This review contains spoilers for season 3, episode 5 of The Mandalorian, “Chapter 21: The Pirate.”
It may have taken five entire episodes, but it feels like The Mandalorian season 3’s core mission statement is finally in full view. Episode 5, titled “Chapter 21: The Pirate,” economically calls back to each of the previous four Mandalorian adventures and highlights how their distinct threads are being woven into a single tapestry. That being said, it feels like a story we’ve seen before, and I can’t help but get the feeling that this is all heading to an explanation for The Rise of Skywalker that I desperately don’t want to watch.
Written once again by Jon Favreau and directed by Peter Ramsey (one of the co-directors of 2018’s phenomenal Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), “The Pirate” mixes in equal parts of the previous four episodes. Remember the series’s classic western sensibilities that were showcased in the first episode of the season? Well, they’re back, along with Greef Karga (Carl Weathers), the planet Nevarro, and the Pirate King Gorian Shard (Nonso Anozie).
Bo-Katan’s (Katee Sackhoff) struggle with finding a place in the universe and accepting the possibility that her destiny may lie in uniting all Mandalorians from Chapter 18? Yep, that’s here. The shadowy plot that seems to have infiltrated the bureaucratic nightmare of the New Republic in our brief sojourn with Dr. Pershing (Omid Abtahi) and the nefarious G68 (Katy O’Brian)? You got it. All this, plus last week’s adventure that finally saw the Children of the Watch accepting Mando (Pedro Pascal) and Bo-Katan, feels like they’re tossed into a blender and become this week’s slurry of an episode.
I’m always happy to have more Carl Weathers in my life, so seeing Greef step up and lead his people to safety was a nice moment. Also, I can’t tell you how happy I was to spend more time with Gorian Shard, whose heavy Old Gregg vibes makes him one of my favorite new alien weirdos in a season filled with quite a few of them.
That said, I wasn’t quite sure what the Pirate King’s goal was in bombarding the city and turning it into dust. Shard seemed to want revenge for his lackeys that Greef and Mando killed at the beginning of the season, but I didn’t take the Pirate King for being overly sentimental towards his hired goons. And while it’s possible that he has some link to the larger plot of Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) being freed, those links aren’t entirely clear. But I guess “He’s a pirate!” is a good enough answer to any of these questions.
The middle of the episode has us following Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, whom we’ll be spending more time with down the road when he plays Uncle Iroh in the Netflix live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender), a New Republic pilot that’s crossed paths with our heroes in the past. After an introduction at an on-base bar, we get a nice little Rebels cameo from Zeb (Steve Blum), the Lasat member of the Ghost’s crew who’s the same species as Jaro Tapal in Jedi: Fallen Order. From here, Teva is forced to wade through the bureaucratic muck back on Coruscant.
In my favorite surprise cameo of the year, Tim Meadows plays a New Republic officer who seems like he’s just trying to make it to the end of the workday without rocking the status quo. “This isn’t a rebellion anymore. We have a structure now,” he tells Teva, as a scheming G68 looks on. The apathy present in the New Republic is a far cry from the burgeoning fire we saw forming in the Rebellion during last year’s Andor, with Meadows’ officer a stark contrast to the passion we saw in Stellan Skarsgård’s Luthen.
After failing to find help through official means, Teva heads over to the Children of the Watch’s dangerous hellmouth of a hideout (thanks to some tracking help from Mando’s R5 unit) and enlists their help in taking back Nevarro. This unfolds in a pretty solid multi-front battle, including the crew making it to the surface with their jetpacks and using blasters, missiles, and mini-guns to take out pirates, the Armorer (Emily Swallow) using her cool smelting tools as weapons, and a nice dogfight with Mando and Bo-Katan eventually taking down Gorian Shard’s ship (rest in peace, sweet prince).
It’s interesting that, between this episode and the Dr. Pershing interlude, The Mandalorian seems perfectly fine with spending large chunks of time away from its titular hero and little green mascot. Mando only has a handful of lines, and maybe Grogu was feeling under the weather during this week of shooting because I routinely forgot that he was a character on this show throughout the episode. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as all the best Star Wars stories have always been ensembles. It’s just something worth noting, considering that we only have three episodes left in the season.
While those two may have taken a backseat this week, Bo-Katan gets her time in the spotlight as the Armorer sees the future of Mandalore within her. After requesting that she remove her helmet, the Armorer tells the group, “Bo-Katan walks both worlds. And she can bring all tribes together. It is time to retake Mandalore.”
Of course, this triumphant reveal is paired with the final scene in which Teva stumbles upon the derelict transport ship that was taking Moff Gideon to trial, complete with hints of Beskar in what I’m guessing is a plot to incriminate the Mandalorians in the incident.
While “Chapter 21: The Pirate” does an admirable job of bundling together the disparate threads of the previous Mandalorian season 4 episodes, there’s a lingering air of familiarity to everything that’s going on in the series. And with the impending return of Moff Gideon, an inevitable cameo by Ahsoka to tie into her upcoming series, and the fear I have that this is all leading towards an explanation of Palpatine clones, I’m worried any of us who are expecting to be surprised might walk away from this season disappointed.