The Mandalorian Has to Slay a Dragon in Chapter 9, “The Marshal”

Our Clan of Two is back! Just when our days are getting darker and infinitely more bleak (not looking forward to turning back the clocks), a gift has arrived. Let’s jump back in to find out how Mando and his adopted kid are doing.

Warning: spoilers ahead!

Summary

Din Djarin goes to see Gor Koresh (John Leguizamo), an underworld kingpin running a fighting ring on a backwater world. Koresh has a reputation for knowing Mandalorians, and Din needs to find one to get help finding Baby Yoda’s people. (Yes yes, Baby Yoda’s official merchandising name is The Child. I am aware. We’ve been over this, y’all. Lucasfilm can’t tell me what to do.) Rather than let Din pay for the information, Koresh opts to kill him and strip the beskar from his body. This leads to a firefight where Djarin kills all of Koresh’s men and hangs him from a lamppost outside. Koresh agrees to give him the info if Mando agrees not to kill him, to which he promises that Koresh won’t “die at [his] hand.” It turns out there’s a Mandalorian on Tatooine. Djarin is skeptical of this information, but he takes it, leaving Koresh to be eaten by wild animals—always check the wording on your verbal agreements, friends.

The Mandalorian, Chapter 9, The Marshal

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

They head back to Tatooine to Peli Motto’s bay in Mos Eisley. Din asks her for intel, explaining that the person he’s looking for is supposed to be in Mos Pelgo. The place is an old mining town, but it’s rumored to have been wiped out by bandits post-Empire. Motto gives him the basic location and use of her speeder again, and he sets out to find the town. Upon arriving, he finds that the place is populated, and that the person wearing the Mandalorian armor is the town marshal—a man by the name of Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant). He’s wearing Boba Fett’s old kit, something that he apparently bought off Jawas when he accidentally stole crystals off the criminal Mining Collective who invaded their town after the Empire’s fall. He used the armor to drive out the bandits and keep the town safe. Din Djarin insists on having the armor back and there’s almost a shootout… but then a krayt dragon mows through the town and eats some livestock. Cobb makes Din a deal: If he can help get rid of that dragon, he’ll hand the armor over without question.

In search of the creature, they end up coming into contact with the Tusken Raiders again. Cobb doesn’t much care for their people—they’ve raided his village before—but they also mean to kill the krayt dragon and could use some help. In return for the town leaving them the dragon’s body, they’re willing to aid them in bringing it down and vow never to attack Mos Pelgo again unless one of their people strikes first. Djarin and Cobb go back to the townspeople and convince them of the plan, and though the peace is precarious, they load up the Sand People’s banthas with mining explosives and set out. The krayt dragon lives in an old sarlacc pit (because it ate said sarlacc), and they need to lure it out over a slew of buried explosives to get at its softer underbelly. The plan doesn’t work as well as they’d hoped, so Din uses Cobb as a distraction while he encourages the krayt dragon to eat him and an explosive-laden bantha. He rockets out of its mouth using his jetpack, flips the detonator switch and blows the thing up from the inside. The day is won, Tusken Raiders begin cutting the dragon apart for resources, and Cobb returns the armor to Djarin with his thanks.

As the episode ends, we see Mando and Baby Yoda headed back toward the Razor Crest, and a figure is outlined against the twin sunset: Guess what, nerds? It’s Boba Fett.

Commentary

This episode is a full dramatic hour. Did they decide to give Jon Favreau a lot more money? Are all the episodes gonna be this long, because that would be superb. Also, happy as I am to see John Leguizamo in anything, this part does seem like a waste of his abilities. Then again, under all those prosthetics, he could easily come back in a different role, so I guess it’s fine. (Please bring him back, though.)

The Mandalorian, Chapter 9, The Marshal

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Gotta love that Din is being a little nicer to droids in the wake of IG-11’s death. That’s some delicious character development—and he’s being nicer to pit droids, who are known for being unreliable, mischievous little jerks. And Peli Motto is back! There have been plenty of casting announcements for this season, so it was known that the show was definitely returning to Tatooine, and I was dearly hoping to see her ringlets again.

Also, we need to talk about Baby Yoda in a saddlebag. We only need to talk about that, really. Let’s just talk about that.

The Mandalorian, Chapter 9, The Marshal

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Cobb Vanth was a character created by Chuck Wendig for his novel Star Wars: Aftermath, and in fact, he wrote the scene where Cobb found Fett’s armor among the Jawa’s wares and it was… not like the one we saw on screen. (Namely, when he gets the armor, he’s in the company of a fellow named Adwin Charu, rep of a crime syndicate know as the Red Key Raiders, who Vanth takes issue with.)

It’s mostly bemusing because this will continue to be an issue in the Star Wars universe—everything in the current canon of novels is supposed to line up, but specifics will always get tweaked in the service of shows and films. Pointedly, the area that he’s sheriff of in Wendig’s book is called “Freetown”, which doesn’t really play along with the Mos Blankity-Blank convention that Tatooine generally has (though we know there are other places like “Anchorhead” and so forth, so it’s not an impossible name, as it stands), though I suppose he could have moved since that book. This version of Cobb is also a far more affable, sparkly guy, which can only be expected once you cast Timothy freaking Olyphant in the part.

The Mandalorian, Chapter 9, The Marshal

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

We get more of the Tusken Raiders, of their language and culture, and when Cobb and Din are sitting around the fire with them, it’s hard not to feel like this is a deliberate callback to the last time we saw a Sand People camp—being the point in Attack of the Clones when Anakin Skywalker murdered so many of them for the death of his mother. This episode is working entirely off of Western tropes in the most unsubtle ways, with the Raiders serving as a stand-in for Native Americans and the denizens of Mos Pelgo as the folks in your Hollywoodified cliché of a Western town: the saloon, the threatened shootout, the locals standing on their porches and giving the newcomer glares aplenty. It’s different from last season’s Tatooine episode (“The Gunslinger”) because we’re spending more time amongst its people.

And while it’s great Din Djarin himself has such respect for the Tusken Raiders—again, where did he learn so much about them? This seems like a very important bit of information to leave off given how insular and isolated the Mandalorian people have been—it’s still an awkward parallel to levy because no new perspective has been granted here. Plenty of old Western films leave viewers with the concept of “you should respect the native population, this was their land long before it was yours” without offering up any sort of reparations, negotiations, or even apology for the slaughter visited on those people. They end on this idea of mutual respect and cooperation without acknowledging who spilled first blood and who colonized whom. The Mandalorian is doing exactly that here—the Sand People won’t bother you anymore if you help them, and you should be nice to them, too. Then it just kinda leaves the thought there.

The Mandalorian, Chapter 9, The Marshal

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

The thing is, they could have made this work better by giving more information on the people of Mos Pelgo, and how they wound up there. Cobb Vanth’s history is relevant to that because he was a slave before becoming this town’s marshal—and who knows how many of the people in this town were also slaves, or indentured to the Hutts, or similarly unwittingly dropped there. It makes a difference in the narrative if these people are not party to an invading force, but the script doesn’t give us time to find that out and make sense of Tatooine’s history. Which… isn’t that what series like this one are primed for?

What I do love about this episode is a thing that Star Wars has always excelled at: the genre mashup. We’ve already got space mixed with the Western tropes, and then they add the fantasy “let’s go slay the dragon” storyline on top of it. The tropes are equally obvious, but more enjoyable by far—as soon as they lay those explosives, you’re going “pfft, sure, but it’s not gonna work unless they blow it up from the inside,” and then they do, and Cobb is looking at Din like he might kiss him, which is only right. When Star Wars works, this is why it works: by taking everyone possible convention and archetype and narrative twisting them all together. It’s the rainbow bagel of pop culture.

The Mandalorian, Chapter 9, The Marshal

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

I was very good, and I waited until now to scream about BOBA FETT.

So, last season there was immediately a fan theory, when Ming-Na Wen’s Fennec Shand appeared murdered and a caped figure emerged next to her body, that this was Boba Fett. And now it’s possible that it could be, because he clearly wears a cape and lives on Tatooine currently, and I just have a lot of questions, like why and how and are you doing okay, sweetie? (Sorry, I have loved Boba Fett for a very long time, well before the current canon kinda made him a snooze of a character. I read lots of books. I have a helmet. I argued for his survival against a sarlaccian death. I miss that grump.) It’s really damn funny that they decided to take that fan theory and run hard.

The Mandalorian, Chapter 9, The Marshal

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Guess we’ll have to wait until next week to find out where that goes. Hopefully.

Things and asides:

  • I like how at the opening of the episode they were like “make spur sounds when Mando walks” and then the sound effect person was like “how much spur sound?” And they were like “…at least ten decibels more than whatever you think sounds reasonable.”
The Mandalorian, Chapter 9, The Marshal

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

  • Sorry, the Gamoreans (the green pig-looking fellas) fighting in Koresh’s ring are just… way too mobile. They’re in giant full-body suits in Return of the Jedi, just ambling around ineffectively. Seeing them all svelte and nimble was messing with my brain. Sort of similar to how seeing Wookiees on the animated Star Wars shows is so jarring because they can have a full range of facial expressions.
  • Womp rats! So many lil womp rats. Lookit them all.
  • Hey, Cobb Vanth, when did you decide to make a speeder out of one of Anakin Skywalker’s pod racer engines? Because that was definitely one of my primary shrieking moments of the episode. It’s apropos, though—everything gets reused on Tatooine.
The Mandalorian, Chapter 9, The Marshal

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

  • Vanth needs to tell Din how to keep hair so nice under that armor. How the hell do you take off a head-encasing helmet and look like that, my guy?
  • Not even gonna get into how they didn’t bury those explosives nearly deep enough for the krayt dragon to actually slide over them. Just gonna leave it alone…
  • Krayt dragons have been a part of Tatooine’s mythology for ages: In fact, Obi-Wan Kenobi was supposed to be mimicking a krayt dragon’s cry to warn the Tuskens off of Luke in A New Hope. (Though the sounds kept being altered in various special editions and new releases, leading to… very odd trills and whoops in later versions.) But we’ve never seen a live one on screen, just their bones. Given all the Dune parallels that Star Wars has played on since its creation, we can’t really be surprised that they decided krayt dragon = sandworm.
  • BABY YODA IN A SPITTOON, GOOD MORNING TO THIS AND ONLY THIS.
The Mandalorian, Chapter 9, The Marshal

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Here’s hoping that there are more Tatooinian adventures on the way for Chapter 10…

Emmet Asher-Perrin has managed not to get a Baby Yoda toy yet, but if toy companies started making them like the above, they would probably buy 20 of them and place them strategically around people’s homes. You can bug them on Twitter, and read more of their work here and elsewhere.

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