I waited a few days to pen my thoughts on The Book Of Boba Fett’s fifth chapter – “The Return Of The Mandalorian” – largely because I saw a lot of responses online from folks who just couldn’t stop heaping praise on the installment … so, rest assured, my take my end up being a bit controversial with some. It isn’t as if I don’t court a bit of controversy from time-to-time; I realize that my opinion doesn’t often jive with the mainstream of web-critics, but I’d like to think that that’s because I always (always always) stay true to my muse. If I don’t like something, then I need to be free to say it; otherwise, what’s the point in having a platform?
The short skinny is this: “I didn’t dislike the episode, but I didn’t love it, either.”
The long skinny? Well, that’s gonna take a few words …
Honestly, I found much of the Mandalorian’s return a bit boring, to be succinct. I think what few good moments there were in the episode dealt chiefly with Mando confronting the loss of his identity: as everyone knows, true Mandalorians never take off their mask, and Din Djarin did just that in the epic finale to his second season on Disney+. Without recapping the entire storyline, Djarin found refuge for Grogu (aka ‘Baby Yoda’) with Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker; and – in their parting moments – the bounty hunter opted to remove his helmet so that he could share a heartfelt goodbye with the tiny green creature that had become a travelling companion (of sorts).
Here's the question I asked at that time: “Was that the right thing to do?”
Now, I don’t ask that to star a debate or any flame war with fans of any program. Clearly, I think everyone understood exactly why Djarin made the choice he did … but did he anticipate the consequences of that singular action? Did he fully realize he was sacrificing his adopted lineage and all that he had previously stood for? Did he not expect to be taken to task in the way he did upon rejoining the few left of the Mandalorian people? Was that single moment worth the toll now taken on him?
As we were never given any greater examination, it’s natural for this topic to be front-and-center with the Mandalorian’s return to action … but was this the right time and the right place? In someone else’s program?
Therein lies my biggest complaint with what transpired, and I’m inclined to suggest that this was a narrative mistake. That’s obviously difficult to conclude because there’s no way to know whether or not this denouement will play into this series’ full story arch, but I’m still believing that it shouldn’t. This was supposed to be Fett’s show; and – like it or not – Mando’s kinda/sorta pulled the rug right out from under the aging compatriot. (For the record, I’m not blaming the characters; this is just how Jon Favreau plotted out these adventures, so it rests largely on his shoulders.)
Again … to be as specific as I can (in anticipation of any private salvo I’m going to receive as a response) … I don’t have any problem with the episode … I just think it should’ve been an episode of Mando’s show and not Fett’s.
Setting aside that issue, I had one other quibble that’s kinda/sorta eaten at me a bit both in The Mandalorian and now in Fett’s program: what exactly is the role of the New Republic in peace time?
In The Mandalorian’s second season (“Chapter 10: The Passenger”), Favreau expanded upon ideas he’d previously hinted at in the first season by presenting X-Wing pilots as these kinda/sorta intergalactic patrol officers. When the concept was first dropped (late in Season 1), it felt a bit more organic, almost as if it were only intended as some comic relief for an otherwise fairly serious endeavor. But in The Passenger, these interstellar beat cops played a reasonably bigger role, showing up to hassle Djarin with an almost fully annoying “let’s see your license and registration, pal” mentality. These flatfeet showed up yet again in Return, though thankfully it was back in the mode of servicing a laugh instead of going all Starsky and Hutch.
Does anyone seriously think that X-Wing pilots – characters previously presented as air combat warriors – should be reduced to space patrol? Ignoring the offensiveness of the idea (yeah, that’s a small gripe, but it’s mine), do we honestly want to entertain the idea that in this galaxy far, far away the New Republic will be fully responsible for handing out speeding tickets? Again, YES, I get that it’s supposed to be a bit of a joke, but now that it’s shown up at least three times, Favreau is either beating a dead comedy horse OR there are larger motivations at play, no? I only argue that this is a concept that doesn’t feel authentic to this universe in the slightest.
While I’m in favor of some kind of X-Wing series (I know that Rogue Squadron is something that’s presently back-burnered), I just don’t see these little asides as being all that interesting nor likeable in the greater context of Star Wars. See, Star Wars has always been about big ideas, good vs. evil, galactic battles, and derring-do … but beat cops? Now it’s beat cops, too? It just seems so much like small potatoes, even as comic material.
Again, feel free to disagree. I just ask that you do NOT get me started on how giving Mando a Naboo Starfighter is a stupid idea. Souped up or not.
Sadly, “Return Of The Mandalorian” ended with the impression that the next installment also might be another soiree in Manda-territory, and I, for one, hope that’s not the case. Fett’s healed. Finally. This is his show. I’ve no problem with Mando turning up as a guest star – in fact, I think many of us expected that he might – but let’s keep the spotlight on the guy who previously was the galaxy’s most celebrated bounty hunter.
Give Fett his time in the sun … even if it’s Tatooine’s twin suns for now.