Whether Chapter 21 of The Mandalorian achieved nearly every objective of this season in spectacular fashion and kicked off what promised to be an explosive second half, Chapter 22 feels like the exact opposite: a tedious side mission with little to no gains or character growth.
It all leads to a plot point that could have been resolved within the first 10 minutes and spawned a genuinely interesting episode that lived up to its title. The talent of Bryce Dallas Howard, who quickly became a fan-favorite Star Wars director after three impressive episodes of Mando and Boba Fett, also feels wasted here.
With just two more episodes to go, The Mandalorian season 3 seems to be betting most of its chips on a large-scale resolution. As for Moff Gideon, he’s still completely irrelevant.
Spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian Chapter 22: “Weapons for Hire”
Things immediately feel bad as we’re thrust into a prologue centered around travelers from Quarren who are stopped by an Imperial cruiser commanded by a Bo KatanThe former companions of: Ax Woves (Simon Kassianides). Also alongside him is the stalwart Koska Reeves (Mercedes Varnado aka Sasha Banks), who would also have been a part of Season 3 for a while. They are now privateers, working for whoever pays well.
This opening scene feels not because of the content itself, but because it goes on too long and awkwardly dwells on a forbidden romance between the Quarren leader and a Mon Calamari who has escaped his family. Typically, offbeat prologues in The Mandalorian help shape what comes next, but this scene ultimately goes nowhere, and neither does the title: “Guns for Hire.”
Will Din Djarin and Bo-Katan Kryze have to deal with a Mon Calamari family drama alongside the Mandalorian warriors they must recruit to regain their trust? It could have been a pretty cool episode that lived up to its title. No, scratch all that. We do low quality riffs on I, Robot and Blade Runner instead.
Honestly, we’re well used to Star Wars animation taking time to play with all sorts of genres and honoring famous works of literature, but one big difference between The Clone Wars (or The Bad Batch) and The Mandalorian is that the latter only has eight episodes to tell an entire story each season, so side quests should generally offer some degree of progression. And so far, Jon Favreau’s scripts had managed to do that very well.
Chapter 22 is too big to detour too late in a season that has focused more on building a bigger plot and methodically raising the stakes. Such a shift in overall stance has already pissed off some fans, but we found it largely refreshing for a show that had to step out of its comfort zone a bit. This episode, however, is exactly the type of adventure you’d like to experience much earlier in a season.
Din and Bo-Katan land on Plazir-15 and seek to recruit the decently sized Mandalorian fleet that Ax Woves has assembled. They are immediately diverted to meet the man responsible. And it’s none other than Jack Black!
All things considered, Black landed a pretty cool part that feels totally tailor-made for him. It’s extravagant and pompous in the style of Thor: Ragnarok (think Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster), and the high-tech yet lavish environment around it has the same look and feel.
Plazir-15 looks like a small utopian paradise: the rich seem appeased, but so do the citizens, who have managed to put 90% of the work on the shoulders of the droids. Trade is booming and everything seems to be in order, but something is wrong: rogue droids are on the rise, and it all seems to be linked to a mysterious change in their AI instead of an organized rebellion . Of course, our two highly capable Mandalorians are great at finding out what’s going on, and are bound to do so before they can meet Ax Woves and his crew, who the leaders have also hired for other jobs.
Let’s pause for a brief moment to address the bantha in the room: given the generally progressive – or at least revisionist – views of Star Wars, one would think that the endgame of this episode would be a strong disapproval of what is essentially slave labor. Droids are widely used across the galaxy, but Star Wars has always argued that they’re generally treated well by anyone who isn’t a jerk. it’s cheap labor, like many living beings, and that’s it.
Plazir-15’s society, however, has only been able to execute its plans for a stress-free paradise by abusing the machines, among which there remain many Separatist battle droids. The investigation is largely numbers-based, including the bartender’s interrogation and the morgue (droid) visit. And at the end of it all, all questions about the ethics of what is being done to support Plazir-15 are dismissed. What mostly looks like a classic Star Trek episode offers no food for thought. Weird.
Fans can absorb a handful of cool locations in this episode though; we can sit with a group of Ugnaughts who bring back memories of Kuiil, and the droid-only canteen is awesome and as troublesome as you’d expect. Plus, we get a (longtime) cameo from Christopher Lloyd as the pro-Separatist security chief.
It also turns out that Lloyd’s Commissioner Helgait was behind the rogue droids, whose behavior had been altered through the use of nano-droids put in a batch of the only beverage they drink. He claims the planet is “unrecognizable” since Jack Black’s Captain Bombardier arrived (he used to work for the Empire), but the end goal is unclear. We can only guess that he was planning to gradually take over the cities and replace the government of Bombardier, which is also a rather strange thing to do, since the planet is doing well on its own and not suffering under the yoke of the New Republic.
As for the Duchess (played by Lizzo), a renowned member of the nobility of Plazir-15, she spends the episode praising her husband and play with Grogu, who is still taking some time off this week. She is also very disappointed with Helgait’s betrayal, but that doesn’t have much of an impact on anything either.
However, Grogu is knighted for some weird reason (probably just because he’s cute). As random as this moment is, it’s another confirmation that he will indeed become the Jedi Mandalorian that Jon Favreau has been actively teasing since The Boba Fett Book. For now, he is a knight of the Ancient Order of Independent Regencies in addition to being a Mandalorian foundling.
With Helgait sentenced to exile, the problematic droids apparently restored, and no one having learned anything new, the joyful life on Plazir-15 can continue. Guards, droid smiths and technicians still have to work? This society seems far from perfect, and all this diversion feels like a wasted opportunity. Additionally, Din regresses to his days of hating droids – yet another step backwards for the character – despite having explicitly declared IG-11 to be his friend and accepting R5-D4 as his new sidekick.
In the last 5 minutes of chapter 22, the script finally returns to the other “guns”, the ones we should have focused on. A better and more engrossing version of this same episode would have seen the two protagonists and the Mandalorians of Woves team up to take down the droids and eventually learn a terrible truth, but they just chilled even though they could have fixed the rulers problem. immediately. Bombardier had explained earlier why that wasn’t possible, but it was just a flimsy writing ploy to get Din and Bo-Katan to work.
After a small fight between Bo and Axe, Din explains that he is willing to give up the Darksaber so she can unite all Mandalorians. We know it doesn’t work, but he argues that the Heir of Kryze saved him Mandalore After he was captured and lost the darksaber. To be fair, it’s a nice payoff for a scene we hadn’t really thought about.
Chapter 22 ends (again) with an intense shot of Bo-Katan coming to terms with his fate, and we can’t help but wonder if we could have arrived at this destination sooner and more efficiently, and that applies to both. episode and the season as a whole.