Spoiler alert: this blog is published after The Mandalorian airs on Disney+. Do not read unless you have watched season two, episode one.
I guess every once in a while both suns shine on a womp rat’s tail – Cobb Vanth
By far the greatest team, on the world of Tatooine
Given he is a man of principle in a galaxy of scoundrels, it is probably not surprising that Din Djarin rarely gets the good end of a deal. The last time he was in Tatooine, he pursued a deadly fighter against his better wishes, got betrayed, had Baby Yoda stolen and was forced to give away what little bounty he was able to forage, to pay for ship repairs. That he should return to the same planet and immediately agree to hunt a massive dragon in exchange for armour he could have obtained simply by firing his blaster, seems about right.
Mando is on Skywalker’s ranch looking for people who look like him. He needs fellow Mandalorian insight to help him work out where to drop off his charge, the 50-year-old walnut that is Baby Yoda. This is Mando’s quest and he must fulfil any number of tasks along its path, including helping people who are not Mandalorians, but just look like them.
The Marshal, Cobb Vanth, played by Timothy Olyphant and his resplendent teeth, is a case in point. He’s not a Mandalorian, but he did manage to lay his hands on Boba Fett’s armour in a trade with Jawas. It has served him to good effect since, allowing him to drive out the mining corporation that had occupied his town, Mos Pelgo. But Cobb’s armour is no match for the Krayt dragon that lives under the dunes and likes to pop up in Mos Pelgo to snack on the locals.
This is where Mando should cut and run, of course. Cobb is of no use to him and he could just reclaim his people’s armour with a quick shootout in a cantina. But then the dragon makes one of his excursions, Mando’s love of adventure is piqued and he strikes a deal with Cobb that is very much to the latter’s benefit.
Anyway, the guy loves it, so I shan’t berate his negotiating ability too much. As quick as you can say “landspeeder envy”, Mando runs off with Cobb to sniff out a tribe of Tusken Raiders and enlist them in the cause. Last time he was on Tattooine, Mando communicated with the sand people in sign language. He appears since to have mastered some of their verbal communication, too, and the soft gentle sounds of “gaaakkkhkk’ and “eeeearrrkkk” roll mellifluously from the back of his throat.
Needless to say, Cobb has nothing to contribute to the exchange and is reluctant even to do his bit by drinking some stinky water. But the sand people are recruited all the same because they, too, have a keen interest in seeing the dragon gone. So a plan is hatched to draw the dragon out into the open and – here is the kicker – blow him the heck up.
It takes a while because the dragon has gone off his usual diet of bantha and prefers instead to snack on sand people. To add injury to insult, Tuskens seem to upset the dragon’s stomach and he starts puking sticky green vomit everywhere. Even a massive bomb in the sand cannot stop him. This is a dragon gone wild.
So it falls once again to Din Djarin to put “the asset” to one side in a holdall and step up to save the day. He tells Cobb to stand aside and reels in a bantha laden with high explosive. The dragon can’t help but try to take a bite. He swallows both bantha and bounty hunter and, for a moment – gulp – where has Mando gone? But soon there is an electric crackle, our hero has been released from the dragon’s grip, and, in turn, detonates his hairy payload and blows the Krayt to kingdom come. Meanwhile, a figure watches from the dunes above. This cowled figure is played by Temeura Morrison, the actor who played Jango Fett in the opening Star Wars trilogy. Jango is dead by now, but his cloned son could be very much alive.
The moral of the story
The moral of the tale is that we have more in common than that which divides us, of course. The Tuskens and the residents of Mos Pelgo may drink very different beverages, but they are both survivors in a challenging environment and share common values, such as sticking to their promises. I have cribbed this from Mando, by the way: “The sand people are brutal but so is the dune sea. They are raiders, this is true, but they also keep their word.”
I messaged my dad this morning to ask him which western sees the cowboys team up with the indigenous population to see off a greater threat and his suggestion was Jimmy Stewart’s Broken Arrow, about a cowboy who ends up defending Apaches. Maybe there is a more apposite reference, but like a lot of the Mandalorian tales this feels like an echo of something that has been told before.
I mean that in a good way, of course; by creating a sense of fable, the Mandalorian plugs into one of those qualities that made the original Star Wars tales sparkle. This episode was written and directed by creator Jon Favreau and it had that simple but involving quality that he is so good at conjuring up.
We get to see a couple of Gamorreans go at each other with axes in the opening scene, their first “live action” appearance since the Return of the Jedi, if my reading of Wookieepedia is correct.
The Krayt Dragon obviously appears, too, and, at the very end, we get to see a Tusken Raider dig out its pearl, a highly valuable artefact that could probably buy you a few litres of smelly apple water.
We also saw several Massiffs, massive lizardy dogs that the Tuskens use as guards and hunters.
Finally, I did wonder why our introduction to Tattooine involved a closeup of a bantha’s flaring nostrils, but I know now. The humble, hairy yak creature played the role of sacrificial goat to the dragon and ultimately did its job perfectly!
As well as Olyphant, we have a voice cameo from John Leguizamo as Gor Karesh and the welcome return of Amy Sedaris’s mechanic Peli Motto.
Baby Yoda watch
The little ’un serves up none of that “wavy hand stuff” (copyright Greef Karga) and generally stays out of harm’s way in this episode. Which, given the grief he has been causing everyone up to this point, seems only fair. I mean it is a he, right?
Personal note: I’m delighted to be your recapper for this series. So far, I think it strikes the perfect tonal fit for a Star Wars franchise – light, fun, but underpinned by rigorous characterisation and plotting. I am far from the world’s most knowledgeable source on the goings-on in the galaxy, but I pledge to be as thorough and thoughtful as possible. Any tips, steers and corrections are always welcome, and I hope all exchanges will be conducted in the spirit of civility. This is the way.