The Book of Boba Fett is back!
Last week’s episode left off with quite the tease, with Boba Fett saying he needs muscle and Fennec Shand replying that credits can buy muscle if you know where to look. At that, the familiar and instantly-iconic theme from The Mandalorian started picking up, making it clear where Fett would turn: Din Djarin, the Mandalorian.
But I don’t think anyone could have predicted what was to come next, in Chapter 5, which was one heck of an episode of Star Wars. Let’s dive in to our review – as always, full spoilers are ahead – of The Book of Boba Fett Chapter 5: “Return of the Mandalorian.”
The episode opens on a meat factory, where Din Djarin arrives looking to collect a bounty. He finds his target, Kaba Baiz, and tells him he can bring him in warm or he can bring him in cold, but the rest of the men spring into action, attacking Djarin. He then ignites the darksaber and fights back, killing all of the men – including Baiz – but accidentally slicing his leg in the process. He cuts off Baiz’s head and brings it back to his employer, an Ishi Tib guild master. That takes him to a space ring filled with cities, and he demands his payment in the form of information. This info leads him below the station, where the Armorer and Paz Vizsla are all that remain of their tribe.
Djarin shows them the darksaber, and the Armorer tells him more about its history and significance while Vizsla heals Djarin’s leg. The Armorer then takes Djarin’s beskar spear and fashions it, at his request, into armor for a particular foundling: Grogu. As she does so, she tells of what happened on the Night of a Thousand Tears, and we see the destruction of Mandalore at the hands of the Empire. When she’s finished, she wraps the gift up and gives it to Djarin. Later, she trains him to fight with the darksaber, which Djarin has trouble wielding because of its weight, due to the fact that he’s fighting against the blade than against his opponent. Seeing this, Vizsla says someone stronger and more deserving should wield it and challenges Djarin to a duel, since the saber must be won in combat. The two Mandalorians fight, and after an evenly-matched battle Djarin gets the upper hand. But in the aftermath, the Armorer asks if he has ever removed his helmet, to which he reluctantly responds yes. She informs him that this means he is no longer a Mandalorian, and the only way to atone for this sin is in the pools under the mines of Mandalore – which have all been destroyed.
So Djarin takes the darksaber and leaves, boarding transport to Tatooine. Along the way, he reflects on Grogu, obviously missing him. On Tatooine, he visits Peli Motto in Mos Eisley (who has a new BD droid working for her too!). She had contacted him saying she had a replacement ship for him, and shows him an N1 Naboo Starfighter. Though Djarin is initially not impressed, he and Motto work together to repair it and add special modifications. Once finished, he takes it for a test fly through the podracing course seen in The Phantom Menace, and then into space… where he’s pulled over by two New Republic pilots in X-Wings for violating the speed limit. They let him off with a warning, but one of the pilots, Carson Teva, recognizes his voice and wants to know about the Imperial Remnants – but Djarin zooms away in his ship.
He returns to the hangar, where Fennec Shand has come looking for him. She offers him credits in exchange for his help, and he says that it’s on the house – but that first he needs to go visit a little friend.
The Mandalorian season three has premiered!
No, wait, that was still The Book of Boba Fett, just without Boba Fett. Everyone knew that Din Djarin would arrive in this week’s episode, but I don’t think anyone expected him to be the entire focus of the episode, and for Fett to not even appear at all! That’s a bit of an odd choice for a show that has been slowly and steadily building brick by brick, to intersperse an episode that isn’t even about Fett; this show hasn’t been like other Star Wars shows where each episode (or arc) is more independent. That’s what makes this feel a bit more strange, although it seems that Djarin will help Fett in his fight against the Pykes, in which case I’m sure it will seem to be more in place. Furthermore, I wonder if this is part of the reason why the series has seven episodes rather than six (which has seemed to be a more standard number for Disney+ shows), as it allows them to have an episode like this without breaking away from the six-episode saga of The Book of Boba Fett. Without question, though, this feels like the start of the next season of The Mandalorian, which is the strongest example yet of how these shows will all be inter-connected. It is clear that we should not enter these shows expecting a standalone story, but rather the next chapter of the larger story – whether that be The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Ahsoka, or another series.
With all of that said, though, don’t get confused: this episode was fantastic, and I absolutely loved it. In fact, I think it’s one of the strongest episodes of either The Mandalorian or The Book of Boba Fett, and Bryce Dallas Howard (as she always does) knocked it out of the park (give her a series already!). The story, the cinematography, the score, the worldbuilding, the character development, the emotion – all of it – led to an incredibly strong episode. And it tied together the prequel trilogy, the original trilogy, the sequel trilogy, The Clone Wars, Rebels, and even Fallen Order all in one episode. It’s master-class storytelling, done in thrilling, fresh, engaging ways, all while keeping the development of Din Djarin at the center. This is a perfect model of what Star Wars storytelling can be, and it’s awesome.
At its heart, this episode is showing us what Din Djarin has been up to since he said goodbye to Grogu. He goes back to his bounty hunting ways, but he clearly misses his little friend. He refers to Grogu as a foundling and has a piece of armor fashioned for him (I think it’s chain mail, but we don’t see for sure). That leads to an interesting exchange between Djarin and the Armorer, who tells him that Jedi must give up all attachment, yet Djarin recognizes that as the opposite of the Mandalorian way. I’m sure that’s not the last we’ll pick up on that theme, just as this episode made clear that we’re not done with Grogu yet either. As Djarin travels to Tatooine, he sees a young Rodian with his parent, and he clearly misses Grogu – taking out the gift and looking at it as Grogu’s theme plays. And then at the end of the episode he says he’s got to go visit Grogu before helping Fett, and I think that might be part of why he was in such a hurry to get a new ship.
Speaking of that new ship, it’s a beauty: as some reports had suggested, Djarin does indeed fly an N1 starfighter, which is totally awesome. This episode was packed with references to all eras of Star Wars storytelling, and it did so seamlessly. The N1 fighter, flying through the podracing. course, and the sound design all gave tons of callbacks to The Phantom Menace, which was really cool. And in Peli Motto’s shop, we get to see a BD driod in live-action, which was one of the highlights of the episode for me! The droid first appeared in Jedi: Fallen Order as the companion to Cal Kestis, and here another BD droid is seen, and winds up helping Djarin fix the ship. I know that Din isn’t a fan of droids… but I’m hoping BD winds up joining him. And it’s also interesting that two New Republic X-Wings are as far out as Tatooine (one flown by Max Lloyd-Jones, who was the double for Mark Hamill in The Mandalorian, and the other by the familiar Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Carson Teva). It has been mentioned that the New Republic doesn’t pay much attention to what’s happening in the Outer Rim, including Tatooine, so what are they doing out this far now? Teva has been suspicious about the Imperial Remnants but can’t get the New Republic to believe the threat. I’m guessing their appearance here means things may be escalating with the Imperial Remnants soon.
On a different note, if one of the heartbeats of the episode is following Djarin’s journeys, however, the other is all about Mandalore. At least three very significant things play out in this episode on that front:
1. First, the darksaber! Seeing Din Djarin fight with it was absolutely thrilling! But it’s clear that he’s not totally comfortable with it, as he cuts his own leg on accident and then struggles in fighting the Armorer. She is teaching him how to wield it, saying that the more he resists it the heavier it becomes. It’s fascinating to watch a non-Jedi train to use a lightsaber in this regard, and it evoked a lot of great callbacks to one of the very best. episodes of Star Wars Rebels, where Kanan Jarrus trains Sabine Wren to use the darksaber. But as fans of Rebels know, Sabine wound up giving the saber to Bo-Katan Kryze, hoping that she could use it to reunite Mandalore. It failed miserably. We knew that from The Mandalorian, but we learn more here, as the Armorer tells Djarin that the prophesy said if someone wielded it without winning it properly, destruction would come to Mandalore rather than unity. That came to pass, and it explains why Bo-Katan wouldn’t just take it from Djarin in The Mandalorian either.
2. Through these explanations by the Armorer, we get to see Mandalore for the first time in live-action – on its worst day. We actually get to see the Night of a Thousand Tears, as Imperial bombers lay waste to the planet, including destroying the domed capital of Sundari. In the aftermath, K2 droids and probe droids kill any survivors. Mandalore has been destroyed. To actually get to see this play out on screen was both amazing and haunting, as we’ve long heard about it and now get to visualize it. Moff Gideon’s atrocities are now clearer (and speaking of Gideon, he’s in a New Republic prison somewhere being interrogated). And there’s even a reference to its destruction again when Djarin mentions that the mines of Mandalore have all been destroyed.
3. That reference comes because it’s the only way to atone for Djarin’s sin of taking off his helmet. Even after his encounter with Bo-Katan, I guess he hasn’t abandoned his ways or his creed. He did take his helmet off twice – once to save Grogu and once to say goodbye – and that gets him banished here, with the Armorer saying he is no longer a Mandalorian. So he’s now got no home, no family, no belonging. Being a Mandalorian has meant everything to him and his identity, and he’s now lost it. I do wonder whether he’s learned anything about how there are other ways out there to be a Mandalorian, but here’s my guess about what this is all setting up to. Boba Fett wears Mandalorian armor yet is not a Mandalorian and has not taken a creed. Din Djarin viewed him as undeserving of the armor… but does that make Djarin now undeserving of his armor as one who has broken the creed? I think this is all shaping up to help him view Boba Fett in a different light (and he’s already friends, as he says he’ll work for him on the house), with them coming to a more mutual understanding.
But it’s also at this point that I think we can see how this episode is a little bit more nuanced than just being “The Mandalorian season three,” and actually fits into The Book of Boba Fett well. Much of this season has been about Boba Fett forging a new identity. All he’s ever known has been as a bounty hunter, but the events of the past few years have irrevocably changed him. Boba was raised basically from birth, as a clone of his father, to be the best bounty hunter in the galaxy. He lived up to that, but now everything has changed. Now think about Din Djarin: he’s been raised basically from birth (or a very young age) to be a Mandalorian, and now he’s had that taken away from him. Both of these men, then, are dealing with a fundamental change in their identity – who they are and how they see themselves. There is more thematic symmetry going on here than might first meet the eye.
So where do things go from here? Well, it. seems that Din will help Boba, but he first wants to go visit Grogu. I don’t expect us to actually see that in these episodes, but it does give a way for the showrunners to not have him as the forefront of the rest of the season (and that’s assuming he actually does go visit Grogu first, of course). And all of this will set up and lead into what’s to come in season three of The Mandalorian as well. I enjoyed every minute of this episode, and it represented a remarkable jump in quality from the previous episodes of this series. It’s one of my favorite episodes of either of these shows, and it deserves a lot of praise. But I just can’t help but feel slightly confused about its placement, and about how The Book of Boba Fett will wrap up with only two episodes remaining. It’s a detour, but when it’s a detour that is this freaking good, I’m happily willing to indulge it.