This STAR WARS: THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT review contains spoilers.
The Book of Boba Fett Episode 5
Finally, The Book of Boba Fett gets good…by becoming a different show entirely. You could watch this episode completely independently, as a bridge between season two of The Mandalorian and the upcoming season three. The shift shines an even bigger light on Boba’s lack of an arc within his own show, but it’s hard to complain when Bryce Dallas Howard‘s direction on the usual Jon Favreau script brings so much entertainment.
Unlike Boba Fett, Din Djarin doesn’t want or have the ability to shift from bounty hunting to a more managerial position. “Return of the Mandalorian” opens with exactly what it says on the tin as Din strides into a slaughterhouse to collect a bounty. He hasn’t been back home to the covert since giving baby Grogu to Luke Skywalker, and is feeling the baby’s loss while learning how to use the legendary Darksaber. He does find his way home, to a very cool hiding spot on the vacuum-facing edge of a ring-like space station called Glavis. After defending the Darksaber against Paz Vizsla’s claim, he ends up leaving the covert in search of a spiritual rebirth that will let him rejoin the clan for good. Because he showed his face to an outsider back in season two, he has to go for a cleansing bath in ritual caves beneath Mandalore — the same area the Imperials destroyed.
Then he’s off to Tatooine, where Peli Moto (Amy Sedaris) allegedly has a new ship for him. Instead of a big freighter, it’s a one-person Naboo starfighter like the ones in The Phantom Menace. Mando has to take what he can get, so it’s lucky the ship ends up being much faster than the Razor Crest. The episode finally wraps back around to The Book of Boba Fett characters when Fennec Shand appears. As anticipated by the leitmotif from last week, she’s hiring Din. He’s even willing to do the job for free.
The episode consistently tugs on threads from The Mandalorian, showing the fallout from Din’s agonizing decision to remove his helmet in season two and expanding on the legend of the Darksaber. I love that Din continues to be both cool and hapless, the addition of the Darksaber to his arsenal hampered by him just not being very good with it. Sure, there’s a lore explanation about wielding the blade requiring focus, which retroactively makes every other Darksaber wielder cooler. But I also like to think Din’s just new at this. The opening fight scene with the weapon is energetic and competent, and Din not having the moral scruples of a Jedi means he can slice someone in half without missing a beat. Ever a man of the people, Din distributes the slaughterhouse boss’ money to the workers.
A second big melee action scene, the conflict between Vizsla and Din, really shows off the weapons and the setting, and had me really wondering whether Din might lose the new sword almost as soon as he gained it. Pedro Pascal has not lost any of his ability to convey both deadpan confusion and competence underneath his helmet and armor. That’s as true when he’s yearning to get back to Grogu as it is when he’s leaving his clan. I was pleased but surprised to find he doesn’t consider it much obstacle to see Grogu again. Maybe Luke gave him the Jedi Academy address off screen.
It’s also a surprisingly funny episode. The music perfectly accents a scene where Din has to unload his weapons to take public transportation. Peli and her droids are full of delightful movements and quips (although I did want her to treat her flock better). Din just slipping off a catwalk adds both physical humor and stakes. Even Din’s brief interactions with a Rodian kid mixed laughs and pathos.
In part, I accept that this episode was more fun for me than the rest of The Book of Boba Fett only because it leaned into The Mandalorian and Prequel instead of Original nostalgia. But it also has another major advantage: ending Boba’s flashbacks means this episode feels like it actually pushes the story of the larger galaxy forward.
The Armorer takes the bulk of the awkward exposition this time, filling in some gaps about what the Darksaber means to both mainstream Mandalorians and the orthodox covert clan. Din’s actions with the Darksaber will have political ramifications for the covert Mandalorians, the Imperial Remnant, and the planet Mandalore as well as for Tatooine, Boba, and Fennec. The Armorer’s dialogue worked better for me than a lot of the Tatooine dialogue because she had such a coherent perspective, and because The Mandalorian had already shown that different people (i.e. Bo-Katan) had different interpretations of the political history of Mandalore and how that affected the larger plot. Howard’s direction livens up those exposition scenes, too, though, with a mix of wide and focused shots and sharply contrasting color.
However, I do acknowledge that it’s just as much an episode about characters conveniently walking into frame, stage-like, as The Book of Boba Fett was last week. Did we really need such a long sequence of Peli and Din fixing up the old spaceship, or Pelli’s jokes about dating a Jawa, or Beggar’s Canyon, or the return of the New Republic cops? Maybe not.
Another way to approach the nostalgia issue is whether the episode fits into the show’s larger arc. As essentially a vignette from The Mandalorian stuffed into The Book of Boba Fett, it doesn’t. A common critique for the less-compelling parts of a franchise are that they feel “inessential.” Technically, this episode is. Season three of The Mandalorian will probably show Din with his new ship and Grogu’s armor, and the time skip alone will be enough explanation for them. It’s an odd choice, to say the least, to fill a show that already doesn’t do enough groundwork with its characters with different characters entirely. But ultimately the episode was too good to care about all that. As someone who watches every week, I can’t complain about an episode that made me gasp, laugh, and yearn for these characters.