Droid Rage: The Mandalorian(s) experience Machine Machinations…

Circuit-breaking: Guest-stars align, Mando and Bo-Katan go gunning for an industrial robot-revolution...

As Din Djarin and Bo-Katan head out in search of more Mandalorian warriors to bring back, particularly the group B-Katan used to command, their mission is side-lined by a request to sort out the problems will malfunctioning droids on a planet that has come to rely on them too heavily. But even if they can survive the machinations of machines, who will eventually wield the dark-saber?



For better or worse, Guns for Hire is very much a standalone entry, albeit a brisk and enjoyable one. Directed by the more and more reliable Bryce Dallas Howard, it is a mostly self-contained romp running to little more than a mere thirty minutes and with plenty of high-concept characters and creatures: spoiled debutantes, acerbic droids (who look like twisted versions of C-3PO and R2D2) and disgruntled workers in the shape of pugnacious Ugnauts.  I said last week that the series was in danger of becoming a live-action show that felt like an animated effort, but this is the sort of chapter that plays into those beats more effectively. Bo-Katan remains sans helmet (making sure that Katee Sackhoff gets adequate screen-time from this point forward), but Pedro Pascal is (and likely now will be for the duration) fully-headgeared as a character, reduced in practice to more voice-over work and physical stand-ins.

On one level Guns for Hire feels more like a compact, breezy interlude… and less like the abridged stories of recent entries that should have been better developed. In a network show that would not only be okay it would almost obligatory. But the problem here is that this is the sixth episode of The Mandalorian in a season that only runs to eight and so far the current run already feels more like whimsical procrastination and diversions rather than a solid whole… less like the feel of a console game (that it far too often emulates) and more akin to an side-quest DLC (downloadable extra content), the DVD extras rather than the main feature. Or, to be less tactful, a series that’s a placeholder, a time-killer and – so far – fairly pointless if always quite pretty.

The prologue highlights the actions of the splinter group of Mandalorian warriors that Bo-Katan originally led and which is now under the control of Axe Woves (honestly, I’m not making up these names!) played by Simon Kassianides. It’s quite a cynical start with the warriors being little more than cold mercenaries and though we’re back in truly awfully stilted dialogue territory, the illicit love between a Quarren and Mon Calamari carries a Romeo and Juliet quality delivered with such earnest and looking so bizarre that we’re not sure whether to cry. As side-characters, the star(fish)-crossed lovers are fun in the moment but take a good five minutes out of the limited running-time and feel more like a fist-bump for the production design than the narrative. It really has no solid connection to the main thrust of the episode, except to establish the rogue Mandalorians seem to have less and less of a true honour code.

During the main episode, the pomp and regency of Plazir-15 is really all a thinly-disguised but subversive metaphor of how automation changes a society. There’s a nice balance between those who think the organic population is getting too lazy and spoiled by their tech, but also concern amongst the older droids that they’ll become obsolete as things continue with more efficiency. of course Din and Bo-Katan get sucked into sorting out the planet’s problems ahead of any Mandalorian meeting. This time they’re tasked with finding out why so many drioids are breaking down and going dangerously of the rails with all the subtlety of Westworld.

The stars in the galaxy may be numerous but the number of guest-stars in Guns for Hire is somewhat notable too… to the extent that were this a network show, this would have to be sweeps season. First, we get Jack Black giving us a typically larger-than-life, no-lack-of-confidence character called Captain Bombardier, an ex-Imperial whose supposedly given up his opportunistic past for an opportunistic present, living it up in a lazy, self-indulgent society that’s become over-reliant on droid services. Secondly, singing star Lizzo plays his no-less-ostentatious wife – The Duchess -one who takes a liking to Grogu. Both of them are clearly having a great time, realising it for the stunt-casting it is, but enjoying every moment of their live-action debut on the Lucasfilm soundstages. They (and their surroundings) are colourful, larger than life that gives off an Alice in Wonderland feel and if the scenery wasn’t designed in post-production they’d have been chewing and banqueting on it already.

The other big familiar face is no less than Christopher Lloyd, playing Commissioner Helgait, the chief overseer of the industrial sectors and who you’ve likely pegged as the chief suspect in all this machine-mayhem from his very first scene (because you don’t hire a beloved and wry acting veteran merely to push buttons on a console… and, also, his name has ‘Hell’ in it!). In truth it’s a fairly thankless role – a few fairly static scenes which I suspect amount to less than a full day of filming- but in which Lloyd duly obliges by playing a high-and-mighty secret separatist before being comically disposed of with the equivalent of a tazer (again, Bo-Katan assuming the lead duties over the title-character)

The epilogue of the episode brings its only really pivotal part to a wider whole, a hoovering up of ‘things we need to get done’. Bo-Katan’s need to take back her leadership role inevitably leads to a physical confrontation with old ally and new faction leader. For a show with decent action sequences, the fight turns out to be disappointingly basic, feeling very choreographed rather than organic and mainly with each of the opponents jumping around or using their rocket-packs to fling themselves through the air and hoping for the best. Again, Mando is left as a bystander, though he finally uses the logic already discussed by series fans about ownership of the dark-saber to let Bo-Katan have it.( The rule is that it cannot be given, only won in combat and as Din points out, he lost it while fighting his captor on Mandalore and she retrieved it, slaying the creature that had already bested him… so she has a legitimate right to it). Another element off the season’s bucket-list and yet still no sign of Moff Gideon?

Sillier but as much fun as usual, Guns for Hire passes the time, but I’m still left with the feeling that you could edit down the season so far to one single episode of developments and progressed the plot as much as needed.

'The Mandalorian  S03 EP06 - Chapter 22: Guns for Hire'  (Disney+ review)
'The Mandalorian S03 EP06 - Chapter 22: Guns for Hire' (Disney+ review)
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Direction
  • Production Design / VFX