The Mandalorian Season 3 Review: Chapter 22
The Mandalorian has spent most of its third season grappling with its conflicting interests between episodic and longform storytelling. Last week’s episode blended the two quite effectively, albeit in a rather inexplicably abrupt manner for a show with no real runtime constraints. There’s nothing stopping the show from engaging in meaningful character development alongside its fairly self-contained adventures.
Part of the fun of The Mandalorian is the way the show can jump across genres. “Chapter 22: Guns For Hire” is essentially a buddy cop episode. After a scene reminding the audience of who Bo-Katan’s old friends were, the show mostly gives itself over to a silly droid caper on the planet Plazir-15, ruled by Captain Combardier (Jack Black) and the Duchess (Lizzo). The show did a laughably bad job trying to come up with an explanation for why this nonsense needed to serve as a precursor to Mando and Bo-Katan’s intended helmet missionary work, but Black and Lizzo were entertaining to watch. It’s a little unclear why Mando felt okay leaving Baby Yoda with complete strangers, but we got some cute Grogu antics out of it.
The return of the Battle Droids, stalwarts of the prequels, was a bit of a mixed bag. The show abandoned much of the cringe comedy that defined the Battle Droids in Revenge of the Sith, but the chase sequence with Mando and the Super Battle Droid fell a little flat. No droid has ever moved like the Super Battle Droid in this episode, looking far more human than machine. Star Wars droids are not known for being nimble.
As a location, Plazir-15 was a much-needed breath of fresh air over the show’s preference for one-note planets or stale CGI, but the special effects weren’t necessarily great either. Thankfully the practical sets were pretty beautiful and the CGI showed plenty of variety, even if the planet came across as fairly sparsely populated. It seemed odd that neither Mando nor Bo had previously heard of this place when their local Ugnaught population seemed to know his old friend Kuill. Is this universe so big that people don’t know all the planets, or so small that everything revolves around a handful of families and people overlapping with each other across the decades? Star Wars has seemingly reverse-engineered their species’ entire culture to center around their debut appearance in the Cloud City garbage room in Empire Strikes Back.
The episode took a weird stance on capitalism and democracy. Captain Combardier and the Duchess ceded power to plurality rule, but the show clearly took the stance that the citizen’s exit from the working class was incompatible with a happy life. The droids are also apparently incapable of seeing their life through any lens but their own use value to their “creators,” the proletariat perpetually in debt to the bourgeoisie. Chapter 22 firmly established that the sympathies of The Mandalorian reside with capital over labor, a slap in the face to the franchise’s proletariat roots.
Christopher Lloyd put forth an easy crowd-pleaser as Commissioner Helgait, a Count Dooku-worshipping head of security. Helgait was a very predictable villain, and his Separatist nonsense will sail over most casual fans’ heads, but Lloyd was a lot of fun causing low-stakes mischief while envisioning himself as the living embodiment of a long-failed movement. An over-the-top villain isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world for something like Star Wars.
Director Bryce Dallas Howard continued her streak of excellent action sequences, aside from the sloppy Super Battle Droid chase. The fight between Bo-Katan and Axes Woves was an instant highlight of the entire season, Katee Sackhoff firmly establishing herself at the heart of the show’s emotional core. For a season that’s been oddly light on Grogu, Bo-Katan seems to be the only person with a clear character arc.
The show had to bend over backward once again to come up with a reason for Mando to hand over the darksaber without turning the show’s protagonists against each other. Mando using the transitive property to explain how Bo had actually bested him already was pretty pathetic, the kind of empty narrative hole that can’t be covered up with a cute puppet. This show does not enjoy doing its homework when it comes to long-form plot progression.
Chapter 22 made for entertaining television, but the episode also highlighted some of the show’s broader problems. The Mandalorian isn’t the low-stakes Western it once was. This show has broad ambitions for Mandalore and the fall of the New Republic, but it never seems interested in laying down the actual groundwork that brings these stories together. Something’s missing about this season that goes beyond its complete abandonment of exploring the relationship between its two key characters after reuniting them on a completely different show. The Mandalorian clearly wants to be more than The Baby Yoda Show, but it doesn’t necessarily know what it wants to be either.