On Tatooine, Bobba Fett and Fennec Shand may be looking for recruits yet several star-systems away, another man in iconic Mandalorian armour has his own troubles. He may have delivered his latest bounty, but Din Djarin is looking to make a connection with the other survivors of the Mandalore creed. Now possessing a beskar spear and the legendary Dark-Saber, the warrior is going to have to make some serious choices about his allegiances and choice of weaponry.
With his Razorcrest craft destroyed, Djarin is also looking for alternative transport and that brings him back to Peli Motto’s scrapyard on Tatooine with the promise of a good deal. But rebuilding your life and starship was never going to be easy…
When The Book of Bobba Fett was first announced there was some momentary confusion over whether the series was its own branded Star Wars spin-off or whether it was completely replacing The Mandalorian, negating the reason for a third season of the latter. After all, were Tatooine and the broadcast schedules big enough for two very-similarly-armoured stoic warriors? Anyone tuning in to this week’s instalment of the Book might have had similar concerns because it was a chapter – aptly entitled The Return of the Mandalorian – focused entirely on Din Djarin rather than Bobba Fett and only included Fennec Shand for the very last scene. This useful ‘meanwhile…‘ interval is tightly-executed, and all well and good for those missing Din Djarin’s stories and those seeking more Lucasfilm references but in a series that’s only seven episodes in total length, with only two more to go after this giving one entry entirely over to another character and story does speak to the problems of pacing and balance that the show has had thus far.
On its own merits and easily set aside from the weekly power-games of The Book of Boba Fett, The Return of the Mandolorian was a great slice of nostalgic fun. Scene after scene was peppered with easter-eggs and in-jokes and nods to The Mandalorian‘s recent trials and tribulations. Yes, that new fighter-craft that the Mandalorian is rebuilding (after his Razorcrest finally gave up the ghost from numerous beatings) is a Naboo N-1 Starfighter last seen in the Star Wars prequels and sharp-eyed viewers might even have noticed that the assortment of parts scattered across Peli Motto’s scrapyard included a long pole-like cryogenic density combustion booster last seen saving our original heroes from the trash compacter in Star Wars. That Starfighter looks more streamlined and elegant, as demonstrated by a test-drive that races between Beggars Canyon and its womp-rats and the upper atmosphere where two familiar x-wing fighter patrol pilots fail to impede his progress. There’s also a nice, almost Superman moment, when a child aboard a ferry-craft recognises the Mandalorian through the port-hole window and returns a wave. On the flipside, the new vessel is essentially swapping a cargo-ship for a trimaran – what it gains in undeniable grace and speed it loses in pragmatic storage… which makes one wonder if Djarin is going to give up his signature bounty hunting if he has nowhere to comfortably stow his prizes? (Baby Yoda / Grogu might find room in the small glass dome behind him that looks just big enough to hold the little fella if and when we catch up with him).
There’s a lot going on…. After bringing in the head of a stubborn bounty, Djarin goes in search of more of his kind. This means he gets to wield the infamous Dark-Sabre (taken from Moff Gideon), though it’s clear he’s far from mastered the Ebony-Blade-esque weapon. He’s challenged for its possession by another Mandalorian soldier during a visit to see the Armourer. He wins the battle – barely – but despite their tribe’s lack of numbers in the wake of recent battles, the Armourer essentially excommunicates him and sends him off on his way again after learning he’s taken off the helmet in front of witnesses. That seems a bit harsh and unpragmatic given that of all we know of Mandlore and its legendary warriors, it’s hard to find followers who haven’t broken various rules along the way when needs must. We’ve found out only snippets of the greater Mandalore ‘way’ and its legacy, but there’s glimpses of some of its darker moments here. (The flashback scene of Mandalore’s downfall was well put together, giving a bleak, almost futurescape T2 feeling to proceedings as helmets are crushed and bombs rain down from ominous Empire ships, reducing the cities and entire planet into a savage garden of nuclear explosions). However, the Armourer does undertake one request from Djarin before he leaves, melting down the beskar spear given to him by Ahsoka, turning it into an unseen gift for Grogu (which we’ll surely learn about in good time).
There are other connective-tissue scenes, many with ragtag mechanic Peli Motto and her various droids (surely auditioning for a new line of collectable action-figures?) acting as comic relief and a rather disturbing idea that Motto has a thing for what Jawas keep under their cloaks. A silent and very awkward journey in an elevator also works well. The production designs continue to look good and be well-lit, but as with all things this season, it sometimes feels like very Earth-like industries populate the backgrounds with a few aliens thrown in for good measure… especially the opening ‘butcher’s shop bounty’ sequence.
It’s all a compelling diversion, solidly helmed by actor-turned-sought-after-director Bryce Dallas Howard, but will normal service be resumed as soon as possible? It will be interesting to see if Djarin has any presence in next week’s episode. His recruitment by Fennec Shand would seem to dictate he’ll be needed for the impending season-end showdown, but his mention of going to visit ‘a little friend’ and deliver that new gift (wrapped up in a cloth, tied in an iconic-shaped and appropriate knot) would indicate he’s going to try and reunite with Grogu, which would seem like a big-deal moment best suited to his own show. It may require some chronological, timey-whimey maneuverings.
Bottom line: As an episode of The Mandlorian there’s a whole lot to admire. As an episode of The Book of Boba Fett it’s rather telling that, devoid of the usual elements, this is all more exciting than recent episodes of the greater whole…
- Production Design / VFX9