Dodger (Mandalorian executive producer Rick Famuyiwa) are hanging out and having a few drinks. Also, there is Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee), the X-Wing pilot we know from his previous runs-ins with the Mandalorian.
Karga sends Teva a message begging him for help from the New Republic, and it’s overheard by a hulking creature that should be very, very recognizable to fans of Star Wars Rebels. It’s a Lasat. But not just any Lasat. The voice, and later the credits, confirm this is none other than Zeb Orrelios, one of the key members of the Ghost crew from the show, seen here for the first time in live action and the first time since the conclusion of that show. (Steve Blum, who did the voice on Rebels, does the voice here too.) Turns out Zeb joined the New Republic at some point and is now stationed on Adelphi. Teva says he wants to ask Coruscant for permission help Nevarro, but Zeb says they haven’t returned a dispatch in weeks, continuing to seed this throughline of the New Republic’s incompetence. Teva decides to head there himself to get an answer.
Teva arrives on Coruscant (which we’re now seeing for the third straight episode in a row—a bit odd) and heads into the office of Colonial Tuttle (former Saturday Night Live star Tim Meadows). His arrival is noticed by Elia Kane (Katy O’Brian), Moff Gideon’s former assistant who we last saw melting the brain of Dr. Pershing. Teva explains the Nevarro situation to Tuttle and asks for permission to intercede with the Adelphi squadron, but Kane soon interrupts their meeting.
Tuttle has never heard of Nevarro and asks Kane about it. She explains to him that it’s not part of the New Republic’s jurisdiction as they haven’t signed the charter yet. As she’s speaking, Teva notices the pin on her uniform marking her as a former Imperial, now reformed. It doesn’t bode well that Nevarro isn’t officially part of the New Republic because, as Tuttle explains, they already have a backlog of requests from member planets. The resources simply aren’t there.
This scene in particular is worth noting because it’s giving the audience this huge, groundbreaking Star Wars mythology in a rather unassuming way. Despite what we may have thought since the end of Return of the Jedi, or seen at the start of The Force Awakens, the situation in the wake of the Rebels defeating the Empire is not going well. We already had an inkling the newly formed New Republic was not quite doing its job, and here we see it’s completely overwhelmed and, most likely, failing. We assume this is why, in a few years, the First Order will find it so easy to rise up. Or so we assume. None of that is in this episode, of course, but the flaws of the New Republic are on full display to be sure.
Teva continues to argue for Tuttle to authorize help on Nevarro, mostly because he senses something bigger at play. He casually mentions that Moff Gideon never made it to trial and Kane pipes up with her two cents, suggesting that maybe this pirate invasion is the perfect way to let the leaders of Nevarro know they should sign the charter to join the New Republic. Make them suffer into submission. Which, Teva points out, is a very Imperial way of thinking.
Nevertheless, Tuttle seems to side more with his “liberated” Imperial assistant and blows Teva off. The people of Nevarro don’t know this, of course. They’re wandering aimlessly around the outskirts of the city, trying to find safety, as Greef Karga assures them help is coming. But is it?
Oh, it is. Carson Teva arrives on what we instantly recognize as the planet where the Mandalorians are currently residing. He approaches cautiously, knowing that his appearance is not welcome, and is met with the expected hostility from Paz Vizsla and the group. It’s then that we finally see the Mandalorian, whose first question is ours too: how the hell did Teva find them? As Teva explains, there’s a rat in their midst—in the form of R5-D4, the droid Mando picked up from Peli Motto which, we now find out, apparently made it off Tatooine at some point and joined the Rebel Alliance.
Teva shows Mando the message from Karga and heads off, but not before impressing upon Mando that his friend is in danger. The group gathers to discuss its options and Mando does his best to explain why they should head to Nevarro and help. His main selling point is that Karga offered him land there and, if they help, maybe they can safely reintegrate into society and start to bring the Mandalorian way of life back into the public. He makes a good argument but then Paz takes the stage. Throughout all three seasons of The Mandalorian (and episodes of The Book of Boba Fett), the large, heavy gunner Mandalorian has been a huge rival for Mando so we assume he’s going to argue against going to Nevarro. But he does not. Instead, inspired by the kindness Mando and Bo-Katan showed in the previous episode, risking their lives to save his son, he recommends they all go and save Nevarro. Everyone agrees. This is the way.
Embracing her new role as a leader of the group, Bo-Katan lays out the battle plan in a very fun little sequence that does a great job of building tension and excitement. This is in stark contrast to the scene on Nevarro, where the pirates have already taken over and destroyed the place. We see them amusing themselves by drunkenly stumbling around and firing blasters at unassuming Kowakian monkey-lizards.
The Mandalorians arrive and—without describing every single in and out of the excellent 10-minute action sequence—they eventually end up victorious by blowing up Gorian Shard’s ship and capturing his surviving followers. The scene has great individual efforts (the Armorer gets the MVP award here), as well as in-the-street teamwork (shout out to Paz), and, of course, lots of fancy flying, courtesy of Mando and Bo-Katan. Nevarro’s liberation is a true team effort and, as a result, Greef Karga has some thoughts.
Karga proposes that the Mandalorians be given land to join the community and everyone is very excited about it. However, in the middle of the celebration, Bo-Katan is pulled aside to talk to the Armorer. She’s back in her original forge on Nevarro, where we first met her on the show, and asks Bo to remove her helmet. It seems like a trick—if anyone has been very clear about the helmet thing it’s the Armorer—but, apparently, it’s not. The Armorer explains that Bo-Katan has walked both “the Way” and other Mandalorian ways of life too, so she’s the perfect person to bring everyone Mandalorian back together, no matter what their beliefs. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that she saw a mythosaur and there’s that whole prophecy of “The songs of eons past foretold of the Mythosaur rising up to herald a new age of Mandalore.”
The Armorer sees Bo-Katan as the leader who will do this and makes it known when both she and Bo (still without her helmet) go outside to speak to the rest of the group. It’s explained that Bo-Katan has experience with all Mandalorians. She’s “walked in both worlds” and has been tasked with uniting all Mandalorians and retaking Mandalore. Everyone seems a bit shocked by this, but they all trust the Armorer, so it seems that’s how it’s going to be.
On its own, that would have been a very satisfying end to “The Pirate,” but there was one more story beat to come. A lone X-Wing glides through space. It’s Carson Teva again and it’s unclear if he knows his plan to have the Mandalorians save Nevarro worked. Instead, he’s preoccupied with the destroyed, abandoned Imperial shuttle floating in front of him. He scans it and has his astromech send part of itself into the ship as a probe (can R2 do this? It’s so cool!). The probe scans and provides video, confirming that the ship has been destroyed, everyone inside is dead, and, yes, this was in fact the transport that was supposed to bring Moff Gideon to trial. But, he’s escaped. Who rescued Moff Gideon? What does he want? The only clue is left sticking out of the wall. It’s a piece of beskar armor, a sign that it was a Mandalorian.
Come on! That’s a great twist! So far, this season has stayed so close to one, very specific way of thinking in terms of Mandalorians; you could easily have forgotten the first one we ever encountered in Star Wars was Boba Fett, a villainous bounty hunter. Someone that could have been hired to break a high-level Imperial officer out of New Republic custody. Was it Boba Fett who did this? Does Boba Fett know who it was? We’ll find out soon but Moff Gideon is out there. And he’s certainly not pleased.
By bringing back Greef Karga’s newly renovated Nevarro, the idea of restoring Mandalore, Bo-Katan’s redemption, and some mysterious, growing Imperial plot—all through a very fun, exciting piece of action—The Mandalorian did what it does best: gave us plenty to think about, but not at the expense of an entertaining story. That’s not a balance the show has really had in this third season, but finally, by linking huge strands from all four previous episodes, now there’s a focus. Restore Mandalore, both on Nevarro and throughout the galaxy. The one big problem though is that Moff Gideon, the person most responsible for destroying Mandalore, is still out there and surely he’s not going to let that happen.
What did you think of chapter 21 of The Mandalorian, “The Pirate?” Let us know below.
- “The Pirate” was directed by Peter Ramsey, who was one of the co-directors on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and will next direct an episode of Ahsoka. He did a bang-up job, keeping the story moving and exciting, while also slipping in all manner of references to older films. I picked up on Aliens and Titanic in that final scene, maybe some Western stuff with the Armorer too. What did you see?
- How long has it been since Mando left Nevarro? Gorian Shard was lying in wait at the time and much has happened since. Did Shard leave the system and come back? Was he just hanging out? Is this the next day? It’s not clear. Nor does it matter, frankly, but it’s a curiosity.
- Speaking of not clear, how long did it take between Karga sending the message to Teva, Teva going to Coruscant and then to the Mandalorians, and then for the Mandalorians to come to Nevarro? It seems like something that could have taken weeks, but maybe was just days? Were the Nevarro people displaced that long?
- Vane (played by Marti Matulis) almost got his revenge on Mando for their earlier fights but he sped off when he realized Shard had lost. It’ll be interesting to see how, or if, that particular pirate comes back.
- R5-D4 is a fascinating droid. First seen in A New Hope, then making various appearances here and there, how he became friendly with Carson Teva, via Peli Motto, is unclear. But in the book From a Certain Point of View there is a canon story about R5 called “The Red One” that reveals many things about him, including that the explosion in A New Hope was a self-sabotage so R2 could meet Luke and Obi-Wan. Do some digging, it’s cool, but we’re still wondering how he told Teva where the Mandalorians were.
The Mandalorian is now streaming on Disney+.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.