‘The Book of Boba Fett,’ Chapter 5 ‘The Mandalorian’ is imitated.
It’s become a long-standing practise for well-known TV characters to appear in spinoffs. These appearances are often seen in the first season of a spinoff to demonstrate its legitimacy or raise ratings during sweeps week. Lilith thinks about rekindling her romance with Frasier. Rhoda’s wedding is attended by Mary, Lou, Murray, Georgette, and Phyllis. Xena and Gabrielle link up with Hercules and Iolaus. Mrs. Garrett is asked whether she is sure she wants to go by Philip Drummond. Admiral McCoy conducts a tour of the Enterprise-D, as Captain Picard issues instructions to Commander Sisko.
Despite the fact that the Disney+ promotional blurb for the fifth chapter of The Book of Boba Fett said, “An unexpected ally appears,” TV convention—and last week’s episode-ending orchestral cue—made it plain who would be assisting Fett and Fennec Shand. Din Djarin’s entrance in the spinoff’s current episode isn’t a crossover; it’s a takeover, which is semi-surprising. Ming-Na Wen famously observed of Book of Boba, “They call it The Mandalorian 2.5,” and the spinoff’s liminal, subordinate character is never more clear than in “Return of the Mandalorian,” an episode that doesn’t involve Fett at all. Din not only outshined the Star Wars franchise’s first Mandalorian, but he also ejected him from the stage.
“Return of the Mandalorian,” at 52 minutes (including recap and credits), is longer than all but one episode of The Mandalorian proper, and with Pedro Pascal’s lead role, multiple Mandalorian character supporting roles, and direction by two-time Mandalorian helmer Bryce Dallas Howard, it might as well be the flagship show’s Season 3 premiere. Mando isn’t just watching someone else record; he’s the one who books the studio, sings lead, and plays all the solos. As a result, “Return of the Mandalorian” offers nothing to progress a Book of Boba season with just two episodes remaining, and rather than enriching the series’ regular offerings—as Fett and Fennec did for the Mando mothership—visit Din’s underlines what the not-so-standalone spinoff lacks. The first season of Book of Boba seems to be made up of six episodes plus a Mando diversion. But, as “Return of the Mandalorian” shows, making differences between the two is essentially pointless: Everything in Disney’s Star Wars world for tiny screens serves Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni’s idea. We’re dipping into parts of a Marvel-style cohesive plot whether we’re watching The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Ahsoka, or any other conceivable spinoffs (spoilers!) that may come down the Pyke pike. And, whatever role Din plays in Fett’s part of the storey, it’s always a treat to see Boba’s brother in beskar. Because it’s nearly totally not one, this is the finest episode of The Book of Boba Fett.
One thing is clear even before Mando’s figure appears behind the door flaps of the butchery where he hunts his Klatooinian prey in the episode’s opening scene: we’re no longer on Tatooine. No disrespect to Peli Motto, who has lived contentedly on Tatooine her whole life, but the spinoff’s first vacation offworld seems as relaxing as a bacta bath. The Book of Boba has contributed to the enrichment and rehabilitation of Tatooine’s reputation, but there’s only so much Tatooine one can take, and with Obi-Wan Kenobi due to bring more suns and sand soon enough, it’s nice to receive a little relief. The Mandalorian’s penchant to planet-hop is one of the show’s many virtues, and Mando’s voyage to an as-yet-unspecified ringworld—a sci-fi mainstay with no precedence in Star Wars—is as aesthetically imaginative as any location on his home TV land.
The fact that the sight of one of Din’s trusty tracking fobs made me feel nearly as nostalgic as some of the episode’s following original trilogy and prequel callbacks is a tribute to The Mandalorian’s standing as some of the greatest Star Wars ever filmed. Din is back to bounty hunting, at least temporarily, now that Grogu is in Force Academy (in contrast to Tatooine’s Daimyo). He’s attacked by butcher Kaba Baiz and his henchmen no sooner than he delivers his “I can bring you in warm, or I can bring you in cold” tagline, prompting him to pull out the Darksaber he seized from Moff Gideon in the Season 2 finale. He was just a student when he left us; today Mando is the master.
Actually, that’s not true. I’m referring to Mando’s leg, which he wounded while aggressively swinging the blade. Mando is encased in unbreakable armour, and the only thing he has to fear is the Darksaber itself; he may be the lawful owner of the sword, but he’s barely licenced to handle it. He hacks and slashes through his adversaries like a fortunate button-masher at the local arcade before murdering the butcher on top of his desk, which the Darksaber cleaves like a Spanish announce table, despite his swordplay leaving a lot to be desired. Then he talks his way past the Klatooinians who are still alive and delivers Baiz’s skull to the client, refusing to eat. You can always acquire a head instead of wine if you forget to bring wine to a dinner party.
Din isn’t simply looking for a quick buck. The reward was only a checkbox (and a means of gathering information) the route to his true destination: the ruins of Nevarro’s clandestine. When the Empire cracked down on the covert, the Children of the Watch were not destroyed, but they appear to be down to just two members: the Armorer, who last appeared in The Mandalorian’s Season 1 finale, and Paz Vizsla, who was last seen escorting Din out of town after the Mandalorians backed him up against the Guild in Chapter 3. Mando makes three, but he’s keeping a low profile about the fact that he’s taken off his helmet, which is in violation of the Way’s first rule.
The Armorer, who is still a living Wookieepedia, explains the Darksaber. According to Mandalorian legend, “one warrior will beat 20, and the multitudes will fall before it” if the Darksaber is gained in combat. “Mandalore will be thrown to ruin, and its inhabitants dispersed to the four winds” if it falls into the hands of the unworthy. Yes, I believe the prophesy was accurate. The Armorer’s reverie is accompanied by a flashback to the Great Purge’s Night of a Thousand Tears, when TIEs saturation bombed the planet’s surface (destroying Sundari, Mandalore’s domed capital), and KX and Viper droids stalked and floated through the flames like nightmares straight out of Terminator 2, like nightmares straight out of Terminator 2. It’s no surprise that the Armorer and Vizsla are unhappy that Moff Gideon was brought to the New Republic for questioning rather than killed on the spot. Mando promises them that he will be put to death for his crimes, but the Armorer adds, “We will see,” which admirers of Giancarlo Esposito will be pleased to hear.
The Empire may have made the bombs, but the Armorer holds Bo-Katan responsible for delivering them to them. Sabine Wren persuaded Bo-Katan to accept the Darksaber as a gift, claiming that the blade—along with Bo-links Katan’s to her late sister Duchess Satine, the previous ruler of Mandalore—would enable her to lead her people. Bo-Katan, on the other hand, ignored the retconned small print about paying the iron price, and the only people who died were Mandalorians. Because they were on Mandalore’s moon, Concordia, the Death Watch’s stronghold, the Children survived to tell the storey (the warrior order from which the more dogmatic Children seem to have sprung). Their survival has persuaded them of the wisdom of their rituals, as though their rigid policy of not wearing hard helmets spared them from the tragedy of the brave helmet-less tribes.
The Armorer melts Morgan Elsbeth’s spear after portentously sharing another prophecy about a new age of Mandalore being heralded by a mythosaur—which supposedly only exist in legends (and Legends)—noting that beskar is meant for armour, not weapons (Darksaber aside), and that the spear could pose a threat to the tribe. Mando asks that the beskar be used to find a baby. Grogu the Great and Powerful, Mando’s main man from Clan Mudhorn, was among the foundlings. The Armorer attempts to break the news to Din that he is no longer Grogu’s guardian, but he refuses: “I want to see him.” “Make certain he is secure.” Din, my pal: We all do, don’t we? Whenever I wake up, I think to myself, “Is he safe?” Is he in good health? My heart would be filled with joy if I saw him alive.
Attachments are forbidden for Jedi, according to the Armorer, although everyone knows Luke Skywalker isn’t Grogu’s biological father. Mando will instil the core values of his side of the family—namely, loyalty and solidarity—as long as he has visitation rights (of a very rigid sort). After all, it’s not like foregoing attachments stopped the Jedi from being slain and dispersed to the winds. Of course, the issue is what Mando has planned for his former (and maybe future?) sidekick. For a brief time, I imagined that the spear might be used to fashion Grogu’s armour, and the prospect of Din and Baby Y wearing identical beskar about knocked me out. Unfortunately, the Armorer transforms the beskar into a collection of strange rings, which Din stores in a bag fashioned like Grogu’s head. Is it possible that they’re chainmail links? Parts for a lightsaber? Knuckle dusters in the manner of Krrsantan? Little gleaming baubles to replace the control knob on the Razor Crest, which the youngster may use to practise telekinesis? This mystery intrigues me more than virtually everything else that has occurred in The Book of Boba Fett so far.
The Armorer offers Mando a much-needed Darksaber lesson (complete with spoken Mando’a) after crafting Grogu’s beskar bling, in which we discover that he’s still striving to dominate the sword, which seems to be virtually sentient. In a scenario that parallels Sabine and Kanan’s sparring session from Rebels, the Armorer comments, “Your body is powerful, but your mind is preoccupied.” Grogu is much missed by my man(do)! Paz, predictably, takes this time to challenge Mando to a combat without jetpacks. What, you didn’t think the fact that he shared a surname with the creator of the Darksaber (and previous Death Watch chief Pre Vizsla) meant anything?
Given the Children’s low membership, solitary battle between two of the tribe’s surviving members does not seem to be the greatest use of the tribe’s resources. But you can’t blame Paz for believing that he has just as much right to the weapon as Mando does, and that if he’s going to fight him, he may as well do it before Din gets gud. Paz takes a vibroblade to a Darksaber duel, but he manages to disarm Mando, only to find himself with the knife at his neck as the weapon proves awkward for him as well. (In recent Darksaber battles, Vizslas haven’t fared well.) So far, the sabre seems to be more hassle than it’s worth—how many more challenges will Din have to face (besides from Bo-Katan)?— But I’m sure it’ll come in helpful in this or the next spinoff.
Unfortunately for Mando, the conflict puts the Armorer’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about helmet habits to an end. He can’t lie when she asks whether he’s gone bald, but unlike George Washington in the cherry tree legend, Mando isn’t rewarded for his honesty. Instead, he’s called an apostate and excommunicated right away: he’s no longer a Mandalorian. Suddenly, the clandestine is down to two, and Din is orphaned once again (though he still leads Clan Mudhorn and could always ally with the more permissive Nite Owls). He’ll have to accomplish a new mission if he wishes to be forgiven of his misdeeds in the eyes of the Children: He can only be redeemed in the living waters underneath Mandalore’s mines, according to the Creed. Even though the mines have all been destroyed, purification seems to be towards the top of Din’s priority list for Season 3. (Either that, or give us a lot more screen time; the kids don’t deserve Din.)
Mando buys a trip to Tatooine after being kicked out of the covert. He’s flying commercial, like the Pykes, which means he’ll have to give up an armory’s worth of armaments in exchange for some sponcon for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. He asks for a religious exception to the ban against explosive projectiles, but the security robot shuts him down like a TSA agent talking to an anti-masker. When he boards the ship, he finds himself face-to-face with a Rodian that looks a lot like Grogu. This is why flying private is preferable, like Mando is doing when he travels to Tatooine.
Mando arrives at Mos Eisley just in time to take down a womp rat who is threatening Peli Motto, as well as a charming BD droid. It’s not BD-1, Cal Kestis’s buddy, but it’s the same make and model as the Jedi: Fallen Order NPC, one of the finest Star Wars video game characters (and droids) ever. (On Tuesday, Lucasfilm Games and Electronic Arts formally announced a sequel to the game, in a neat bit of Star Wars synergy.) Motto has amassed quite a collection of some of the franchise’s most adorable droids, including the BD, an R5, a gonk droid, and her pit droids. (I hope Grogu returns to Din’s side soon, but Mando could do a lot worse than BD if he’s looking for another smol sidekick.)
Mando may not be as anti-droid as he once was, but he’s still mostly impervious to their allure, which makes Motto’s starfighter an ideal match. It’s a handcrafted Naboo N-1, as a leak from last week hinted, neither constructed nor controlled by droids. Sure, it’s riddled with scurriers, and it takes some work to put together. The vintage ride, however, is being restored with Jawa parts, and when it’s finished—after much technobabble about a turbonic venturi power assimilator and a cryogenic density combustion booster (which looks like what Han Solo uses to slow the Death Star’s trash compactor)—it’ll “track like a railspeeder” and fly “faster than a fathier.” Much, much more quickly.
(While bargaining for “Jawa-new” ship components, Motto reveals a shocking fact: Jawas are furry—very furry—a fact she knows from dating one.) In certain subcultures, this finding is likely to be significant news. Have Jawas always looked like red-eyed Ewoks? Are Tuskens hairy, too, if Tuskens and Jawas have a similar ancestor? Is fur useful on a desert world? I have a lot more questions in this vein.)
The spacecraft is a sight to see after it’s been spruced up, with the same soaring, sleek lines as it had on Naboo. Mando doesn’t need a lot of space as an empty nester: Grogu fits well in the ancient astromech bubble, albeit there’s no room to put imprisoned bounty (suggesting that Mando’s hunting days are over). Because the spacecraft has been reduced down to the bare essentials—even the paint has to go—it must be one of the galaxy’s fastest hunks of trash. Mando blasts it into orbit, giving a belated nod to the outbound Rodian and gleefully buzzing the transport through Annie’s old podracing route and an oddly adjacent Beggar’s Canyon—sadly, he doesn’t thread the Stone Needle like Luke—and then blasts it into orbit, where he gives a belated nod to the outbound Rodian and gleefully buzzing the transport. (He even attempts spinning, which is an excellent feat.) To describe the N-1’s handling, just one word comes to mind: magician. It’s almost enough to make Peli forgive Mando for suggesting that a Grogu petting zoo charge admission.
Tatooine is no longer lawless enough for this act to work. Captain Carson Teva, who helped Mando escape the ice spiders in The Mandalorian Chapter 10 and then reappeared two episodes later to recruit Cara Dune, is one of the two New Republic pilots that pull Mando over for speeding (before Gina Carano was canceled). (Max Lloyd-Jones, Mark Hamill’s body double in The Mandalorian, plays the second pilot.) Officers can’t ask starfighter pilots to exit their spacecraft in space, but when the pilots threaten to take his controls and ask him some awkward questions, Mando fires his afterburner and speeds away from the X-wings. This sequence, like many others in this episode, is amusing in a manner that Book of Boba struggles to achieve with its two sombre protagonists. After Shand dropped the seismic charge last week, Boba joked, “Next time, don’t touch my buttons,” it seemed like a valiant but too-late effort to loosen up characters who aren’t made for joking (with each other, at least). The restoration of broader variety and nimbleness in setting and tone was also underlined by “Return of the Mandalorian,” owing in no little part to Amy Sedaris’s goofy, un-Fett-like enthusiasm.
Fennec is waiting for Mando when he returns to the earth. She wants to employ the most likely ally to help Fett’s attack, but Mando refuses to give her credit. He responds, “Tell him it’s on the house.” “But first, I have to pay a visit to a little companion.” This might mean one of two things: Either we’ll see Grogu in the next two weeks—which would be a huge hook for Season 3—or this was merely a teaser for a December reunion, in which case Fett may not make much progress in bolstering his might before the conclusion.
It’s difficult to get excited about Fett’s plans for the spice trade, or even his personal transformation from brutal bounty hunter to crime-family boss who reigns with respect, after Mando’s triumphant reappearance consigned the series’ ostensible protagonist to Easter egg status. (Remember, many Tuskens gave their lives to bring us this change.) The Book of Boba Fett hasn’t been a bad show, but it’s struggled to establish its own identity separate from the flagship, and Mando stealing the show only reinforces the feeling that Fett’s journey could have been a movie (as was originally planned) or a more compressed and better-paced arc on The Mandalorian. “In a sign of these Star Wars times, Boba Fett, a legend for 40-plus years, may be Mando’s opening act, the guy who warms up the audience for his spiritual father, as I described last week,” I wrote. You may as well have Mando join you if you can’t overshadow him.” That’s exactly what occurred in this case. It’s almost as if Lucasfilm, recognising that Fett’s popularity was waning at this point, sought to pique interest in the spinoff by repeating everyone’s favourite fighter-refurbishing Tatooine townie: “Hey, look, everyone, it’s Mando!” (Or maybe production issues prompted a reshuffle of episodes and series.)
After all of that, I can’t complain about The Book of Boba Fett serving as a backdoor Mandalorian delivery system since I missed Mando. Dinn’s storey launched Fett and Fennec in the fifth chapter, and Din repaid the loan in the fifth chapter of the spinoff. (It’s like poetry; they rhyme, as George Lucas would say.) Perhaps the following two episodes, the first of which was apparently directed and cowritten by Filoni, will focus on Mando in more detail; perhaps Fett will finally meet Qi’ra and Crimson Dawn, or (could it be?) Cad Bane. But, with its emotional pulls, judicious, diverse callbacks, visceral combat, and implications for the future of the Disney+ shared universe, “Return of the Mandalorian” is a top-flight salvo from the Star Wars streaming varsity squad, and a difficult act to follow for The Book of Boba Fett’s big finish.