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Did ‘The Mandalorian’ Just Unveil [REDACTED]?

Our planet-hopping bounty hunter and his pint-sized sidekick are back, and so are our recaps. First order of business: Who was that mysterious person we caught a glimpse of at the end?

Disney/Ringer illustration

A familiar setting, a famous guest, a loose end addressed, and a major character reveal—but not necessarily the one you would think. The Mandalorian is back for a second season, and I’m back to break it down. Let’s review what we learned in “Chapter 9: The Marshal,” the first episode directed by series creator, writer, and showrunner Jon Favreau.

Last season, the Client made the case for the Empire as a civilizing force. “Compare Imperial rule to what is happening now,” he told Mando, Cara Dune, and Greef Karga. “Look outside. Is the world more peaceful since the revolution? I see nothing but death and chaos.”

That’s easy to say when you’re the one bossing around Stormtroopers and wearing a shiny Imperial medallion, but not when you’re the one being ground under the Empire’s bootheel; ask Cara, the Alderaan native, whether the Empire “improves every system it touches.” In the case of Tatooine, though, the Client may have had a point. “Once the Empire fell, it was a free-for-all,” Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) tells Mando when he returns to the desert planet in Chapter 9. “I didn’t dare leave the city walls. Still don’t.” Mos Eisley may be a wretched hive of scum and villainy, but when it comes to Tatooine real estate, “The Marshal” makes a compelling case for the city over the suburbs.

The Star Wars franchise can’t quit Tatooine, and The Mandalorian is as guilty of going back to the well as the movies, video games, and novels. Mando and the Child visited the adopted planet of Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the deeply self-referential fifth chapter of Season 1, and they make a beeline back at the start of Season 2. This time, Mando is following a lead from the late Gor Koresh (John Leguizamo), a gangster whom he overpowers in the opening scene, which takes place on an unspecified Outer Rim planet. With the covert on Nevarro abandoned, Mando is cut off from his kind, and he’s searching for other Mandalorians who can help him with his quest to take the Child to the Jedi. Koresh is said to have the hookup, but as it turns out, he’s an unscrupulous beskar collector with designs on Mando’s shiny shell. With help from his whistling birds and some hand-to-hand combat, Mando turns the tables on Koresh’s henchmen and strings up their employer.

Under duress, Koresh admits, “The Mando I know of is on Tatooine,” causing the hairs to stand up on Star Wars fans’ arms. What are the odds that there are two people on an underpopulated planet sporting the Order’s ultra-rare armor? Koresh has to be talking about Boba Fett. Mando leaves Koresh for the local fauna—which look a little like the light-averse fyrnocks from Rebels and The Clone Wars—and sets course for the planet farthest from the bright center to the universe but closest to the center of Star Wars.

According to Koresh, the mysterious Mandalorian resides in Mos Pelgo, not to be confused with the more familiar Moses, Eisley and Espa. Motto, who took care of the Razor Crest and babysat in Season 1, is pleased to see Clan Mudhorn despite nearly getting caught in the crossfire during their previous encounter, and Mando hits her up for directions to Mos Pelgo, a name she’s not heard in a long time. Motto explains that the Mos is an old mining settlement that was wiped out by bandits after the Empire pulled out. With an assist from original trilogy relic R5-D4, who’s also reprising his appearance from the first season, she shows Mando on a map where the Mos should be. Its location is ominously unmarked: There be Krayt dragons.

When Mando arrives on the speeder he used in Season 1 and left in Motto’s care, he finds the off-the-grid settlement still inhabited. It doesn’t take him long to come helmet to helmet with the person he seeks, who is indeed stealing Fett’s look. That’s the same armor (which is looking worse for wear), right down to the dent on the helmet that Mandalorian writer/director/producer Dave Filoni once explained in an unaired clip from The Clone Wars. But no, it’s not Boba: It’s Timothy Olyphant, who’s playing a local lawman named Cobb Vanth (as Slashfilm reported he would in May).

All screenshots via Disney

Vanth is new to the screen, but not new to Star Wars. The character debuted in Aftermath, the 2015 novel that marked the first official foray into the post–Return of the Jedi timeline after Disney de-canonized the old expanded universe in 2014. Vanth’s on-screen backstory isn’t precisely the same as his book backstory, but the broad strokes are similar. In the show, he flees from Mos Pelgo when the Mining Collective takes over the town and wanders in the desert until he’s picked up by a sandcrawler, where he finds Fett’s armor and trades some silicax crystals to make it his own. Equipped with the iconic gear, he returns to the town, chases out its occupiers, and becomes the de facto mayor of Mos Pelgo (renamed “Freetown” in the Aftermath trilogy). On TV, the townspeople call him “marshal,” a title that’s familiar for Olyphant.

Olyphant sort of sounds like Pedro Pascal, which might have made things confusing if neither had de-helmeted. Fortunately for the audience, Vanth removes his helmet immediately after meeting Mando (the better to show off his hair), thus revealing that he’s merely a Mandalorian cosplayer. Mando demands that Vanth surrender his armor to an actual Mandalorian, but the brawl that’s brewing between them is interrupted by an unwelcome visit from a giant Krayt dragon, the fearsome creature whose call Kenobi mimics to scare off the Tuskens in Episode IV. Dune may be delayed until October 2021, but “The Marshal” stepped up to slake our desire for subterranean sand monsters and desert dwellers in moisture-preserving suits.

Vanth and Mando make a deal: If Mando helps the marshal kill the Krayt dragon that’s menacing the town, he can have the armor. Mando agrees, but to take down the dragon, he says, they’ll need help from the Tusken Raiders, who know their way around Tatooine’s apex predator. (For Tuskens, killing a Krayt dragon is a rite of passage.) Mando’s rapport with the Tatooine natives was established in Season 1; it’s fitting that he identifies with an insular, misunderstood culture that puts a priority on covering up. In the Season 2 premiere, Mando uses his fluent Tusken to persuade the locals to team up. Vanth is less taken with the Tuskens, who’ve lived up to their billing by raiding his town, but he begrudgingly goes along with the plan.

Vanth wears Fett’s armor and rides a speeder converted from an old podracer engine (possibly Anakin Skywalker’s), but despite his hand-me-down accessories and appalling habit of exposing his face for all to see, he’s an honorable warrior who hates oppressors and eventually samples a stinky Tusken beverage, all of which makes him a mensch in Mando’s book. When the natives’ first attempt at quelling the Krayt dragon results in a Tusken-sized snack, Vanth persuades the Tusken-hating townspeople to join the hunt and tag-team the dragon. When the Tuskens ride into town—single file, of course—Vanth puts his own reservations aside to smooth over tensions. The uneasy coalition loads up a bunch of banthas with mining explosives and trudges back to the dragon’s hideout, intending to bury them, lure the monster outside, and detonate the payload beneath the beast’s underbelly.

That plan doesn’t proceed smoothly either: The underbelly isn’t as soft as advertised. This cave creature, which is squatting in an annexed sarlacc’s lair, is much more lethal than the mudhorn; size matters not, but Baby Yoda doesn’t even attempt to levitate the leviathan. The dragon slaughters its attackers like animals, but Mando rockets to the rescue, allowing the dragon to swallow him along with an explosive-laden bantha. After shocking the dragon from the inside, he flies out the way he came in, his beskar dripping with acid, and blows up the sacrificial bantha. The dragon is dead, the townspeople and Tuskens are at peace, and Mando has a spare set of armor; as the Mythrol said in the Season 1 premiere, and Mando echoes in “The Marshal,” dank farrik! At the end of the episode, Mando parts with his latest ally, who may return in a subsequent episode, as Dune did after her first appearance in Season 1, when she and Mando rode to the rescue of the beleaguered locals on Sorgan.

Well, almost at the end of the episode. Look, we could talk about Olyphant stealing Baby Yoda’s screen time. We could reflect on how much more powerful Mando has grown. In Chapter 2, he had to rappel up the side of a sandcrawler—or, as he called it, a “crawling fortress”— and got bodied by Jawas and a mudhorn, after which his armor fell apart. In Chapter 9, he has a jetpack and takes out a Krayt dragon without sustaining a scratch. We could also discuss the latest indications of Mando’s emotional and moral maturation: In contrast to his actions on his last trip to Tatooine, he allows Motto’s pit droids to service the Razor Crest, reflecting the fact that his feelings toward droids have thawed. Watching a droid sacrifice itself to save him, as IG-11 did in the Season 1 finale, went a long way toward undoing the damage of watching a different droid kill his parents.

But none of those things will be the big takeaway from this week. That came at the very end: Just like last year, The Mandalorian saved a character reveal for the final few seconds of its season premiere.

As Mando sped back to Mos Eisley, a cloaked figure with weapons strapped to his back watched him from afar. When the man turned around, we got a glimpse of a familiar face: Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones and Commander Cody in Revenge of the Sith.

One interpretation is that this is Boba Fett; as I write this, the Wookieepedia entry on Fett has been updated to feature a screenshot of Morrison’s face from “The Marshal.” But we can’t rule out other possibilities yet. Morrison is the hero with many more than a thousand faces: He could be playing Fett, but he also could be playing Cody, Captain Rex from The Clone Wars and Rebels, or any other surviving ex-Republic soldier cloned from Jango’s genes.

The best argument against Morrison’s character being Boba is based on age. Although the rank-and-file Jango clones decanted on Kamino were altered to age rapidly in order to kill Separatists sooner, Boba was an unaltered, one-of-a-kind clone commissioned by Jango as part of his price for donating his DNA. In Attack of the Clones, Kaminoan prime minister Lama Su tells Obi-Wan that Boba was a “pure genetic replication” with “no tampering with the structure to make it more docile and no growth acceleration.” Boba was born 32 years before the Battle of Yavin, and The Mandalorian takes place roughly nine years after the Battle of Yavin, which would make Fett 41. Morrison is 59.

Of course, it still could be Boba; maybe the Tatooine climate or a trip through the sarlacc’s digestive system took its toll on his appearance. If he did survive the sarlacc, though, how did the Jawas end up with his armor? Why is he still on Tatooine? And what purpose does he serve in the story?

We could come up with answers to any of those questions; maybe Boba is just another bounty hunter tracking Mando and the Child. But considering that Rex and Cody survived the Clone Wars, that Rex played a prominent role in Filoni’s animated shows, and that Ahsoka Tano and Bo-Katan Kryze, among other Filoni character creations, are rumored to be making live-action leaps this season, one of the ex-clones would be a natural conduit between Mando and the Jedi. That may well have been Boba, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the juxtaposition of Fett’s armor and the cameo from Morrison turns out to be a clever red herring. Then again, Lucasfilm filed for a new trademark on Boba books and merch last week, which may not be a coincidence.

For obvious reasons, Boba Fett has been linked to The Mandalorian for a long time. Even Pedro Pascal initially believed he’d be playing Boba. But when Favreau announced The Mandalorian in October 2018, he took care to set his series apart from the preexisting character that inspired his own, writing, “After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe.” Frankly, I like that the series has toyed with but heretofore subverted the expectation that Boba would be in the show; by all means, give Boba his own movie or series someday, but beyond eliciting nostalgia, there’s no pressing reason to make Mando compete for attention on his home turf. Din Djarin is his own man(dalorian).

What does finally seem to be settled is that Morrison’s character was the one who strode into the final frame of Chapter 5 to inspect the corpse of assassin Fennec Shand. That may mean that whoever he is, he’s been following the two fugitives for some time; perhaps he’s acting on behalf of forces who hope to keep the Child out of Imperial hands. We probably won’t have to wait as long to find out more about Morrison’s character as we did for his face to be shown.

Although the creators’ comments have implied that The Mandalorian will evolve significantly in its second season, “The Marshal” didn’t feel like a different show. At 54 minutes (including recap and credits), the episode was slightly longer than last season’s, and as promised, the scope of the action was a bit more ambitious. But except for the last shot, Chapter 9 resembled a blend of the mostly monster-of-the-week episodes in the middle of last season, which didn’t shed a lot of light on the overarching plot. Morrison’s much-anticipated appearance suggests that more details may be about to drop.

Fan Service of the Week

Chapter 9 didn’t indulge in quite as much rehashing as Chapter 5—though I’ll repeat my note from last year that “it’s probably time to declare a temporary moratorium on Tatooine”—but Fett’s armor enabled a nice nod to the original trilogy that helps redeem Fett’s ignoble exit from the sail barge battle. Compare the jetpack mishap that led to Boba’s demise in Return of the Jedi to Mando’s technique for saving Vanth from the dragon:

Live by the jetpack, die by the jetpack. Or, you know, look like you died but possibly survive.

In more than one way, “The Marshal” also seemed to borrow from the worlds of Star Wars video games, which Favreau and Filoni have done before: The design of the incinerator trooper who tried to immolate our heroes in the Season 1 finale was transplanted from The Force Unleashed. This time, the plan for killing the Krayt dragon—and the plucking of the pearl from its carcass—seemed similar to a sequence from 2003 RPG Knights of the Old Republic, albeit on a bigger scale:

There’s a Krayt dragon battle in the Boba-starring 2002 title Bounty Hunter, too. Mos Pelgo was first mentioned in Knights of the Eternal Throne, a 2016 expansion to Bioware MMORPG The Old Republic. In addition, the Gamorrean duel at Gor Koresh’s club may have been an homage to Thok, the Gamorrean combatant from 1997 fighting game Masters of Teräs Kasi.

Speaking of Koresh, he says, “I swear it by the Gotra,” when he’s hanging upside down, which—like the other canonical reference to “gotra”—is likely the latest example of how Hinduism suffuses Star Wars.

Expanded Universe Spotlight

Although we can’t yet confirm that Morrison is Boba, George Lucas reportedly believes that Fett lived on beyond Jedi, and there’s plenty of precedent for that in the Star Wars expanded universe. In the Legends timeline that Disney discarded, Boba became the first person ever to escape a sarlacc; as early as November 1983, an issue in the Marvel Star Wars comics series explained that the sarlacc had spit him out and that the Jawas had found him. In a 1992 issue of the Dark Empire comics, he showed up to menace Han Solo again, explaining his survival only by saying that “the sarlacc found me somewhat indigestible.” Later 1990s stories in the collections Tales From Jabba’s Palace and Tales of the Bounty Hunters and The Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy established that Fett had fought his way out by making the sarlacc contract around his jetpack, causing it to explode and release its hold on him, which allowed Fett to fire grenades and blow a hole in its side.

Current canon has been much more cagey about Fett’s fate, at least until now; the Aftermath books strongly implied that Vanth was wearing Fett’s armor but didn’t definitively settle whether Boba was dead or alive. One way or another, Vanth was worthy of wearing the armor; in the Legends timeline, Boba eventually retired from bounty hunting to become a Journeyman Protector—one of a group of respected Outer Rim sheriffs—following in the footsteps of his adopted grandfather, Jaster Mereel. Vanth fits squarely into that tradition.

Previously Unseen in Star Wars

We didn’t learn as much about Tusken culture from “The Marshal” as I might have hoped, but there was one important tidbit about Tatooine hygiene:

Nine out of 10 Tusken Raiders recommend brushing your bantha’s teeth twice a day.