‘The Mandalorian’ Recruits Lizzo and Jack Black for Action-Packed Episode
THIS POST CONTAINS spoilers for this week’s episode of The Mandalorian, “Guns for Hire.”
Well, that was a mostly welcome change of pace.
In a broad sense, “Guns for Hire” fits the Mission of the Week mode that The Mandalorian does so well, but it does it in a couple of unusual ways. It is both as comedic as the series seems capable of (or, at least, interested in) going, and it is basically a buddy cop show, with Mando and Bo-Katan making like Lennie Briscoe and one of his many partners.
The episode opens with the titular characters, as we see Bo’s old pals Axe Woves and Koska Reeves operating as guns for hire, intercepting a Quarren ship because its captain has brought along her young Mon Calamari lover, and the kid’s aristocratic mother wants him back at all costs. From there, though, the episode is largely about keeping Mando and Bo from reconnecting with the others until the final scene.
If you’re going to stall, though, going full Law & Order parody isn’t a bad way to go, especially with all the notable guest stars, and guest director, who are part of this silliness.
Axe’s group has set up shop on Plazir-15, an independent democratic world that can’t have its own army because one of its two elected leaders, the aptly-named Captain Bombardier, is a reformed Imperial. And the planet’s own byzantine laws do not allow Axe’s people to act as local law-enforcement, nor for its constable droids to be armed. So when members of the local droid population start going rogue and attacking the citizens, Mando and Bo are somehow the only people who can crack the case.
It’s a contrivance, but an entertaining one, boosted from fun guest turns by Jack Black (his new beard never seeming more appropriate for a role) as Bombardier, Lizzo in a rare live-action acting appearance as Bombardier’s wife/co-leader the Duchess(*), and Christopher Lloyd as Commissioner Helgait, the Plazir head of security.
(*) To paraphrase a traditional Passover song on the morning before the first seder of 2023, if the episode had only featured Grogu leaping into Lizzo’s arms and later helping her cheat at a space version of lawn bowling, it would have been enough. (See also Mando declaring, “You had me at ‘battle droids.”)
Since the season has spent several episodes showing that former Imperials can’t necessarily be trusted, and that the New Republic is a clown show(*), the early part of the episode seems to be setting up the idea that Bombardier himself has reprogrammed the droids. Instead, after various interrogations (with droid-hating Mando playing bad cop) and action sequences — including a nifty foot chase that once again stamps Bryce Dallas Howard as by far the series’ best director of action — we discover that the bad guy is Helgait, a one-time Separatist still given to waxing poetic about the genius of Count Dooku. His plan seems fairly nonsensical, in that there’s no clear endgame beyond generating minor chaos on a planet he claims to no longer recognize. But the various story beats and franchise callbacks (notably the return of the whiny, bumbling battle droids from the prequels and Clone Wars, plus more Ugnaughts, like our old friend Kuill from the first season) are enough to paper over the sketchy plot.
(*) The New Republic almost has to be portrayed this way, given what we know is coming in the sequel films. But between that and all this episode’s jokes about the headaches of democracy, the show is veering perilously close to being pro-Empire.
With the episodic business out of the way, our heroes are finally permitted to visit with Axe and the rest of Bo’s former soldiers. Bo wins a duel with Axe (another Howard-directed highlight), and when he points out that she should really be dueling with Mando for ownership of the Darksaber, Din instead offers it to her without a fight — explaining that, because she saved him from the beast in the cave a few episodes back, the blade is rightfully hers. After going nearly a whole episode without having to discuss all the convoluted laws and traditions of various Mandalorian factions, it’s a bit of a bummer to end on a note evoking the many tedious Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows conversations about why Draco Malfoy’s wand is somehow more powerful than Voldemort’s. But the episode gets to where the season needed to go, with Bo reclaiming both her laser sword and her leadership position. And if she still feels like the season’s protagonist, at least Mando got to be an equal participant in this particular mission, rather than a glorified bystander.
Where do we go from here? Will Bo’s ever-more absolute power wind up corrupting her absolutely, forcing Mando to go to battle against his new best friend? Or are we on course for a happy unification of all things Mandalorian? Either way, I wonder what genre the series can play around in next. Maybe Grogu winds up performing surgery while visiting a hospital planet? I have spoken.
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