Peter Ramsey and Bryce Dallas Howard take the lead and own the visual tone of their episodes, but these have Favreau and Filoni written all over them: the good and not-so-good tendencies. And we finally get some direction for this show late in the season.
“The Pirate” brings back the tension between Greef Karga and the New Republic when Gorian Shard retaliates from the events in “The Apostate.” Shard shows up and immediately goes into attack mode, which gives Greef no choice but to ask the New Republic for help. Enter Carson Teva, who has to take matters into his own hands. Then Bo, Mando, and Grogu journey to reclaim her old faction of Mandalorians who are currently working as, you guessed it, guns for hire.
We Hardly Knew Ye
What a shame to say goodbye to Gorian Shard and his Captain Hook crew (Disney seems to have lent Smee’s outfit to Shard’s first mate). The pirate king stubbornly goes down with his ship. He was a neat creature design and a good mixture of practical and CGI paired with excellent voice work from Nonso Anozie. We deserved more time with him as an antagonist. As it turns out, he was just a catalyst to get the Watch back on Nevarro.
Vane is the only pirate who escaped with his life. But will he learn his lesson? He was at least smart enough to leave before the ship went down. Vane could also be a key to what appears to be the overall mystery of this season and potentially season four: whether other forces hired these pirates to destabilize independent Outer Rim worlds.
Maybe we will see more of Shard’s unnamed species again in one of the other Favreau/Filoni shows coming (Ahsoka, The Skeleton Crew).
How Many Cameos Do We Need? Yes.
Between these episodes, we have four big names in the real world and one major name in Star Wars.
In “The Pirate,” we first get a brief live-action appearance of Garazeb Orrelios in a New Republic bar. It is short, but it is the voice of Steve Blum (and the credits confirm it). Zeb is the first character from Rebels that we see in live-action (no, Chopper does not count) and the first character post-Return of the Jedi, which is crazy because he is the most difficult one to bring to live-action. And he looks great!
It is also the first live-action appearance of his species, the Lasat, who have a unique Star Wars history. We last saw Zeb heading to the new Lasan in a secret location with Kallus (read up on that relationship in my Zeb and Kallus post). This cameo is only the beginning for Zeb in live-action (you do not work that hard on a CG model to only use in one episode), so we could find out why he returned from his hidden world to fight for the New Republic. And where is Kallus?
Next up is Tim Meadows’ New Republic Colonel Tuttle, overwhelmed with backlog requests for member worlds. Teva asks for resources to help Nevarro but Elia Kane, who is always in the right place to interfere, thwarts this attempt. She points out that Nevarro is not a member planet, and Teva reminds her of her Imperial origins, questioning her intentions. But Tuttle has heard enough, and Teva is left to turn to Mando and the Watch.
In “Guns for Hire,” Bo and Mando are hired by Captain Bombardier and the Duchess of Plazir-15, played by Jack Black and Lizzo, respectively. The reveal was gasp-inducing. Unwelcome for some, but it sure did get The Mandalorian the attention that has eluded this season. And then we finally get Christopher Lloyd, the one cameo announced ahead of the season premiere as Commissioner Helgait, the Head of Security for Plazir-15, who has some pent-up resentment.
And all of these cameos revolve around politics and sovereignty. Tuttle is just trying to make it through his work day, drowning in bureaucracy, but is part of the larger problem with the New Republic and is one more representative of why they fell to the First Order. Bombardier and the Duchess are trying a different path and ruling democratically, thus, giving droids (and the Ugnaugts) autonomy. And Helgait is secretly disgusted that his former Separatists world now has an ex-Imperial leader (quite understandable, as we have learned from The Bad Batch).
I love posh Star Wars, which is usually portrayed through Coruscant. Now we have Plazir-15 and familiar faces ruling the planet. Of course, people will complain that the cameos or the tone don’t feel like Star Wars because everyone has their ideas of what Star Wars feels like. I would argue that this is in the realm of the Prequels for tone (and Filoni has championed George Lucas and some of his less celebrated contributions to Star Wars). And I would not mind living in a world where I could just chill all day.
The episode not only brings back the Techno Union and a Dooku mention, but also brings in the reworked voice of the battle droids from animation (NOT from the films), both handled by Matthew Wood. We are stepping further into the animated Star Wars world, which is great for me (animation has some of the best Star Wars stories and characters), but it could further isolate other fans.
A Detective Story
While Bombardier and the Duchess hire Axe Woves’ faction for protection against outside enemies, Plazir’s charter forbids them from having a military within the city. Bombardier and the Duchess hire Bo and Mando to investigate why their former separatist droids reprogrammed for peace have been malfunctioning. The loophole is that weapons are part of Mandalorian culture so they can bring Bo and Mando within the city walls. Although, by that reasoning, Axe Woves and his Mandalorians should also be able to enter the city (the Duchess refers to them as a “standing” army, so maybe they are playing it safe). Bombardier believes this is a coordinated effort potentially to discredit him as an ex-Imperial who went through the rehabilitation program. Now it is up to Bo and Mando to solve so the rulers will give them access to the Mandalorian faction outside the city. The game is afoot!
We get to meet the workers of Plazir, like the Ugnaughts, which includes a touching callback to our favorite Ugnaught from season one. This is followed by a B2 droid chase scene through the nightlife of Plazir, leading to an awesome droid bar. Mando’s ugly droid prejudice threatens to derail their investigation, but a heartfelt speech from the droid bartender rallies everyone together. This was probably the best scene in the episode as it showed a part of Star Wars we have never seen. And I now know what a spark pad and Nepenthé are.
When the two take the malfunctioning droid back to a Plazir lab to analyze the particles from the Nepenthé oil received at the bar, another droid gets “infected.” The two discover that nano-droids have been placed in the Nepenthé oil by Commissioner Helgait.
I love when Star Wars heroes play detectives. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s investigation in Attack of the Clones keeps that film watchable, and the mystery/thriller The Acolyte is my most anticipated Star Wars series. This genre works for Star Wars when done right and given enough time. You could say that the entire series of Andor is a mystery, but the investigator is not a hero; she is an ISB officer.
We just needed a little more time for this mystery to unwind.
A Tale of Two Factions
The Watch and the mercenaries have grown without Bo-Katan but in very different ways. Strangely, the cult-like faction preaches unity and accepts people from all walks of life to take the Creed, and the ones with their helmets off are tearing apart lovers for credits.
Axe’s insistence that Mando has no Mandalorian blood and, therefore, cannot be Mandalorian is the same prejudice shown in some nationalistic countries of who “truly” belongs in their country. It is a losing ideology for unity AND growth, hence why Mandalorians have gone so long without a home. The Armorer sees this and orders Bo to remove her helmet, allowing her to walk both paths. Some might see this as a contradiction to her beliefs but maybe not. Maybe she is adjusting for the greater good.
When the Real World Intervenes
Many of the complaints this season have been tied to Mando and Grogu taking a back seat in his own show, but that might not be due to Lucasfilm. Pedro Pascal was filming HBO’s The Last of Us while The Mandalorian was filming, which undoubtedly affected his time in the series (even if he only did voice work). It is why we are not seeing his face despite the actor experiencing a surge in popularity, and it is why he will continue to be in the background.
Shifting the story to Bo Katan and uniting the Mandalorians under Mando’s guidance is the best direction the show could take given the circumstances. There are things they could be doing differently, and the show’s pacing has been odd, but the narrative is finally coming together.
But the Question Remains….
Who freed Moff Gideon? If it was not Axe Woves (and it still could have been), then was it members of the Watch?
Or is there another Mandalorian faction out there? We know at least one who will be in Ahsoka, but I doubt Sabine Wren would aid an Imperial Moff. The likely answer is someone from Axe Woves’ crew, given that they are for hire. This mystery might not get resolved this season. Two episodes are left, and we still have yet to see Giancarlo Esposito as Moff Gideon. Is an hour-long finale too much to ask at this point?
The Quarren and Mon Cala romance could be a separate Romeo/Juliet episode. That is a Clone Wars deep cut of history between those two species that is fascinating, and it’s nice to see where the Quarren and Mon Cala stand during this time. However, neither side is enlightened enough to let two lovebirds be.
While “Chapter 20: The Foundling” was exciting and action-packed, the series desperately needed to focus on…something. The show finally reached its point— but it took most of the season.