‘The Mandalorian’ Season 3, Episode 5: “The Pirate” Review
'The Mandalorian' enters the second half of the third season with pretty visual effects married to a haphazard storyline that is going nowhere, fast.
“The Pirate” progresses The Mandalorian’s third season into the second half, and that means the show needed to create an established narrative on which to build the final episode. However, by all accounts, that’s not going to happen, as audiences are instead subjected to another low-yield plotline that is supposed to tie into something bigger. It’s an irritating insinuation that can’t actually work the way the showrunners would like it to.
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While the episode does offer up a decent battle sequence, it’s little more than gloss designed to hide the imperfections of a story that really hasn’t gone anywhere. In fact, it’s difficult to keep up with all the loose plot threads, character contradictions, and superfluous tertiary characters that Lucasfilm is trying to turn into the next big thing. All the while, Din Djarin and Grogu get remarkably little screen time or attention. Here comes trouble.
The plot of the episode picks up after the daring rescue of a Mandalorian child who was lifted off by a gigantic shriek hawk. Bo-Katan Kryze led the mission and successfully retrieved the boy, scoring big points with the Children of the Watch, and more notably, the Armorer.
Back on Nevarro, Greef Karga finds his city under siege by Gorian Shard, the pirate leader previously given a bloody nose by Din Djarin.
Shard drives the inhabitants of the capital out, forcing Karga to contact New Republic officer Carson Teva for help. Teva heads to Coruscant to request a strike force that can deal with the pirates, but the request is denied.
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Undeterred, Teva tracks down the Mandalorians at their secret hideout and bids them to provide aid to Karga. Djarin makes the case that the Mandalorians should come to the aid of their former enemy in exchange for a new lease on life.
The Mandalorians head to Nevarro to deal with Shard and his pirates, but is it all a prelude to something far larger? Carson Teva believes it’s a sign that the defeated Empire is seeking to rise from the ashes, but it could be the first evidence of the rise of the First Order.
When he theorizes that Moff Gideon was jailbroken by none other than Mandalorians, it creates a sinister new narrative.
Like many of the best Mandalorian episodes, the battle sequences are in top form. “The Pirate” is no different. The battle against Gorian Shard’s forces is two-pronged – both in the sky, and on the ground. Seeing the Mandalorians do what they do best is always a great sight, as is the dogfighting in the skies above. All of this is backed by solid visual effects, excellent editing, and sound production.
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The revelation that Moff Gideon never made it to trial is also an interesting development, and it’s backed up by the final scene featuring Carson Teva stumbling upon his Lambda-class prison transport.
Yes, the idea that the Mandalorians may have been involved in his rescue is an interesting one, especially given the events related to Bo-Katan Kryze that directly preceded it. More on that in a minute.
I’m also a sucker for any storyline featuring two former enemies who become friends, and this episode does it to great effect. Paz Vizsla single-handedly rallies the uncertain Mandalorians around Din Djarin’s crusade to liberate Nevarro, and it’s a welcome sight, given everything that has come before.
It’s one of those feel-good moments missing in modern storytelling, which is full of angst, distrust, and nihilism.
Unfortunately, “The Pirate” is loaded with a whole lot of bad, beginning with the fact that it’s yet another small-scale storyline trying to act as part of a larger threat. Sure, it’s obvious that events on Nevarro are a predicate to something involving either the Empire, or the yet-to-be-revealed First Order, but this is not the right way to handle it. Season three lacks the focused and clear direction of the previous two seasons, and episodes like this one don’t help matters much.
Second, there are an astonishing amount of plot holes and things that make no sense. Some are little, and some are quite noticeable. For instance, when Din Djarin attacks Gorian Shard’s ship, it’s meant to lure his fighter craft away so that Bo-Katan can swoop in with her own ship, and drop the Mandalorian ground force into the city. However, Shard’s minions fail to pick up the ship on sensors, only to magically do so a few minutes later.
The episode is also guilty of extremely lazy writing, yet again. Carson Teva manages to locate the super-secretive Children of the Watch by tracking Din Djarin’s R5 droid, which he purchased from Peli Motto in the second episode of the season. Teva was unaware that Djarin purchased this droid in the first place, and Peli Motto would never have been stupid enough to leave a transponder for Republic forces to trace, which makes this entire notion ridiculous on its face.
Bigger plot holes are much more obvious, such as why Greef Karga thought it would be a smart idea to refrain from installing any heavy defensive weaponry or shielding to prevent the kind of attack that Shard initiates on the city.
This is, after all, an independent planet with no official ties to the Republic, located on the Outer Rim, with a bustling economy. Yet, there’s not so much as an ion cannon set up to deter this kind of threat. What is going on here?
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And finally, the Armorer’s insistence that Bo-Katan take off her helmet is one of the most bizarre contradictions in the show’s history. The Children of the Watch are a radicalized religious sect of Mandalorian culture, and taking off the helmet is a cardinal sin. Yet, the Armorer views Bo-Katan as a savior who can reunite Mandalorians of all belief systems, so…she gets a free pass. Just like that.
This makes no sense, whatsoever. The Children of the Watch have always seen outsiders of The Way as heretics and charlatans. Now, the Armorer does an about-face, simply because Bo-Katan saw a mythosaur in the living waters underneath Mandalore. Why would this matter? If the prospect of uniting the Mandalorians under one banner was so important to the Children of the Watch, then why not make the effort themselves?
What exactly is the Armorer’s end goal, here? Is it to bring other Mandalorians back into the fold, only to proselytize endlessly about The Way, while giving them ultimatums? I will say that it is possible – however unlikely – that the Armorer is not all she appears to be, and may have a sinister ulterior motive up her sleeve. Perhaps she views Kryze as a one-way ticket to ultimate power. Time will tell.
Hanging by the coattails of these failures is the fact that the episode still hasn’t established what the season writ large wants to say, or do. Neither does it have anything in the way of a clear endpoint, in contrast to seasons one and two. We now have several competing storylines loosely hanging on for dear life by a thread, and somehow they’re supposed to coalesce and create a fitting conclusion within the next three episodes.
It’s a bold strategy, I’ll give them that. Unfortunately, building a seasonal climax and a rewarding payoff takes time, and the bricks must be laid logically from the very first episode. Otherwise, it’ll be nothing but predictable last-minute reveals masquerading as clever shockers that audiences will see right through.
I said last week that this fifth episode needed to lay the groundwork for the final story arc of the season, and as predicted, it did not come to pass. The Mandalorian has now slipped into the same chaotic and incompetent writing as The Book of Boba Fett, while relying on its luster as a hit Star Wars property in order to hide the obviousness of it all.
To recap, these are the storylines currently in play:
- Din Djarin’s redemption arc
- Bo-Katan’s acceptance into the Children of the Watch
- Penn Pershing’s genetic research and betrayal by Elia Kane on Coruscant
- The Armorer’s intention to retake Mandalore
- Moff Gideon out there in the ether somewhere
This combination of particular plotlines cannot weave together a proper narrative; it simply isn’t possible. At best, the writers will attempt to tie up a bunch of loose ends via convenient and lazy plot devices in an effort to make it seem like they know what they’re doing. Either Bo-Katan Kryze reunites the Mandalorians and retakes Mandalore, or Din Djarin and company must put their focus on a possible Imperial/First Order threat.
They can’t have both, but I’m certain they will give it the old college try.
Meanwhile, Grogu hasn’t budged an inch as a character, and barely shows up in this particular episode. That’s not surprising, given the decision to keep him in the show for the sake of marketing meant that his character really has nowhere left to go. Any attempt to shoehorn in character progression from this point forward will do nothing but distract away from whatever the writers have Frankensteined as the main focus.
Even the Force can’t save this season.
NEXT: ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 3, Episode 4: “The Foundling” Review
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