The latest episode of the show was so packed full of Star Wars winks, nods, and callbacks you’ll either love it or hate it. Personally, I loved it. I geeked out hard. But I’ll also be the first to admit, it was a lot. The architect behind all those references is Star Wars guru Dave Filoni. Filoni, the creator of animated series Clone Wars, Rebels and Resistance, made his live-action Star Wars directorial debut with the pilot of The Mandalorian and he returns here to both direct, and write, making chapter five the first episode of the show not written by Jon Favreau.
Chapter five is called “The Gunslinger,” a title that, at first, feels a little too broad and general. Isn’t that what the Mandalorian is? Are we just making a sweeping generalization about the show’s Western influences? Is Mando going to find a Dark Tower? It became clear by the end.
The previous two chapters of the show definitely made it clear the galaxy is hunting for Mando and Baby Yoda. “The Gunslinger” picks up there, with a fun space dogfight between the Mandalorian and a mysterious new bounty hunter. Unfortunately, despite my personal obsession, that other bounty hunter is not the Phantom Menace’s Ric Olie, which was my first thought. Watching it I thought the eyes kind of matched, his ship had some yellow, Naboo Starfighter hints. I know in canon Olie was injured and can’t fly in space anymore, but for a second, I held out hope. Actually, the character is named Riot Mar and he’s played by Rio Hackford. Mar doesn’t get much to do though because, despite getting some good shots in on the Razor Crest, he’s quickly blown to bits. Now desperately in need of repairs, Mando needs to find a port quickly. And right about here is when I started screaming.
Mando is hailed by Mos Eisley tower and given a place to land. Yes, you read/heard that right. A familiar, tan horizon comes into view and The Mandalorian is about to visit the home of Anakin Skywalker, Jabba the Hutt, Watto, Sebulba, the Sarlacc Pit, Owen and Beru Lars, hiding place of Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, the most legendary planet in the whole mythology of Star Wars: Tatooine.
Of all the planets in all the galaxy The Mandalorian could have visited, there’s simply no reason it had to be Tatooine. That is, unless, Filoni was sitting at his computer thinking “If I’m going to direct a live-action episode of Star Wars, I want it to take place on the desert planet where I had Obi-Wan Kenobi kill Darth Maul.” The revelation literally made me scream “No fucking way” at my computer and pause the show to walk around and let the adrenaline subside a bit. That was a reaction I’d have two more times in the episode, but we’re getting to that. (Yes, I’m a huge dork.) [Editor’s Note: Oh, we know. If you haven’t been to Germain’s twitter feed lately, I highly recommend scoping out his latest pictures. -Jill P.]
As the Mandalorian flies into Mos Eisley, we witness some of the exact same shots we’ve seen in The Phantom Menace and A New Hope. He lands and immediately sees another Star Wars mainstay, the Pit Droid. Who doesn’t love Pit Droids? I’ll tell you who, the Mandalorian (his distaste for droids hads been a running theme of course), which is why he tells the repairwoman works at this docking bay, named Peli Motto, to repair the ship without droids. Surprisingly, she’s played by none other than comedy legend Amy Sedaris (Strangers with Candy, Bojack Horseman) in another kind of odd, yet wonderful intersection of Star Wars and comedy (Don’t forget, Filoni cast Horatio Sanz and Brian Posehn in the pilot). Unfortunately, Mando can’t afford to pay Peli so he needs to get a job. And if you’re on Tatooine and need to find some scum and villainy where would you go?
Yes, this is where screaming fit two happened.
The Mandalorian walks into none other than the Mos Eisley Cantina. The place where Greedo famously said “Maclunky,” Han Solo met Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi cut off an arm, and so much more. To be fair, this was one place Filoni showed a little restraint. After a decade or so, Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes were no longer performing at the cantina. What was the same, though, was a bounty hunter sitting in the Han vs. Greedo booth. His name was Toro Calican and he’s played by Jake Cannavale (son of actor Bobby Cannavale).
Toro has an off-guild job for Mando to help make a few credits—help him bring in Fennec Shand, played by the always fantastic Ming-Na Wen. She’s a top mercenary with a big bounty on her head and Mando is well aware of her reputation so he turns the job down. That is, until Toro reveals he’s never actually brought in a bounty before, he’s trying to make it into the guild with this job and he’ll let Mando keep the money if he helps him. Star Wars is full of seasoned bounty hunters—hell, this is a show about one—so to meet a character at the start of that career, in need of some guidance, was a very intriguing twist. Toro’s offer was almost heartwarming, in a way. Just a boy asking a man for help.
With that cool new relationship unfolding it was easy to forget about another one we’ve been invested in for a few weeks now: Mando and Baby Yoda. Oddly, Mando left the baby on the ship, unsupervised, in a moment that’s sure to have fans around the world screaming at their screens at his awful parenting. Luckily for him, Star Wars Amy Sedaris is there to help. She has a kind heart and takes up the mantle of well-paid baby sitter.
Toro arranges travel for the two hunters on what appears to be Zephyr-G swoop bikes, very much like the one Anakin rides in Attack of the Clones (Ding! Another callback!). He and Mando the head across the Dune Sea (Ding!) to find Fennec. This sequence was just so gorgeous, pure Star Wars on display in all its glory. I wish I’d seen it on a big screen.
Right about here, though, is when I let out my third scream.
The Mandalorian tells Toro to stop because there’s something up ahead. He pulls out his binoculars and sees, who else? If you’re in a reference packed Star Wars story and you’re zipping across Tatooine, there’s only one alien race you’re going to find. Tusken Raiders with Banthas, of course. (Ding!) We see a shot very similar to Luke’s point of view in A New Hope as Toro spots them in the distance, but it’s not exactly the same. There also happens to be two raiders right next to him. This is their land and Mando, being the seasoned veteran he is, knows a deal must be cut. Thankfully, he also knows how to communicate with the Tuskens which is maybe the first time we’ve seen them be civil in a live-action Star Wars setting. Again, this was almost a perfect Mandalorian moment. It took something so familiar from Star Wars and twisted it just enough to give a fresh perspective. Great stuff.
With the passage across the desert now Raider-free, Mando and Toro finally reach where they think Fennec is going to be. Instead, they find a dewback (Ding!) with a dead bounty hunter being dragged behind. Could that be Fennec? Well, as Admiral Ackbar would say, “It’s a trap!” The laser blasts start flying as Mando and Toro realize Fennec put the body there to lure in anyone looking for her. (Thankfully, they didn’t go so far so to have a character say “It’s a trap” in the episode but I’d bet money it was discussed.)
Fennec Shand looks like an Inquisitor—I mean that in the best possible way. Her sleek helmet and long modified rifle make her look like a true force to be reckoned with. Plus, because she has the high ground (Ding!), Mando and Toro decide to wait until nightfall to proceed. When the suns have set the pair unleash their plan. Well, Mando’s plan. An exciting race across the desert complete with flares and sniper shots which made for a very dynamic sequence. Finally, after using Toro as a distraction, Mando comes in and captures the mercenary. All in a day’s work. However, because one of the swoop bikes got busted in the fight, someone has to go back and get that dewback so they can all make it back to town. Mando agrees to do it but urges Toro not to kill her: “She’s no good to us dead.” (Ding!)
During her capture, Fennec mentions that you don’t see many Mandalorians anymore and something about surviving an event on the planet Navarro. She says it in passing, though, so we don’t really register what she’s talking about. It’s not until she’s alone with Toro that we realize Navarro is the planet Greef and the Client are on. The one the show has spent the most time on to this point. Not only does Fennec think this Mandalorian is the one who is wanted all over the galaxy, Toro now does too. It seems in the time that’s passed, the legend of a Mandalorian and a mysterious child escaping from an army of bounty hunters has spread across the galaxy. They’re infamous. And, Fennec suggests, if Toro releases her, they can take him down together.
The newbie considers it but, in true scoundrel fashion, he shoots her instead and steals the idea. I almost screamed a fourth time at this moment because it seemed like Fennec was dead after such a brief amount of screentime (thankfully they did not waste Wen’s talent like that). The Dewback mounted Mandalorian sees her body and heads back to Mos Eisley looking for Toro but at the very end of the episode, we see a mysterious pair of feet walk up to Fennec’s body, making some sort of jingling noise. It’s safe to say we’ll see more of her.
While Mando was busy making the trek back, Toro captured Peli and Baby Yoda with the hope that, by bringing them in, not only will he get into the bounty hunter guild, he’ll become a legend in the process. As we learned several times over the course of the episode though, Toro is an inexperienced idiot. It takes all of two seconds for Mando to distract him and, finally, kill him. (Take him to Beggar’s Canyon, says Peli. Ding!) He takes Toro’s credits, gives them to Peli, and heads off on his merry way in the repaired Razor Crest.
While the episode was a candy store if you like Star Wars references (as I do) the actual movement of the plot was certainly lacking. In the end, what pushed the overall story forward? The Mandalorian has a new enemy in the form of Fennec, a new ally in Peli, and he learned a tiny bit about parenting. That’s about it. As an audience, we learned that the legend of this duo has spread across the galaxy but we kind of figured that already. In a larger scope of Star Wars, we learned that the Mos Eisley Cantina had a change of heart about droids. It used to not serve their kind and now they do the serving. Cute but not groundbreaking all things considered.
Despite “The Gunslinger” not advancing the story as much as one may have hoped, I was, and remain, filled with delight to have seen all these pieces of Star Wars iconography back. Somehow it’s just nice to know Tatooine, with its rich history, is still out there, still home to all brands of gunslingers whether it is an old vet like Mando, new blood like Toro, or a rising problem like Fennec.
- Did you realize, by setting an episode on Tatooine, the Mandalorian was probably on the same planet as Boba Fett? If he’s still in the Sarlaac of course. I thought for a second that might come up but it’s just too big.
- Not a lot of Baby Yoda in the episode. We got a couple “Oos, “Aahs” and near-death experiences but, overall, he certainly took a back seat here as opposed to the last two episodes.
- Go back and listen to the first scene again. Mar’s death sounds like Luke Skywalker’s scream at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.
- I’ve mentioned the fact we’ve never been told the name of the main planet in the show before and now, maybe, we know why. By hiding the name of the planet, Fennec’s speech about it has a completely different impact. It doesn’t instantly hit you like it would if we knew. Instead, you hear “Navarro” and it just sits there, simmering. Later, when she talks to Toro and mentions it again, it all clicks. It’s a bigger moment. One that would have been impossible if we learned the name earlier.
- Thank god for stunt people in the credits. Otherwise, how would I know how to spell star wars names like “Peli Motto” or “Toro Calican?” Oh, Star Wars.
- As many Star Wars references were packed into that episode, Filoni never hits you over the head with them. If you know them, you get it, but this recap is way more obvious about it than he was. Which is kind of nice. Filoni’s Star Wars is a lived-in, matter of fact Star Wars.
- The references mentioned above aren’t even close to all the references in the episode. There’s also the sabacc game, a gonk droid, a Corellia mention, and I’m sure about a million others I missed. Let us know your favorites in the comments.
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