Spoiler warning: If you’re reading this recap, chances are you’ve already seen this episode. But if you haven’t and don’t want to know the very special guest star, read no farther (but come back later, please).
In the opening moments of “Chapter 5: Return of the Mandalorian,” the fifth episode of The Book of Boba Fett, it’s easy to feel like you’ve accidentally tuned into the wrong show. That feeling never really goes away for reasons suggested by the title. Not only does Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), the hero of The Mandalorian, make a return this episode, it’s essentially a Mandalorian episode dropped into the middle of The Book of Boba Fett’s run. Mando’s not just the focus of the episode: The episode sets up The Mandalorian’s third season with an exposition-heavy middle sequence that elaborates on plot elements introduced in season two and establishes a new status quo for Mando. He even reunites with an old friend and gets a new ship. It’s a big episode for Mando! Meanwhile, Boba Fett’s essentially MIA, though he seems likely to make a return in the next episode.
Until then, the spotlight belongs to Mando, who begins the episode doing what Mando does: taking care of bounty business. His target is Kaba Baiz (Ardeshir Radpour), a tough guy who hangs out in the depths of a slaughterhouse surrounded by toughs. Kaba believes this will be enough to protect him when Mando shows up to bring him in. He’s wrong.
But he’s not as wrong as he could have been. Though Kaba ends up a head in a bag, Mando limps out of the battle with a serious wound as the result of a mishap with his own weapon, the fabled Darksaber he acquired battling Moff Gideon. (It was previously held by Bo-Katan, who recognized Mando as its proper owner because she never won it in battle. Star Wars lore is complicated that way.) Fortunately, there’s a solution to his problem. Mando’s taking care of business on what appears to be — shades of Elysium — an arc-shaped space station/artificial planet, and his employer is within easy walking distance. After collecting his bounty from the Huttese-speaking Ishi the Guild Master (Helen Sadler) and declining her offer to hang a bit in the chill club she’s using as headquarters, he seeks out a pair of friendly faces.
Well, “friendly” might not be the right word (nor might “faces,” for that matter). Heading to the station’s substrata, he finds the hiding place of the other two serving members of his cohort: the Armorer (Emily Swallow) and Paz Vizsla (played by Tait Fletcher but voiced by Mandalorian and Book of Boba Fett creator Jon Favreau). A session of healing and exposition follows the reunion. Mando thanks Paz for saving him, but Paz is all business in his reply, saying, “There are three of us now. We will put you to work soon enough.” The Armorer is no warmer, immediately wanting to know all about the Darksaber. If his time with Grogu has melted Mando’s heart a bit, nothing has done the same for the other members of his covert. This is the way.
A bit about that Darksaber: A prophecy states that, in Mando’s words, “whoever wields it can lead all of Mandalore.” “If,” the Armorer clarifies, “it is won by Creed in battle.” If someone who doesn’t win it in battle wields it, however — say, someone named Bo-Katan — Mandalore will be “laid to waste and its people scattered to the four winds.” But wait. There’s more. The Darksaber’s beskar hilt was forged over a thousand years ago by Tarre Vizsla, who was “both Mandalorian and Jedi.” All this seems pretty significant to The Mandalorian, clarifying both what happened to Mandalore and apparently why it happened, introducing a new wrinkle in the Mandalorian/Jedi relationship, and setting up the Darksaber as a big deal in the events to come.
It figures pretty heavily in some immediate events, too. But first, there’s some business with armor and weaponry. Mando relinquishes his beskar spear and asks the Armorer to forge some armor for Grogu, whom he plans to visit. She cautions against this, telling him, “In order to master the ways of the Force, the Jedi must forgo all attachment.” “That,” Mando replies, “is the opposite of our Creed. Loyalty and solidarity are the Way.” No wonder the Mandalorians and the Jedi have a long history of distrust and that alliances — whether it’s Tarre Vizsla or the Mando/Grogu team — are so rare.
Loyalty and solidarity have their limits, however. Feeling the Darksaber is rightfully his as a descendant of Tarre Vizsla, Paz challenges Mando to a duel. It’s not a bad idea, really, since Mando’s having a tough time wielding his new weapon. But it doesn’t work out too well for Paz. After heated combat in the form of a well-staged fight scene, Mando emerges the victor. The victory has its consequences, however. After learning Mando removed his helmet, she judges him an apostate and informs him he’s a Mandalorian no more, a judgment he accepts before walking away (though there’s a bit of despondency to his stride).
Next stop: Tatooine. After reluctantly surrendering his many weapons, Mando boards a ship that, though far more spacious than the commercial flights of our world, doesn’t save him from being harassed by a playful Rodian child. Mando doesn’t mind too much, however. The moment reminds him of Grogu, as does the shape of the cloth bundle containing the armor the Armorer forged for him. (Did she know? Did she tie it that way on purpose? Hmmm …)
After landing on Mos Eisley, Mando gets down to the business of retrieving the ship promised to him by Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris). After saving her from a womp rat, Mando checks out the replacement she’s found for his Razor Crest. It’s not what he was expecting. Rather than a gunship, Pell has refurbished an N-1 Starfighter of the kind first seen in The Phantom Menace. Mostly, anyway. The N-1 still needs a lot of work, which doesn’t help Mando see its potential. “This,” he tells Pell, “is a pile of junk.” Pell’s not a bad salesperson, however. She talks him through its potential, explains the work she’s doing to make it even more amazing than the day it was made, and introduces him to the Jawas who’ve helped her gather all the parts. (We also learn that Pell not only speaks Jawaese, she dated a Jawa once. They’re furry. And they have issues.)
A short montage sequence later, the N-1 is looking pretty spiffy. Pell clearly knows what she’s doing, however unorthodox her approach. And though it’s a big downgrade in size — which seems like it could be an issue for a bounty hunter — Mando’s onboard. It’s got all kinds of tricked-out modifications, and Pell has rightfully concluded that he won’t need the space reserved for an astromech droid. (But what tiny creature could fit in that space? Hmmm …) The N-1 stands up to Mando’s test flight, too, even helping him get away from a pair of familiar-looking New Republic officers in X-wings.
And with that, we’re done with the third-season premiere of The Mandalorian, er, episode five of The Book of Boba Fett. Or would be if Fennec Shand didn’t show up to ask for Boba’s help. Mando agrees to help, even waiving his fee. But first, he tells her, he has to visit “a little friend.” (A wild theory: He probably means Grogu.)
It’s tough to judge this episode of The Book of Boba Fett against other installments because it feels so little like an episode of that series. As a Mandalorian episode, it’s pretty good, though it would probably feel like a disappointment if it were the first episode of that series’s third season because of the excessive setup (and the absence of Grogu). But it’s nice to see Mando, who should help make the home stretch of this series more colorful, and it’s always good to see Pell and her droid friends. And if it also confirms that Mando’s space travels lend themselves to multiple episodes better than Boba’s power struggles on Tatooine, well, new episodes of The Mandalorian will arrive later this year.
• A dark thought upon seeing those carcasses in the slaughterhouse: Are those Gamorreans? (The end-credit illustrations reveal them to be closer to cattle.)
• “All this talk of the Empire and they lasted less than 30 years. Mandalorians have existed 10,000,” the Armorer says in a quote that lends some perspective to the scope of Star Wars history.
• It turns out that “Razor Crest” refers to a type of ship; it’s not the name of Mando’s specific ship. Good to know.
• To redeem himself, Mando must go to “the living waters beneath the mines of Mandalore.” Or he would if they had not been destroyed. But do we know for sure they have? This seems like it could come up again.
• The Terminator-inspired flashback to Mandalore’s destruction gives this Bryce Dallas Howard–directed episode its most chilling images.