After last week’s Seven Samurai-meets-Return Of The Jedi interlude on the rustic forest planet of Sorgan, this week The Mandalorian is back to bounty hunting, and back to the desert. Specifically, this week Mando and The Child (a.k.a. Baby Yoda) make a visit to Tatooine, docking the Razor Crest for repairs after sustaining heavy damages in a dogfight with another bounty hunter who makes the mistake of using Mando’s signature phrase: “I can bring you in warm, or I can bring you in cold.” I got excited as soon as I heard “this is Mos Eisley tower, we’re tracking you,” because Tatooine is obviously an iconic Star Wars location, and the throwbacks to the original trilogy—namely, Mando’s adventures with the Jawas in “The Child”—have been some of my favorite parts of The Mandalorian.
And this episode has a big one: A sequence set in the Mos Eisley cantina, where the Mandalorian meets a new ally in aspiring Guild member Toro Calican (Jake Cannavale). Some things have changed since the last time we were at the Cantina—it’s relaxed its policy on droids, for one. Perhaps that’s because the place is only half-full, a noticeable change from the packed bar in Star Wars. (A big chunk of the galaxy’s scum and villainy didn’t make it through the original trilogy, it seems.) The stormtrooper helmets on spikes Mando passes on his way into town also indicate a high death toll on Tatooine in the Rebellion era. But some things on Tatooine are still the same: The same hunks of twisted metal still sit in the junkyard outside the cantina, for one, and the Tusken Raiders and Dewbacks featured in the episode were about what you’d expect from those particular species. Meanwhile, the casting of Amy Sedaris as mechanic Peli Motto was a huge and delightful surprise, and one of those moments where I felt like this show was made specifically for me. Sedaris in an Ellen Ripley wig and jumpsuit, scritching Baby Yoda’s little head and yelling at her pit droids to bring him “something with bones in it” to eat? Yes please!
Once we got past the fun setup and got into the meat of this week’s adventure, however, “The Gunslinger” wasn’t as satisfying as previous episodes in the series. I wasn’t sold on the character of Toro, for one. Some found Omera’s blaster ability in last week’s episode suspect—I disagree, for the record; she’s a country girl, and country girls are capable like that—but I get it, for this reason: When I saw this cocky little shit in the same seat where Han Solo shot Greedo, all sprawled out like he owned the place? I haven’t felt such a “get off my lawn” feeling surge through me since I heard someone refer to Ghostbusters as an “old movie.” I imagine that was kind of the point, though, given that the wannabe bounty hunter was the butt of Mando’s jokes throughout the episode—and was dumb enough to fall for the same trick he and Mando pulled earlier in the episode during the climactic shootout.
And although, like every episode in the series so far, it was well directed and acted, “The Gunslinger” was also relatively light on action. There’s really only one significant action sequence, when Mando and Toro race towards their target on speeder bikes, and then Toro wrestles with their target, Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen). Wen’s appearance as a hardened, amoral assassin—she even worked for the Hutts!–was believably badass, both on an action and on a dialogue level. But in the end, this week’s adventure was mostly just setup for the larger story arc The Mandalorian has been flirting with all season. We’re approaching John Wick 3 levels of “bounty hunters around every corner” at this point in the story, and with only three more episodes left, I’m starting to wonder when we’re going to get to the main course, so to speak.
The ending of this week’s episode seems to understand that, teasing what can only be a villainous presence stomping up to collect Fennec Shand’s body out on the dunes. So, who was it? Given that he hasn’t appeared yet, Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon is a good guess. The mystery figure was wearing a cape...
- Apparently people are getting Baby Yoda tattoos. Star Wars is not A Song Of Ice And Fire, granted, but did we learn nothing from Game Of Thrones?! Wait until the end of the season, people! He could bring Palpatine back to life in the finale, you don’t know!
- While we’re on the subject, Lucasfilm once again selling empty boxes to kids for Christmas may be Jon Favreau’s deepest-cut Star Wars reference of them all. He says as much in an Entertainment Tonight interview: “Now you know what my generation went through, because they didn’t have Star Wars toys available for the first Christmas. I got a voucher for the first Christmas in ’77. There were commercials and I traded in the coupon and got them redeemed. So that’s what it was like when I was a kid.”
- And speaking of deep cuts, was that a Gonk droid I spotted clanking around Peli’s repair shop?
- “I don’t wear any beskar.” “Nope.” Haha, suck on that Toro!
- Jake Cannavale is indeed Bobby Cannavale’s son, if you couldn’t tell by his face.
- While Tunisia is the best known Star Wars desert location, it’s more likely that The Mandalorian’s desert scenes were filmed at or near the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area in inland California, near the Mexico border. That location was used for the Tatooine scenes in Return Of The Jedi, and for additional footage in the dreaded special edition of Star Wars.
- Baby Yoda sticking out his tongue when he peeks out to let Peli and Mando know he’s okay was so cute, I might have blacked out for a second.
- This week’s drinking game: Pour one out for the Cantina werewolves Lak Sivrak and Arleil Schous, who remain excised from the official post-Disney Star Wars canon.