WARNING! This breakdown of the latest episode of “The Mandalorian” contains SPOILERS!
The nostalgia is strong with this one.
The fifth installment of "The Mandalorian" series on Disney+ begins by taking us back to the planet where it all began back in 1977: the sand-scarred childhood home of Luke Skywalker known as Tatooine.
The rest of the half-hour episode that dropped Friday is peppered with delicious Star Wars Easter eggs and familiar visuals plucked from the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, and even the standalone movies.
Oh, and The Child, AKA Baby Yoda, snores. More on that in a bit.
Our favorite desert planet with the twin suns hasn’t been seen in live-action form since 2005, appearing in the final shots of “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.” (I’m not counting Tatooine’s appearance in the “Star Tours” ride at the Disney Parks.)
Tatooine has appeared in animated form since then, in both “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” TV series. Chapter 5 of "The Mandalorian," titled “The Gunslinger,” is written and directed by a veteran of those shows, Dave Filoni.
Here, Tatooine is latest stop for our titular character, still on the run with his young (well, 50-year-old) charge known as The Kid, The Child, or to the rest of us, Baby Yoda. (Yes, we know, he’s not the REAL Yoda.)
Mando (Pedro Pascal) lands his ship in Mos Eisley docking bay number 35, which looks a lot like docking bay 94, the place we caught our first glimpse of the Millennium Falcon in the original “Star Wars” -- right down to the stairway and distinctive numbers outside.
In this scene, we get our first mashup of original and prequel trilogy elements when Mando is met by a trio of timid pit droids, the type first seen in 1999’s “Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”
Before setting out into the streets of Mos Eisley, the Mandalorian leaves The Kid snoozing onboard his ship, the Razorcrest. And turn up the sound, because you will hear at least one snore from Baby Yoda.
The pit droids and their intergalactic repair garage manager Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) are later seen playing Sabaac, the card game made famous in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”
The biggest treat for Star Wars fans, though, is a new look inside the famous Mos Eisley cantina that hasn’t appeared onscreen in four decades, reproduced here in exquisite detail. The Mandalorian comes here to look for work. In a sign of the times, however, it seems the cantina that once banned C-3PO and R2-D2 now allows droids on the premises, right alongside the usual contingent of alien creatures and other bug-eyed scum and villainy. (Even the bartenders are droids, like the ones who used to work for Jabba the Hutt in “Return of the Jedi.”)
Inside the cantina, the Mandalorian meets an inexperienced bounty hunter named Toro Calican (Jake Cannavale). Eagle-eyed viewers will notice Toro sits in the same booth where Han Solo blasted poor Greedo. (He even adopts a Solo-like feet-on-the table reclining position.)
Mando and Toro team up to hunt the notorious assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen, in her series debut), taking off across the sand dunes on speeder bikes reminiscent of the one Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) rode in “Episode II: Attack of the Clones.”
That 2002 sequence ends when Anakin finds his long-lost mother just before she dies, then rage-massacres the tribe of Tusken Raiders (or Sand People) that kidnapped her.
In a second bit of revisionist Star Wars lore, this time the Mandalorian approaches two Tusken Raiders with a lot more respect. He even uses what appears to be a primitive form of sign language to ask permission to cross their territory.
“Tuskens think they’re the locals,” Mando tells Toro. “Everyone else is just trespassing.”
Their safe passage secured, Mando and Toro continue on, eventually encountering Fennec Shand and her powerful sniper rifle.
“She’s got the high ground. She’ll wait for us to make the first move,” says Mando, a line that’s a clear throwback to Obi Wan Kenobi’s (Ewan McGregor) warning to Anakin Skywalker during their fateful “Revenge of the Sith” lightsaber duel.
Eventually Mando and Toro get the upper hand and capture Fennec Shand. Mando warns Toro to keep a close eye on her, dropping another Easter egg for fans of “The Empire Strikes Back.”
“She’s no good to us dead,” Mando says, echoing Boba Fett’s 1980 line to Darth Vader about Han Solo’s value just before he was frozen in carbonite.
Later, Fennec Shand appears to meet her sudden demise at the end of Toro’s blaster.
Toro, after taking Baby Yoda hostage, is soon confronted by the Mandalorian and meets his own end. (Hey, as someone once said, bounty hunting is a complicated profession.) Peli Motto tells the pit droids to dump Toro’s body in Beggar’s Canyon, the narrow canyon where Luke Skywalker and his friend Biggs used to race.
Fear not. Baby Yoda escapes unharmed.
As the fifth of eight episodes ends, a pair of mystery feet approach Fennec Shand’s seemingly lifeless body. But something about this scene gives us the feeling she isn’t done yet.
We sure hope not.
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