We’re now halfway through season one of the first live-action Star Wars show and with that in mind, The Mandalorian decided to give us a little pitstop to take a trip down memory lane, of sorts. Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have both expressed how much the first act of A New Hope helped influence the look and feel of their show and The Gunslinger definitely puts that inspiration on its sleeve.
After getting into a dogfight in space, Mando’s ship, the Razorcrest, is badly damaged and he has to find a nearby port to fix it. Low and behold, the closest port just to happens to be located at Mos Eisley, Tatooine. As the Razorcrest flies over the planet, we get a replica of the opening shot of that first Star Wars movie. From there, he lands at a port and we see pit droids from The Phantom Menace. After working out a deal for repairs, he ends up in the exact same cantina that Luke and Ben did in that movie.
The cantina looks like it has seen better days. There is no band and the patrons all look rather down on their luck. Droids are seemingly running the bar now, despite being banned from the establishment less than a decade prior. Stormtrooper helmets on spikes were seen on the streets near the cantina, so it seems Tatooine had some rough times as of late. It’s here where Mando meets Toro Calican, played by Jake Cannavale. Calican wants to join the bounty hunter guild but as a rookie, doesn’t have the skills or the respect to bring in Ming-Na Wen’s Fennec Shand. So in exchange for all the credits, the duo team up to bring her in as Mando is in desperate need of credits for his repairs.
I thought there was something so incredibly off about Cannavale’s portrayal of Calican. He seemed too…Earthy, like a college dude dressed in a costume. The character himself was fine enough; a rookie who is in too deep and ultimately (and perhaps predictably if you know your Westerns) betrays our hero after being promised a bigger payday. His murder of Shand was surprising, especially since Ming-Na Wen’s inclusion in the show was hyped up. But Cannavale’s acting just seemed off; the same could be said for comedian Amy Sedaris as Peli Motto, the mechanic who works on the Razorcrest. Both these characters didn’t feel like they belonged in this world.
This episode, while making me smile with all the winks and nods, did feel the weakest of the five episodes thus far. The main reason for that is that it felt very fillery. With the exception of the final fifteen odd seconds, which set up a mysterious stranger approaching Shand’s corpse, this episode could likely be skipped over upon further rewatches and nothing much would change in the narrative. I mentioned last week that the show needs to start adding a primary conflict, something to drive Mando forward and considering there are only three episodes left, we desperately need that to come soon. Speaking of the mysterious stranger, I seriously believe he could be Cobb Vanth due to the sound effects of his spurs, which are very similar to that of Boba Fett’s. I initially thought Mando was to be that character but now that we’re on Tatooine, this makes more sense.
We’ve gotten hints at Mando’s character and backstory, as well as explanations as to who the Mandalorians are, but now the show needs to tighten its focus and give us a conflict that isn’t remedied at the end of the episode. Where is Mando going now? What is he looking for, what is his objective with Baby Yoda right now? We have no idea, other than he’s on the run, but there is no clear plan. We also have no idea what the Empire is up to or thinking concerning Baby Yoda. I would have thought the show would have cut back and forth to Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito, yet to be seen) here and there, showing their investigation, but we’ve been focused heavily on Mando’s journey. Again, not a bad thing, but at this point, the bigger picture conflict needs to come in and not be immediately answered by the end of the thirty-odd minute runtime. Here’s hoping the mystery hunter has a presence over the next three episodes to challenge and hinder our hero, who is literally bulletproof. So while The Gunslinger was a fun trip with a ton of cool little Easter Eggs, it definitely felt like the weakest episode thus far.