The Mandalorian’s third season is now well over the halfway mark. Last week’s episode gave the impression that all of the season’s plot threads were on a crash course with each other, but instead this week’s “Guns for Hire” keeps things simmering. This would be fine if the season plot didn’t decide to leap ahead right at the end of this week’s episode in the most heavy-handed way possible. This episode was a real rough one thanks to that ending.
There are some things to take away from the episode that are positive, so it’ll be best to get that ending taken care of upfront: after Bo-Katan beats down the current leadership (Simon Kassianides) of her ragtag Mandalorian squad (including the returning Mercedes Varnado), the issue of Din’s Darksaber finally returns to the topic of conversation. The Darksaber, in case you forgot, is usually the indicator of the leadership of Mandalore and so long as Din has it the squad isn’t really on Bo-Katan’s side. Deciding to settle this once and for all, Din steps forward—and promptly does the exact same thing he did last season, handing it to her.
What changed? Well, back in “The Mines of Mandalore” when Bo-Katan saved Din from captivity, she used the Darksaber that had been removed from his person. Din rationalizes that because he was disarmed by that creature visiting from Mad God and Bo-Katan killed it, she’s now the rightful owner of the Darksaber. Everyone, Bo-Katan included, decides to go with this logic and that’s the end of “Guns for Hire.”
This turn is incredibly weak, not because of any kind of bizarre criticism like the show now being ‘The Bo-Katan Show’ or other nonsense from bros who need to log off. The move is weak because right before Din pulls this leap in logic, the tension that could carry the rest of the season was right there. Over the course of several episodes now, Din has proven himself to be a reliable ally to Bo-Katan, along with his “extremist” sect. She does not want to have to fight him, which is stated in “Guns for Hire.” For his part, Din has no interest in leadership but would not be allowed to throw such a fight due to the Creed he’s just reaffirmed himself to. That’s a juicy conflict that just isn’t going to be explored.
Of course, this is a much more truncated season of The Mandalorian. Likely this is still a remnant of pandemic restrictions, though I also question if the implosion of Rangers of the New Republic has also messed with the planning of things. Whatever it is, it’s definitely impacted The Mandalorian’s ability to follow through on its own narrative plans. The discourse online about “Guns for Hire” that hit immediately really reflects this.
Personally, at this point, I’m just kind of sick of the Darksaber. This item has weaved in and out of Filoni projects for ages now; giving it to a new owner (notably someone who has already owned it before) really does not feel like a satisfying payoff even considering Din’s well-established disinterest in leadership. Given how much current events in-series seem targeted to those who have followed all these shows, it’s not great to feel continually jerked around.
“Guns for Hire” is more than its ending, though. Most of the runtime is a pretty fun little romp where Din and Bo-Katan run through the gauntlet of mystery-solving archetypes. Before they’re allowed to meet with the Mandalorians hired to defend Plazir-15, the planet’s leadership (surprise casting of Jack Black and Lizzo) conscript our heroes into looking into a possible droid rebellion. We quickly jump from Blade Runner to CSI before finally landing somehow on Scooby-Doo as Din and Bo-Katan clash on how to investigate these repurposed Battle Droids.
The surprise guests are definitely the highlight of “Guns for Hire” including Christopher Lloyd as the head of Plazir-15’s facilities. Black is never not giving 100%, and his slight accent as Captain Bombardier is giving the exact right kind of political effect. Lizzo’s actually a bit more measured than her normal persona as The Duchess, but even if she was bad, knowing her presence is going to cause a popped blood vessel in the exact kind of guys no one likes makes it hard to judge. As for Lloyd, it’s honestly just impressive it took this long to get him in one of these. Of the three, he’s both the most important to the episode’s story but I’d honestly prefer him somewhere more sizable in this franchise.
The mystery itself of why droids are attacking could have been more compelling, but that’s not too surprising given that Star Wars often goes out of its way to not make it clear whether or not droids are sentient, because that starts to ask too many questions. “Guns for Hire” tackles those by revealing to us that the droids on Plazir-15 are happy to be in service and do not want to be replaced, but that’s also because the alternative is to be scrapped by the New Republic. Doesn’t do much to dodge the ethical questions that start to sneak in the longer the topic is in the forefront, but at the very least Din learns that he probably should relax a bit on the droid phobia.
Overall, “Guns for Hire” is the messiest Mandalorian episode of the season. Honestly, it might be a contender for the messiest of the series. Bits and pieces were fun, I will never complain about seeing Jack Black, but the overarching story has really been fumbled now. Had this been another stop on Din’s adventure, the goings on with Plazir-15 could just be a fun detour. Those detours into smaller areas of Star Wars are what I like best about The Mandalorian. However, this was very explicitly meant to move the overall story forward and it did so by falling flat on its face. There are not a lot of episodes left to course correct.
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‘The Mandalorian’ 3x06 - 5/10