Warning: Spoilers ahead for "The Book of Boba Fett" Episode 5
There are so many things to take away from episode 5 of "The Book of Boba Fett," the new spinoff series of "The Mandalorian," it's hard to know where to start.
First and foremost: Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) isn't actually in the episode at all, which suggests that this character's role is to further the story of the Mandalorian, rather than form a standalone tale of its own.
The episode's opening scene sets the standard straight away and it just gets better. It's hard to believe so much happens in the span of just 50 minutes. However, as we've discussed in the past, having different directors can create an unbalanced feel to a show and "The Book of Boba Fett" falls into that category. But if every episode was as good as this, we would indeed be spoiled.
This episode's director Bryce Dallas Howard has really outdone herself and successfully proven that's she is capable of delivering powerful performances both as an actress (the "Black Mirror" episode "Nosedive") and as a director.
Her "Star Wars" debut at the helm was "The Mandalorian" episode "Chapter 4: Sanctuary," which was one of the weakest of the show so far. However, Howard really turned things around with the Season 2 installment "Chapter 11: The Heiress," which, by contrast, is one of the strongest of the show so far.
But episode 5 of "The Book of Boba Fett," appropriately titled "Chapter 5: Return of the Mandalorian," is by far Howard's best work yet (and it gives us great hope for her handling of the "Flight of the Navigator" remake.)
One of the highlights of "The Mandalorian" second season installment "Chapter 11: The Heiress" was the beautiful world-building that created the estuary moon of Trask and the large shanty town-style fishing port. In this episode, we are treated to another incredible new world, also new to the "Star Wars" universe, a very cool ringworld called Glavis.
Seemingly based on the ringworld concept from the novel of the same name created by acclaimed sci-fi author Larry Niven in 1970, the giant, open-loop structure is a city home to a variety of species.
The opening shot, introducing us to this incredible structure, is masterful. We're first given a glimpse of part of Glavis that's in sunlight and from what we can see, it looks idyllic.
There are buildings and large green rectangles that we assume are giant parks or possibly fields of crops. But this extraterrestrial Eden is no place for an exciting adventure with the Mudhorn clan mercenary and within just a few seconds of glorious, gentle panning over and across the ringworld structure, we are taken to a section where it's nighttime and we dive down, deep into the bustling streets of a gritty, neon-lit, tech-noir city sprawl.
Here, in this retrotech, cyberpunk setting is where the Mandalorian must go.
Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) has just collected the head of Kaba Baiz in a spectacular fight set in a meatpacking facility in some seldom-visited, rough quarter of Glavis. Not only have we seen that he's clearly gone back to work after the events at the end of Season 2 of "The Mandalorian," but he's also shown us that he still wields the Darksaber (albeit not very well.)
The set design feels fresh and demonstrates what can be accomplished when the show leaves Tatooine. The lighting is perfect and both quickly and effectively establishes the mood of the scene and draws the viewer in. We spoke of total immersion — and the failure of being able to achieve it — with last week's episode, but this installment nails it.
Upon delivering the decapitated evidence, Djarin makes his way to the underbelly of this spectacular interstellar structure, down Kolzoc Alley, by the heat vent towers, to find the last of his kind, still in hiding. Only the Armorer (Emily Swallow) and Paz Vizsla (played by Tait Fletcher and voiced by Jon Favreau) survive after the Nevarro Massacre that we learned of in "Chapter 8: Redemption."
Djarin presents the Darksaber to the Armorer who shares a little of its complex history and significance to both the Jedi and the Mandalorian creed. It's an ancient, black-bladed lightsaber that was once held by the Jedi Order. During a period of collapse in the Galactic Republic's power, the Darksaber was stolen by members of the Mandalorian warrior clans. In old "Star Wars" canon — now renamed as "Legends" — it is meant to be passed on after defeating the previous owner and not simply gifted.
However, in the animated series "Rebels" Sabine Wren gave the Darksaber to Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), who by virtue of holding the weapon became the new ruler of the Mandalorians.
But Bo-Katan obviously didn't accept it from Djarin in the Season 2 finale of "The Mandalorian." It's all terribly confusing. Clearly, the destiny of the Darksaber is going to be a pivotal plot point in the upcoming third season of "The Mandalorian."
He also gives the Beskar spear that he took after defeating the Magistrate Morgan Elsbeth on Corvus (played by Diana Lee Inosanto) in "Chapter 13: The Jedi" to the Armorer so she can forge something useful from the precious metal rather than have a weapon exist that could be potentially used against the Mandalorians.
Under his direction, she makes a little chainmail outfit for Grogu; a sort of "Star Wars" equivalent of Bilbo's Mithril shirt from "The Lord of The Rings." So clearly we're going to see that little green rascal again in Season 3.
Paz Vizsla takes this opportunity to attempt to claim the Darksaber for himself in combat and despite still not having perfected how to use it, Djarin is still able to defeat him. However, when the Armorer attempts to resolve the issue of rightful ownership, the fact that Djarin has in fact removed his helmet comes to light and he is banished from Glavis. Yes, the Mandalorian creed has just gone from increasing its size by 66% to cutting its workforce by a third. Not sure if those are quite the best tactics.
He is able to retain the Darksaber and it's safe to say that he's going to learn how to use it over the course of the next season of "The Mandalorian" — the real question is who is going to teach him? Will it be Luke Skywalker when Djarin goes to visit Grogu? Or possibly Ahsoka Tano, the Togruta Jedi Knight from "The Clone Wars" and perfectly cast with Rosario Dawson in the role. Is her forthcoming standalone series also going to serve as a vehicle to further support the Mandalorian's story?
Djarin jumps on a transport ship and heads for Tatooine, naturally. But before we make a song and dance about that, it's soon revealed why he headed for the planet furthest from the bright center to the universe. Turns out he received a message from Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) who said she had a replacement for the Razor Crest. After a somewhat "Jurassic Park"-style velociraptor-accident entrance — no doubt courtesy of Howard — she shows him the "replacement" and it isn't an ST-70 assault ship.
The whole third act is full of surprises no one could've seen coming. In fact, that applies to this entire episode. Motto presents him with a Naboo N-1 starfighter.
They reconstruct the starfighter that's in pieces and turn it into a good-as-new craft. It's mostly chrome and metal, but just some of the original yellow has been kept on the wings and fuselage, just like the Razor Crest had some patchy yellow/orange details on its fuselage.
There's a cute little BD droid from the console game "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order" and the inanimate pole that was used to keep the Death Star trash compactor from killing Leia, Luke, Han and Chewie now has a back story. Apparently, it's a cryogenic density combustion booster and this particular one was liberated from a Pyke spice runner by a group of resourceful Jawas. One of these also made a cameo appearance in "Chapter 3: The Sin."
The episode has (probably as hoped/expected) caused a serious spike in merchandise interest. In the time since this episode aired, it's been reported that "eBay auctions for Hasbro’s classic Naboo Starfighter toy—or a similar one released by the company in 2011—have exploded in value" and anyone who forked out for a Hasbro Pulse Razor Crest has really got to be hoping that Djarin finds another ST-70 assault ship.
This handbuilt, N-1 custom job is utterly gorgeous and the VFX shots of it flying around the Mos Eisley airspace and through Beggar's Canyon (another nod to "The Phantom Menace") before going ballistic and rocketing into low Tatooine orbit is equally as gorgeous. The astromech droid slot has also been rebuilt to hold passengers, so it won’t be long before Grogu is bouncing around in there, having all sorts of fun.
Upon returning to bay 35, or thereabouts, Motto informs Djarin that there is someone to see him. And who could that possibly be?! As you may have expected, it's Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen).
She explains that Boba Fett needs his help and he will pay handsomely for it. Djarin insists there will be no fee and so, both the concluding half of "The Book of Boba Fett" and this prologue to the third season of "The Mandalorian" are nicely set up and a war with the Pyke Crime Syndicate awaits us next week.
Seasons 1 and 2 of "The Mandalorian" are available to stream on Disney+ in the US and so are the first three episodes of "The Book of Boba Fett" along with every episode and every movie in the "Star Wars" universe. Disney+ will launch in 42 countries and 11 territories this summer, including South Africa, Turkey, Poland and the United Arab Emirates.