The Mandalorian had to make a stop somewhere familiar for us, right? This time, we get a chance to enjoy the sights and suns of Luke Skywalker’s home planet. At least the poor guy didn’t wind up in Docking Bay 94…
The Mandalorian gets tracked by a hunter who damages his ship badly. He manages to blow the guy up, but is forced to make an emergency landing on Tatooine, in Mos Eisley spaceport. There, he meets Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), who runs Hangar 35 with a crew of pit droids. The Mandalorian won’t allow the droids to work on his ship, but he promises that he’ll be able to pay Motto for her work. He leaves Baby Yoda aboard, but the kid wakes up and exits the ship, leading Motto to care for the kid with the assumption that the Mandalorian will pay her more. The Mandalorian heads to Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina and asks the bartender if there’s any work he can pick up. He’s informed that the Bounty Hunter’s Guild no longer operates on Tatooine, but there’s a kid at the bar named Toro Calican (Jake Cannavale) who has the lead on a job; he’s willing to give the Mandalorian all the money as long as he can take the credit, as the bounty will get him into the Guild.
They head out across the Dune Sea on speeder bikes and encounter Tusken Raiders. The Mandalorian uses a form of sign language to communicate with them, asking for safe passage across their lands in exchange for Toro’s binocs. They encounter a dewback dragging a hunter who tried to nab this bounty—her name is Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), a mercenary who has worked for a lot of very bad people across the galaxy. The Mandalorian and Toro manage to get the drop on her by using flash charges to blind her. They lose one of the speeder bikes, so the dewback mount is needed. Toro insists that the Mandalorian retrieves it, refusing to trust him. While he’s gone, Fennec talks to Toro, and tells him all about the Mandalorian’s little escapade, specifically how he and his bounty are wanted by the Guild. She offers to help him out, and he repays her by murdering her, heading back on the speeder bike.
The Mandalorian returns on the dewback and finds Fennec’s dead body. Guessing what’s gone wrong, he heads back to the hangar and finds Toro holding baby Yoda and Motto hostage. He tells Motto to cuff the Mandalorian, and she realizes that he’s holding a flash charge in his hand. He uses it to briefly blind Toro, then shoots him dead. Baby Yoda makes it out unscathed. The Mandalorian takes credits off of Toro’s body and uses them to pay Motto a hefty sum before leaving Tatooine.
I nearly spit out my coffee when the Mandalorian said the words “That’s my line,” after the other hunter said he could “bring them in warm or cold” at the start of the episode. My sweet beskar-encased meeiloorun danish, that is not a cool thing to say or mutter to yourself. You are such a beautiful loser. You wanna be cool, but you only achieve it when you’re not thinking so hard.
Look, you can call an episode “The Gunslinger”, but when it doesn’t have much actual gunslinging in it, that choice feels a tad performative. While this episode has it gems—they all have them—this particular chapter feels a little undercooked in terms of intrigue. I’m guessing that’s because it’s just a stepping stone to the next big thing. Which is a little unfortunate because why would you put Ming-Na Wen in anything only to drop her so quickly, and with so little preamble. I suppose there’s always a slight chance she could come back, but it’s not likely from that wound. Fennec Shand seemed like too good of a character to waste.
We are left with a mystery figure coming across her body. My guess is that it’s Giancarlo Esposito’s character? He’s playing an important figure named Moff Gideon, but we haven’t met him yet, so it’s probably either him or someone connected to him. We’re in the second half of the season, so we’re going to need to come up on the big players pretty soon for the finale.
Okay, what was the deal with that sign language section? Is it particular to the Sand People, or is there a galactic five-fingered-hands basic sign language that people know all over the place? If not, why would our guy know their specific form of sign language? Also, is this how the Sand People communicate with each other, or just with outsiders? Whatever the answers, this whole section was excellent. It was also great to see the Mandalorian recognizing the sovereignty of indigenous peoples—he knows that the Tusken Raiders are either native to Tatooine or settled there ages before anyone else, and respects their rights to their land. We can’t say the same about the majority of moisture farmers on the planet, or the Hutts, or the rest of the local population.
Continuing its penchant for exceptional guest stars, Amy Sedaris’s Peli Motto was another standout in this episode, from her no-nonsense demeanor to her incredible eighties hair. (There’s something especially tickling about Star Wars, which is a franchise built on homage and references and pastiche, choosing to homage the era that it came from by planting design choices like that. I keep thinking of little Cindel Towani, with her curls and legwarmers.) The fact that the Mandalorian keeps running into folx who are just as kind (and gruff) and he is really does make this show something special.
Our lovely Mando is clearly feeling fatherhood wear on him more and more with all the trouble they keep running into. (But also don’t leave your baby in a locked compartment on your ship, especially not when it has the Force.) Poor sleep-starved space dad, taking a nap wherever he can get it. I’m actually very curious about when Mando woke up while Toro was mouthing off at his ostensibly sleeping form. He could have been awake well before, but it’s also possible that the HUD is programmed to wake him when someone gets close, or a blaster is pulled in range. The latter option is my preference because the idea of him waking up without moving a muscle for the purpose of freaking Toro out is priceless. That’s my kind of petty.
You know that Calican is going to be a problem from the outset, but it’s easy to underestimate just how much of a pain he could turn into. There’s something fun about watching a cocky jerk like Toro get what’s coming to him, but I do wish we knew a little more about him. He’s extremely young and all alone, and has a little bit of the typical Star Wars rogue setup about him. Sort of like an inverse Han—someone who actually means it when he says he’s out for himself. But the character overall does feel like a means to an end, which dampens his effectiveness a little.
We’ve now seen the Mandalorian’s distaste for droids come up twice, as he explicitly states he won’t let them near his ship or his cargo or his bounties. It’s a particular form of prejudice that the Star Wars universe loves to trot out because it seems more harmless than other forms of xenophobia—because droids often come off as funny and less than sentient. The problem is that we as an audience know that’s not true, so that particular prejudice never sits well with me. Hopefully that’s something our Mando will wise up on over time. Don’t shoot at pit droids, they don’t deserve your ire for doing their damned jobs. Plus they’re Motto’s only buddies.
Things and asides:
- We finally find out that the planet this whole circus started out on is called Navarro. It’s not a planet that’s ever been named before in the Star Wars universe to my knowledge, but it’s likely on the Outer Rim considering the other planets we’ve been seeing on the show.
- There are a lot of little easter eggs and name drops in the episode, including the Dune Sea, Beggar’s Canyon, and the pit droids who were first shown in Episode I as pit crews for podracers. It’s also the second time we’ve heard someone call another character a womp rat. (The first time was the previous episode, when the Mandalorian called Baby Yoda that due to his button-pushing.)
- The speeder bikes used by Toro and the Mandalorian are a very stripped down swoop model that we see all over the Star Wars galaxy. They’re lacking all the fun bells and whistles as they were clearly pretty darn cheap.
- The Mos Eisley cantina—Chalmun’s to the locals—used to have a strict “no-droid” policy, but now droids are the bartenders. Maybe the cantina has changed hands? New owner, new rules? The models of the bartenders are the same as EV-9D9, the droid who assigned droids to work at Jabba’s palace (and also tortured them). Her Legends canon story was… deeply disturbing.
- The stormtrooper helmets on spikes are a nice bit of visual set dressing in Mos Eisley that speaks to the ending of Return of the Jedi as shown in the Special Edition that came out in 1997 and continued into the later edits. In them, we see the populations around the galaxy happily revolting against Imperial forces once word of Palpatine’s demise has spread. In a few of those sequences, we see stormtroopers being lifted into the air by crowds. It seems joyful, but it likely leads to the sight we see here.
It’s safe to bet that next week is going to bring some heavy plot movement, so take a deep breath and gear up for Chapter 6…
Emmet Asher-Perrin has a lot of feelings about how much Tatooine has clearly changed in the absence of the Empire and Jabba the Hutt. You can bug him on Twitter, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.