Chapter 4 of The Book of Boba Fett closed on Ludwig Göransson’s iconic theme from The Mandalorian, so it was no surprise that Chapter 5 was entitled “Return of the Mandalorian.” Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard and written by Jon Favreau, Chapter 5 takes a bit of a detour from the main plot of The Book of Boba Fett, sidelining its own cast in favor of reuniting audiences with Mando. For anyone who is a fan of television series that exists within the same universe, this type of episode should be familiar. Oftentimes the first episode in a crossover event catches you up to speed with where the character has been before diving headlong into the main event, which is exactly what “Return of the Mandalorian” did.
The episode opens in an industrial butcher shop, providing Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) with a very dramatic entrance. In the wake of reuniting Grogu with his own kind, Din has returned to bounty hunting—though, without the Razor Crest, he’s stuck with commuting via public transportation. When the mark decides to put up a fight, Mando draws the Darksaber in combat and proves that he hasn’t exactly been training with it since the last time we saw him. While he comes out victorious from the violent fight, he limps away from the scene with a self-inflicted Darksaber wound.
After turning over the Klatoonian bounty, Din limps off in search of an elevator to take him down through the substrata, where he is reunited with two of the Mandalorians from Navarro: The Armorer (Emily Swallow) and Paz Vizsla (Tait Fletcher/Rich Cetrone).
From there, it’s a crash course lesson in Mandalorian history, courtesy of The Armorer. For casual fans of Star Wars, who most likely haven’t watched The Clone Wars or spent their lunch breaks browsing Wookieepedia, “Return of the Mandalorian” provides vital details about the Darksaber and who the Mandalorians are as a people. While some might balk at The Book of Boba Fett turning into an episode of The Mandalorian with three episodes left, it should be noted that Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) is a Mandalorian, and all of this is most likely setting up information that we’ll need to know in the finale.
The Armorer confiscates Din’s beskar spear, cautioning him that, while beskar deflects the blow of a lightsaber, beskar can also pierce beskar armor and cause harm to a Mandalorian. He asks her to melt it down to fashion a piece of beskar for a foundling—a specific foundling. The Armorer reminds Mando that the Jedi do not believe in forming attachments, which stands at odds with their belief in The Way. I couldn’t help but wonder if his sudden desire to see Grogu again was inspired by the revelation that the Darksaber had been forged by someone who was both a Mandalorian and a Jedi. Mando might be painfully naive, but he does pay attention to information that is relayed to him.
With the revelation that the Darksaber was forged by Paz Viszla’s clan back on Mandalore, Paz demands a duel with Din in order to win the blade in combat. The pair duke it out, with Din ultimately winning—despite his inability to wield the Darksaber. The Armorer stops them from killing each other, but then she delivers a blow more devastating than defeat. She asks both Mandalorians if they have ever removed their helmets, whether by force or by choice, and Din cannot lie. Because of his actions in The Mandalorian he is cast out of the start-up covert, called an apostate, told that he’s no longer a Mandalorian, and sent packing. And again, this all seems very relevant to the titular character of The Book of Boba Fett, whose identity as a Mandalorian is often called into question because of how he was raised and how he chooses to live. Even throwaway lines and moments find a way to come full circle in Star Wars.
Mando’s brief return to the covert makes sense with where we last saw him in The Mandalorian. He had lost not only his ship, but his foundling and a distinct sense of self which was lost with the removal of his helmet. If you view the creed as a religious sect (and he refers to it as a religion in the episode) then you can see the through lines of religious trauma. Just look at how quickly he begs for forgiveness and atonement, only to be told that his salvation can be found in unreachable waters. While Star Wars borrows from a lot of cultures, there’s an unmistakable connection to Christianity infused into the Mandalorians, for better and for worse. Hopefully, the next season of The Mandalorian allows Mando to unpack and unlearn these ideologies since they’re holding him back.
With the wind knocked out of his sails a bit, Mando boards a commercial flight and heads off across the galaxy to Tatooine. Of course, he has to shed all of his weapons before he’s allowed to board the flight. Star Wars characters. They’re just like us. In Tatooine, he reunites with Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) who has found a replacement ship for him. While the new ship may not be the Razor Crest, the ship that she found for him is a serious deep-cut throwback for all of the Prequel Trilogy lovers out there: an N-1 Starfighter, once utilized by the Royal Naboo Security Forces. It may be in pieces, and the yellow paint may be worn off, but this starfighter is an unmistakable piece of nostalgia for a generation of fans that Star Wars nostalgia rarely caters to. In fact, this entire segment of “Return of the Mandalorian” scratches a very specific Prequel Era itch, going so far as to even show the old pod-racing grounds, where we first watched Anakin jetting off across the sands of Tatooine. Tatooine has always felt like the sacred ground of the Original Trilogy, but for once the Prequel Trilogy got its day in the light of the twin suns. Sedaris does a phenomenal job of introducing a little levity to the episode here, acting as the audience cheering for Mando’s return, while playing the used car salesperson shtick and revealing that she’s dated the very furry Jawas.
Once the Starfighter is up and running, Mando takes a joyride up above Tatooine, testing out its speed and maneuverability, which of course gets him pulled over by the New Republic thrill-killers. No matter where Mando goes, he can’t stop running into familiar faces, including Captain Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) who recognizes his voice. Even space cops don’t want to do the paperwork, so Mando gets off with a warning.
In the final minutes of the episode, Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) locates Mando and asks him to be that aforementioned muscle. Before he’s willing to commit to helping them out, he tells her that he wants to go see someone. Will we see Grogu next week? It seems that chances are high. But better yet, who else will get pulled into the fight against the Pykes? Mando is just one man, after all.
Bryce Dallas Howard has yet again proved herself as one of the strongest directors of Star Wars on Disney+, delivering a very insightful look into the emotional and mental state of Mando that undoubtedly is gleaned more from her ability to create human connections on-screen over what might be written on the pages of the script. Everything about the episode was a thrilling adventure, from the mundane moments on an elevator to a stress-inducing duel, to commercial flights and the Prequels revisited. Howard knows how to make an episode compelling, fun, and engaging from every front. Brendan Wayne and Lateef Crowder also deserve more acknowledgment, given that so much of the Mandalorian’s performance and the combat skills displayed are credited to them.
It’s a shame that the best episode of The Book of Boba Fett to date did not feature Boba Fett at all, but with two episodes left, perhaps the best is still yet to come. (Though Howard is always a tough act to follow.)
The first five episodes of The Book of Boba Fett are available to stream at Disney+.