Chapter 22 of The Mandalorian gives us another story that is primarily self-contained, but unlike the raptor episode, this one is far more intriguing and fun.
The story opens with a ship helmed by a species known as Quarrens. They make contact with Bo-Katan’s (Katee Sackhoff) old crew of Mandalorians, which we learned earlier in the season had deserted her when she lost the Darksaber. It turns out the Mandalorians, led by Axe Woves (Simon Kassianides), were hired to hunt down the Quarren captain, Shuggoth (Christine Adams), who fell in love with a Mon Calamari prince and whisked him away on her ship. His family hired the Mandos to return him, and so they did.
In an attempt to unite all the Mandalorian groups, Bo-Katan, Din (Pedro Pascal), and Grogu set out to find Axe’s group. The three trace the Mandalorians’ location to the planet Plazir-15, but once they’re almost landed near the Mandos’ ship, the Plazir government intercepts them and forces Bo to land down elsewhere. Bo, Din, and Grogu load into a pod that zips them along into the city, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of that futuristic EPCOT monorail vibe. They’re headed to meet the leaders of the planet, who happen to be some delightful cameos: Lizzo and Jack Black.
Black’s character, Captain Bombardier, was Imperial, but thanks to the New Republic Amnesty program, he was sent to help rebuild Plazir after the war. There, he met and fell in love with Lizzo’s character, The Duchess, who was part of the nobility. Because of his Imperial past, they can’t have a military, so they’ve hired the Mandalorians as protection. When Bo-Katan requests to talk to the Mandalorians, the Captain, and the Duchess propose a trade: they’ll permit a meeting with the Mandos if Bo and Din agree to help them with a droid problem. Their rehabilitated Imperial battle droids are violently malfunctioning, and Bo and Din need to help disable them.
In yet another cameo, Christopher Lloyd as Commissioner Helgait introduces the two of them to the security footage of rehabbed droids behaving erratically. He refuses to turn off all the droids, both functioning and malfunctioning, as the citizens of the planet voted against this, desiring to keep the privileges that come with droid assistance. Bo asks for a list of broken droids, and Helgait directs them to a floor where a group of Ugnaughts work. Din evokes the name of Kuiil, Nick Nolte’s character from season 1, to connect with them and gain their trust. Din and Bo attain the list of damaged droids, and they set out together to find the first one suspected of malfunctioning next. When they find a group of droids at work, Din starts to kick them, seeing if he’ll set any of them off, and he does.
A chase ensues, with Bo and Din racing through a crowded neon-lit street as the droid hurls heavy objects at them. When Din takes a detour, he finally catches up with the droid and destroys it. They trace a chip in it to a droid bar, where they question the bartender. Bo and Din’s contrasting interrogation styles clash, but they still manage to get the bartender to speak. He says he wants to assist them because he and the droids are afraid they’ll be scrapped if the droid issues continue—the rest of the droids in the bar chirp in agreement. The bartender discloses to them that the problem droids all drank from the same batch of oil called nepenthé.
They take the oil to a lab to study it, and when it’s inserted into a droid, it almost kills the technician, Bo, and Din. They discover that nano-droids are in the nepenthé, and they have a chain code etched on them leading back to–dun dun dun… Commissioner Helgait!
Bo and Din confront him, but he threatens to press a Big Red Button(™) that will instantly transfer all of the rehabbed droids back to their battle programming. While Helgait waxes on about his history of “never giving up,” Bo-Katan just….. raises a clenched fist and zaps him with a stunner. The scene cuts back to the royals (who have been taking care of Grogu this whole time). Bo and Din haul Helgait in and tell the rulers he’s to blame. They choose to exile him. In thanks for solving the droid issue, they grant Bo and Din the chance to talk to the Mandalorians. Lizzo also knights Grogu. No, for real.
Din and Bo-Katan meet with the Mandalorians. It doesn’t go too well, to say the least. Bo and Axe Woves get into a physical fight over who should be the leader. Bo wins, but Axe still refuses to acknowledge her because she won’t challenge Din for the dark saber. Din admits to them that no, actually, the monster from back in episode 3 stripped him of the blade, but Bo vanquished that monster; the blade, therefore, is rightfully hers. The episode ends with Bo dramatically igniting the dark saber.
On first viewing, this episode felt delightful and even whimsical–a wanted departure from the tedium of the season so far. On second viewing, it doesn’t quite hold up; even the droid bar scene doesn’t seem as fun as it did initially. It’s still a solid episode and another welcome installment from Bryce Dallas Howard, who I think did some of the best directorial work ever on a Star War in her The Book of Boba Fett episode last year. Give her her own Star Wars film already!