This review contains some spoilers for season 3, episode 6 of The Mandalorian, “Chapter 22: Guns for Hire.”
“Chapter 22: Guns for Hire” feels like The Mandalorian took an entire three-episode arc from the animated Clone Wars series and crammed it into a single live-action hour of television. It’s packed with memorable characters, strange places, and odd little moments that will stick with me far longer than much of what we’ve seen so far this season. And while it still only engages with its themes on a superficial level, and the clock is ticking closer to midnight, this diversion provided one of my favorite episodes of The Mandalorian season 3 yet.
Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard and written by Jon Favreau, nearly every scene of the episode is filled with tiny details that I really appreciated. Right from the opening, I loved how the captain of the Quarren ship is introduced floating inside of a water tank, but once she needs to get into action, the tank retracts and she lands gracefully in her captain’s chair. This is followed by an abridged version of Romeo and Juliet, where we see the pair of starcrossed Quarren and Mon Calamari lovers have to say goodbye, which includes rubbing their chin tentacles across their faces. Right from the get-go, I got my weirdo alien moment of the week, so well done, Star Wars.
The bulk of “Guns for Hire” takes place on Plazir-15, a utopia that feels like a cross between Disney’s Epcot Center and those memes of the perfect future society. The little jingle that plays as they enter the planet’s surface reminded me of the cheerful melodies that play along the Tokyo Metro line. And not to be topped by last week’s unexpected appearance of Tim Meadows, this episode introduces Jack Black and Lizzo as Captain Bombardier and the Duchess of Plazir-15. Though it certainly took me a moment to settle after the surprise of seeing these two in Star Wars, they fit their minor roles quite well.
Their larger-than-life presences mesh well with the decadence of their meal. The stark white of the furniture, the pastel Easter egg colors of the food, and the strange music that blankets everything highlight that Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) and Mando (Pedro Pascal) are both extremely out of place in this world. But not Grogu, who immediately becomes fast friends with the Duchess. With Grogu cheating at space bocce, his being knighted, and the pair of them waving goodbye at the end of the episode, I hope these two get to hang out again at some point in the future.
At this point, it became clear to me that “Guns for Hire” was leaning into its animated Clone Wars roots more so than perhaps any episode of The Mandalorian yet. We venture off to a strange new world, meet a few odd members of royalty and dig into a form of leadership that exists outside the framework of the Republic, and prequel-era droids play a large role in the story. I could 100% envision animated versions of Anakin, Ahsoka, and Obi-Wan going through all of this, and I mean that in the best possible way.
While a lot of this episode has a sidequest vibe similar to what we saw from the season premiere, I feel like it works here because every individual scene has its own propulsive energy to it. Mando and Bo meet Commissioner Helgait (Christopher Lloyd) and learn about the planet’s malfunctioning droid problem via a series of extremely great CCTV clips of robos going wild. The pair then visit a group of Ugnaughts, and Mando is able to win them over thanks to his season 1 friendship with Kuiil (Nick Nolte). It’s nice to see that the pals Mando made along his journey left a lasting impression on him. I have spoken.
Though he might be adept at communicating with Ugnaughts, he’s still a complete ass to 99% of droids, which is shown off as he kicks a series of super battle droids until one of them snaps, proving to be one of the malfunctioning machines that they’re looking for. And I’m going to be honest – Mando absolutely deserved to get cold cocked after kicking a bunch of dudes who were just doing their jobs. Heavy “Are we the baddies?” energy on display this week.
This is followed by a solid chase scene across a neon-lit cityscape involving the surprisingly spry super battle droid. It has shades of Deckard chasing down Replicants in Blade Runner, which is never a bad thing. I also like how the episode leans into noir tropes – finding a matchbook on a dead body that points you towards a specific bar of interest, shaking down the bartender, going to the droid morgue to examine the droid corpse. Good stuff all around.
And while the reveal that Christopher Lloyd was behind the whole thing didn’t really land with an impact, his starting to preach about how Count Dooku was misunderstood, only to be quickly tased by Bo brought out a genuine laugh in me.
The final scene of the week feels like the series suddenly remembers that there are only two episodes left in the season, and it scrambles to finish its homework on the bus ride to school. Bo battles Axe Wolves (a very anime name, might I add) for leadership over this splinter group of Mandalorians. Bo wins, but Axe (Simon Kassianides) tells her that she’ll never be the leader she wishes to be without the Darksaber. We’re then treated to a reveal that feels four episodes too late, considering I already brought it up a month ago after “The Mines of Mandalore” – Bo technically earned the Darksaber after she rescued Mando from my favorite vampire robo (RIP). And with that, we cut to credits.
While the series still feels afraid to fully commit to dealing with any real issues – we just skate through the idea of a utopia on the surface that only exists because it was built on the backs of the laborers at the bottom – I’ve come to terms with engaging with The Mandalorian as an extension of its Saturday morning cartoon roots. And as such, “Chapter 22: Guns for Hire” got the job done in an entertaining fashion.