This week, Robert Rodriguez directs an utterly electric Jon Favreau-penned story about Boba Fett getting his armour back. Gone are the magical but somewhat suffocating trappings of Rebels and Clone Wars; this week’s episode of The Mandalorian, The Tragedy, was a full-blown gunslinger’s stand-off. I don’t think I’ve been this enraptured with the show since the season opener, The Marshal, which (not coincidentally) was the last time Boba’s hunt for his missing armour reared its head.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Last week, Mando was prompted by Filoni’s main girl, Ahsoka Tano, to hoof it over to some Jedi standing stones and have The Child (still not saying it) put out a wanted ad for a Jedi teacher. And those stones, my friends, is where the episode took place. A ring of ancient monoliths, inside which sits an ancient stone orb, is where The Child will need to sit and phone home. It’s an isolated spot on top of a hill, out in the middle of nowhere. The perfect spot for an ambush.
And The Child, to his credit, eventually begins to meditate, triggering some kind of trance which makes him impossible to reach – if there was ever proof Mando is The Child’s father, it’s that Mando spends much of the episode ostensibly trying to get his kid off the damned phone to his weird friends. Having The Child stuck on the speaking stone and surrounded by whirling energy is the ticking clock that strings along the tension of the episode; Mando is going to have to let The Child do his spooky thing, but every minute that passes, the danger increases. And there are several levels to that danger.
The first? Boba Fett. THE Boba Fett, played by Temeura Morrison (who played Jango Fett, and the clones, in the prequel trilogy) returns in onyx Tusken garb, demanding that Mando return his armour. Mando, upon hearing the Boba hasn’t sworn the oath, refuses. Boba points out that The Child is in some pretty serious trouble, that the price on its head has climbed, and that if he gets his armour back, he and his backup will help look out for them.
His backup? Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen). I was initially torn about seeing anyone from the worst episode in The Mandalorian’s history until I remembered Fennec murdered the show’s most irritating, and objectively worst, character in cold blood. This episode, Fennec goes from being a momentary and bloody distraction to an absolute superstar. One of the classic western tropes? Outlaws with a faint moral code banding together against insurmountable odds. Fennec is, in essence, a sniper, so watching her contend with the hordes of vintage stormtroopers who arrive is exhilarating. Rodriguez has perhaps never been better with cutting together action sequences; The Mandalorian has never felt quite so brutal.
When all seems lost, and the blaster-proof Mando and ailing Fennec are completely surrounded, the big reveal of the episode is deployed. Boba Fett has once again donned his armour, and the middle-aged, scarred, deadpan bounty hunter roars into view. This episode is, in essence, the true return of Boba Fett, whose adoration as an obscure Star Wars bad guy led to Lucas making him the nadir of the Clone Wars story – his father, Jango, is the progenitor of every clone in the titular Clone Wars. He’s never been more real, more raw, than in The Tragedy; it’s like watching Jackman in Logan.
Killing Stormtroopers also seems to be somehow cathartic for the old killer – when he dispatches them he seems to take an almost lustful catharsis from the act. When he sees Moff Gideon’s ship almost engulf the sky before him, he mutters “they’re back”, and it’s impossible not to hear… something in his voice. Fear? Resignation? Resolve? Whatever it is, I’m guessing (and hoping) that he, like Mando, has evolved in the wilderness. Grown into, if not a good man, then at least a better one.
After all, he nursed the dying Fennec back to health, giving her snazzy new robotic augmentations. After Mando’s Razor Crest (I am genuinely going to miss that ship) gets nuked from orbit, we see Boba watching a forlorn Mando pick through the wreckage, quietly grief-stricken over his ship, true… but more so, over his kidnapped ward. And Boba does something decidedly unlike Boba of old: insists that his debt, and that of Fennec, is unpaid. Mando returned his armour, and so, Mando now has two new allies ins his quest to rescue The Child.
This is, to be frank, the best episode of the season so far. It feels like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the series, full of grim stand-offs and hopeless odds. And it injects a hint of Dark Forces lore, with four genuinely terrifying Shadow Troopers literally flying in and grabbing The Child. Gideon watches our little green friend use the force to hurl two stormtroopers into one another, before brandishing The Darksaber, at which point the credits roll on this absolute barn-burner of an episode. Bravura performances. A rip-roaring soundtrack. A trio of gunslingers uniting against a foe they can’t possibly defeat.
What more could you want from an episode of The Mandalorian?
The Mandalorian is now streaming on Disney+.