When two very famous celebrities show up on this week’s episode of The Mandalorian, the viewer has a choice to make. Look at the sets, the characters, the costumes, and buy into the absurdity of what’s obviously about to happen, or get angry that clearly, this latest episode is very uninterested in forwarding the story of this season.
At first, I was in the second group. Angry that this seemingly unrelated, glossy, over-the-top, cameo-filled story was keeping us from seeing any meaningful momentum. Eventually, though, the story took the characters to such enjoyable depths that I couldn’t help but flip, especially when it all leads to something truly significant. Even if that something was, admittedly, anti-climactic. Basically, there are lots of things dig into, so let’s do that.
Chapter 22 of The Mandalorian, which is the sixth episode of eight in season three, is called “Guns for Hire,” a fact that’s revealed only after the cold open picks up a story from last season. After a few space shots that instantly bring to mind the opening shots of the Skywalker Saga, we see the bridge of a Quarren ship lead by an unnamed captain (Christine Davis). She’s enjoying a fishy snack when the ship’s sensors detect an Imperial ship approaching. The captain hails it and tries to be peacefully diplomatic. But the other ship’s captain isn’t interested in all that.
It’s Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides), who is flanked by Koska Reeves (Mercedes Varnado, aka WWE superstar Sasha Banks) and other Mandalorians. Instantly we recognize them as Bo-Katan’s closest allies, the ones she explained earlier this season left her once she couldn’t get the Darksaber back. Bo also mentioned that the Imperial fleet she, along with Mando and everyone else, got from Moff Gideon at the end of last season had been taken by her people and was being used for mercenary work. This is what we’re now seeing: Axe, Koska, and the crew have been hired to rescue an unnamed Mon Calamari nobleman (Harry Holland) the captain and her crew took from his family.
Axe and his team explain that even though the Mon Cal and Quarren are running away because they’re in love (which leads to some very suggestive tentacle play), he and his crew will be taking their target back with them. The reputation of the Mandalorians precedes them and the Quarren allows them take the Mon Cal without resistance. And so as the title “Guns for Hire” is revealed, we of course assume it’s referring to the Mandalorians we just saw: supporting characters from last season who have almost no real connection to the ongoing plots of Mando training Grogu, Bo-Katan trying to restore Mandalore, Moff Gideon’s escape and mysterious plot, etc.
But, it turns out, Axe Woves is exactly who Bo-Katan is looking for. Bo, accompanied by Mando and Grogu, is hoping to join back up with her former crew, so they head to Plazir-15, an independent planet neither knows anything about, other than this is where Axe and his team have been hired to do some mercenary work. Bo knows the last time she saw her friends it didn’t go great so she’s hoping to do everything quietly. Plazir-15 doesn’t make that possible though. A very cheery (bordering on creepy) voice explains that their ship will be remotely landed; they’re then guided into a super cool bullet train, where the voice insists the leaders of the planet must see them before they can even think about approaching the Mandalorians in Imperial ships staying outside of the city.
Mando, Grogu, and Bo enter a room that’s as lavish and bright as anything we’ve ever seen in Star Wars. And as a man starts speaking to them about “sip sips” and “secretions” you can start to recognize the voice. And maybe the body type. Then the face. And who is that next to him? It can’t be, right?
It is. Plazir-15 is run by Jack Black and Lizzo. Bowser and the Queen of Yitty. Kung Fu Panda and “It’s About Damn Time.” School of Rock and “Good as Hell.” And yes, I had to rewind the episode back to listen to what they were saying because I was so stunned I missed a ton of explosition. Basically, Black plays Captain Bombardier, a former Imperial who, via the Amnesty program we saw in episode three this season, came to Plazir-15 as part of his rehab. There he met Lizzo’s character, the Dutchess, they fell in love, and together they remade the planet into the decadent place it is today. All of this is being explained as a table chock full of basically every Star Wars alien you can imagine sits there eating and you can’t help but imagine what it must’ve been like on set that day.
Plazir-15 is a very contradictory place. The Dutchess and her family are long-standing royalty but now she and Bombardier have also been democratically elected as leaders. It can’t have a military, because of Bombardier’s Imperial past, but hires Mandalorians for protection. It’s frankly a lot to take in on top of seeing Black and Lizzo and feels incredibly removed from the task at hand: Bo reconciling with her friends.
Bombardier and the Dutchess tell Mando and Bo they’ll allow them to see their friends if they solve a little problem for them: what they believe to be a coordinated malfunction of the planet’s many droids. It turns out the whole planet is basically run by droids from all eras, but in recent days, many of them have been malfunctioning and even assaulting citizens. The peaceful people of Plazir-15 are not able to defend themselves against the droids, but Mandalorians can. So if Mando and Bo can figure out why this is happening, they’ll be allowed to see the other Mandalorians. Now it appears the “Guns for Hire” of the title more accurately refers to Bo and Mando.
Which, admittedly, feels like the biggest waste of time ever. Why are the Mandalorians being so understanding of all this nonsense? Why do we care about these people? The answer is maybe you don’t, but storywise Plazir-15 will petition the New Republic to once again recognize Mandalore as an entity if they help out, which leads right into Bo-Katan’s mission as set up by the Armorer last week. Restore Mandalore.
And so after some admittedly weird new concepts, characters, and settings, the show changes into an episode very reminiscent of what The Mandalorian was in season one. A lone gunman solving problems to get a reward. This time though, he just so happens to be joined by Bo-Katan (Grogu stays back with the Duchess, which leads to many adorable moments).
The droid investigation begins at the security nerve center of the planet. There Commissioner Helgait (played by legend Christopher Lloyd) explains the situation and shows almost a “Plazir-15's Funniest Home Videos” reel of droids malfunctioning. It’s clear that this society is much, much too reliant on technology; Helgait says he can’t turn off all the droids because it will signal the breakdown of everything and everyone. Hearing that, you couldn’t help but think the show is making a very obvious commentary on our society, but it doesn’t really land. What does land is Mando’s validation of Mando’s season one feelings about droids. They can’t be trusted.
Bo and Mando ask for a list of the malfunctioning droids but that can only be obtained in the lower level and by speaking to the Ugnaughts. At first, this does not go well. But Mando uses his experience with (and even name-drops) his late, great pal Kuiil to break through to the stoic creatures. They give him a list that leads them to a loading dock. There, the loading dock leader, a seemingly normal battle droid, says everything is fine, so Mando purposefully riles up the workers until one Super Battle Droid snaps. It attacks him and sets off running.
After a beautiful-looking foot chase like something out of Attack of the Clones, down to the purple neon streets, Mando and Bo take down the Super Battle Droid and find out that he frequented a place called the Resistor. The Resistor, it’s explained, is a bar for droids, a concept that doesn’t quite make sense, until Bo and Mando walk in.
Up until now, I haven’t mentioned “Guns for Hire” director Bryce Dallas Howard, mostly because the show purposefully doesn’t reveal who directed it until the end. Howard is responsible for some of The Mandalorian’s best episodes to date and the scenes in the Resistor rank right up among them. Not only because, like the dinner table earlier which was filled with creatures, the bar is filled with basically every manner of Star Wars droid imaginable, but because it’s such a great Star Wars twist. The first Star Wars bar we saw, the Mos Eisley Cantina, didn’t serve droids. (“We don’t serve their kind,” bartender Wuher memorably said.) Now, on The Mandalorian, we enter a droid bar where humankind is equally as unwelcome. Or, at least, those are our initial Star Wars expectations.
Quickly we learn that the droids of the Resistor, lead by the bartender, want to help the Mandalorians. They don’t want to be shut down. They like that they’ve been given a second chance to serve after being broken and decommissioned over the years. At first, this seems like a nice moment, but the subtext is that basically the unpaid servants of this planet are grateful for their jobs and feel a debt to humanity for allowing them to serve. Which is super fucked up and totally glossed over here but, hey, at least they get the next clue.
That clue is all of the infected droids seem to have shared the same batch of nepenthe, the only drink a droid can have. (Think the oil bath C-3PO takes in A New Hope, but as a drink.) So they extract some of that from the impacted Super Battle Droid, take it to a lab, and discover this particular batch of nepenthe, the one that has caused all the malfunctions planet-wide, contains nano-droids—tiny, sub-atomic droids that are working together to corrupt all these bigger droids. A look at their code reveals they were smuggled onto the planet illegally and whoever did that is the culprit. And, wouldn’t you know it? This person left their name on the illegal transaction. It’s Commissioner Helgait.
Helgait is confronted by Mando and Bo, and in a scene that shows why Lloyd took this role in the first place, he goes off on a Bond-villain monologue about how Count Dooku was a visionary during the Clone Wars, screw all the other governing bodies, etc. This takes too long though and Bo-Katan just decides to stun him, ending the case.
Helgait is presented to Bombardier and the Dutchess who sentence him to a life of exile and present Mando and Bo with not just permission to talk to the Mandalorians, but a key to the city. As a bonus, the Dutchess knights her little buddy Grogu. He’s now a Knight of the Ancient Order of Independent Regencies. Is that a prestigious thing? It’s unclear, but Grogu seems happy with it.
After all of that (which was way, way too much just to secure a meeting), Bo, Mando, and Grogu finally approach Axe Woves and his Mandalorian fleet of Imperial ships. As expected, Axe is not very receptive to Bo’s request to reclaim the fleet, so she challenges him to combat. He accepts and after a few back-and-forths, Bo-Katan bests him. Axe, however, says she’ll never be a true leader because she hasn’t done what she really needs to do, challenge Mando for the Darksaber.
If Mando’s group of Mandalorians’ main belief is never to take off your helmet, the guiding principle of Bo’s group is that the Darksaber is power. And so now, finally, Bo is given the chance to do what fans have expected her to do since last season, challenge Mando for the saber. But, instead, he just hands it over. Everyone knows that’s not how the Darksaber works—it must be won in combat—but Mando explains how, back in episode two, he was captured by a creature that Bo-Katan then defeated. He posits, “She defeated the enemy that defeated me. Would this blade then not belong to her?” It takes everyone a second to consider this (the audience included no doubt) until it’s decided, sure, that works. And so, after god knows how many years away, the episode ends with Bo-Katan Kryze finally reclaiming her birthright, the symbol of the leader of Mandalore, the Darksaber.
Which is cool and obviously the right move. But that was hugely anti-climatic, right? So much was made about what’s needed to acquire the Darksaber. We saw so many montages and scenes of the Mandalorian trying to wield it. It was, in a way, a symbol of his own insecurities about his place with his people. As for Bo-Katan, she certainly felt similar insecurities in losing the saber and, as a result, losing her people. She never wanted it just handed to her, though. Sure, she defeated the spider thing, but that feels like such a cheat. We have to assume, or hope, this ownership won’t quite hold up in future episodes because if this really was the big moment and not just a fun fake-out, it’s a huge disappointment.
That said, I will admit to feeling the opposite in terms of this episode overall, “Guns for Hire.” Sure it has some misguided, basic, ideas in terms of society and politics. And yes, it was more than a little jarring to see Jack Black and Lizzo in Star Wars. But the episode’s sense of adventure, incredible production design, and maybe franchise-best (I said it) creature and droid scenes all add up to much more good than bad. Am I discouraged that there are only two episodes left and it feels like very little has happened? Of course. But can I be won over by rooms full of droids and creatures? You bet I can.
Episode six of The Mandalorian season three is now on Disney+. Watch it here. And tell us your thoughts below.
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