By Josh Reilly B. and George Bate
Warning: This Review Contains Spoilers for Chapter 5 of The Book of Boba Fett
The Book of Boba Fett Chapter 5…or The Mandalorian Chapter 17? The most anticipated episode of the season arrived today with Return of the Mandalorian, which had Din Djarin in the starring role. The audience catches up with the character that won everyone’s hearts with his relationship with Grogu, and seeds are planted for the final two episodes of The Book of Boba Fett. Oh, and, plenty of Easter eggs and references to boot.
Din Djarin is introduced almost immediately, in similar fashion to Ahsoka’s arrival in The Mandalorian Season 2. Both were Chapters that hardcore fans knew were going to feature the return of iconic characters, and these heroes appeared quicker than most expected, and with lightsabers ignited almost instantly as well. Djarin walks into a meat packing plant, a first in the Star Wars universe, to collect a bounty. But he’s a Mandalorian after all, and weapons are part of his religion, as the creed goes, so what begins with a conversation quickly turns into a battle. Djarin uses the darksaber, the same ancient Mandalorian weapon he won the last time we saw him, to bring in a wanted criminal cold.
This action sequence is incredibly well directed, as is the entire episode. Bryce Dallas Howard has gone from strength to strength in her behind the scenes role on Star Wars every since Chapter 4 of The Mandalorian in 2019. This episode is the highlight of her three directed features so far, with the action ramped up to another level and showing the broader galaxy in a beautiful way. The directing has been under the spotlight from some Star Wars fans who were critical of certain chapters of The Book of Boba Fett, in particular the chase sequence with the biker gang. Regardless of one’s feelings on that sequence or the directing of the show so far, it’s hard to see how anyone would have an issue with Chapter 5 in this regard. Return of the Mandalorian is easily the best directed episode of the season so far. Hats off to Bryce Dallas Howard.
The episode later goes on to serve as a catch up with Djarin, as he meets The Armorer and Visla, duels for the right to keep his saber, and heads to Tatooine to get a new ship. It’s something that fans arguably expected to come in the first episode of The Mandalorian Season 3, but it works nonetheless, as Djarin is such a compelling character that his mere presence lights up the show in a way some felt was needed. Djarin has a new ship, a Naboo Starfighter to be specific, which is fittingly silver in color. The Starfighter is just one of many Easter eggs, callbacks, and references in this episode, but it works. It all makes sense and adds up to the overall story. Some are critical of fan service, saying that it serves no overall purpose and is there to please hardcore watchers of a given franchise, but that’s certainly not the case here. Like Luke’s appearance in The Mandalorian Season 2 finale, the story seems to lead to some of these events, not the other way around as some allege at other film and TV projects more broadly. It makes sense to see K2 droids on Mandalore, for example, as they were Empire controlled mercenaries during the time of the Original Trilogy, which is when the Great Purge occurred. Overall, it’s clear they are working towards something with forward momentum, rather than landing on an idea and going backwards to make it fit the story. All of it feels natural in a great way.
There’s so many callbacks that it’s hard to reference all of them, but one in particular deserves a shoutout: the appearance of what seems to be BD-1 from Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Cal Kestis’ droid was a big part of the game, and seems to appear here, or at least a droid of the same model. BD used his scanning abilities to help with the ship build just as he did with Kestis in Fallen Order. All of this a cool reference that could go further than that, as Djarin’s new ship does have a space made for a droid.
Djarin’s story is further, too: the episode ends with him stating he needs to go visit the Child to give him what appears to be a Mandalorian helmet. A Grogu and Luke Skywalker arrival seems imminent, and maybe the latter will help with the pressing Pyke situation that Boba Fett needs to deal with if he is to establish authority on Tatooine. It’s truly beginning to feel like a mini-cinematic universe with Din’s arrival in this show, and the possibility of other famous characters coming in too. There haven’t been too many successful cinematic universes outside of Marvel, with DC in particular struggling to build an interconnected world of characters, but it’s so far, so good for The Mandalorian. It helps, of course, to have Iron Man and original MCU director Jon Favreau at the helm. It seems as if the world in between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens will only continue to get bigger as further shows are added in, such as Ahsoka. It’s an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan.
Interestingly, Boba Fett doesn’t appear at all in this episode. It’s certainly an unexpected creative decision, and one that many may not even mention or think about too deeply simply due to Djarin’s incredible screen presence. However, it has to be noted that the episode serves as a Din Djarin quest of sorts, with no forward momentum for the plot of The Book of Boba Fett. With only two episodes left, it’s beginning to seem like this show will have a first season akin to many Star Wars shows before it, with a teaser initial outing before going deeper in future seasons. Perhaps it should have been expected given the history of Star Wars TV, but it still feels a little jarring. Jon Favreau definitely seems at his most comfortable when writing Din Djarin as well, with a certain confidence and swagger in the writing whenever he is at the center. Boba Fett has done plenty of great character work to move the famed bounty hunter beyond just a faceless, immoral mercenary, and it would benefit the show greatly if they committed to that even further in the final two episodes and beyond.
Despite those concerns, Return of the Mandalorian is a stunning episode of Star Wars TV, and arguably the best we’ve ever gotten, directly rivaling Chapters 9 and 13 of The Mandalorian. The directing and action are incredible, hardcore fans will rewatch again and again to find new amazing references, and Djarin’s character continues to grow and evolve. He’s already one of the most iconic characters in Star Wars, and his beloved status with fans is only set to grow with this episode. Despite the lack of Boba Fett, and no forward momentum of the Pyke plot more broadly, the episode just about gets away with it due to the tease of Djarin coming to help Fett in the final two episodes. First, though, a Grogu reunion. The countdown to next week begins once again.
Return of the Mandalorian is the best episode of Star Wars television so far, leaving a tense wait for next week’s episode and the many imminent reunions at hand: Mando and Grogu, Mando and Boba, etc. It’s an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan, and this episode only furthers this.
Images courtesy of Lucasfilm and Disney