Mandalorian Musings: Chapter 9 (S2, E1) Reaction

Halloween ’83 Boba Fett Costume Champion

The term “fan service” is so often used as a slander in pop culture. Too much heavy handed, narratively meagre, fan service is usually damaging to a film or TV show. However, with obviously passionate Star Wars fans at the helm of The Mandalorian, fan service is undoubtedly well served – never more so than in episode one of the second season – otherwise known as chapter nine.

52 minutes of brilliant Star Wars, packed with familiar themes, faces and locations while feeling just as fresh as the first season. Jon Favreau, showrunner turned episode director, but most importantly, Jon Favreau the Star Wars fan, knocked it out of the park.

You could tell in the cold open exactly where we were going – not least because a tied up Gor Koresh told us. Tatooine, the most famous planet in a galaxy far, far away. The capital planet of the Star Wars fandom and where Din’s search for fellow Mandalorian’s would begin.

Immediately, my mind’s racing. Could we be about to see that Boba Fett survived his Sarlacc Pit experience?

What was served up initially was an even more intriguing twist for casual fans, and an even bigger thrill for canon junkies. Standing at the doorway of the Mos Pelgo bar looking like the Boba Fett cosplayer who won costume of the year back in Halloween ’83, Cobb Vanth.

Timothy Olyphant brilliantly bringing to live action the character we first met in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath book series, in which he was controversially revealed to have stolen Boba Fett’s famous armour – Fett’s whereabouts, unknown.

I absolutely loved the fact that Vanth looked like a DIY Boba. Sure, it’s Fett’s armour he purchased from some ignorant Jawas, but it’s so ill-fitting that you’d never confuse the two. It’s tired, distressed – (although, not as tired and distressed as it’s former owner who we potentially see in a final frame sting).

Timothy Olyphant brings a certain Han Solo charisma to the role of Vanth. Confidence in the face of threat, fortified by Beskar and riding the coolest speeder in Star Wars.

I mean, the guy is literally riding a repurposed podracer engine. Unless heavily modified, it’s not Anakin Skywalker’s pod, but it could certainly have been inspired by the 32BBY Boonta Eve Classic winner’s machine. Yet another delightful example of fan service delivered well. Casual fans will say, “hey look, cool speeder,” while Prequelists quietly have a nostalgia fuelled, joy propelled, meltdown in the corner.

Of course, Mando and Vanth’s joint quest is to kill the Krayt Dragon that has been terrorising Mos Pelgo residents. ILM didn’t pull it’s punches when bringing a living, breathing Krayt to live action either.

The creature feels huge, no doubt helped by the decision to switch from the 21:9 aspect ratio to a full frame 16:9 proportion for the final battle between the Krayt and a Mando and Vanth team fortified by Tuskan Raiders and the Mos Pelgo townsfolk. Lasting for eight minutes and shot on IMAX cameras, it was an inspired call. It drew me in to the epic final tussle – made it feel like an in-theatre Star Wars experience on my 43″ TV screen. This was Star Wars action on a Star Wars scale.

Speaking of action, I’d suggest that this episode even outdid Deborah Chow’s superb season one chapters for the quality of the action. From the brutally brilliant cold open where Din fought off Koresh’s thugs with a little help from the Whistling Birds, to his last gasp heroics against the Krayt, this was an episode where Din’s skills as a fighter were at there most entertaining. The wham, bam, boom of this chapter hopefully sets the tone for the series.

And a last minute cameo appearance – a sting in the tail of chapter nine – as Temura Morrison was revealed. Standing on a dune, watching the Mandalorian ride away with Boba Fett’s armour was none other than Boba Fett.

Well, probably. I guess there is still a chance that Favreau and Filoni are pulling a bait and switch and this will in fact turn out to be simply a lost clone. But let’s be honest, you can bet your Mynock roast that it’s Boba Fett. Last seen seemingly being munched by a Sarlacc, it would seem that the popular fan theory is being written out of legends and into canon – Boba Fett survived Return of the Jedi.

It’s a bold opening episode swing on a similar scale to The Child reveal. Sure, it’s not going to sell as much merchandise – an old hermit wearing second hand robes and carrying a big ol’ stick isn’t going to make a great plush, but it has implications to the story on a similar scale to The Child’s appearance. Who is Boba Fett now? What’s he been doing on Tatooine in the six years since we last saw him battling above the Pit of Carcoon? What does he think to Mando now hauling his armour and what will Din think to Boba Fett?

After all, this episode has gone to prove just how committed Din is to the honour bestowed by Mandalorian armour – he was willing to shoot Vanth where he stood in order to reposes what was the property of Mandalore. I doubt he’s going to take kindly to Boba’s story of how his family got their hands on the Beskar.

This is the only type of Boba Fett appearance that could work in a show like this. Fett flying in to pull a few cool moves before high-tailing it back to the narrative side-lines would be the wrong kind of fan service. Bringing the character back into the Star Wars story in mysterious circumstances, potentially introducing new tension, is fascinating fan service – the best kind.

As I’m penning my thoughts – well, typing them – I think back to episode five of season one. After being murdered by Toro Calican, Fennec Shand was left on the Tatooine sands. Wearing spurs similar to those of Fett, a caped figure approached her body. We only saw his/her feet and the suspicion at the time was that this would either be Fett or Vanth. Pretty safe bet at this point that it was in fact the former, and we’ll probably get confirmation in the coming weeks. Yet more intrigue.

Our perceptions of Boba Fett are no doubt set for change in the coming weeks. Just like how the series has served to radically alter how we view Tuskan Raiders, the enigmatic Boba Fett is about to have his story deepened.

Some fans may balk, but in Jon and Dave I trust. They’re Star Wars fans, just like you and me – don’t be modest, if you’ve made it to the end of this ramble then I know you’re like me, deal with it – and as such, they’re no doubt looking for the same quality in their Star Wars canon.

Star Wars by fans for fans is just how it should be.

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