The Mandalorian episode 5, titled “The Gunslinger,” is a thrill ride from start to finish. Like last week’s “Sanctuary,” this episode takes a more standalone, slice-of-life approach to the storytelling, with only hints of the larger arc at work. Early on, Mando has to make an emergency landing on Tatooine after the Razor Crest is attacked by a bounty hunter in space. To pay for repairs on his ship, Mando agrees to help newbie bounty hunter Toro Calican (Jake Cannavale) capture an assassin named Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen). A few twists and double crosses later, Mando has finished the job and is zipping away from Mos Eisley in search of a new hideout for him and The Child (aka Baby Yoda).
But there’s more to the episode’s ending than meets the eye. A final scene directly after Mando leaves the planet teases a major reveal that could completely change the course of the show and give fans the cameo they’ve been waiting for. As Shand lies dead in the sands beyond Mos Eisley after being murdered by Toro, a mysterious figure approaches her body. We never see the stranger’s face but get a glimpse of their cape and hear the sound of spurs as they walk. The credits roll just as the stranger reaches down to examine Shand.
Not only do the sound of spurs and the enigmatic introduction suggest that this “new” character is “The Gunslinger” in question but that it’s someone we’ve potentially seen in the Star Wars saga before. To put it bluntly, it seems that The Mandalorian is teasing the return of Boba Fett.
As you might remember, the sound of spurs famously followed the bounty hunter’s every step in the Original Trilogy. You can hear spurs, for example, when Boba is walking around Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back. He’s perhaps the Skywalker Saga’s most Western-influenced character, a Man with No Face emulating Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, so the spurs are no accident. But we’re not going by the insinuation made by a sound alone.
There’s also the fact that the episode is so purposefully set on Tatooine, a beloved Star Wars location the episode goes through great lengths to recreate. From the round architecture and tight, sandy streets of the criminal outpost to THE cantina George Lucas first dreamed up in 1977, The Mandalorian establishes the look and feel of Tatooine, giving it the distinct sense of place most other outposts on the show have lacked thus far (the farming village on Sorgan is an exception). Why is Tatooine so important in this case? It is the last known location and assumed resting place of Boba Fett, who we last saw being swallowed up by the sarlacc to be digested for the next thousand years. But did this early Return of the Jedi twist really spell the end for one of the most beloved characters in Star Wars (despite his limited screen time)? Hardly.
For one thing, Lucasfilm previously planned to resurrect the character in a standalone Star Wars Story movie, first to be directed by Josh Trank (Fantastic Four) and later by James Mangold (Logan). This project was eventually canceled, but it’s clear from the direction and tone of The Mandalorian that the studio is still hungry for the Boba Fett aesthetic. There’s precedence for Boba’s return, too.
The old Legends continuity knew that you couldn’t keep a good Mandalorian down. In fact, Boba Fett had escaped the sarlacc pit by the end of 1983, only a few months after Return of the Jedi had released in theaters. In the pages of Marvel’s classicStar Wars comic, we learned that Boba’s armor and sheer force of will allowed him to escape the sarlacc, jetpacking the hell out of dodge, only to be discovered by a group of Jawas who mistook him for a droid and locked him in their Sandcrawler. Lots of shooting, another run-in with Han Solo, and a coincidental visit from Dengar later, Boba Fett had escaped the Jawas and was back, baby! Later stories saw him evolve from bounty hunter to the new Mand’alor, the supreme leader of his people.
If he’s survived in Disney canon, too — and how could he not? There’s money to be made, folks! — then he’d almost certainly be after the Child, who is apparently the most valuable bounty in the entire galaxy, judging from all of the other bounty hunters trying to kill Mando for it. But is there more to Boba than bounty hunting now that he’s survived the sarlacc pit? Has he had time to think about his allegiances in the years since almost being digested by a giant sand monster? Late Legends stories put him in more of an anti-hero role than a straight villain, although his hatred of the Jedi remained. It’s possible Boba might hold a soft spot or some sort of sense of respect for another member of his people (although technically he’s a clone and not a born Mandalorian), but not take too kindly to the Force-sensitive baby.
We’re just speculating, of course. There’s not much beyond the familiar outfit and location that points to Boba in the episode. Shand mentions at one point in “The Gunslinger” that she’s on her way to meet someone in Mos Espa, and it’s likely that this stranger is that person. Whether this contact was Boba Fett all along remains to be seen.
What we do know is that the final episode of The Mandalorian has the following synopsis: “The Mandalorian comes face-to-face with an unexpected enemy.” As far as we know, Boba hasn’t been a player in the events of the series thus far. It’s more likely that he’s reacting to the events and the large bounty at play that even Shand knew about while on the run on Tatooine. The recovery of this lost “asset” could be a ticket to a new fortune…and perhaps a new set of armor after the sarlacc’s digestive track ate away at Boba’s old one.
Friend or foe, Boba Fett’s return will likely come with much fanfare. If this is even the galaxy’s greatest bounty hunter at all…
Listen to the latest Star Wars Blaster Canon podcast: