While Chapter 20 was largely received as a crowd-pleaser and put the focus back on Grogu and the Children of the Watch, many fans and casual viewers were struggling to see where season 3 as a whole was going one half in. Of course, it turns out folks just needed to be patient, as Jon Favreau was playing the long game with The Mandalorian this time around.
This week’s episode, helmed by Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse co-director and Across the Spider-Verse executive producer Peter Ramsey, coalesces all that has transpired so far this season and presents a crystal-clear plan for the three remaining episodes. Its title might suggest another “adventure of the week” and a restrained scope, but the reality is that The Mandalorian has rarely felt bigger.
Spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian Chapter 21: ‘The Pirate’
It was obvious that the show would be returning to Nevarro to deal with the pirate menace sooner rather than later, but Chapter 21 is anything but straightforward past its first scene. Gorian Shard shows up uninvited, telling Greef Karga and the citizens to bugger off, and laying waste to the town to get his point across.
The obvious answer to Nevarro’s problems, as teased by the trailers, was turning to the Mandalorian covert that once lived under its streets, but Karga asks the New Republic first. Even though they’re independent, the planet doesn’t have a bad relationship with Paul Sun-Hyung Lee’s Carson Teva, who, as we learned through a quick comment earlier in the season, recruited Cara Dune to the cause.
The next scene takes us to Adelphi Base, which is pretty much a small New Republic outpost for rangers and pilots patrolling the Outer Rim. Also, it looks like a camp from the Pacific War, which is a nice touch. Carson Teva receives Karga’s plea for help and takes off almost immediately, but not before we get a glorious and totally unexpected Zeb cameo, voiced by Steve Blum and all – another successful jump to live-action of a beloved Star Wars animation character. His presence in the upcoming Ahsoka series is almost guaranteed now, since it’s being described as a straight-up Rebels sequel.
At this point, it becomes clear the swathes of New Republic narrative we’re getting this season comes straight from the canceled Rangers of the New Republic spinoff series. Lucasfilm creatives have teased in the past that many unused elements and ideas would be weaved into The Mandalorian and other companion series, and so far, it’s working out just fine to amp up the Imperial threat which kicked things off.
Teva’s immediate superior on Coruscant refuses to divert New Republic forces to Nevarro, as there’s a backlog of affiliate worlds who need their help. Once again, we’re shown the system itself hasn’t changed much despite the positive change in ideology; bureaucracy and politics are still roadblocks for those willing to change the galaxy through actions.
Elia Kane, who appears to be working in the same building, joins the conversation and offers some advice that Teva largely ignores because of her Imperial past. Inadvertently, the current status of Nevarro is revealed to her, and we can feel more clearly this time that she still hasn’t given up on Moff Gideon’s vision and is now acting as a parasite inside an already flawed new government. Teva is suspicious, but he isn’t in a good position to get himself into more trouble.
He raises an interesting point before leaving though: what if these pirates are working for the Imperial remnant that was once kicked out of Nevarro? Gideon’s coffers appear to be deep, and it’d make sense to pay someone to do the dirty job without raising the alarm after a rumored escape from the law.
A quick scene shows us the High Magistrate and the people of Nevarro leaving the town and waiting for help outside in the wastes. As Obi-Wan once said: “The negotiations were short.” We have to assume Karga’s party is just a fragment of Nevarro’s population, because it’s a laughably small group of refugees (Jawas included).
Near the middle point of the episode, Caron Teva arrives at the Children of the Watch’s not-so-secret base to seek Din Djarin’s help. How did he discover them? Well, it turns out that R5-D4 wasn’t just a nostalgic cameo going too far. As Peli Motto said earlier: the astromech worked for the Rebels during the war. And of course, she never erased Red’s memory. The implication here is that Teva worked with the droid, and it’s a pretty good payoff which no one could’ve seen coming and gives R5-D4 another “unsung hero” moment.
Anyway, the Mandalorians are clearly bothered by Teva’s presence, saying they’ll have to relocate again to keep living in the shadows. Din owes the ranger one (or two), plus Nevarro once was the covert’s home, so coming to the rescue makes sense on many levels. By the way, listen carefully and you’ll hear yet another rendition of the Resistance’s theme from the sequel movies.
After Bo-Katan taking the lead last episode, Din is the one encouraging his brothers and sisters to fight now. Paz Vizsla has something to say, however, and history has told us he doesn’t really vibe with Din nor anything outside the Way, but it appears he’s also making some progress. Last week’s selfless rescue of Ragnar had a positive effect on him, and the Way talks of battle and sacrifice above everything. Are they true Mandalorians if they keep hiding? It’s time to become something more.
A detachment of Mandalorians, led by Din and Bo-Katan, arrive at Nevarro to clean the filth from its streets. The plan is simple: driving the attention away from Gorian Shard’s corsair with Din’s fast and nimble N-1 starfighter as the Mandalorians drop in and do what they’re known for. “You can be heroes”, says Bo-Katan, signifying the Children of the Watch are coming into the light and not the other way around. More on that later.
Despite a couple of tense moments, the assault on Nevarro goes smoothly, with the pirate goons totally outgunned by the veteran, more disciplined Mandalorians. As last episode’s training session showed us, they’ve been hiding, not sitting on their asses.
Peter Ramsey reminds us that the jump from animation to live-action usually yields solid results; the camerawork and overall planning of the action in this episode is dynamic and clean. Rumors have pointed to him returning for Ahsoka, and we’ll be happy to see him doing more Star Wars.
Meanwhile, Din, who likes his odds, reminds everyone of the excellent starfighter pilot he’s become and slowly cuts through Gorian Shard’s aerial forces. It’d have been cool to have a one-on-one with Vane, who has a personal quarrel with Mando by this point, but that will have to wait, as the big-mouthed Nikto scurries off once the battle is lost.
Gorian Shard doesn’t get to shine much either, though his final moments as the ship “sinks” (more like falls and explodes) are ripped straight out of a good ol’ pirate movie. We kind of wanted to see more of him, but at the same time, the show hadn’t set him up as more than the side villain of the season. The pirates’ presence is valuable to the story as a whole though, giving the Children of the Watch the chance to move past inaction under Bo-Katan’s guidance.
Greef Karga rewards the tribe with a generous territory on Nevarro where they can settle and grow, no longer in hiding and enjoying total independence. The Armorer and the Kryze heir have bigger plans though…
Thanks to her valiant actions and commitment to the Way, a Mandalorian doctrine Bo evaded for decades after her shaky past with their predecessors, she’s earned the full respect of the Armorer. Moreover, the Watch’s recent failures and Bo-Katan’s wins have opened the matriarch’s eyes to a new path forward: a new Mandalorian society which has space for everyone, no matter how they choose to walk the Way.
The moment in which Bo was asked to remove her helmet came as a shock – was it a test of faith? But the Armorer’s intentions appear to be sincere. Contrary to what a good portion of the Star Wars fandom was thinking for weeks, the orthodox Mandalorians are embracing change, and that includes Din Djarin. It also paves the way for Grogu eventually becoming a new Mandalorian Jedi – our little green friend barely did anything in this chapter though.
This type of cultural bonding and mutual understanding was required to truly unite the Mandalorian people, and now the Kryze heir has a clearer idea of who she’s fighting for. They’re all together in this, and the next step is retaking Mandalore with the help of other clans. I see plenty of fan-favorite characters on my radar…
‘The Pirate’ had one more scene to go before the credits rolled, though, and it’s all about Carson Teva finding out in deep space that Moff Gideon has indeed escaped in a rather unorthodox way.
The shocking ending reveals the repurposed Lambda-class shuttle that carried him (now drifting in space) has beskar fragments embedded in its interior walls. Are bad Mandos behind his rescue? Do the Children of the Watch have a dirty little secret? Find out next week. Personally, we think that it’s another massive red herring and that we’re about to be surprised once again by Jon Favreau and his team.