This chapter, “The Gunslinger” was not only directed by Dave Filoni, his second, but he wrote the sucker as well! And I have to say, he does a nice job pulling double duty and giving Favs’ the week off!
Last time, after a close call with a Kubaz bounty hunter on Sorgan, the Mandalorian and the child were forced on the run again. This episode picks up in a similar fashion, only in space!
Mando is getting shot at by a bounty hunter named Riot Mar, who seems to be an ex-Rebel pilot, going by the uniform. Mando destroys him thanks to a Top Gun “Maverick” manoeuvre (hit the brakes), but not before taking some serious damage.
Because of that, he’s forced to land on a nearby planet for repairs, which happens to be Tatooine! Yes, Tatooine.
He docks at Bay 35 in the Mos Eisley Spaceport, at the behest of the air traffic controller who is voiced by Filoni favorite, Steve Blum. Karabast!
Once he's landed, we meet the Bay’s caretaker, a whacky old lady named “Peli” (Amy Sedaris) who has a trio of Pit Droids at her disposal.
Short of credits, he leaves her to fix up the Razor Crest while he heads into town to look for work. It’s here we see the piked Stormtrooper helmets from the trailer, an ominous warning that this is not an Imperial haven.
And yes, Baby Yoda is there, nobody’s forgotten about Baby Yoda. Order your plushies and Funko Pops now in time for the holidays!
Anyways, he makes his presence known to Peli who, like the rest of us, is smitten instantly. She decides to watch after him until the Mandalorian returns, and then the remainder of the chapter. We don’t see any family around, nor are they mentioned. And the way she takes to the child implies she’s either lost a family, or never had one to begin with. I’d put money on the former.
Meanwhile, the Mando hits up a local cantina where he speaks with an EV-series droid, who is tending bar. The droid tells him that Guild work is no longer permitted on Tatooine, he’ll have to make other arrangements.
He then meets Torro Calican (Jake Cannavale), a human male who says he’s got work for Mando if he’s interested. He wants his help in chasing down Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), an extremely talented assassin who is on Tatooine.
The deal is Mando can keep all the money if Torro gets credit for the bounty, thereby getting him a Guild membership. This is his first job and needs the Mandalorian’s help. Mando agrees.
So, they head off on a pair of speeder bikes across the Dune Sea in search of Shand. And that’s where I’ll stop with the recap and let you enjoy the rest of this beautiful episode.
If you’ve seen the trailers then you know they catch up to her, but what happens next may surprise you. And there’s a last second shot of someone who’s face we don’t see; I have my suspicions but I’m very curious to hear other people’s theories.
What did surprise me was how much better Filoni did directing this episode than his first. I know we keep saying his animation roots clearly influence his pacing and framing, well, in this chapter it’s clear.
This is especially true during the speeder bike march where he shoots these sequences with a wide lens, showing the vastness of this huge landscape.
And again, in a later sequence, he really shows off his flair for lighting in a more motivated and dramatic fashion. His low-key lighting with a kicker really nails the mood and the action. I’m sorry, but I can’t really go into details without spoiling certain parts. But, it’s good stuff from Dave and it shows he’s more than just 3D and shaded cells, he’s improved beyond that.
His writing is serviceable, giving us lots of little tidbits while moving the story forward. For instance, we finally learn the name of the planet that dominated the first three chapters, “Navarro”, and he even slips in a “no good to us dead” line from the Mandalorian.
As in The Clone Wars and Star War Rebels, Dave is more than comfortable taking up space in a correlated, cause and effect type of world. Basically, he knows how to play the long-game, and everything he does has a reason for it. Look for some of that in this chapter for sure.
Ludwig’s music is bang on, especially during the desert trek bits. He uses an “Arabian Nights” motif as the mechanical camel’s race against the backdrop of endless sand. It’s not quite “Lawrence of Arabia”, but you’ll feel the heat of the surface and the sand in your face.
Since you’re going to Tatooine you might as well play the hits, including a cantina with a variety of alien life, Tusken Raiders, Bantha’s, Dewbacks, Beggar’s Canyon, and so on. Is it simply a nod to the fans, a friendly tip of the cowboy hat? Or does it play a part in some larger scheme? We’ll have to wait and see.
There’s a Tusken scene that happens to be my favorite, for a couple of reasons. First, it shows their continued stewardship of the land and acknowledges that they have Indigenous rights, that’s important. Second, and just as important, I love Tuskens!
For the new faces, both Amy Sedaris and Ming-Na Wen do nice work in their mostly supporting roles. In particular Sedaris, who is great as the leathery, no-bullshit mechanic who takes a liking to baby Yoda. She gives the Mandalorian some much-needed advice in parenting and provides some levity to an otherwise tonally dark chapter.
Can’t say much about Wen’s work without spoiling the chapter, but her debut is impressive to be certain. She’s as advertised, a deadly and cunning warrior who should leave a mark on the series, given the opportunity. The bit of backstory we get just skims the surface and I would hope there's more to come.
Cannavale is ultimately disappointing to me, not really delivering his lines with any weight or brevity. He’s purposely boyish and inexperienced, lacking any sort of edginess, but hapless isn’t a good look either, not when you're supposed to appear threatening. And therein lies the issue, we're supposed to see right through him, that's the point, but he's much too transparent.
In the end, this episode was a lot of fun and the little cliff hangar should pay off big-time down the road. There’s clearly a dangerous predator hunting them down, and a confrontation is drawing near with only three episodes left. Will it be a familiar face?
The short space battle that opens the chapter was tremendous and something we haven’t seen yet this season, so it was welcome. And look for lots of little familiar sights and sounds in this episode as the Mando makes his way around Mos Eisley. Like the sights and sounds of Chapter 2, Tatooine and its décor is a known Star Wars commodity that is sure to please, but let's get to some other planets next time.
Anyways, check back here later for Bill’s more detailed, spoiler-laden look at an otherwise wonderful episode.
Till next time…MTFBWY!
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