Wednesday, January 26, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Book of Boba Fett' - Fennec Tracks Down an Ally for Help in Boba's War in 'Chapter 5: Return of the Mandalorian'

Disney+'s The Book of Boba Fett - Episode 1.05 "Chapter 5: Return of the Mandalorian"

An unexpected ally emerges.

"Chapter 5: Return of the Mandalorian" was written by Jon Favreau and directed by Bryce Dallas Howard

This isn't really an episode of The Book of Boba Fett. The narrative cedes all control over to catching up with Din Djarin aka Mando from The Mandalorian. It's not even until the last minute that Fennec Shand shows up to recruit Mando for the pending war with the Pyke Syndicate. That makes this episode feel like requisite viewing for fans of The Mandalorian. It's a tease of what's to come as Mando continues his journey after giving Grogu over to Luke Skywalker to train as a Jedi. But it also requires that audience to move over to this series in order to have that added context. Consequential things happen for Mando in an episode of the spinoff. Yes, Boba Fett and Fennec Shand helped Mando during the second season of his story. As such, it's easy to understand why he will return the favor in their conflict on Tatooine. However, it doesn't come across as Boba being the star of his own show. Instead, it's even more evidence that Mando has taken over the mantle of being the most interesting Mandalorian in the Star Wars universe. It's clear that Jon Favreau wants to create a shared narrative across multiple shows on Disney+. That's his aspiration in creating many spinoffs from The Mandalorian. But each one needs to work on its own instead of being corporate expansion of a brand that demands more and more content. Adding Mando to The Book of Boba Fett isn't an inherently bad idea. It could easily add some excitement and momentum when both qualities are needed in the overall narrative. This episode isn't about Mando becoming a part of that story though. Instead, it's a continuation of his own. That still makes this the best episode of the season by far. But again, it's hard to judge this as an episode of The Book of Boba Fett. Sure, the musical cues are basically the same during the opening and closing credits. However, the specific actions focus on Mando tracking down the remaining elements of Children of the Wrath and trying to rebuild what was lost to him as he cared for Grogu. He grew so much as a result of taking in the foundling. He still cares for Grogu as well. When the beskar spear is melted down to create armor and not a weapon, he wants to create something for his former travel companion. He has every intention of reuniting. That's his focus. Sure, he regresses a little bit in wanting to join with his hardcore sect of Mandalorian warriors once more. The Armorer and Paz Vizsla are the only ones left. They can provide him with crucial information and training. However, they also shun him upon learning he has taken his helmet off. He still adheres to the code with reverence. Weapons and armor are an expression of his religion. That doesn't give him the right to carry them aboard a commercial flight though. He has to abide by those rules. That's a curious bit that plays out a little too long with not much payoff afterwards. But the show also delivers that in spades when Mando is initially credulous about Peli Motto's new ship for him only to be in awe of its speed and maneuverability later on both on the ground and in space. Again, these beats are important for the ongoing development of the character. With the precise return of The Mandalorian still unclear, it's nice to have this follow-up a year after he was last previously seen. But he doesn't immediately enlist in Boba and Fennec's war. He agrees to do so without requiring payment. He intends to meet with Grogu first. That may signal all of this as nothing more than a one-off appearance for the season - though notably Pedro Pascal's name is listed alongside Temuera Morrison and Ming-Na Wen instead of with the other co-stars of the episode. The narrative could return the focus to Boba and Fennec with the understanding that Mando and his new starfighter can realistically return to turn the tides of the brewing conflict at any moment. That all has been adequately established. But it's still annoying that the show has to rely on the lead from the original series in order to produce an entertaining episode. This show has had its moments. They've mostly been centered around the past with the Tusken raiders. That thread has been cut completely now without the replacement of something equally deserving. That remains a problem even though the show can cut loose and have fun for once here. That's a benefit of a shared creative team. It's still a distraction that must be noted as it reminds the audience of the better adventure that awaits us out there.