“The Gunslinger” takes the Mandalorian to an iconic Star Wars planet for another fun, nostalgic adventure.
This recap of The Mandalorian Season 1, Episode 5, “The Gunslinger”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
As learned in the previous episode, nowhere is safe for Mando (Pedro Pascal) and Baby Yoda, so there’s only one thing for it: Nostalgia. The Mandalorian Episode 4, “The Gunslinger”, has the stuff in spades. Directed by Dave Filoni, whose weaponized appreciation for Star Wars has led to the creation of such geek-savvy content as The Clone Wars, Rebels and Resistance, “The Gunslinger” retreats to the dunes of an iconic planet for exactly the right kind of fan-service.
First, though, a dogfight, which is always welcome. Mando and Baby Yoda are being pursued by bounty hunter Riot Mar (Rio Hackford), who you can tell is overconfident because he parrots Mando’s catchphrase back at him: “I can bring ya in warm, or I can bring ya in cold.” Of course, he won’t be bringing him in at all, since Mando pulls off a last-minute maneuver and blasts Mar and his ship to pieces.
That maneuver plays havoc with the Razor Crest though, so Mando must land on a nearby planet which just so happens to be Tatooine, famous among fictional deserts. Wily viewers will recognize the Mos Eisley spaceport and cantina, even if we’re seeing them many years after Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi originally visited, and certain things have changed a little.
Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) and her pit droids attend to the Razor Crest while Mando goes in search of work to pay the bill. And he’ll need to make a fair amount of dough, since Peli coo-coos Baby Yoda when he wanders out of the ship and decides she’ll charge Mando an additional fee for playing babysitter.
Tatooine (this is several years after Return of the Jedi, as we’ve established in previous episodes) has streets lined with the skewered Stormtrooper helmets we saw in the early trailers, but paying work is in short supply. Luckily ambitious youngster Toro Calican (Jake Cannavale, son of Bobby) has a bounty that he’s willing to share; he’ll take the credit and Mando can have the credits. The problem is that the target is notorious assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), an elite killer currently hiding out beyond the Dune Sea.
They set off – after briefly checking in on Baby Yoda, where Peli chastises him for leaving the kid unattended – on swoop bikes, another iconic Star Wars staple, with the details of the mission stored in Calican’s young noggin since he childishly destroyed the tracking fob. They quickly run into Tusken Raiders, who Mando negotiates with using sign language and Calican’s new binoculars. It’s interesting to see this kind of diplomacy from someone who only a few episodes ago tried to barbecue some Jawas for haggling him; that and his on-going issue with droids suggest that Mando has some deeply held resentments for certain things while being surprisingly tolerant of others.
Shortly after passing through Tusken territory, Mando and Calican blunder right into a trap laid by Shand – a Dewback dragging the corpse of another bounty hunter. She opens fire from a distant ridge, too far to penetrate Mando’s Beskar armor, but close enough to kill Calican outright, so they decide to hunker down behind their own ridge and wait for nightfall to make their move. “She’s got the high ground,” Mando says, just in case you were on the lookout for yet another extremely on-the-nose nod to Star Wars history.
Mando’s plan – which he comes up with after a brief nap, giving Calican a chance to arrogantly draw his blaster on him, which he swiftly regrets – is to charge Shand on the swoop bikes, alternately blinding her with flashes so she can’t target them. It makes for a great sequence, especially when it all goes wrong. Mando gets blasted off his bike while Calican is able to get the drop on Shand, but he gets whooped in a fistfight and is only saved by Mando arriving in the nick of time and holding her at blaster-point.
With only two bikes, Mando has to go and retrieve the Dewback in order to haul Shand back to town, giving Calican ample opportunity to be manipulated. Shand has figured out that Mando is on the run from the Guild and was involved in the shootout on Navarro – nice to put a name to that planet two episodes after we left it behind. She’s worth a lot of money, but Mando will be worth even more after that, and while Calican insists he doesn’t care about financial recompense, he’s desperate to make his name in the Guild.
But Calican is young and stupid. He executes Shand despite her offering to help take Mando down and then attempts to kidnap Baby Yoda, who has spent most of The Mandalorian Episode 5 out of sight and out of mind. It’s a bad idea, and Mando shoots him dead.
All Calican’s credits go to Peli, who sends her pit droids off to dispose of the body in Beggar’s Canyon, and I just love the sense that this kind of thing probably happens all the time on Tatooine. The Mandalorian Season 1, Episode 5 ends as they almost all have, with Mando and Baby Yoda setting off in the Razor Crest for another adventure. But a very brief coda reveals a mysterious figure in black crouching over Shand’s body – and was that the sound of probe droid?