The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Season One, Episode Five – “Chapter Five: The Gunslinger”
Written & Directed by Dave Filoni
The opening of this episode delivers a promise that we are in for something a little more exciting than the last chapter. Dyn Jarren is pursued by one of the bounty hunters following the Guild’s call to arms. It’s a fun short dogfight in space that ends with Jarren’s ship broken down and seeking repairs on a familiar planet, Tatooine. The Mandalorian needs to seek out money to pay for the repairs and skulks through Mos Eisley for something under the table. The result is a decent episode, but still, one lacking the forward momentum of the core story. The ending does hint at a more significant arc happening here, but it’s very procedural.
Things dangerously teeter on that edge of pandering nostalgia and meaningful revisiting of a popular locale. Due to budget restraints, we don’t see many sweeping shots of Mos Eisely and mainly glimpse a repair port and cantina with the Dune Sea being everything else. As someone who always loved the Tatooine segments of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, I admit it was fun to go back. I was hoping we’d hear about the state of the Hutt Empire post-Jabba’s death in RotJ, but we never go into that much detail. One detail I did enjoy were the Stormtroopers helmets on spikes.
This implies a lot about the state of the remnants of the Empire post-Endor. I like the bits and pieces from earlier this season, but those helmets really emphasize how quickly the Empire lost control. This is five years out from the second Death Star battle, and we can see that their grip slipped so fast, especially in these Outer Rim territories. I know comics and novels have explored this period, but I would really love to see more of how the Empire collapsed and gave way to the First Order. My hope for The Mandalorian is that through its narrative, we can at least infer how the second wave of fascism came to be in the Star Wars galaxy.
We get three guest stars this episode who play essential roles in Jarren’s outing. Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) runs the repair facility where Jarren docks his ship and does a great job acting as comedy relief. Her whole look invokes how the late 70s/early 80s hairstyles popped up in the original trilogy. I love it when unintentional details become incorporated into the look of later installments. Jarren teams up with Toro Calican, a young man trying to make his name in the Guild and whose whole look evokes Han Solo. Their bounty is Fennec Shand (Ming Na), an assassin that had great success during the Empire’s period of cooperation with the criminal cartels. Now that the Empire has lost status, Shand is a significant target, but one most hunters know will be near impossible to catch.
I was disappointed that Shand seems to be a one-off character because Ming Na is a great actress, and the character has the potential to be explored further. There is always the chance the Diego Luna-led Star Wars series could bring her back, or there may be a twist somewhere in The Mandalorian later. The final scene hints at a higher threat but is so vague it is meaningless for now.
The biggest problem the series has slid into these last two episodes is that the plots are entirely predictable. I totally understand that the showrunners are attempting to evoke the structure of old shows like “Have Gun, Will Travel” and classic Westerns. But the thing that’s missing is an exciting twist on these stories. Instead, we get narratives that play out exactly how we expect, and they aren’t necessarily acted well enough to justify this. The last episode went just as I thought when I saw the cold open, and this one played out just how I guessed the moment I spied the cocky Toro Calican. I really hope that things pick up soon because there are quite a few episodes left, and I’d hate to think they will keep following this worn-out show structure.