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‘The Book of Boba Fett’ Episode 5 Review: “Return of the Mandalorian”

The Book of Boba Fett's fifth episode is the best one yet...though without the titular character and a pretty middling last act.

*Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Book of Boba Fett.*

If you were disappointed at The Book of Boba Fett’s lack of a cohesive pace to get the story going in the last four episodes, well, prepare to be disappointed again…but not for the reasons you think! We’re immediately hooked as soon as the episode opens in a space butchery and reintroduces Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal). One incredible action scene later, in which The Mandalorian uses the Darksaber (!), and we don’t care if Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) shows up in this episode anymore. And while this week’s episode does an excellent job at acting as The Mandalorian 2.5, its final half seems to forego altogether the conflict established in The Book of Boba Fett in favor of…filler.

Read: ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ Episode 4 Review: “The Gathering Storm
This bothers me the most in the overarching picture of The Mandalorian universe. It’s one episodic sidequest after another, with a threadbare narrative tissue connecting them all. Some of them are awesome, while others are dull. Some are a bit of both. This week’s episode of The Book of Boba Fett is definitely a bit of both. It starts very strong, with Djarin confronting his bounty, Kaba Baiz (Ardeshir Radpour), in one heck of a tightly shot and edited action sequence. This once again proves that Bryce Dallas Howard was one of the best things to have ever come out of The Mandalorian. She’s directed some of the very best episodes of the entire series, especially episode 3 of The Mandalorian Season 2. That action scene inside the ship with Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) et al. was unreal. She continues her incredible action direction here, with one heck of a cold open to entice audience members and a Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy-like confrontation between Din and Paz Vizsla (Jon Favreau).

After Din returns to The Armorer (Emily Swallow), who is with Vizsla, the latter wants to reclaim the Darksaber, believing it is rightfully his since Tarre Vizsla crafted it. He challenges Mando to a duel, on a tight walkway, without a jetpack to help them in any case they fall. The tension build-up is extremely palpable, and the fight itself is filled with so much suspense that it’s hard not to look away. Even though the entire episode serves as a pretext for Mando to meet Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), there’s an instance where you feel that the character might not make it out alive of the battle. Vizsla’s fight moves are brutal, and you can tell from his cold appearance that he will do anything to get the Darksaber, even if it means killing one of his own in the process.

One of the best parts of The Mandalorian is how the series has created a new language of acting through the helmets of their characters. Whenever Djarin speaks of Grogu, you feel the admiration he has for him, and the way his body softens up during those scenes replaces the facial expressions he would have without a helmet. Likewise, when Djarin wields the Darksaber, Vizsla looks at it in awe, immediately wanting to take possession of it. We know this because his head slightly tilts, hypnotized by not only the power the Darksaber holds but the fact that the object is finally within his reach. None of these are conveyed through facial expressions, but how their body reacts to specific events, heightening the sense of anxiety between the two. 

After such an excellent introduction, you’d think the show will finally gain steam with Mando going to Tatooine to meet…Boba? No! After all, he has to build a new ship with Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris). It’s incredible how the episode goes from great filler, showing us what Djarin became after sending Grogu back to his own kind, to pretty middling filler, when Motto shows up. They tediously craft a modified N-1 starfighter, going so far as to replicate the race scene from The Phantom Menace, where Djarin goes into Beggar’s Canyon for a test run. Some will love it; some won’t. I mainly found it lazy; the visual nods are too on the nose as if Favreau desperately wants the audience to point at the screen and remind themselves that they understood the reference. Because of this, the emotional impact of the sequence isn’t as felt as it should be, sacrificing a present-day final battle set-up between Boba/Fennec/Mando and the Pykes for a sea of visual references.

There are two episodes left in The Book of Boba Fett. Unfortunately, we still have no idea what will happen next, with the episodes linked together by a minimal plotline to try and keep the audience engagement going. And while the opening twenty minutes contain gripping Star Wars storytelling, the last half of the episode…not so much. The show would’ve benefitted from Mando meeting Boba Fett in this episode, instead of waiting for next week, where we might (?) get an idea on who the main antagonist of the series is (?). But, who knows, the series is so uninterested in developing a well-written story with compelling enough characters and prefers to fill time with minimal character development, extended flashbacks, and shipbuilding that we may not even get to a ‘proper’ finale in two weeks.

The fifth episode of The Book of Boba Fett is now streaming on Disney+.