After discovering there's nowhere Baby Yoda is safe from bounty hunters trying to cash in on the Imperial Remnant's contract in episode 4 of The Mandalorian last week, Mando was forced to go back on the run. That's where we rejoin him in the fifth episode of the live action Star Wars show, which hit Disney Plus on Friday.
Chapter 4 is entitled The Gunslinger, which should delight Stephen King fans. It was directed by Dave Filoni, who previously helmed the premiere and created The Clone Wars, Rebels and Resistance. His prior Star Wars experience really shines in this nostalgic treat of an episode.
We rejoin Mando (Pedro Pascal) and Baby Yoda in the middle of a space dogfight, with bounty hunter Riot Mar (Rio Hackford) hot on the Razor Crest's tail. Things are looking pretty bad for our pals, as the ship takes more and more damage.
"I can bring ya in warm, or I can bring you in cold," Mar says, echoing Mando's first words from the premiere.
It's clearly too much for our hero, who puts further strain on his ship's damaged engines to force the bounty hunter's ship in front of his.
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"That's my line," says Mando, before blasting Mar's ship into space dust. Seems like an appropriate reaction to this unauthorized imitation.
Unfortunately, the Razor Crest is losing fuel after the fight, so Mando must land for repairs on the nearest planet -- turns out it's sunny Tatooine, former home of Anakin and Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jabba the Hutt, as well as the place where Boba Fett and Maul met their fates. Sometimes the Star Wars galaxy feels very small indeed, but we've never seen Tatooine at this point in the timeline (five years after Return of the Jedi).
A wretched hive of scum, villainy… and maybe murdered Stormtroopers
Mando lands in Mos Eisley spaceport and puts an adorably sleeping Baby Yoda in a bunk before stepping out of the ship. He immediately fires a warning shot at the pit droids -- you might remember these guys fixing up podracers in The Phantom Menace -- as they rush up to start repairs.
He's clearly got a whole mess of trauma related to droids, but mechanic Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) isn't impressed. She assesses the ship, concluding that it'll be expensive to repair -- the 500 credits Mando offers won't be enough. Time to get some work.
Oh, and Baby Yoda wanders off the Razor Crest shortly after Mando leaves. It's amazing that he didn't see this coming after the little guy cheekily followed him out of the ship in the last episode, but it's such an adorable move that I can forgive his forgetfulness.
"Now here's the plan: I am going to look after you until the Mandalorian gets back, and then I'm going to charge him extra for watchin' you," Peli says, with a cynical glee. "You see how that works? Yeah, bright eyes? We're a team."
Clearly she's as in love with the young 'un as the rest of us.
Mando hits the sandy streets, wandering by a bunch of Stormtrooper helmets on spikes -- a striking image previously seen in the first trailer for the show -- before arriving at one of Star Wars' most beloved locations: Mos Eisley Cantina (known in-universe as Chalmun's Cantina). Cue nostalgia overload, and many a "Maclunkey."
Finding a friend, maybe
He asks the droid bartender (an EV unit like the one seen in Jabba's Palace in Return of the Jedi) for work, but it seems like the pickings are nonexistent. Luckily, a young lad sitting in the same booth where Han met Greedo in A New Hope might have something.
Toro Calican (Jake Cannavale, son of actor Bobby Cannavale) convinces Mando to sit down and check out his mark -- assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen)
"Heard she's been on the run ever since the New Republic put all her employers in lockdown," says Calican. We learn she killed for the Hutts and other crime syndicates, but is now gone beyond Tatooine's Dune Sea. (More nostalgia!)
Mando suggests Calican is way out of his league with Shand and walks away, prompting the younger man to basically beg for his help. Calican agrees to let Mando keep all the money; he just needs the street cred to get him into the Bounty Hunters' Guild. Clearly he doesn't know that guild is none too happy with our hero.
Calican also destroys the tracking fob and says he's got Shand's coordinates memorized, so Mando needs him to get the job done -- one of our first signs that this lad is actually a dirtbag.
Back at the ship, Mando has a little freakout when he realizes Baby Yoda is no longer there. He calms down when he finds the little tyke with Peli, who rightly chastises Mando for leaving the kid all alone.
"Y'know, you have an awful lot to learn about raising a young one," she says.
They step outside the hangar to find Calican with a pair of swoop bikes (like the one Anakin rode in Attack of the Clones). The young man greets Peli and gives a giggling Baby Yoda an odd look -- he's clearly a jerk, since his heart didn't melt and he didn't demand a mountain of merch.
The music that plays as Mando and Calican ride is super cool; Ludwig Göransson's score for this show is glorious. They run into a pair of Tusken Raiders, who freak the rookie bounty hunter out with their cry. Mando communicates them using sign language, and negotiates safe passage in exchange for Calican's brand-spankin' new binoculars.
They stop again when they come upon a Dewback dragging its rider's corpse behind it. Mando investigates, only to discover the rider was a bounty hunter… and his tracking fob is still beeping wildly, indicating that Shand is close. She opens fire from a nearby ridge, hitting him twice in the beskar armor with her rifle. The armor holds up due to the range, but Mando decides they'll wait for night to fall before attacking.
"She's got the high ground, she'll wait for us to make the first move," he says. Anakin clearly skipped that tactical lesson.
Mando gives Calican the first watch, while he chills out until Tatooine's twin suns set. When that time arrives, the younger man thinks Mando's asleep and cockily points his blaster at his helmeted ally (hint of arrogance there). However, it's pretty clear that Mando doesn't sleep… he waits.
Taking on the sniper
Our hero reveals his super dangerous plan for getting close to Shand -- they'll ride their swoop bikes as fast as possible, alternating flash charge shots to blind her scope.
"Combine that with our speed and we've got a chance," he says to skeptical Calican.
We get a very cool sequence as the pair ride, but Calican fluffs a shot and Shand's blaster fire knocks Mando off his bike. She gets ready to finish him off, but the younger man manages to sneak up on her. The pair get into an awesome fistfight until Shand gets him into a lock and starts choking the life out of him.
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"Nice distraction," says Mando, who apparently recovered and got to them very quickly indeed.
With Shand in cuffs, she asks Mando if he's "ever been to Navarro" -- revealing the name of the world from episodes 1 and 3, while hinting that she suspects he's on the run too. Since they only have two bikes, Mando decides to go and get the Dewback so they can bring Shand back to town.
"Watch her. And don't let her get near the bike -- she's no good to us dead," he says, channeling a little bit of Boba Fett.
Predictably enough, Shand soon gets tricksy and tries to worm her way into Calican's head. In a wonderfully tense exchange, she suggests he bring her to her rendezvous in Mos Espa -- the town where Anakin lived as a slave in The Phantom Menace -- offering to pay double the price on her head.
When he doesn't bite, she reveals her suspicions about Mando being the one who "shot up the Guild on Navarro" and suggests that bringing in the traitor will make him a legend. She notes hearing that Mando had a child with him, and Calican immediately joins the dots.
"Look, if you're afraid to take him on, fear not. I can help you with that," says Shand, pushing hard now.
Calican walks up to her and she offers her hands so he can remove the binders… and he shoots her in the chest, leaving Shand to die in the desert.
Baby Yoda in danger, again
Mando returns on the Dewback, finding Shand's body before returning to Mos Eisley. He knows there's trouble and draws his blaster as he steps into the docking bay.
"Took you long enough Mando," says Calican, who's standing on the Razor Crest's landing ramp with a blaster to Peli's back and Baby Yoda in his other arm. "Looks like I'm calling the shots now, huh partner?"
He orders Mando to drop his blaster and sends Peli to cuff him, but Mando fires one of his flash charges and blinds Calican. As the younger man fires wildly, Mando moves quickly and shoots him dead. Baby Yoda is apparently made of rubber, since the little guy strolls out from behind some cargo, unharmed after falling from Calican's arm.
Mando takes a bag of credits from his dead "partner" and gives the whole lot to Peli, who orders her pit droids to dump Calican's body to Beggar's Canyon, where the womp rats will no doubt make short work of it. With the Razor Crest repaired, Mando and Baby Yoda take off, once again heading off parts unknown.
Back in the desert, a mysterious figure in a black cape crouches beside Shand's body -- presumably the person she was meant to meet in Mos Espa.
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Closing thoughts and Easter eggs
- Baby Yoda only plays a tiny part in this episode, but it's still an engaging, fun adventure.
- Amy Sedaris is excellent in this episode. She doesn't have a major role, but oozes charisma in her introduction and (slightly financially motivated) warmth in her interactions with Baby Yoda.
- Seeing Mando interact with the Tuskens is awesome -- we associate these Tatooine natives with immediate violence, but he manages to work with them.
- Mos Eisley Cantina has changed since the days of A New Hope . When a bright-eyed Luke Skywalker stepped in there with C-3PO and R2-D2, the droids got booted out because their kind wasn't served there. Now it's got a droid bartender, and Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes iconic tune no longer echoes through the bar.
- Beggar's Canyon is where Luke used to bullseye womp rats in his T-16, and it appeared during the podrace in The Phantom Menace.
- It's likely the mysterious person in the black cape is someone from the Imperial Remnant, since we hear a sound that could be a probe droid. It may be the unseen Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito).
Check back next Friday for a recap of episode 6.
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Originally published Dec. 6.