REVIEW: ‘The Mandalorian,’ Episode 5 – “Chapter 5: The Gunslinger”

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The Mandalorianin its first four episodes, has managed to utilize familiar iconography from the Star Wars universe without tipping into blatant fan service. However, it ends up crossing this line in its fifth episode, “The Gunslinger.” After a dogfight with a rival bounty hunter ends up damaging the Razorcrest, Mando (Pedro Pascal) and Yodito (The Child) end up making a pit stop on Tatooine; aka the birthplace of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader and the home of his son Luke. Mando doesn’t have enough credits to pay for repairs, so he starts looking for an easy job. He soon gets more than he bargained for when a young upstart bounty hunter, Toro Calican (Jake Cannavale) asks for his help in capturing the deadly sharpshooter Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen).

The Gunslinger and the Mandalorian

With “The Gunslinger” being set on Tatooine, the audience has a chance to revisit some of Star Wars‘ most familiar images. Mando winds up in the Mos Eisley cantina, where all manner of alien creatures talk business. In a nice twist, where the bartender in A New Hope forbade droids from setting foot in the cantina, this time there’s an actual droid behind the bar. Toro is first introduced with his feet up on the table, and his easygoing manner is meant to remind you of Han Solo. Tuskens appear although Mando has a far less hostile encounter with them than Luke Skywalker did. Mos Eisley mechanic Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) even has a trio of pit droids to assist her.

However, the shoutouts in “The Gunslinger” often feel like fan service slathered on too thick, rather than serving to push the story forward. The biggest example of this is when Mando and Toro finally corner Shand, Mando tells the younger man, “keep an eye on her. She’s no good to us dead.” Eagle-eyed fans will catch this as a nod to Boba Fett’s iconic line, but it still feels less clever and more of a “Hey guys, remember that one thing from Empire Strikes Back?” Dave Filoni, who returns to directorial duties, also wrote this episode which marks the first time series creator Jon Favreau has not penned an episode. While Filoni is no stranger to the Star Wars universe, his work usually manages to strike a balance between utilizing classic elements of the mythos and introducing entirely new ones. This episode upsets that balance.

The new characters who are introduced also feel rather lacking, especially Toro. I don’t know if it’s Cannavale’s acting, the writing, or a combination of both, but as I mentioned before, he comes off like a diet Han Solo. Similarly, we don’t see enough of Wen outside of one action sequence; given that she’s a huge Star Wars fan and it’s great to see another Asian-American actress in the Star Wars universe, I hope this episode is not a one-time appearance for her character. And while Sedaris brings her trademark humor to the episode, she too is sadly underutilized.

“The Gunslinger” manages to get by due to its leading man’s performance. Pascal adds a new dimension to Mando’s bond with Yodito, as the bounty hunter panics when he can’t find his young charge. When Peli tells him “You have a lot to learn about being a parent,” Mando’s head lowers as if to agree with her. It’s one thing to hunt down a deadly sniper; it’s another to take care of a baby. This episode is also visually pleasing; the most striking image is when Mando walks by a series of stormtrooper helmets impaled on strikes. With one image, Filoni shows that this is a world that is not entirely fond of the Empire.

Though it isn’t without its charms, “The Gunslinger” tips a bit too far into fan service territory. I do hope that the next episode returns to the balance of old and new that the series has managed to strike in its first four episodes.

Episode five of The Mandalorian is currently streaming on Disney Plus. Episode Six will premiere next Friday.

'The Mandalorian,' Episode 5 - "Chapter 5: The Gunslinger"
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Though it isn’t without its charms, “The Gunslinger” tips a bit too far into fan service territory. I do hope that the next episode returns to the balance of old and new that the series has managed to strike in its first four episodes.