Season 3, Episode 5: ‘The Pirate’
“The Mandalorian” has never been a show with a lot of complicated continuity or mythology — at least in comparison to other “Star Wars” stories — but there have been a few foundational events throughout the run of the series.
One of these happened in the tellingly titled Season 1 episode “The Sin,” when Din Djarin completed his assignment to deliver the Child to the Client, and then immediately changed his mind and returned to rescue his little buddy. Din and Grogu escaped with the help of the hidden Mandalorian covert on Nevarro, but because the Mandalorians revealed themselves, Imperial forces later arrived to destroy their enclave and chase them away.
This week’s episode revisits that story and gives it a happier ending, as the Mandalorians return to Nevarro to save its citizenry and are rewarded with their own territory, to live on openly. Granted, given that Din and Bo-Katan joined this covert specifically to hide out from the Imperial remnant, re-emerging from the underground may not be the smartest idea. But hey, there are only three episodes left in this season. The show’s creator Jon Favreau has to start moving everything into place for the finale.
Perhaps because Favreau has to hustle to move the story along, “The Pirate” is an unusually disjointed chapter of “The Mandalorian” — even by the standards of this season, in which nearly every episode has sometimes bounced awkwardly between multiple plotlines. Pretty much all of the major Season 3 elements are put back into play here, including the stifling New Republic bureaucracy on Coruscant, the efforts of the High Magistrate Greef Karga to civilize Nevarro, the mystery of what happened to Moff Gideon, the splintering of Mandalorian tribes, Paz Vizsla’s unwelcoming attitude, and Bo-Katan’s encounter with the Mythosaur. Not all these pieces fit together neatly.
The title refers to Gorian Shard, the king who Din angered in the season premiere. When the pirate mother ship descends on Nevarro and starts terrorizing the locals, Greef Karga puts a call in to the New Republic star-fighter Captain Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee), who in turn asks for help from the Mandalorians. (The not-so-reliable R5-D4, it turns out, tipped Teva off as to where Din has been hiding.) After a rousing speech from Paz — who had his mind changed about the covert’s new members when they saved his son’s life — Bo-Katan makes a plan of attack and leads the tribe into battle.
The Mandalorians-verus-pirates sequence is some real old-fashioned Saturday matinee stuff, leaning hard into some of the scenario’s goofier aspects. The pirates have a big ol’ steering wheel on the bridge of their spaceship, for example. And when they take over Nevarro, the rogues are seen bullying the servers in a saloon while half-destroyed droids putter around and bump into rocks. It is all very cartoonish — and not in a bad way.
Ultimately, these Outer Rim buccaneers are no match for the Mandalorians, who really are excellent at their jobs. Between Paz’s enormous cannon and Din’s speedy N-1, our heroes easily overwhelm the bad guys, as all of Nevarro’s weird little creatures cheer them on. And then, after Karga offers the covert some land, the Armorer decides that in order to restore Mandalore to its former glory, this new enclave needs to be open to all Mandalorians — no matter how they interpret “the Way.” A triumph all around … for now, at least.
The Armorer’s embrace of multiculturalism may seem abrupt, but it does lead to a nice scene between her and Bo-Katan, as they bond over their memories of the grand old forge on Mandalore and come to an understanding about what it meant when the princess saw the Mythosaur. In a move that shocks the covert, the Armorer urges Bo-Katan to take off her helmet and live as she likes, arguing that to unite their people, they are going to need someone who “walks both worlds.”
The pacing of the episode’s back half — from the pirate fight to Bo-Katan’s helmet removal — is enjoyably snappy. But this chapter does take a while to get into gear, because before the Mandalorians enter the picture there is an extended detour on Coruscant, where Teva is frustrated that no one sees the danger of letting the non-chartered Nevarro fall to pirates — or to the Imperial remnant. Teva does not trust the likes of the New Republic’s Elia Kane, whom he recognizes as being part of the amnesty program and thus perhaps secretly still loyal to the Empire.
The Coruscant scenes feel like they were meant to match the broader tone of the pirate scenes, given the little bits of comic business between the ineffective Colonel Tuttle (played by the former “Saturday Night Live” stalwart Tim Meadows) and one of his office droids. But compared to slyer satire of this season’s “The Convert,” the humor falls a bit flat.
Still, in the end everything this week serves a purpose, whether it is to settle some old business on Nevarro or to set up future conflicts. We end with Teva again, returning to his base when he comes across the wreckage of Moff Gideon’s prison transport — and evidence that some Mandalorians may be responsible for helping him escape. Just when they have found a welcoming home, these wandering warriors may be on the verge of getting rousted again. I look forward to the melees to come.
This is the way
Greef Karga’s warning to Gorian Shard — “Don’t mistake my hospitality for weakness!” — sounded so much like a line from our own present-day reality that it threw me out of the scene for a few seconds. The moment is indicative of some of the overall clunkiness that works against this episode at times.
The rocking tune playing at the Spinward base (presumably by Joseph Shirley, who replaced Ludwig Göransson as the show’s composer this season) reminded me of a great episode of the “Strong Songs” podcast, digging into Nicholas Britell’s music for “Andor.” The podcast’s host, Kirk Hamilton, noted how a pop song playing at a club in one “Andor” episode is heard in different variations and contexts throughout the season, subtly building out the world of that show by imagining what an intergalactic hit might sound like.
For anyone who grew up with “Star Wars” action figures and remembers the excitement whenever a new droid would be added to the line, it has been wild to see so many different types of protocol and astromech droids puttering around the streets of Nevarro and Coruscant. Can someone revive Kenner Products and get some new toys into production?