As “The Book of Boba Fett” enters its homestretch, this week’s episode takes an interesting detour. As the title suggests, “Return of the Mandalorian” is basically a new episode of “The Mandalorian,” fit snug inside “The Book of Boba Fett’s” continuity. (At the very least it explains the lopsided 7-episode run of “The Book of Boba Fett.”) What the episode accomplished (and what it means for the future of both series) requires some unpacking. So without further ado, let’s now discuss the entirely Boba Fett-free episode of “The Book of Boba Fett.”
Major spoilers for “The Book of Boba Fett” follow.
Bring Me the Head of the Weird Dog Man Alien
The episode opens in a meat-packing warehouse; carcasses hang from hooks and a recognizable figure emerges: it’s the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal provides his voice but it’s very clear that he wasn’t in the suit for a second). The dog-faced aliens that we recently saw holding court in Boba Fett’s palace are there, scuttling around. The Mandalorian heads to a back room, looking for his bounty. The dog-faced gangster, when presented with a hologram of the Mandalorian’s target, says, “That’s not me. That doesn’t even look like me.” To which the Mandalorian replies, “I can bring you in warm or I can bring you in cold.” (This phrase was introduced in the very first episode of the series.)
A fight breaks out between the gangster’s goons and the Mandalorian. The Mandalorian unleashes the darksaber, handily cutting down several of his opponents but also giving himself a nasty gash on the thigh. Finally, the Mandalorian brings the blade down. It cuts through the gangster … and his desk. He emerges from the back room with the gangster’s head in a bloody sack. The meat packing plant’s workers look like they’re going to start something but the Mandalorian tells them that there’s plenty of money in their ex-boss’ office. Code prevents the Mandalorian from taking it. If he’s allowed to leave, they can take the money. They let him leave.
The Mandalorian travels to a ringed space station, sort of like the one in that Neill Blomkamp movie “Elysium.” But instead of luxury communities and rolling green lawns, it has the Empire-hardened look of a Death Star. (It brought to mind “Rogue One” more than anything else.) The Mandalorian takes his bounty’s head to a weird alien woman, who gives him money and pivotal information he needs – instructions on how to access a service area of the space station. (It should be noted that this entire exchange takes place in a long, unbroken shot, that is really impressive and aided by the wizardry of Industrial Light & Magic.)
Once the Mandalorian accesses the area, he sees hidden hieroglyphics; directions to a very secret place. Finally he sees the symbol for Mandalorians. He travels down and finds the Armorer (played once again by Emily Swallow)! She can tell that he’s hurt and asks what kind of weapon causes that wound?” He shows her the darksaber. There is discussion that “whoever wields it, leads Mandalore.” Pre Vizsla (voiced once again by Jon Favreau, who like every other episode so far this season also wrote the episode) is there too.
There is a lot of exposition, which is confusing, clunky, and unnecessary if you saw all of “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” and have large sections of Wookieepedia mostly memorized. There was talk of Bo Katan, who seeks the darksaber for reasons the Armorer is wary of, and the fact that a Jedi who was also a Mandalorian first made the darksaber. Also, there is brief discussion of where the Mandalorian got his Beskar spear. The Armorer suggests that its mere existence is a danger to the remaining Mandalorians since it can pierce their armor. The Mandalorian says she can melt it down.
Completing this exposition-heavy interlude, there’s even a flashback to The Great Purge aka the Night of 1,000 Tears when Mandalore was destroyed. It’s a visually breathtaking scene, full of explosions blooming in slow motion and killer droids (that look like K2SO from “Rogue One,” along with probe droids) scouring the burnt landscape like one of the flash-forwards in “The Terminator,” on the hunt for survivors.
When we return from the flashback, the Mandalorian tells the Armorer he wants her to forge something for a youngling. A specific youngling. Grogu. Aka Baby Yoda. She hands the armor over. It looks like little rings. He confesses that he misses Grogu, even though that emotion is in direct opposition to the ideology of the Jedi. But hey, the Beskar-plated heart wants what the Beskar-plated heart wants.
The Last (Jedi) Duel
We are treated to a training sequence, with the Mandalorian facing off against the Armorer. She tells him that he is fighting against the blade, which he says gets heavier with every swing. He must be one with the blade. He doesn’t quite get the hang of it. She keeps talking about the mythic importance of the blade, but once again, when she turns into Basil Exposition, the forward momentum of the episode grinds to a halt and all emotionality or excitement drains out of the episode. Finally, Pre Vizsla shows up again. His ancestor forged the weapon a thousand years ago. He wants it back.
There is a fairly exciting duel, up on an elevated platform that looks out into the vast, inky blackness of space. (They even take off their rocket packs, to add an even greater level of danger.) There’s a lot of fighting and finally the Mandalorian has Pre Vizsla dead to rights. The Armorer comes up and starts questioning them, according to the creed of the Mandalorian. She asks Pre Vizsla if he has ever taken off his helmet. No, he says. This is keeping with The Way. She then asks the Mandalorian. Instead of, oh I don’t know, lying, he admits that he has. This is not in line with The Way. The Armorer is extremely disappointed. “Then you are a Mandalorian no more,” she says. He’s an outcast. Again. But on the bright side, he gets to keep his bad ass laser sword.
Dejected, he makes his way to a starship traveling to Tatooine. Before boarding he’s greeted by one of the Rex-type droids from the original version of Star Tours that we’ve seen dealing cards in the Sanctuary in earlier episodes this season. The droid tells the Mandalorian that there are no weapons on board the ship. “I’m a Mandalorian, this is part of my culture,” he tells the droid, still identifying as a Mandalorian even though he was just stripped of the title. This leads to a very clever and funny montage of the Mandalorian taking all of his weapons off and putting them in a suitcase. Before he leaves, the Mandalorian growls, “I know everything that’s in there,” to the cute little droid.
Since the Razorcrest was destroyed, the Mandalorian is flying commercial, his rocket pack in the seat next to him like Beatrix Kiddo and her sword in “Kill Bill, Vol 1.” A little kid is sitting in front of him, looking like a mini-Greedo. The kid turns around and looks at the Mandalorian. The Mandalorian takes out the armor he’s had made for Baby Yoda. Somehow, you can tell, underneath that helmet, he’s smiling. And thinking of his lost charge.
Back to Tatooine
The first image we see is BD-1, the cute little two-legged droid from the popular videogame “Star Wars: Fallen Empire.” He’s being snapped up by some hideous creature, and chasing after that hideous creature is Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), the wise-cracking mechanic who we have seen in several episodes of “The Mandalorian” and who can be seen briefly in the background of an earlier episode of “The Book of Boba Fett.” The creature has moved on from droids to humans and has Peli in its grip. That is, before somebody shows up and fires at it. The Mandalorian has returned.
Once she dusts herself off, he tells her that he got her message, that she found a replacement for the Razorcrest. She tells him she has! Then she takes him to an even dustier part of the garage and rips a tarp off a decrepit, mostly unfinished spaceship. It’s actually an N1 Starfighter, the kind that Anakin Skywalker piloted in the climax of “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.” (You’ll remember it; it’s the bright yellow model favored by the Naboo army.) She claims that once they get it cleaned up, it’ll be “faster than a Fathier” (a reference to the horse-type creatures from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”).
There’s a lot of ad libbing about how Sedaris used to date a Jawa (“They’re hairy”), and moments where she speaks Jawa in order to get them the parts they need. She also fills him in on what the Pykes have been up to (the Jawas stole a part from a Pyke ship); how the Pykes have made Tatooine a hub for their lucrative spice trade. She’s not too pleased about. Tatooine, after all, used to be the type of place where you could straight-up murder a man at the local watering hole and nobody would bat an eye.
They plug away, Peli and the Mandalorian and BD-1 and her gaggle of podracing droids. Finally, in the morning, they wheel the old ship out. It only has streaks of its original yellow paint; instead it’s mostly metallic grey and there are still large sections of it where its skeletal under-structure is visible. Peli suggests he take it for a spin anyway.
After a rocky start, he’s really starting to appreciate both the speed and the handling of the small, svelte ship. He takes it out to the dessert and basically does the same route that the podrace in “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” took, including a thrilling trip through Beggar’s Canyon. The Mandalorian takes the Naboo ship up into low orbit and zips around one of the commercial star freighters that he came in on. As he is approaching the planet again, he’s stopped by a pair of X-Wings. One of the pilots is a familiar face – Captain Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee), who after he agrees to let him go, recognizes the Mandalorian. Before the Mandalorian can be interrogated further, he zips away.
When he returns to Peli’s garage she asks him how it was and he replies: “Wizard.” This is another callback to “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace,” and is a favorite phrase of young Anakin’s. Peli tells him that somebody came around looking for him but she threw this mysterious stranger off his trail. Finally, Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) reveals herself. She asks him if he needs a job. “The pay is good,” she says, and tosses him some coins. “Tell him it’s on the house,” he says, and tosses the coins back. Instead of tracking somebody down, Fennec needs some muscle. He agrees. “First I’ve got to pay a visit to a little friend,” the Mandalorian says. THE END.
Now, of course, the question, both narrative and practical is this: will we see the Mandalorian go and visit Baby Yoda? Or will this happen outside of the continuity of “The Book of Boba Fett,” to be revisited in “The Mandalorian” Season 3, which still doesn’t have a premiere date on Disney+? Or will another episode of “The Book of Boba Fett” be devoted to watching the Mandalorian visit his former charge? Will they find some way to get Ahsoka back too? Carl Weathers? C-3PO? Only time will tell. But with only a few episodes left, hopefully the series will focus on the issues at hand.