What They Say:
The Mandalorian helps a rookie bounty hunter who is in over his head.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the show playing with bits of fanservice and easter eggs over the course of its run so far, they’ve been items that have made people smile or just add that little frustration of it being included. This episode brings us to the bluntest of places with a return to Tatooine. For a planet on the edge of nowhere as Luke once told us, it’s certainly a crossroads. But for a boy from the farm who never got to go anywhere and have fun, he’s likely not the most reliable source on how this world is viewed by others. During his time the planet was useful as it had a Hutt on it that controlled a lot of power in this part of the outer rim and that drew a lot of influence. But now we’re something like seven years past when Luke was last there and the Rebellion did a number on that part of Mos Eisley.
The Mandalorian wasn’t exactly looking to go to Tatooine but he ended up there after coming across another bounty hunter in space that took his ship down some with a few well-placed shots. After dispatching with that, he’s now got his ship settled into a bay, dealt with the woman who runs it to ensure repairs will happen, and has set the little guy inside for some downtime while he gets more of what he needs to operate here. It’s a simple series of movements but there’s a lot of delights. First, the ship in space that went up against him was an core system ship right out of the Republic era that even looked in good ship. We also get the little droid repair bots from The Phantom Menace here, which The Mandalorian clearly does not like and won’t let work on his ship. And the woman running the bay, Peli Motto, is played by Amy Sedaris and she’s totally gone 70s mode here and gets to cuddle the Child. It’s like so many small but fantastic moments.
Returning to the place where all of this started is definitely interesting. While A New Hope truly began here, over the planet at least, Luke’s story is what guided things. And the prequel ensured that Annakin’s story was that of Tatooine as well. So there is a lot of familiarity in locations and setup that we see, including actually returning to the cantina. I thought the show might play with a different port city, like the Mos Espa that we’ve heard tell of before, but no, we get right back to the same seat where Han Solo sat before. And yeah, it’s dorky, but I love the subversive aspect of it as a droid is managing the place now and there are several in there. Things have stayed the same in many ways but in others it’s changed significantly. It may make for a laugh or two but it shows the changes instead of just telling us.
The cantina is also where we meet Toro Calican, an aspiring bounty hunter that’s looking to make his first capture so that he can formally be inducted into the Guild. Played by Jake Cannavale (son of Bobby Cannavale and looking so perfectly 70s here that it hurts), he sees opportunity in working with the Mandalorian. He’s not in this for the money at the moment but rather just the access to get in the Guild. And with our lead needing money to repair the ship, a short-term partnership to go after the assassin Fennec Shand (played by Ming-Na Wen) is ideal. Mando isn’t exactly tutoring him here but there are some fun elements of that coming into play as they get a pair of speeder bikes and head into the Dune Sea toward where she was last seen.
Now, there’s a scene at this point that could have gone horribly wrong but was fantastic. As they progress they end up coming across a couple of Tusken Raider ahead with some Bantha. The Mandalorian has certainly gotten around over the years so he knows exactly what the deal is and that they have to request access to where they’re going. While Toro is just kind of indignant about it, the abrupt arrival of more Tusken leaves Mando in charge. It’s a fantastic bit where it’s done through sign language bartering and understanding to get what you want out of it. It also builds on some expansion in the comics recently where one was used in a storyline that didn’t take place on Tatooine and the lead knew that they weren’t a real Tusken because of it as they never leave Tatooine. As the Mandolorian says here, the Tusken view the entire world as theirs, everyone else shouldn’t be here.
The fight with Fennec when it happens works well as we get something that you don’t see often as she’s sniping from a distance and they have to figure out a way to deal with it that involves waiting several hours at the start. It’s a slow build that leads to some intense moments and some surprising turnabout as it progresses. Betrayal is the name of the game and there’s a lot of good things that flow from it. But that’s how this episode felt from the start. We’re seeing a Tatooine that has changed from events years ago and is becoming something else. It’s not the hotbed of a port that it once was since Luke and the rest essentially killed a couple of dozen bounty hunters that were on the barge, never mind Jabba. That likely turned this place into a free for all, a lot of deaths, and changes in how businesses worked because of it. And that’s a neat little layer to look at here while playing to the main story of the Mandolorian teaching a new potential Guild member how this all works.
Checking out a few other places to see if there were things I had missed in terms of references and the like, I found myself surprised to see a lot of failing grades for the episode. Tepid and boring being the common theme, or just too much fanservice. In an age of binge-streaming, the slower episodes to focus on character and to simply exist in the space are being lost because every second must count. And I do think every second of this episode counts because it does give us a fresher look at something familiar. This is not the Tatooine of before – but it looks like it at first glance. There are some really neat things woven into this that Dave Filoni did as director and writer on it so that we saw the changes and weren’t just told. We got some interesting characters to interact with and learn more about our lead as well. This’ll be an episode that definitely gets a lot of replay value.