Warning: Spoilers for “Chapter Five: The Gunslinger” and prior episodes of “The Mandalorian” follow.
It’s hard to believe we’re already passed the halfway mark for season one of “The Mandalorian,” yet here we are. The latest chapter in the bounty hunter’s tale “The Gunslinger,” is a fun adventure to what is probably the most iconic planet of “Star Wars.”
The opening of the episode finally delivers something I’ve been waiting on from this series, a space dogfight. Just seeing the design of The Mandalorian’s (Pedro Pascal) ship the Razor Crest for the first time made me want to see how it worked in action, and I am happy with what we get here. The camera jumps are quick, but I still feel like you can get a good feel for how it plays out. Trying to outfly another bounty hunter after him, The Mandalorian just barely scrapes by with a cool-but-risky maneuver that ends up with him on top but not without damage. It is a cheesy moment, but the slow-down of the other pilot realizing his folly and yelling is something I just love, especially coming after The Mandalorian’s remark: “That’s my line.” I have mentioned it in past reviews but I love to see The Mandalorian have flaws in his skills but still managing to scrape by with what he knows. Also, the use of a practical model for the Razor Crest (which was revealed at Star Wars Celebration 2019) was a great move and I think shows here. Overall, I think this is the best intro any of the episodes have had thus far and I hope we get another dogfight at some point for the remainder of season one.
Because of the damages to the Razor Crest, The Mandalorian is forced to land on the nearest planet which turns out to be none other than Tatooine. It is nice to make a live-action return to the planet, especially in this little-explored time period for it. I have to admit that as soon as I heard, “This is Mos Eisley tower,” I got giddy with excitement. The shot of the Razor Crest flying in above Mos Eisley is pretty much ripped straight from the iconic shot of Luke, the droids and Obi-Wan overlooking the “wretched hive of scum and villainy.” It is a good balance of fan-service though, and I think it only would be overboard had the docking bay The Mandalorian lands in been docking bay 94 (where the Falcon was parked in “A New Hope”). Here we are introduced to Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), who presides over the docking bay as its mechanic. She strikes a deal with the Mando to fix his ship and he heads off to find a way to make some credits to pay for it. Another cool inclusion here, this time a prequel reference, is Motto’s crew of pit droids. I love seeing the little guys and their “Three Stooges”-esque comedy still around, and I like to think they’re the same three from the podrace in “The Phantom Menace.”
The Mandalorian walks through a particularly-barren Mos Eisley and arrives at none other than the famous cantina itself. The same one where old Ben cut off a poor walrus-man’s arm and Han and Greedo shot at each other (or however that went). This isn’t the first time we have seen it since “A New Hope” in canon though, as Assaj Ventress also hung out there after being cut off from Count Dooku and becoming a bounty hunter in “The Clone Wars.” It definitely is not as busy as it used to be though, which seems to be due to Jabba the Hutt’s death making business everywhere a bit down. It’s not something I knew I wanted but I like seeing the ramifications of something like his death. Also, the cantina has gotten much more progressive as the bartender who disallowed any droids in his bar has been replaced by a droid. After the droid reports the guild no longer operates there, some young, dumb bounty hunter named Toro Calican (Jake Cannavale) -- sitting in the same spot as Han did in his talk with Greedo -- cockily tells The Mandalorian about his job. It involves hunting down Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), a very skilled assassin and one The Mandalorian is well-aware of but Toro is not. Because he knows he’ll get killed, he promises the full reward will go to The Mandalorian if they succeed, as he is just in it to get his spot in the guild. I can tell you pretty much immediately this guy is a sleemo, and maybe giving some competition to Jace Rucklin from “Star Wars Resistance” for my biggest douche in “Star Wars” award. I suppose that should be of credit to the actor’s portrayal though, and there’s is an even big reason which I will touch on later. He does crush his tracking fob making it so that The Mandalorian can’t just ditch him, which maybe makes him not a complete idiot but I would very much like to know how tracking fobs work still.
While The Mandalorian finds his work, The Child stumbles out of the ship to be discovered by Motto and her pit droids -- who at the moment are playing Lando’s favorite game Sabacc. Motto quickly takes The Child into her care because who wouldn’t. The Mandalorian returns with news on his job and sets off with Toro to track down Fennec. We get a really cool speed bike sequence through the dunes of Tatooine (with some excellent new music courtesy of Ludwig Göransson) and of course, they are stopped by a patrol of Tusken Raiders. Toro looks at some of them and their banthas through his binoculars, obviously reminiscent of Luke in “A New Hope,” during which I was waiting (and secretly hoping) for one of them to hit him from behind as well. Much like the sneaky bunch they seem to be, I like the way they do suddenly startle Toro but not in the way you’d expect. Rather than shoot their way out or even force project some horrific sound to scare them off, The Mandalorian actually simply talks to them through their sign language. He barters Toro’s binoculars for passage through their land and the two head back on their way. This whole sequence is probably a bit inconsequential to the actual plot but I loved it. Also, Göransson does make use of some familiar music with the Tusken Raiders, or at least the percussion and standoff-ish horn usage sound like it to me. I also think you can vaguely hear the sound of a Krayt Dragon in there which Obi-Wan replicates to scare some off in “A New Hope,” though that one I am not as confident on.
After some more travel, the two come across a dewback dragging a body. The Mandalorian investigates to discover its another bounty hunter and is shot from way across the dunes by Fennec camped on a ridge. The Mandalorian gives an astute observation that she has the high ground, which seems to confirm that anyone with it in “Star Wars” is a clear victor. Openly exposed if they go then, the two wait until the twin suns set to make their move. Using flashers as well to mess with Fennec’s scope, the two ride towards her which ends up with The Mandalorian being shot off his bike. As she lines up a shot to hit him seemingly in his Achilles heel through his helmet as he is down, Toro manages to get the jump on her. She quickly gets the better of Toro but this buys time for The Mandalorian to get up and take control of the situation.
I want to say I love Ming-Na Wen’s role in this, as she is great in “Agents of Shield” but probably most well-known for her role as the voice of Mulan in Disney’s “Mulan.” Regardless, it is awesome to see her quickly dispatch of Toro though I wish we could have gotten her versus The Mandalorian in a real challenge. With her captured but only one bike left, The Mandalorian must recover the dewback from earlier himself because Toro is afraid he’ll ditch him if he goes (even though The Mandalorian could just kill the guy at any point if he really wanted to). This allows Fennec to tell Toro about the bounty The Mandalorian has on himself with The Child, feeding him a plan to let her go to help him take the bounty hunter down. With the new information, Toro shoots Fennec fully confident he can do it himself. This is his next strike, as I was so excited for Ming-Na Wen’s role in this series. I very much like what we got from her though. The Mandalorian returns to discover this, making his way back to Mos Eisley to stop Toro.
The Mandalorian arrives back in the docking bay to find Toro holding Motto and The Child hostage. He has a plan though, flashing Toro with the same device used earlier and then shooting him. As he falls off the ramp I have to say the immediate thought going through my head was “please don’t land on The Child and where is The Child even at.” He isn’t in Toro’s hands when they investigate and the two go into panic mode. Motto discovers him behind some barrels which he very cutely reveals himself from behind. I really thought this was about to be another new Force power thing where he teleported or something but it seems the scene was simply to give the viewers anxiety. The Mandalorian takes the credits off Toro to pay Motto for her repairs of his ship, which was more costly due to his “no droids” rule. My suspected reasoning for this is he may have a deep distrust of them since his family was seemingly killed by them. With the Razor Crest repaired, The Mandalorian and The Child head back off into space for their next adventure. The episode ends with a mysterious figure looming over Fennec’s body back in the desert.
The director for this episode is once again Dave Filoni -- who is also the writer which makes this the first episode of the season not written by Jon Favreau. If I’m being honest I think this may be my least favorite of the season, which just kind of speaks to how good the previous ones were rather than how bad this one is. If there were any of the directors to return to as iconic of a location as Tatooine though, I am very happy it was Filoni. I think he struck a good balance of the moments that seemed like fan-service to not be overtly wink-wink-nudge-nudge ones. There are callouts to the Dune Sea, Beggar’s Canyon and Mos Espa, which I feel like would have only been overboard had there been also a line about Tosche Station and power converters. Those on their own feel natural to the locale. The one line I may give in on is The Mandalorian’s remark about Fennec in that “she’s no good to us dead,” which is a callback to Boba Fett’s iconic “he’s no good to me dead” line in “Empire.” There are instances of similar lines being repeated as homages though in “Star Wars,” so I didn’t find it to be too distracting.
The big question from this week’s episode is who the mysterious person is at the end. Fennec mentions she is meeting a contact in Mos Espa (the larger nearby spaceport featured in “The Phantom Menace” which Anakin is from) so it could very well be them. The sound of the boots, the cape and the fact it is Tatooine though probably leads many people to conclude it is Boba Fett. I had this same initial reaction but given Filoni’s involvement I could see it being Cad Bane -- the much cooler bounty hunter introduced in “The Clone Wars.” I really have no clue though and as someone who has avoided promotional stuff for fear of spoilers, I can’t really say if it is someone new to the series. I’m going to put my money fully on bounty hunter Kitster though, the fellow slave friend Anakin kind of just ditches once he’s free and never really goes back for as far as we know.
The Child is a bit underused this episode, which I appreciate after he was pretty heavily used in the last one and I don’t want them to run him dry (if that’s even possible). The moments we do get are adorable; like his enjoyment of the dogfight in the beginning and when he sadly strolls out of the Razor Crest with Motto going to his rescue. Also, screw Toro for pointing his gun directly at The Child’s head; that is his last strike and makes him a clear winner for my biggest douche in “Star Wars” award at the moment. I also adore that the entirety of the internet has rallied behind The Child and I think most of us look forward to the next episode each week just to see what new stuff we get of him.
While the fan-service in the episode is more than usual and the actual larger plot isn’t moved forward much, I still enjoyed it. It doesn’t beat “Chapter Three” for me, but the fleshing out of The Mandalorian’s character and a new look at a familiar place in the galaxy are two things I love about “Chapter Five.” Pedro Pascal continues to kill it as the (arguably) main lead of the show and a large part of that is how he translates what The Mandalorian is feeling through tone and body language. I also liked the new one-off side characters from Sedaris, Wen and yes, even Cannavale’s hotshot character. There are only three episodes in season one remaining, and you can catch the next one for yourself when it airs this Friday on Disney Plus.