Chapter 5 of The Book of Boba Fett was appropriately titled “Return of the Mandalorian,” and it brought the fan-favorite Mandalorian Din Djarin back to center screen.
So much so, in fact, that Boba Fett never appeared and was mentioned just one time… in a show titled The Book of Boba Fett. That led to some people – including myself – joking that this was really a teaser episode for The Mandalorian season three, which is currently in production. But as I pointed out in my review, it’s not really that simple.
On the one hand, yes: this obviously felt more like an episode of The Mandalorian than The Book of Boba Fett – and a dang great one, at that. I don’t think anyone’s gonna argue that point. It did indeed lay more foundation for where The Mandalorian will go in its next season. Again, I don’t think anyone’s going to argue that either. And the look and feel of this episode, from the cinematography to the lighting to the visual effects, felt on a much higher scale and quality than previous episodes of The Book of Boba Fett. While that’s more subjective, I’m not sure there’s a lot of people who are going to argue that either.
But none of that means that it’s out of place in this series. And while it might feel that way at first, for obvious and understandable reasons, this episode actually contained some very important thematic connections that I think are worth exploring further – namely, that in this episode we saw on a ‘smaller’ scale Din Djarin going through what Boba Fett has been going through on a ‘larger’ scale this entire season.
Throughout the first four episodes of The Book of Boba Fett, we have seen Boba adjusting to a new life and a new identity. The flashbacks are more than just filling in the gaps of the timeline but are in fact showing us how he grew and came to be a different person by this series than he was before. One of the recurring flashbacks we’ve seen is the brief glimpse of Boba as a kid on Kamino watching his father fly away, and Boba as a kid holding his dead father’s helmet in his hands. Boba was a clone of his father Jango, raised from a young age to become the best bounty hunter in the galaxy. For as long as he can remember, Boba’s entire identity has been wrapped up in being a bounty hunter, and then it was all taken from him. When that happened, he had a choice to make: would he go back to bounty hunting, or would he emerge from these events a changed man? That’s the exact conversation that Fennec Shand has with him in the flashbacks in Chapter 4, as she doesn’t fully understand Boba’s desire to leave hunting behind and lead his own family. He’s already made it clear at several points in this series that he’s no longer a bounty hunter.
While Boba Fett emerged from all of this with a conviction to not return to his bounty hunting ways, this episode picks off immediately by showing us that Din Djarin has gone right back to it. There’s more similarity between Fett and Djarin than we may have initially realized too, as Djarin was also raised from a young age for a specific purpose, raised by Mandalorians to be a strict adherent to the Mandalorian creed. And then he became a bounty hunter… until the circumstances of his life stepped in and threw a curveball. He encountered Grogu, and he can’t quite get over that here even though that quest has been completed. But that’s exactly it: after completing his quest Djarin went right back to his previous way of life, while Fett began forging a new one. There’s an obvious contrast here with the rest of the series, as Fett has been saying repeatedly he’s no longer a bounty hunter, and then the first scene we see of Din Djarin he’s back to being a bounty hunter. Nothing’s changed, really.
But then he’s banished by the Armorer, told he’s no longer a Mandalorian because he removed his helmet. And that is the moment where his entire identity comes crashing down around him, as the life he’s been immersed in for as long as he can remember is turned upside down. Who is he? And what will his future look like?
There’s maybe an example for him in Boba Fett. Everything Boba knew and his entire identity was shattered, and he decided to give up his bounty hunting ways and embrace a new identity, one where he took on leadership with an aim to help others. Which, come to think of it, is precisely what Djarin needs to do: he needs to step up and embrace his new identity, taking up the darksaber to lead Mandalore in an effort to aid his people. This episode’s focus on the darksaber was not accidental either, as it reveals the destiny that lies before him – one he’s struggling to embrace and accept. He’s wielding the darksaber in violence through bounty hunting, and it’s not what it’s supposed to be. He’s losing his way. He misses Grogu, is no longer considered a Mandalorian by his own tribe, and is struggling with the purpose that lies ahead. So although Boba Fett is the one calling for his help, I could see Fett winding up helping Djarin too, by providing an example of what it looks like to bravely forge ahead with a new identity, giving up who you once were to become someone better and stronger. And you are stronger when you’re with a tribe, as Fett said last week and Djarin hinted at this week, with his talk about attachment being key to the Mandalorian way.
In many ways, then, Boba Fett and Din Djarin aren’t all that different. The main themes that we’ve been seeing Boba Fett walk through in the first four episodes are the same ones we saw Din Djarin walk through in Chapter 5. And so while this episode was obviously a way to connect to the other shows and to this one, it’s also an episode that connects very well with the heart of The Book of Boba Fett – and does so in a really thrilling way.