"What does this have to do with us?" Bo-Katan asks during 'Guns for Hire.' It’s a good question. In a show peppered with loose threads – the reclaiming of Mandalore, Moff Gideon, and Grogu’s past are just some waiting to be tied up – The Mandalorian is in serious danger of going nowhere fast while still managing to leave its lead behind.
That meandering tone is hammered home by a cold open which sees Axe Woves (Simon Mario Kassianides) leading Bo-Katan’s former group of splinter cell Mandalorians as the titular guns for hire. Their privateer work here in the brief scene on the Quarren freighter amounts to little more than providing context for their place in the galaxy, a brief star-crossed lovers mission, and reams of melodrama and stilted line readings.
Mercifully, any concerns are melted away by the meat of this week’s story. Bo-Katan – now seeking to unite various Mandalorian clans – and Din Djarin head to the independent utopia world of Plazir-15.
It’s always refreshing to see a world in a galaxy far, far away that isn’t Coruscant or Tatooine, and that breezy ideal is accentuated further by a slew of surprise cameos, led by Jack Black’s Captain Bombardier and Lizzo’s Duchess.
Their appearances add more than a dash of color and personality to the episode as they proceed to ham it up – and provide Bo-Katan and Din with enough incentive (recognizing Mandalore as a planet) to help with their droid-based problems. Back to the Future’s Christopher Lloyd, too, is there to assist as head of security Commissioner Helgait – a case for nominative determinism if ever we heard one.
It’s a mission complicated further by Plazir-15 entrusting all its work to droids, with its people instead "enjoying the arts" and living comfortably in leisure. It’s an interesting political idea that – like Helgait’s Separatist history – is only ever prodded at gently, demanding a little more exploration. Still, it broadens the show’s horizons and provides ‘Guns for Hire’ with a clear end goal and structure, something which past installments had been lacking.
The droids you’re looking for
Din and Bo-Katan’s detective work is where this episode is given the time and space to truly shine. They are tasked with hunting down rogue droids and tracking down the cause of the issue, with the episode’s momentum dramatically quickening thanks to a pair of entertaining scenes: first, a Blade Runner-infused droid chase across neon-drenched city streets, then Mando playing bad cop to Bo’s good cop in seedy droid bar The Resistor. Though why its address was literally found on the droid’s remains is an act of plot contrivance that is difficult to overlook and can only be chalked up to sloppy writing.
Eventually, the duo uncovers Helgait’s schemes and the episode’s plot draws to a close as Bo-Katan puts a stop to the commissioner. The pair are duly rewarded – and Grogu is knighted, which is frankly adorable – and are sent on their way.
As for the episode’s true purpose? We finally get our answer in the closing act as Bo-Katan confronts Axe Woves to help bring in extra help to reclaim Mandalore. Their verbal jousts are entertaining enough, though it’s their quick physical skirmish that shows off director Bryce Dallas Howard’s quick eye for slick choreography and character-heavy conflict. It’s just a pity it was cut short before it really got going.
It’s here when Mando interjects, helping Bo-Katan earn the trust of Axe Woves and his band of Mandalorians by recounting how she saved him back in ‘The Living Waters.’ Din then gifts Bo-Katan with the Darksaber. In one fell swoop, the events in the mines of Mandalore provide just enough of a clever loophole to cut through the thorny question of succession – and put another lingering question to bed.
In truth, Bryce Dallas Howard has directed better Star Wars episodes – including last year’s formidable Book of Boba Fett entry ‘Return of The Mandalorian’. But this is an adeptly plotted 45 minutes that proves The Mandalorian is at its best when presented with a simple story ahead of it, though it’s hard to shake the feeling that Din is playing second fiddle in his own show at times. It’s in danger of turning into The Book of Bo-Katan.
Despite the episode’s successes, it’s concerning that the show has two entries to squeeze in Moff Gideon and to re-focus this as Din’s story before jetting off again for another (probable) years-long break. In that sense, the pacing is a little off – though we’d be quite happy to see Din and Bo-Katan team up to solve space crimes any time.
The Mandalorian is currently streaming Wednesdays on Disney Plus. For more on the show, check out where The Mandalorian sits on the Star Wars timeline and our full The Mandalorian season 3 release schedule. We've also rounded up all of the new Star Wars movies and TV shows on the way too.