The Star War series takes a break from its lead to showcase another show’s protagonist.
Welcome back all to this week’s recap of The Mandalor—I mean, The Book of Boba Fett. It’s a crowd-pleasing extravaganza this week as multiple characters return, including, most importantly, Din Djarin himself. He’s so very tired. Let’s get one thing straight right away–this is an excellent episode of Star Wars television. Unfortunately, it’s just an excellent episode of the wrong show.
Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, “The Return of the Mandalorian” is exactly that. It’s fills in some gaps about what life has been like for the new Mand’alor. And he’s…back to bounty hunting. We meet Din (Pedro Pascal) taking down a Klatooinian and several of his henchman with the Darksaber, fully cutting them in two and hurting his leg in the process.
Look, it’s hard to use a plasma blade, no matter how easy some people make it appear. He takes the bounty’s head to a spaceport where he turns down food and further work in exchange for directions to the port’s substrata, the new home of the remaining members of the Nevarro covert: the Armorer (Emily Swallow) and Internet sweetheart Paz Vizsla (Jon Favreau).
Never one to waste time, the Armorer directs Paz to treat Din’s saber wound while she gives a little Mandalorian lore lesson about the history of the Darksaber. She seems relatively pleased that Din won it in combat. Paz is not so thrilled, especially when the Armorer notes that one of his ancestors made it.
There is a flashback to the Night of a Thousand Tears, a massacre of the Mandalorians during the Great Purge of Mandalore, which the Armorer seems to lay pretty squarely on Bo-Katan Kryze’s ownership of the Darksaber despite having not won it via combat. Din does not mention that he’s met Bo-Katan. Probably for the best.
Din must also bid farewell to the beskar spear, as beskar is for armor and not weapons, so he gives it to the Armorer to make something out of it for a foundling. And not just any foundling, but Grogu naturally, as Din plans to visit him and check-in. The episode doesn’t show us what she makes, just that it’s tied up in a package that looks suspiciously like a little green head we all know and love. Din trains with the Armorer in the use of the Darksaber, and then, to the surprise of no one, Paz challenges him for the saber. Paz, there are only three of you left, and you’re going to fight over this? Because your great-times however many grandfather made it? There isn’t time for this!
[I]t’s a problem when the best episode of the series is the episode that’s a backdoor pilot for a show that already exists.
Though it gets close at times, Din wins the duel, but in the aftermath, the Armorer asks them both to vow that they’ve never removed their helmets, and Din must admit that he has. “Then you are no longer a Mandalorian,” the Armorer tells him bluntly. She does acknowledge, though, that he can make amends, but only in the waters beneath the mines of Mandalore. Oh, and the Empire’s assault of the planet destroyed those mines. Good talk.
Din leaves and boards a commercial ship to Tatooine, but not before a droid forces him to check all of his weapons if he wants to board the craft. I will never enjoy any sight gag more than I do the old chestnut of “person has more weapons on them than you’d think,” and this one doesn’t disappoint. No one tell Bo-Katan that Din checked the Darksaber in his luggage.
Arriving on Tatooine, Din meets with Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), who had called him to Tatooine in the first place since she found him a new ship. Well, in a sense. Rather than another Razor Crest (RIP), what he wanted, she’s unearthed most of an N-1 Starfighter, a ship used by the Naboo to guard their queens. Din is less than impressed but agrees to help Peli repair the ship. And okay, Peli, it’s going to be fast, but where is the poor man going to sleep? Where is he going to put the bounties? Peli just talked Din into a sportscar when he needs an SUV.
There’s a repair montage ending with Din getting to take his new ship out for a ride, a ride through the podrace course through Beggar’s Canyon and up into space, where arson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) promptly pull the bounty hunter over for flying too fast. Though Teva recognizes Din’s voice, Din can use some “extras” Peli built in to zip away from the X-Wings. Upon returning to Mos Eisley, Peli tells Din that someone was looking for him. That someone? Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen). She tells Din that she and Boba (Temuera Morrison) need his help. Din is in, once he goes to visit a little friend.
I’m sure there will be someone complaining that we didn’t see Din have an existential crisis, but I think there’s time for that. He had to leave immediately and then go and build an entire ship from scratch. I think that occupied his mind enough to get him ready for the crises to come. If anything, this episode’s issues are less about what happens and more about what it says for The Book of Boba Fett as a whole. This was an entire episode of television without the show’s title character, and it didn’t exactly suffer for the loss of him.
Now granted, shoehorning in more of Boba and Fennec would’ve thrown off the entire pace of the episode. This was Din’s backstory, giving us a little taste of what life has been like for him after the finale of the Mandalorian season two. It’s been a while since he did plain old bounty hunting so witnessing him back in his element is delightful. Plus, it’s always great to see Peli and get a shipbuilding montage. But it’s a problem when the best episode of the series is the episode that’s a backdoor pilot for a show that already exists.
It’s also an issue when this backdoor pilot is arguably the best-paced, best-looking, and likely most expensive episode of the show to date. Howard is probably the director who deserves a long-form Star Wars project posthaste. She seems to truly grasp the stories she’s telling and the world she’s telling them in. After four episodes set on Tatooine, seeing new vistas and new sets was a treat. They felt more natural and lived-in than much we’ve seen so far this season. Again that’s a benefit and a disappointment. It’s almost ridiculous how clearly Disney favored this episode over the rest of the series thus far.
With a limited number of episodes, was there really the need to sacrifice an entire one for essentially the premiere of The Mandalorian season 3? As much as I love Din Djarin, this isn’t his show. Like I said up top, this was a great episode. It just wasn’t an episode of The Book of Boba Fett.
- “Bo-Katan is a cautionary tale,” says the Armorer, and frankly, I need several t-shirts that proclaim this.
- We get to hear more Mando’a! While training with Din and the Darksaber, the Armorer uses the language to count off.
- Mando’a lesson: “Dar’manda,” the state of no longer being Mandalorian, (at least to some). Din is now amongst their ranks after being cast out.
- Max Lloyd Jones played the other X-Wing pilot. He previously acted as the stand-in for Luke Skywalker in the Season 2 finale of The Mandalorian.
- Peli apparently once dated a Jawa. The less we all think about that, probably the better.
- When asked how the N-1 flies, Din tells Peli it was “Wizard,” slang first heard in The Phantom Menace. It means “cool.” Use it in a sentence today!