EPISODE: “Chapter 5 – The Gunslinger” – Written and directed by Dave Filoni
SYNOPSIS: The Mandalorian helps a rookie bounty hunter who is in over his head.
REVIEW (WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THIS EPISODE): The Mandalorian only took four episodes to fully return to Tatooine in what is easily the weakest episode of the series thus far (in what is likely not a coincidence, both of the weak episodes this season were helmed by Dave Filoni). Yeah, I enjoyed seeing the familiar sights of Mos Eisley and the numerous easter eggs crammed into this chapter (see them listed below and let me know if I missed any!), but it felt forced and outside of the tone and style this series has had so far. While each of the first four episodes of The Mandalorian have referenced Star Wars lore, this is the first episode that felt blatant about it. So, while it may be setting up some things for future episodes, “The Gunslinger” ends up as barely more than a filler episode.
Opening with a space chase between a bounty hunter and The Mandalorian, our hero finds himself drifting and in need of repairs to the Razor Crest. Luckily, he is in the vicinity of Tatooine. Landing at the repair shop of Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), The Mandalorian goes into Mos Eisley looking for work to pay for the fixes to his ship. Seeing The Mandalorian stroll through the alleyways and streets of Mos Eisley was cool and it also illustrates how sparsely populated the spaceport is now that the Empire has vacated the system. Stormtrooper helmets on spikes and only a few patrons at the Cantina give the illusion that everyone has abandoned the desert planet (did they all move to Jakku?). Looking for work, The Mandalorian comes across Toro Calican (played by Jake Cannavale, son of Bobby), a rookie bounty hunter trying to make a splash in the Guild.
In exchange for helping track down Imperial assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), Toro will give The Mandalorian the money he receives as the young man only wants the acclaim and entry into the Guild. The Mandalorian agrees and the two set off on speeders into the Dune Sea. All the while, Peli Motto and her pit droids look after The Child who seems to take a liking to her. As they cross the Sea and come across Tusken Raiders, the bounty hunters eventually find Shand who has then pinned down using a sniper rifle. Using some cool tactics to blind her scope, the two eventually capture her. Down a bike, The Mandalorian heads off to find a Dewback while Toro and Fennec stay back.
Now this next sequence feels completely odd and a waste of Ming-Na Wen‘s talents. Sure, she got a brief and poorly lit fight sequence, but having her cuffed and trying to talk Toro into taking The Mandalorian into custody instead of her feels pretty cliche. Toro of course sees the benefit and kills Fennec, thus limiting Wen’s screen time to less than ten minutes. Leaving her for dead, he heads back to Mos Eisley to wait for The Mandalorian. Eventually, The Mandalorian returns and finds Fennec dead and knows what is going to come next. He heads back where Toro holds The Child and blaster-point. With the aid of Peli, The Mandalorian gets the upper hand and kills Toro. Paying Peili and taking The Child, the two head back on their way. In the closing shot, we see black boots and a cape come into frame and discover the body of Fennec. Is this mysterious person another bounty hunter? I guess we need to stay tuned.
Running less than 40 minutes, this is another brisk episode but one that pales compared to last week’s epic battle against the AT-ST. It also shows a major contrast between Gina Carano‘s great turn as Cara Dune with Ming-Na Wen‘s wasted performance as Fennec Shand. It also continues to show us The Mandalorian making stupid decisions (leaving The Child alone, getting blasted in the chest, leaving a bounty hunter with the bounty, etc). On one hand, it gives him some humanity and shows he is not a perfect being but it also feels far too convenient to forward the plot. Tatooine looks cool, even on a TV budget, but so much of this episode is shrouded in darkness that the major action sequences are very hard to see. While not really doing anything to develop The Mandalorian as a character or inform the story of The Child, this episode feels like a wasted opportunity.
STAR WARS UNIVERSE REFERENCES: We get to see Pit Droids who made their debut in THE PHANTOM MENACE. The phrase “wamo rat” is used again. Toro Calican sits in the iconic booth where Han Solo shot (first) and killed Greedo. Tusken Raiders appear as do Dewbacks. The speeder bikes from RETURN OF THE JEDI are used to cross the Dune Sea. The Mandalorian uses Boba Fett’s famous line “she’s no good to us dead”.
COOLEST SCENE: There really weren’t many standout sequences in this episode compared to the ones that came before it, but seeing the familiar Cantina and buildings of Mos Eisley was cool. Plus the speeder shootout with Fennec was a decent action sequence.
FINAL VERDICT: This episode definitely feels different from the rest of the season. The most tangental of every episode, “The Gunslinger” feels like the requisite fan service entry so that the rest of the episodes can focus on telling the main narrative of the title character and The Child. This is also the only episode to feature an entire sequence without The Mandalorian in it. Ming-Na Wen feels wasted but that closing scene may indicate we haven’t seen the last of her. Overall, the easter eggs make this episode worth checking out but they don’t feel like a natural (or necessary) part of this story. (6/10)
NEXT ON THE MANDALORIAN: “Chapter 6” premieres December 13th on Disney+: The Mandalorian joins a crew of mercenaries on a dangerous mission.