The Mandalorian becomes Law & Order in a galaxy where everyone is in love

Bo-Katan and celebrity guests fully claim the spotlight from Din Djarin and Grogu

The Mandalorian becomes Law & Order in a galaxy where everyone is in love
The Mandalorian Photo: Lucasfilm

This week on The Mandalorian, lots of people are in love, the working class admits that work is okay when you know that your boss will die someday, and multiple famous people showed up. The episode was a somewhat weird and silly one, even by Star Wars standards, but I actually think it might’ve been better if it had gone even further in that direction. This is an installment where Din Djarin really could’ve shined with his more outsider-y perspective on the galaxy, but I feel the show is using his taciturn nature to make things a little too easy on Bo-Katan (the real star of the series).

The episode—“Guns For Hire,” one of only three times there wasn’t a “The” in the title and the second one of those directed by Bryce Dallas Howard—opens with Bo’s old crew of Mandalorians working as mercenaries, as teased earlier in the season. They’re riding an old Clone Wars-era Star Destroyer and bullying a ship of Quarrens (the squid-faced guys). As it turns out, they were hired by the Mon Calamari (the fish-faced guys) to recover the kid of some big-shot fish woman, because the kid is in love with the Quarren ship’s Captain Shuggoth. Sidebar: It seems vaguely insulting to give a squid-faced person a Lovecraft-sounding name, but that’s not my call to make.

Shuggoth says goodbye to her fish-love, stroking his face with her tentacles, and then the Mando mercs—led by Axe Woves, a front-runner for Worst Star Wars Name—take the Mon Calamari guy away. It’s kind of an odd intro, since it doesn’t really paint the mercs as especially bad guys, just motivated by money. Considering last week’s episode ended with the tease that Mandalorians (presumably these Mandalorians) broke Moff Gideon out of prison, I would’ve expected the show to build these people up as more ruthless jerks now that they don’t have Bo-Katan leading them.

Speaking of, Bo and Din are now on their quest to reunite the disparate Mandalorian tribes so they can all reclaim their planet, and Bo easily tracks her old comrades down to an Outer Rim world called Plazir-15 where something is clearly going on. Plazir is a very bright and clean world, which is pretty unique for this show, and it felt a lot like the opening of a Doctor Who episode to me, where our heroes show up on a world with no idea of what the story is, but there’s some kind of adventure just waiting for them.

Din and Bo are greeted by a pair of black Imperial droids, which puts Din on edge because he hates droids. (Way back in season one it was revealed that Seperatist droids killed his family.) They are then taken away to meet with the planet’s democratically elected king and queen, setting up one of the wildest things to ever happen in a Star Wars: The leaders of this world, a lovey-dovey married couple called the Duchess and Captain Bombardier (bom-bard-ee-yay), are played by Lizzo and Jack Black. And not only are they played by Lizzo and Jack Black, but they’re both dressed and acting like this is some kind of Disney fairy tale. Their costumes are comically over-designed and brightly colored, they’re both doing cute little voices, and everyone is constantly tossing around needlessly fancy honorifics.

It feels like something out of The Clone Wars, where the writers had to come up with some new, vaguely kid-friendly planet for Anakin and Ahsoka to visit every week, and while I didn’t love that show, I do kind of dig how completely silly this all is. Part of the reason for that is that there’s no secret malice beneath all of this; it’s just silly aesthetics for the sake of doing something new, and I think that’s kind of cute.

The Duchess and Bombardier explain that their planet’s economy is built on reprogrammed droids, mostly Seperatist Battle Droids (you know, from the prequel movies!), who do all of the manual labor. Everything has been perfect for years, but a concerning number of droids have started malfunctioning recently and harming citizens. They don’t have any armed police, and no soldiers are permitted to enter their city in order to maintain peace, but they do have a team of ineffectual constables let by a guy named Commissioner Helgait (spoiler alert: pronounced “hell-gate”) who is played by… Christopher Lloyd! Great Scott! Reader, my head was spinning from all of these famous people!

Helgait says he has a button that will shut down all of the droids, malfunctioning or otherwise, but he’s not legally allowed to hit it. See, the non-droids all love this society where they don’t have to work, so they voted to forbid anyone from ever shutting down the droids. (When will people learn that democracy doesn’t work?) Din and Bo speak with the Ugnaughts in charge of maintaining the droids and get a list of where they suspect the next malfunction will happen, and as Bo chats with the Battle Droid in charge of the worksite, Din just starts kicking droids to see if any of them will freak out and retaliate.

One does, and they chase it through a neon-filled cyberpunk-y city, ducking through storefronts and charging past panicking citizens. It’s very by-the-numbers as far as these foot chases go, but the magic of Star Wars is that it can get away with that kind of thing simply by putting it in a Star Wars setting. They kill the droid and find a “spark pad” on it that leads them to a droid bar called The Resistor that might be one of the best Star Wars locations I’ve seen in a long time. It’s full of old practical animatronics and people in costumes, just hanging and spinning their heads around as the drink robo-booze (called Nepenthé, an Odyssey reference), and it’s all very silly in the best way.

When Din leans on the bartender a little too hard, he reveals that the droids of Plazir-15 would never harm the organics—they actually really like them and are happy to do all of their manual labor. After all, humans built them, and human lives are relatively short compared to their own, so why not carry some boxes or pick up their garbage? It’ll only be so long before they all die. It’s another nice little subversion from the more obvious path, which would’ve been that there are some robot revolutionaries (or Imperial remnants) trying to undermine this society.

But it turns out that it’s not robots or Imperials that are making the robots malfunction; it’s a bad batch of Nepenthé that was ordered by…Commissioner Helgait! When Din and Bo confront him, he reveals that he’s actually an old Seperatist who is pissed that the Duchess and Bombardier have turned the planet into a decadent party world, and as he makes a speech about how Count Dooku was a visionary, Bo and Din beat him up and arrest him.

They take him back to the Duchess and Bombardier, and in case their earlier scene felt a little too serious, this one one is basically a cartoon. They’re playing a game where you bounce a ball off of a bug through a hoop, which Grogu is cheating at by using the Force, and the Duchess exiles Helgait to some other planet after he makes what is apparently a genuine apology for being a bad guy. Then, she presents Bo-Katan with the key to the city—a literal big key!—and names Grogu a knight of the Ancient Order Of Independent Regencies. What is any of this? Why is any of this happening? I don’t know, but I think I like it!

With the droid problem solved, Bo and Din are free to go meet up with the other Mandalorians, who aren’t particularly happy to see their old boss back. Axe Woves kind of likes being in charge, so Bo challenges him to a fight and easily wipes the floor with him—though the fight scene is at least pretty well done, with both of them pulling off various jetpack and grappling hook and flamethrower moves.

Bo convinces Axe to yield, but he says that she’ll never be the true leader of Mandalore because she needs the Darksaber to do that and she doesn’t have the guts to take it from Din. But then Din reveals that she doesn’t need to take it from him, because she rightfully earned it after killing the robot guy earlier this season who captured him and stole it. Ergo, the Darksaber has been hers ever since then. The Mandalorians somewhat begrudgingly agree, and she triumphantly ignites it and does a cool pose.

Stray observations

  • Credit where credit is due: Toussaint Egan at Polygon pointed out weeks ago that Bo-Katan earned the Darksaber after killing the crab robot. I thought the show would’ve acknowledged that earlier if that were the case, but nope. Din was just keeping that fact to himself until it was narratively more exciting. And here we keep saying the show’s not about him anymore!
  • The cop show tropes in this episode were fun, if a little heady-handed. The foot chase, the coroner scene, the good cop/bad cop routine. I would’ve liked it a little more without the Mandalorian stuff at the end, since that was a totally different vibe.
  • Lizzo’s Duchess was the rightful ruler of Plazir-15, and Black’s Bombardier was an Imperial sent to conquer the world, but then they fell in love!
  • Speaking of, both of their performances here were distracting, because it was impossible to not see them as Lizzo and Jack Black, but I liked the exaggerated little frown she gave Grogu when the two of them waved goodbye.
  • Din doing the full Boston Dynamics kick on the droids to see if any of them fall down was a nice gag.
  • I’m sure there were a lot of Easter eggs in the droid bar, but one that I clocked was the Star Tours pilot (who has shown up in other places before this).
  • Bo and Din specifically shut Helgait up before he can mention that Dooku was assassinated by Anakin Skywalker, which was interesting. Maybe the show didn’t want to name-drop him after Din had already met his son? Does Bo-Katan know that he became Darth Vader?
  • The corrupted Nepenthé made the droids malfunction because of nanomachines, son. I would’ve given the whole season an A if someone had actually said that line.

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