Hello there. If this is your first time clicking on The Mando Rewatch, my name is Nate, and over the past few weeks I have been revisiting The Mandalorian, starting from the very beginning. This week, I will be doing a deep dive into the key moments and thematic significance of “Chapter 5: The Gunslinger.” As a reminder, these recaps are spoiler-heavy, and I am writing them under the assumption that you have not only seen this episode, but the rest of the series as well. It also helps if you have read my earlier reviews because I tend to circle back to previously established themes. So, go check those out if you haven’t already done so. With that out the way, let’s talk about Star Wars!
“The Gunslinger” is written and directed by Dave Filoni, and it has been wrongfully cast aside by many fans and pundits as a throwaway/filler episode which plays on our nostalgia. Admittedly, this may not be one of the best episodes of the series, but I still really enjoy it, and I would certainly argue against it being a filler episode. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with fan-service if it is done well. Personally, I happen to quite enjoy all of the delicious member-berries in this episode. Having said that, I still hate Toro Calican just as much as you do. Yet, upon revisiting the episode, I came to a better understanding of Filoni’s choice in creating this character. In the same way that people have been calling John Walker (from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) a Wal-Mart Captain America, Toro represents a Wal-Mart Han Solo #NotMyHanSolo. He is even sitting in Han’s booth when we are introduced to him, and he has his feet up on the table, just like Han – the audacity. However, while Han has depth and nuance to his character, Toro has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Han may act like a scoundrel, and sometimes he wants people to think he is a scoundrel, but underneath it all, he is a genuine hero. Whereas, Toro is genuinely a scoundrel. It’s worth noting that I have drawn comparisons between Han and Mando in previous recaps, so it is interesting that a Wal-Mart Han Solo is used in this episode to represent everything Mando has recently been moving away from. Toro represents Mando’s undignified past as a ruthless bounty hunter. He represents greed and ambition. Those are two qualities which we have seen within Mando prior to him making the choice to become more selfless by saving Grogu. In fact, this point becomes clearer if we just make a simple comparison between “Chapter 5” and “Chapter 4.” In “Chapter 4,” Mando’s fatherly bond with Grogu begins to further develop, he selflessly chooses to save a village full of good people, and he even briefly considers staying there to live a peaceful life. Comparatively, in “Chapter 5,” Din is back on the run again. The episode begins with a space battle against another bounty hunter who actually uses Din’s own line against him (“I can bring you in warm, or I can bring you in cold”). Then Din’s ship is damaged, and in order to fund the repairs, he must go back to his bounty hunting ways. Of course there is no better place to revisit his seedy past than Mos Eisley. For as Obi-Wan says, “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Therefore, while I accept that there is a lot of nostalgia in this episode, there is obviously a thematic reason for it.
Returning to Tatooine also gives the audience further insight into the state of the Outer Rim following the fall of the Empire. Mos Eisley has clearly changed quite a bit. The streets appear to be much quieter these days, and the cantina is practically empty. This shows that the New Republic has been cracking down on the crime syndicates. Accordingly, the once bustling spaceport seems to have fallen on hard times. Interestingly, the cantina that had previously banned droids now has a droid for a bartender (voiced by Mark Hamill btw). In my opinion, this is very clever foreshadowing. For, as we already know, Mando hates droids just as much as Wuher (the bartender from A New Hope) did. Yet, what you may or may not know, is that the same prop used to make the head of IG-88 in The Empire Strikes Back had previously been used as a drink dispenser in the background of the cantina in A New Hope. Those same IG heads can still be seen behind the bar in this episode as well. Therefore, this reference to IG units, alongside the new acceptance of droids inside the cantina, together can be seen as a subtle hint towards Din’s growth as a character, and his inevitable change in opinion on droids following his reconciliation with IG-11 at the end of the season.
Another standout moment from this episode is Din’s interaction with the Tusken Raiders. It is significant because it is a rare non-violent encounter with the Sand People. Toro is using his macrobinoculars to spy ahead, when a pair of Tuskens appear out of nowhere right beside him. The scene is a humourous call-back to when Luke was similarly snuck up on and attacked by the Tuskens in A New Hope. Yet, in this instance, Mando communicates with the Sand People using sign language to negotiate safe passage through their land. This plays on the western motif of the show, as the Tusken Raiders are obviously meant to represent Native Americans, meanwhile Mando is the compassionate gunslinger who understands their plight. The fact that Toro, an unlikeable character, calls the Tuskens “filth,” points to the possibility that they may just be misunderstood. Granted, in Attack of the Clones, we see Tuskens committing horrible acts of violence on Anakin’s mother, which can never be justified. However, when Mando tells Toro that the “Tuskens think they’re the locals. Everyone else is just trespassing” he is providing a bit of context to their point of view. Perhaps the Tusken Raiders have been attacking these farms and kidnapping people as retribution from long standing issues over sovereignty of land. Regardless, this small scene presents a different perspective on the Sand People, and more importantly, it shows the power of reaching out with empathy rather than violence – a prominent theme throughout Star Wars.
All that being said, the main reason this episode can never be considered “filler” is because of the final scene. It is definitely the most talked about moment of the episode – those feet and that cape approaching Fennec Shand on the ground. I remember when I heard the sound of the spurs for the first time. I looked over at my wife and immediately said, “That’s Boba Fett!” I was so excited I got goosebumps. The possibility of it being Cobb Vanth did occur to me as well, but I never thought they would actually include a character from Aftermath in a live-action show – that’s a pretty deep cut. Sure enough, they both showed up in season two. Still, in that moment, that sound was meant to let the fans know that Boba Fett was coming. Filoni has a great relationship with the fans, and he is very good when it comes to his teases. He knew that hardcore Star Wars nerds would surely recognize that sound. On top of that, he included a few other hints throughout the episode. Most notably when Mando says “she’s no good to us dead” – an obvious reference to The Empire Strikes Back when Fett tells Vader, “he’s no good to me dead” (referring to Han Solo). Not to mention the fact that the episode takes place on Tatooine – the last place we saw Boba Fett alive. In hindsight, this provides even further justification for the show returning to Tatooine. It’s clearly not just nostalgia. Be that as it may, this episode is the unofficial return of Boba Fett. So, how can that ever be considered filler?
All in all, “Chapter 5” may be a little heavy on the fan-service, but these call-backs and references help to connect this story to the rest of the galaxy far, far away. Sometimes you just have to embrace what you are. The Mandalorian is Star Wars. Star Wars is supposed to feel like Star Wars. I like Star Wars.
I have spoken.