Spoilers ahead! Beware!!
As soon as “The Gunslinger” opens we are immediately pushed into the action, with a dog fight in space. On the run once again the Mandalorian and Yiddle are attacked by bounty hunter Riot Mar and appear to be losing. Mar warns the Mandalorian with a familiar “I can bring you in warm, or I can bring you in cold.” a line that sets the Mandalorian over the edge.
“That’s my line!” an agitated Mandalorian quips from his cockpit as he makes a last-second adjustment and destroys the would-be assassin. The Razor Crest although not destroyed needs repairs and thankfully, a familiar planet and spaceport are close by to help. The most wretched hive of scum and villainy, Tatooine.
Short on money to fix the Razor Crest, the Mandalorian takes a job from an inexperienced bounty hunter desperate to join the Guild, Toro Calican(Jake Cannavale). Leaving Yiddle with the wacky mechanic, Peli Motto. Toro and the Mandalorian journey through the Dune Sea to find Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) a deadly assassin known throughout the galaxy. Along the way, they negotiate with Tusken Raiders, find a dead bounty hunter still attached to a Dewback, and take on Fennec, who has the high ground.
Once they finally capture the famed assassin the Mandalorian ventures to find another ride and while he’s gone Fennec tells Toro who the Mandalorian is. More importantly, she tells him about the bounty on his head. Toro shoots and seemingly kills Fennec and goes back to Mos Eisley to capture Yiddle and trap the Mandalorian. That plan doesn’t work, and the Mandalorian kills the traitorous bounty hunter, leaving the planet. Far out in the Dune Sea, a mysterious figure makes their way to the body of Fennec. The episode ends, not showing us who this figure is, and leaving us to speculate who that could be.
Since The Mandalorian premiered a couple of weeks ago, these episodes have been really easy to review because they’ve been excellent. It’s some of the best Star Wars stories we’ve gotten in a while, on par with the new movies. However, “The Gunslinger” just didn’t have the same energy that the first half of the season did and feels a lot like filler to me. This is easily my least favorite episode of the series so far and while there’s a lot for fans to enjoy, I was disappointed.
So let’s start with what worked for me, and without a doubt my favorite part of the episode is Tatooine. I’ve assumed for a while we were going back but it was nice to see Mos Eisley again. From the pit droids to the cantina, everything felt familiar, like we were seeing an old friend for the first time in a long time.
Is it a fan service? Oh, absolutely, but it’s the best kind of fan service that works. You probably didn’t need to go there for the story to make sense, but it’s awesome. Plus, because it’s Tatooine it makes that mysterious figure at the end more interesting because of a certain iconic bounty hunter who “died” there.
Beyond the setting, I had a lot of fun with most of the newcomers including Peli Motto and Fennec Shand. They both provide interesting and entertaining contributions to the episode, in unique and different ways. Peli is your funny aunt who has too many cats, or in this case pit droids. She brought some levity to the episode and I love how she took great care of Yiddle and seems to care about him.
Fennec, on the other hand, is just kind of a badass who more than lives up to her reputation and would have easily killed Toro. I wish that she had been given more to do in the episode. Don’t get me wrong I like what she did in her short amount of screen time but you don't short Ming-Na Wen like that. I just hope it isn’t the last we’ve seen of her, she’s just so interesting and mysterious.
While I loved the familiarity of Tatooine, they flipped that feeling and gave us something I never expected we’d get, talking to Tusken Raiders. Since A New Hope, the raiders have just been seen as mindless monsters, only known for attacking Luke and killing Shmi. “The Gunslinger” completely changes that narrative and shows that the Tusken Raiders are just indigenous people protecting their homes. The Mandalorian is just asking for permission to be on their land and collect a bounty respectfully. He’s communicating with the locals. I thought that was such a cool and interesting way to introduce that idea and it’s something I’ve never seen in Star Wars.
While I enjoyed the inclusion of Fennec and Peli one new character that I despised this whole episode was Toro Calican. He’s just the worst! For a naive bounty hunter that wants to become a legend, there’s certainly nothing legendary about him. He’s a mixture of all the reasons people hate Anakin in the prequels and the worst parts of millennials. Whiney, self-entitled, and just all-around kind of a brat. As a millennial myself that hurts to say. There’s just nothing likable about him and I’m not sure if that’s the fault of Jake Cannavale or the writing.
My biggest problem with the episode is that it just doesn’t feel like it does anything to move the story forward. It reminds me of Star Wars Rebels in a lot of ways. In Rebels we would get a specular episode that showed a lot of character progression, then next episode we would get a droid musical in space.
In a show like Rebels, where there are 22 episodes in a season, stuff like that is to be expected. With The Mandalorian, you have 8 episodes to tell a full story and to spend an entire episode on this feels off. Granted, this may come back and make sense in an episode or two, but it just feels like filler to me.
Alright so let’s speculate! Who is that mysterious figure at the end? My brain tells me it’s probably someone new we haven’t met yet. Maybe Moff Gideon or someone we haven’t even thought of yet. BUT…… since we’re on Tatooine, could it be Boba Fett? If you listen to those footsteps and compare them to Boba’s in Empire, it does sound incredibly similar. Granted, I know how silly that may sound, but listen and tell me I'm wrong.
I know that Filoni and Favreau have talked about not having legacy characters in season one so maybe this pays off in season two.
Overall, I thought this episode was just kind of fine. There’s certainly a lot of fun for hardcore fans, but I left disappointed. I wanted more story progression and I just didn’t get that. We are three episodes away from the end of season one, and this felt like a bit of a waste.
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