Last week’s episode of The Mandalorian—er, The Book Of Boba Fett was outstanding.
Mostly, that’s because it was all about Mando (Pedro Pascal) rather than Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) despite this being a show ostensibly about the older bounty hunter. Boba Fett used to be the coolest bounty hunter in Star Wars, now I’m not even sure he makes the top five.
In this week’s episode we get two of the most badass bounty hunters: Mando, again, as he searches for Baby Yoda; and the infamous bounty hunter, Cad Bane—a ruthless, cold-blooded killer from the Clone Wars and The Bad Batch voiced here once again by Corey Burton.
This episode was even better than last week’s for all sorts of reasons, but on a very personal level it was the return of Luke Skywalker, once again, and his interactions with Grogu. Written and directed by Clone Wars creator Dave Filoni (who co-created The Mandalorian with Jon Favreau) Chapter 6 takes this show to a whole new level.
Once again, we get Mando—but we get lots of other characters from the wider Star Wars universe as well.
Mando heads to an unnamed forest planet where he meets some old pals. R2-D2:
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And Ashoka Tano (Rosario Dawson):
He’s here to see Grogu and bring him his Beskar steel gift, but Ashoka tells him that he has to make a choice. If he sees Grogu, he’ll disrupt the little guy’s training. Grogu’s ability to remain detached from loved ones will be tested and potentially his training will be stopped in its tracks, and there will be nothing Luke can do to salvage it.
She offers, instead, to deliver the gift for him.
“But I’ve come all this way!” Mando says, his voice brittle with sadness. “I just want to see him.”
Poor Mando. In the end, he chooses not to see his baby, flying off in his fancy Naboo N-1 Starfighter while Grogu looks on from afar, making this expression:
Okay just stop it with the cuteness, Grogu. Sheesh.
Luke Skywalker Trains Baby Yoda
Speaking of cute, the entire segment with Luke and Grogu was adorable but also more than that. For me, it was a little bit like being a kid again, more so even than the end of The Mandalorian’s second season, when Luke shows up to save the day.
Here we have the inverse of Luke’s training with Yoda on Dagobah. A whole lifetime later. The Empire Strikes Back came out the year before I was born (1980, I was born June of 1981). This is where we first meet Yoda in his swamp and he teaches Luke to “Do or do not, there is no try.”
I was two years old when Return Of The Jedi came out and spent my childhood watching and rewatching those movies. When I was very young I never really wanted new movies in the Star Wars universe, but as I got older and read some comics and books, I started to wonder why there weren’t more movies about these characters. What did Luke and Leia and Han Solo do after winning the war against the Empire? What came next?
Well, George Lucas had other plans. He wanted prequels. He wanted to drench them in CGI and boring discussions about trade embargos and dry politics. He had some good ideas woven throughout the prequel films, but mostly as a teenager and young man, I was crushed by the prequels.
I found a new hope when A Force Awakens came out. It was far from perfect, but it felt like the Star Wars I remembered as a kid. Practical effects, a sense of humor, the right aesthetic throughout. If only it had been followed by two more movies that enriched all the characters that film introduced and gave fans what they’d been hoping for all these years.
Instead, the sequel trilogy was disjointed, rushed and never felt like it had any real purpose. I enjoyed the transformation and redemption of Kylo Ren, but every other character got the short end of the stick—and if I want a really good redemption story, I can just rewatch Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Even The Force Awakens feels week in hindsight. The repetitive Death Star plot. The fact that they had to rip everything good from Han Solo and Leia—their marriage, their son, their happiness. Han dying like that. Luke going out in The Last Jedi (which I liked for some reasons and hated for others).
The point is, today’s episode of The Book of Boba Fett reminded me why I fell in love with Star Wars to begin with. It gave us Luke Skywalker in his prime—a Jedi Master, before his transfomration to defeated hermit in the sequels, but after his “hero’s journey” in the original trilogy. Here he was training Grogu, just as Yoda trained him. A circle was completed. I felt a profound joy watching these scenes.
I won’t lie—I became quite emotional. It surprised me. This felt like coming home to something I didn’t know I’d left, or that had left me. Watching Luke run with Grogu on his back, leaping and flipping. Watching Baby Yoda train with the floating ball. This hit me a lot harder than I expected.
I think it just brought me back to that time as a kid when Star Wars was just so important and exciting and beautiful, before it became this battleground it’s become today. Now, Star Wars has been subsumed by the culture wars. Now if you’re a fan who has anything bad to say about The Last Jedi, you’re a troll and probably a GamerGater; and if you liked that movie you’re probably some woke SJW.
We can’t just love Star Wars anymore. Like so much else, it’s become a cultural totem we use to score points and argue about Trump. It’s absurd and I’m sick of it, and for this very brief moment I was transported back to a time when none of that existed (for me, at least).
I was a kid again, hanging out with Luke Skywalker.
And my god how the wizards and Industrial Light & Magic have done this with Luke is beyond me. It’s staggering. I’ve been a pretty harsh critic of the “Uncanny Valley” effect we’ve seen in past iterations of Star Wars characters. Moff Tarkin in Rogue One looked almost right, but just off enough to not be.
Even in The Mandalorian, Luke felt too stiff. And that wasn’t long ago at all!
But here? Here he feels real. He looks and moves and sounds real. It’s close enough to perfect that I now really want Lucasfilm to make a Thrawn movie trilogy (or Disney Plus show) with Luke as the main protagonist just like in the books (though change them enough to bring in Askhoka and Bo Katan and other newer characters). It’s an exciting prospect—if mostly wishful thinking.
From The Desert Comes A Stranger
Elsewhere, the war over Tatooine’s future heats up. The Pyke Syndicate isn’t messing around. They don’t really care about gaining control over Mos Espa so much as they do control over their spice routes—and anything, or anyone, who stands in their way.
The episode opens with yet another familiar face from The Mandalorian: Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens:
Just kidding! It’s Cobb Vanth, the Marhsal of Mos Pelgo—now called Freetown under Vanth’s stewardship.
Vanth doesn’t take kindly to a group of Pykes loading up a container of spice in his territory and tells them to make like a tree and get the hell out of there. When they draw blasters instead, he makes short work of three of the four. The fourth he allows to live, but only after unloading the spice.
“This is worth more than your town,” the Pyke sneers. “Maybe I’ll retire, then,” Vanth shoots back.
Later, when Boba Fett and his minions are discussing the Pyke Syndicate’s burgeoning threat, Mando arrives and says he knows where to get some muscle. He goes to Freetown and tries to enlist Vanth and his people, who have their own reasons to want the Pykes gone.
When Mando leaves, the titular ‘stranger’ from the episode’s title shows up.
The blue-faced alien is none other than Cad Bane, one of the most fearsome, terrifying and evil bounty hunters in the Star Wars galaxy—exactly the kind of badass everyone was expecting Boba Fett to be, but worse.
In fact, Dave Filoni had an entire Clone Wars arc worked out for Bane and Fett, where Bane would teach a young Boba Fett the ways of the bounty hunter as his apprentice following his father, Jango’s death at the hands of Mace Windu. This was never put to screen, though Fennec Shand and Cad Bane had a showdown in The Bad Batch.
Now, it appears we’ll get the Boba Fett / Cad Bane face-off we never knew we wanted. Unfortunately, it comes after a pretty tragic gunfight in Freetown.
Bane shows up making threats. His new employer—the Pyke Synidicate—is flexing its muscle. Bane makes it clear he’s not there to talk. He pushes his coat aside, hand hovering over his blaster. You can almost hear the whistling from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly play over the drifting sand.
Vanth’s deputy draws first, forcing Vanth to draw as well. Bane is faster than either of them. Both men fall to the dirt, though it’s not entirely clear if they’re dead or not. We don’t get a lot of character deaths in Star Wars but I think it’s possible Timothy Olyphant will not be reprising this role.
“Tatooine belongs to the syndicate,” Bane growls. “As long as the spice keeps flowing, everyone will be left alone.”
Back in Mos Espa, a pair of Pykes go into the Sanctuary. The cantina’s owner, Garsa Fwip (Jennifer Beals) eyes them worriedly—and with good reason. They leave and a moment later the place blows up. We’re getting into Narcos territory here, with the Syndicate taking on the role of Pablo Escobar’s cartel.
Next week is the series finale of The Book Of Boba Fett, and we’ll see where the chips fall. It’s been a weird show, transitioning from one thing into a pre-season Mandalorian in the space of two episodes—not that I’m complaining. It’s just odd and I’m not sure what the point of doing it this way was, when you could really have saved Mando and Grogu and Luke for The Mandalorian’s third season instead.
A Choice Of Weapons
While things are heating up on Tatooine, Luke and Grogu are still training on the forest planet where Luke’s droids are building a new Jedi school.
Luke shows Grogu the gift Mando brought for him: Mithril mail!—er, sorry, a Beskar Steel shirt of chainmail that Grogu will grow out of in about a hundred more years.
But Luke doesn’t give him the armor. Instead, he gives him a choice. He whips out Yoda’s adorable little lightsaber and tells him that he has to choose between it and Mando’s gift.
If he chooses the laser sword, he’ll become Luke’s first student at his new Jedi academy. If he chooses the Beskar, however, he’ll return as Mando’s foundling and never be trained in the ways of the Force.
This is, once again, all about the Jedi and their insistence on not forming attachments, which is kind of rich given how close Luke is to Leia and Han Solo and Chewbaccas and C-3PO and R2-D2. Luke has lots of friends and loved ones who he’d happily kill or die for, but Grogu isn’t allowed to receive a gift from Mando?
Granted, this is during training, so I suppose different rules apply. And Luke makes a very good point: Grogu will live hundreds of years. A short time for him is a lifetime for Luke or Mando. He may very well never see Mando again if he trains with Luke. On the other hand, if he goes with Mando he’ll outlive him by centuries and forego his Jedi training.
The episode ends before we get a chance to see which choice he makes. Maybe we won’t find out until The Mandalorian airs. Maybe we’ll find out next week. As much as it pains me, sticking with the Jedi is clearly the right choice and the safest option for the little guy. But it’s sad.