Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers about the fifth episode of “The Mandalorian,” Season 3, “The Pirate.”
After what can at best be described as a somewhat disjointed third season thus far, the fifth episode of “The Mandalorian” began to bring those pieces together and into focus, while continuing to draw upon the “Star Wars” animated series that preceded it, including another cameo by a character from the rightfully lauded “Rebels.”
Subtitled “The Pirate,” the episode presented further evidence of the dysfunctional nature of the New Republic, unable or unwilling to defend a faraway planet from an invading band of pirates. (Lucasfilm being a unit of Disney, the marauders had a certain “Yo ho, yo ho” vibe to them.)
The siege also played into Mandalorian politics, and the efforts of Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff) to reclaim her heritage and potentially reunite her people’s various tribes, after leading them, along with Din Djarin (voiced by Pedro Pascal), to the rescue of his pal Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) and the planet’s residents.
Still, the most pleasing moment for longtime “Star Wars” fans was likely what amounted to a throwaway scene, introducing a live-action version of the hulking alien Zeb, a character from the animated “Star Wars Rebels,” which concluded in 2018. “The Mandalorian” has drawn heavily from those properties, which were overseen by one of its executive producers, Dave Filoni. (In another nice touch, Steve Blum again provided the voice of the character, and Zeb looked a whole lot better than the pirate leader.)
Finally, the episode closed with evidence that the evil Moff Gideon (played by Giancarlo Esposito previously) had seemingly been freed from the prison ship that was transporting him to stand trial, reviving that potential threat.
Having resolved the fate of Grogu, a.k.a. Baby Yoda, during the first two seasons, “The Mandalorian” has thus moved on to fill in narrative gaps about an under-explored chapter in “Star Wars” history – namely, the factors that resulted in the fall of the New Republic and the rise of the First Order, the plot line featured in the most recent trilogy that began with “The Force Awakens.”
“This isn’t a rebellion anymore,” a bureaucrat (played by Tim Meadows) says about what happens outside of the New Republic’s jurisdiction, conveying an indifference to the fate of the planet Nevarro overtly articulated later when it was observed that the governing body in Coruscant “doesn’t care.”
Executive producers Jon Favreau and Filoni have taken their time in reaching this point, juggling these various issues in somewhat ungainly fashion through the first half of the season. That perhaps reflects the transition of the show to an emphasis on the macro instead of the micro, while still finding time to detour for the occasional “Rebels” yell.