- Episode 5 (of 7), ‘Chapter 5: Return of the Mandalorian’
- Written by Jon Favreau
- Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard
“Hey look, everyone! It’s Mando!”
The response of Peli Motto’s droid entourage is strangely muted. But, if ‘Return of the Mandalorian’ had been filmed in front of a live studio audience, the crowd would have gone wild when Din Djarin arrived at her Mos Eisley hangar bay.
Indeed, when she celebrates his arrival – “what an entrance!” – she’s echoing what the rest of us were thinking half an hour earlier, when he strode into the Klatooinian abattoir in the episode’s very cold open.
Bringing in a special guest star for a headline-grabbing cameo is something of a TV cliché – especially when the show itself may be floundering. But The Book of Boba Fett's Mando-centric episode is more substantial than Cheers veterans Sam, Diane, Woody, Carla, Norm and Cliff showing up in episodes of Frasier.
This is The Mandalorian Chapter 17 in all but name, an instalment that does more to further Din Djarin’s post-Grogu story arc than that of the completely absent Boba Fett. It also provides an exciting glimpse of the Marvel Cinematic Universe-style joined-up thinking that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy promised at 2020’s Disney Investor Day, when she talked of “interconnected stories” culminating in a “climactic story event”.
More importantly, though, it’s the best and most joyous episode of The Book of Boba Fett by at least 12 parsecs. As it turns out, The Mandalorian isn’t just in town to help Fett out of a Pyke-shaped bind – he’s here to save a show that's proved divisive so far.
While the episode is technically one-long flashback – chronologically, at least – it feels much more essential to Star Wars lore than Boba’s bacta tank journeys down memory lane. This is storytelling designed to advance a character’s story, rather than simply filling in a load of blanks.
And the episode begins with plenty of gunslinger style, Mando appearing in iconic silhouette before proving his time with Grogu wasn’t quite enough to soften his dead-or-alive mercenary edge. The slaughterhouse smackdown is a wonderful reminder of the show we hoped The Book of Boba Fett might be. That was before the title character became fixated with sitting on his throne and ruling via respect – perhaps the biggest takeaway from the episode is that the guy in the Boba Fett cosplay is now significantly cooler than Star Wars’ most famous bounty hunter.
In fact, our only real quibble with the storytelling is that a few notes of the iconic Mandalorian theme last week ensured Din Djarin’s return wasn’t quite the surprise it could have been. Indeed, Disney Plus’s “An unexpected ally emerges” tagline only works if you haven’t been paying attention thus far.
Aside from proving Mando hasn’t quite got to grips with the legendary Darksaber – the gash on his leg shows what happens when non-Force sensitives play with Jedi toys. The slaughterhouse skirmish is simply the means to an end, his decapitated bounty little more than a lead to help him locate the remainder of the tribe of Mandalorian purists he left behind on Nevarro.
The covert’s home on a stunning, artificial Halo-esque ringworld suggests they have an eye for the spectacular, but it’s also important to note that they haven’t turned their backs on their zealot-like interpretation of Mandalorian doctrine. The whole of Djarin’s encounter with the Armorer and fellow survivor Paz Vizsla could easily have felt like a colossal info-dump – which it effectively is – but everything she reveals feels both essential and organic to The Mandalorian story. It’s almost as if she’d anticipated the questions we all had about the Great Purge, Princess Bo-Katan Kryze and her claims on the Mandalorian throne, and what possession of the Darksaber means for Mando himself.
We’re also treated to an excellent Mandalorian duel for the Darksaber – a surprisingly tricky weapon to wield – with the evocative clink of beskar on beskar proving the perfect soundtrack to a wonderfully primal brawl. It feels cruel when Mando’s hard-earned victory quickly becomes a defeat of sorts, as the Armorer casts him out for the seemingly minor infraction of removing his helmet. As they’re so keen of reminding each other, however, “This is the way”.
When Djarin subsequently makes his way to Tatooine – paying for a ride on commercial transport in the absence of his own ship – ‘Return of the Mandalorian’ inadvertently highlights where The Book of Boba Fett has been going wrong so far.
Director Bryce Dallas Howard has already delivered a pair of standouts in her two Mandalorian episodes, and here she once again revels in showing us the man beneath the helmet. That’s partly a consequence of our long history with Mando and Baby Yoda – we know and care about those characters – but she also generates a sense of humor and humanity that hasn’t always been visible on the mean streets of Mos Espa.
Here, the brief moments explaining the secret lives of Jawas feel fun and self-aware, unlike the show’s clunky efforts to rehabilitate the Tuskens. Meanwhile, the pain Mando still feels about handing Grogu to Luke Skywalker is tangible. Amazingly, a brief moment where he realizes his beskar-filled handkerchief resembles Baby Yoda is far more moving than anything this show has previously delivered.
Regular writer Jon Favreau also ups his game on the script: Peli Motto wheels out the starship technobabble with all the flair of Han Solo, while lines like “that’s a lot of engine for a little ship” leave you wondering why the exchanges between Boba Fett and Fennec Shand have been engineered to be so stiff.
Where Fett’s mission to recover his Firespray gunship last week felt overlong and unnecessary, Mando and Peli Motto rebuilding an old Naboo starfighter has all the energy of a DIY montage from The A-Team or MacGyver. As soon as Mando takes to the sky, his new ship grabs you the way only the best Star Wars ships can, making you want to give the same nod of approval Djarin exchanges with the Rodian kid on the star cruiser. And, as if the vessel’s appropriate brushed metal appearance wasn’t already perfect enough, the glass dome left behind by the droid port looks the ideal size for a diminutive child skilled in the Jedi arts.
In offering up the next chapter of Din Djarin’s story, The Book of Boba Fett has given us the first episode of The Mandalorian season 3 a little earlier than expected. On the evidence of this, we can’t wait to see what happens next.
On one level, it’s a bizarre decision to devote the fifth episode of a new TV show to the established star of another, But it pays off spectacularly in this glorious piece of Star Wars storytelling – a huge leap forward after last week’s disappointing offering.
Featuring essential lore, X-wings and even some fun bounty hunting action, ‘Return of the Mandalorian’ contains plenty of classic Star Wars ingredients that The Book of Boba Fett has been missing up to now.
Its most important legacy, though, may be proving that the team behind The Mandalorian hasn’t lost its magic touch. As well as showing that Lucasfilm’s Disney Plus offerings have the potential to interweave in the seamless manner of the MCU, the episode provides excellent launchpads for the next instalments of both The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. Best of all, Din Djarin doesn’t even want paying for his services when he comes to Fett and Shand’s aid.
If “little friend” Grogu is due a comeback as well – as is strongly hinted – the internet may well have exploded by the time the end credits roll on next week’s instalment…
- The episode’s title is obviously a nod to Return of the Jedi.
- Director Bryce Dallas Howard has previously helmed The Mandalorian episodes ‘Sanctuary’ and ‘The Heiress’, the latter of which also featured plenty of Mandalorian lore. She’s arguably better known as an actor, however, and will soon be seen reprising her role as Claire Dearing in Jurassic World: Dominion.
- Pedro Pascal is back as The Mandalorian, though it’s unknown whether he’s in the suit or just supplying his voice. It’s well known that other performers often occupy Din Djarin’s famous armor, and Pascal may have been busy shooting The Last of Us TV show when this episode was filmed.
- There’s an accidental spoiler for anyone watching the episode with subtitles – they inadvertently reveal the Klatooinian speaking to Din Djarin is Kaba Baiz, before it’s actually confirmed by the dialogue.
- “I can bring you in warm, or I can bring you in cold,” is a reprise of a Mando catchphrase we first heard in The Mandalorian's season one premiere.
- The place where Din Djarin finds the Mandalorian covert sees Star Wars taking inspiration from similar constructions in Larry Niven’s 1970 novel Ringworld, the Halo games and Iain M. Banks’ Culture books (where they’re known as Orbitals).
- We’re not sure of the species of the blue, bird-like mobster who hires Mando to capture Kaba Baiz but she does share a table with a Quarren. Native to Mon Cala – the planet that Mon Calamari Admiral Ackbar calls home – the species made its first appearance in Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi. Back then, Tessek was simply known as “Squid Head” in the Kenner action figure range.
- Played once again by Emily Swallow, the Armorer makes her first appearance since the season one finale of The Mandalorian. The actor playing her sidekick, Paz Vizsla, isn’t credited, though his suit was previously occupied by former MMA fighter Tait Fletcher.
- Vizsla is a descendant of Tarre Vizsla, the Mandalorian/Jedi who first crafted the Darksaber, a weapon historically brandished by the ruler of Mandalore. He’s also related to Pre Vizsla, the late leader of the Mandalorian Death Watch, who was voiced by The Book of Boba Fett writer Jon Favreau in The Clone Wars.
- “The sacrifice” Din Djarin refers to is that of the Armorer’s Mandalorian covert on Nevarro – they were slaughtered when they fought to save Grogu (then known simply as the Child), Mando and their friends in The Mandalorian season 1 finale.
- “All this talk about the Empire and they lasted less than 30 years…” says the Armorer. In official Star Wars chronology, the exact number is 23.
- The episode explains away an apparent contradiction about the Darksaber from The Mandalorian season 2. Bo-Katan Kryze – the Mandalorian princess played by Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff – was given the Darksaber by Sabine Wren (soon to be seen in the Ahsoka TV spin-off) in Star Wars Rebels. Crucially, however, she didn’t win it in battle as Din Djarin did from Moff Gideon. Indeed, prophecy says that “if [the Darksaber] is not won in combat and falls into the hands of the undeserving, it will be a curse unto the nation. Mandalore will be laid to waste and its people scattered to the four winds." Did Sabine and Bo-Katan’s actions – although made with the best intentions – inadvertently lead to the Great Purge that destroyed their homeworld?
- Mandalorian prophecy also speaks of mythosaurs rising up. These giant dinosaur-like creatures were supposedly ridden by ancient Mandalorians. The sigil that signifies the location of the covert’s base – and also appears on Boba Fett’s armor – is based on a mythosaur skull.
- Concordia also gets a mention in the episode. This moon of Mandalore featured in The Clone Wars, and was briefly ruled by Pre Vizsla.
- During the flashback to the infamous ‘Night of a Thousand Tears’ and the Great Purge, we see some familiar droids. The KX security droids are a similar model to Rogue One’s K-2SO, while they get support from Imperial probe droids, first sighted on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back.
- The kid on commercial flight 1020 to Tatooine is a Rodian, the same species as the unfortunate Greedo in A New Hope.
- The Star Liner Travel vessel that carries Din Djarin to Mos Eisley is very similar to the one the Pykes arrived in during episode 3.
- Amy Sedaris returns as Peli Motto, a role she played in The Mandalorian episodes ‘The Gunslinger’, ‘The Marshal’ and ‘The Passenger’. The character also briefly appeared in the background in a flashback in The Book of Boba Fett episode 3.
- Jon Favreau first worked with Sedaris when she starred in Elf, his first movie as director.
- Peli Motto’s droids Treadwell and R5-D4 also return from The Mandalorian. In fact, R5 dates back to the original Star Wars movie, when his famously “bad motivator” prompted Uncle Owen to buy R2-D2 instead.
- As far back as A New Hope, Luke Skywalker talked about bullseyeing womp rats in his T-16 back on Tatooine. Here we see a womp rat for real, tormenting Peli Motto until Mando shoots the vermin with his blaster.
- Mando needs a new ship because his Razor Crest was blown up by Moff Gideon’s Imperial remnant in The Mandalorian season 2 episode ‘The Tragedy’.
- The N-1 starfighter hails from Naboo, where it was widely used during the Old Republic era. The ships appear extensively in The Phantom Menace – in fact, the pre-teen Anakin Skywalker manages to down a Trade Federation command ship when he takes to the cockpit.
- Peli highlights the fact the starfighter can jump into hyperspace without the need for a docking ring. In the Old Republic era, fighter ships often had to attach themselves to a separate component in order to travel at lightspeed – Obi-Wan’s ship in Attack of the Clones is a prime example.
- When Peli says the fighter will be “faster than a fathier”, she’s talking about the horse-like creatures freed by Finn and Rose during the Canto Bight segment of The Last Jedi.
- A “gonk’s scomp jack”, meanwhile, refers to the computer interface on a gonk (GNK) power droid.
- We’ve never had the chance to see under a Jawa’s cape, but Peli knows from experience that they’re “quite furry”.
- A rail speeder is a train-like vehicle in that galaxy far, far away.
- Mando’s test flight follows parts of the route of the famous Boonta Eve Classic podrace from The Phantom Menace, showing off familiar rock formations and a settlement built into a cliff face. (In that movie, Boba Fett’s former mentor Aurra Sing makes a brief appearance opposite that characteristic cliff village.)
- Peli refers to Beggar’s Canyon, the Tatooine point-of-interest Luke Skywalker compared to the Death Star trench in A New Hope.
- One of the two X-Wing pilots should look familiar, seeing as Paul Sun-Hyung Lee played Carson Teva in The Mandalorian episodes ‘The Passenger‘ and ‘The Siege’.
- The other, Lieutenant Reed, also has history in The Mandalorian, but in a very different role: Max Lloyd-Jones was Mark Hamill’s body double when the young Luke Skywalker made his famous comeback in the season 2 finale.
- The concept art at the end of the episode shows a human child watching Mando’s new ship flying too fast next to a commercial ship, suggesting they became Rodian later on in the production process.
- Temuera Morrison still gets top billing in the episode, even though he doesn’t appear in any new scenes.
New episodes of The Book of Boba Fett debut on Disney Plus every Wednesday.
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Richard is a freelance journalist specialising in movies and TV, primarily of the sci-fi and fantasy variety. An early encounter with a certain galaxy far, far away started a lifelong love affair with outer space, and these days Richard's happiest geeking out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and other long-running pop culture franchises. In a previous life he was editor of legendary sci-fi magazine SFX, where he got to interview many of the biggest names in the business – though he'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Goldblum who (somewhat bizarrely) thought Richard's name was Winter.