I know it seems odd to have this “Return of the Mandalorian” be in the middle of a season of The Book of Boba Fett, but we were told that these are interconnected stories. And this series is playing out more like a novel, with a shift in point of view. And this chapter is all about Mando.
A Backdoor to The Mandalorian Season Three
Let us be clear on this episode’s purpose: To build buzz and momentum for The Mandalorian season three. And it worked like a charm.
It’s like we never left. We meet Mando again as he is pursuing a bounty, which he ends up bringing him in “cold” (and bodiless). Afterward, he visits The Armorer, who we have not seen since season one, Chapter Eight of The Mandalorian. And their clan has been reduced to two, her and Paz Vizsla (once again voiced by Jon Favreau). This scene exists purely for exposition on the Darksaber, which is handled well and does not feel shoe-horned in. The Armorer is a Mandalorian historian (though not a completely reliable one), and Paz Vizsla is related to the original wielder, the Jedi Tarre Vizsla. Together, they provide Mando (and the viewers) with the backstory not just on the Darksaber and Mandalore, but Bo Katan Kryze. Specifically, we get a flashback of the complete destruction of Mandalore by the Empire, called The Night of a Thousand Tears.
Most of this information is not new to canon junkies or people who have watched The Clone Wars and Rebels, but it will be new for fans who might only watch this episode. And this confirms that Bo Katan will be a big part of season three of The Mandalorian. And now, possibly Clan Vizsla as Paz Vizsla challenges Mando for the Darksaber. He has a better case for ownership than Bo Katan as his ancestor made the thing, but he is defeated by Mando. Neither of them can wield the sword effectively (it took Sabine Wren training with Jedi Kanan Jarrus to manage), but The Armorer does her best to establish the basics.
Again, these are all seeds planted for season three, but a curious decision by Favreau and Filoni to dedicate an entire episode (possibly two) to Mando. While The Book of Boba Fett has struggled to gain the sort of pop culture chatter, The Mandalorian once again proves why it is one of Disney’s most valuable brands. The #TheBookofBobaFett trended on Twitter most of the day (including Bryce Dallas Howard and Mando). I rarely discuss social media chatter in these reviews, but it has been noticeably absent from The Book of Boba Fett save for Black Krrsantan, Danny Trejo, and some criticism of specific elements like the Mod Squad. And, while I have been enjoying the show so far as a character study, I understand that this new Star Wars streaming universe centers around The Mandalorian.
Fighting Against The Blade
Heavy the head that wears the crown. Amid exposition, The Armorer spouts these words of wisdom when wielding the Darksaber:
“You are fighting against the blade. You should be fighting against your opponent…you are too weak to fight the Darksaber. It will win if you fight against it.”
We will be seeing Sabine in live-action in Ahsoka so this exposition could be given if she crosses paths with Mando but she had to learn a similar lesson about wielding the blade. It gets lighter as you learn to use it and Mando is still learning. In the Rebels episode, “Trials of the Darksaber,” Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus tells Sabine that “you are not fighting with a simple blade as much as you are directing a current of power. “
Even though this was a Mando-focused episode, there was still some connection back to Boba Fett. Boba has been feeling the weight of the crown and has been driven towards fighting the wrong people like the Hutts, the Mod Squad, and most likely the Biker Gang. Part of that has been made intentionally unclear by people like Mayor Mok Shaiz. However, Boba has quickly learned who he can work with, who he can call a truce with, and who are his true enemies. And he has learned how to turn former enemies into allies. Boba has gone on a journey of self-discovery, and now he knows who he is and what he is not.
And that is a journey that Mando still has to take. In a way, the Mandalorian bounty hunting torch is being passed from one generation to the next.
What a Difference Scale Makes
I have stated before that I like Tatooine and have appreciated the complexity of cultures presented within The Book of Boba Fett, including the Tusken tribe and an establishment of street culture. But it sure felt nice to get back into space again. There are shots in this episode directed by The Mandalorian alum, Bryce Dallas Howard, that are stunning. The most noticeable is the halo space station where Mando brings his bounty back and meets up with The Armorer. It is the type of unique design that reminds me of Ordo Eris (the Haxion Brood headquarters) from Jedi: Fallen Order. And the scene where we first see the structure with a distant sun hitting it, felt like it belonged on a big screen (very 2001: A Space Odyssey). This is followed by a long tracking shot of Mando riding an elevator, walking through a club to meet his client as the camera tracks around the room and back to the elevator.
It felt like a different show. And, in many ways, it was. The budget was well spent on the CGI and production (not sure if all of it was filmed on the Volume) and we have a returning director from The Mandalorian. We do not even hear Boba Fett’s name in this episode until the last 30 seconds. Again, this was a creative decision by Favreau and Filoni to choose to insert this storyline and character here. Perhaps this is indicative of the budget Lucasfilm is willing to spend on The Mandalorian versus other series. Obi-Wan Kenobi will likely spend most of the time on Tatooine as well (at this point there are so many assets for the Volume), but Andor will have a wider scope (filming in different locations). It will be interesting to see these different approaches to production moving forward as Disney starts to build out Star Wars live-action on streaming.
But perhaps it is time for Bryce Dallas Howard to direct a Star Wars film.
Connecting the Star Wars Timeline
After the death of the Razor Crest in Boba’s episode of The Mandalorian, “The Tragedy,” Mando is flying commercial and is in desperate need of a ship. He pays a visit to Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris who shines especially bright in this episode) to get a new ship of Razor Crest size. She gives him the opposite: a Naboo N1 Straighter. And just like that, we are in Prequel territory. The creativity of choosing a Star Fighter as Mando’s next ship…what a swing!
After a custom build and a paint job, Mando has a faster, smoother but smaller ship that can jump to hyperspace without a docking ring. He tests this out in a perfectly executed scene with Carson Teva (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee should take over on Rangers of the New Republic) and another X-Wing pilot circling Tatooine. Mando even takes the ship for a spin in Beggar’s Canyon where young Anakin’s podrace took place in The Phantom Menace.
For all previous talk of The Mandalorian/The Book of Boba Fett connecting the Original Trilogy to the Sequel Trilogy, it is surprisingly gratifying to see traces of the Prequel Trilogy.
Speaking of merging timelines, there is a BD droid in Motto’s shop. Probably not BD-1 from Jedi: Fallen Order, but it is the first live-action appearance of the BD scout droid. The previous episode had the first live-action appearance of the LEP droid, and this translation is also a winner. And the subtle physical comedy that this BD droid provides is priceless. Watch it during a wide shot of Peli and Mando discussing acquiring parts as it hears a rodent running around.
How Mando will play into the next episode is still a mystery. It is hinted that it could be another Mando-focused episode (which would deeply pull focus from Boba Fett’s arc). Or he will see Grogu off-screen as we return to Boba’s storyline, which would also irk The Mandalorian fans (though it should not because this is not his show).
Mando’s appearance has gotten the attention this show needed, now it should be up to Boba Fett to bring it to the finish line.