After The Mandalorian began crossing over with older Star Wars media, Din Djarin guest-starring on newer media felt like the next logical step. While waiting for The Book of Boba Fett, I would sometimes gather possible hints of Din teaming up with Daimyo Boba Fett; from Kathleen Kennedy announcing the series as “The next chapter of The Mandalorian,” to the Mandalorian theme song ending Boba Fett Chapter 4. Even if his appearance would end up feeling mostly like a ploy to boost ratings for the coldly-received Boba Fett, it still sounded like an exciting kick-off for the season finale.
(Especially after a year that felt almost void of new content from Pedro Pascal.)
Return of the Mandalorian
Airdate: January 26, 2022
Director: Bryce Dallas Howard
Writer: Jon Favreau
Loyalty and solidarity are the Way.
Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal, whom the credits treat as the show’s third lead actor) ventures below Glavis to discuss his acquisition of the Darksaber with surviving Children of the Watch. The Armorer (Emily Swallow) educates Din in Mandalorian history and sword fighting, while also fulfilling his request to forge a Beskar present for Grogu. Din wins a duel against Paz Vizsla (Jon Favreau), whose ancestor forged the Darksaber, but distress ensues when the victor confesses that he violated one of the tribe’s essential rules.
I wrote everything above this episode’s title, including the headline, before watching the chapter. When it dropped, I realized I greatly underestimated beforehand its importance to Din’s story, and overestimated its importance to Boba Fett’s – the latter doesn’t even appear beyond the recap. Essentially, Lucasfilm and Disney+ attached the Book of Boba Fett logo, a remix of its theme, and an obligatory credit for Temuera Morrison, to a look at Din’s life after reuniting Grogu with the Jedi.
If I could comfortably borrow Din’s catchphrase, I would remark that I could bring in this episode warm or cold. A warm critique would praise its compelling look at Din’s efforts to adjust with changes to his philosophies and lifestyle, its fascinating insight into Mandalorian history and culture, and Din’s beautiful gestures of enduring paternal love for Grogu. As Bryce Dallas Howard directed a third piece of Star Wars content, she also ensured a distinctive environment and thrilling set pieces, which show enough of Din’s humanity to stave off complaints of “plot armor” protecting him. A cold critique of this story would lament that it only briefly acknowledges the threat of the Pyke Syndicate, in dialogue I initially missed among reminders of a superior show, and appeals to nostalgia for The Phantom Menace. Either way, I hope this episode successfully attracts more viewers to The Book of Boba Fett. Even if Lucasfilm didn’t see fit to cover Din’s emotional despair and recovery in his show, I hate to imagine any of his fans missing the milestones.
By continuing to wear his Beskar helmet in Boba Fett, Din encapsulates various types of Mandalorian upbringing he has learned. As the Children of the Watch teach, he draws strength from solidarity and privacy; this becomes especially apparent when he uses his helmet to both defend and attack. However, he also applies the practicality of the Nite Owls – whom he first met in the second Mandalorian episode Howard directed, Chapter 11: “The Heiress” – and Boba Fett. Despite previously revealing his face to either rescue or cheer up Grogu, he resists the cult’s directive for exposed members to never put their helmets back on afterwards. As Din complies to different Mandalorians’ most relevant values, he lowers his chances of a complete mental breakdown, earns his victory over zealous Paz Vizsla, and demonstrates his potential to unite as a leader.
The Armorer’s lack of an attempt to forcefully take away Din’s mask or arsenal suggests an acknowledgement that she can’t reverse his programming, despite her disrespect towards Mandalorians who freely uncover themselves. Even if her offer of a chance for Din to atone for his deviation makes her seem more forgiving than expected, his comment that her trial sounds impossible ensures that his transgressions retain their admirably self-sacrificial tone. His departure proves especially heart-wrenching when doubting that he can easily choose between regaining the Armorer’s respect, or permanently reducing his Clan of Two’s options for demonstrating their familial love.
A warm approach of this chapter would also praise Howard for continuing to provide Star Wars with tough and intriguing women. The director who previously helped introduce hospitable, sharpshooting widow Omera, and translate manipulative heiress Bo-Katan Kryze from CGI to live-action, here helps flesh out the skills and backstories of the Armorer and Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris). When Peli and Din collaborate on an aeronautic project, the morale-boosting enterprise feels like the closest the wisecracking homebody of a mechanic can come to joining her Mandalorian friend on an inter-planetary escapade. Additionally, if one disregards the recap, then Fennec Shand’s number of appearances in this show would now surpass Boba Fett’s, as she alone offers Din to join the gang war. Despite the brevity and nonviolence of her scene, her impish presence implies and spreads excitement for the imminent opportunity to protect hers and Boba’s turf.
The slow buildup to Boba and Din fighting in war together has provided additional reasons for them to relate to each other. Both men now embody a contradiction of practicing Mandalorian customs and values, but not belonging to a Mandalorian tribe. The next time they meet, they can process the embarrassment and disillusions of Mandalorians shaming them for different beliefs. They could also process the turmoil of losing surrogate families due to attempts at altruism, between Din’s Mandalorian cult shrinking they worked together to save Grogu, and Boba’s Tusken saviors perishing after he formed a short-lived truce between the tribe and the Pykes. “Return of the Mandalorian” provides one of the most absorbing chapters of The Book of Boba Fett, but Boba’s absence confounds.
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