The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode 5 Review: The Gunslinger


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Is The Mandalorian possibly suffering a middle-of-first-season slump?

While The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode 5 is still cooler than much of what is on TV right now and made excellent use of its guests — as well as some favorite Star Wars Universe planets, creatures, and droids — it felt kind of filler-ish. 

And considering the Jedi baby is currently more popular in social media than any of the 2020 Democratic primary candidates, the episode sure did not spend much airtime on him.

But that’s OK, as many of us would rather The Mandalorian not be a cutesy kids’ show over a glorious hormone-pumping Star Wars adventure.

So what’s wrong with it, then? Well, the plot of “The Gunslinger” is just meh, and shows the series might need more than just random exploits on rad planets to stay as cool as it ought to be.

Yes, we hold The Mandalorian to a higher standard, purely for bringing quality Star Wars episodics into our homes.

If this were a show under any other franchise’s canon, our score of Episode 5 would be relatively higher. 

We simply cannot accept that Star Wars could become an average vehicle for just another typical multimedia universe.

Star Wars elevated fantastical film storytelling to previously unimaginable standards (we’re not counting Solo). Don’t we expect it to do the same for television?

(Yeah, yeah, just consider CBS’ The Star Wars Holiday Special of 1978 an experiment of delusion and blasphemy that only now is improving its reputation with the help of kitsch and nostalgia.

And those of you who missed the unique Hollywood theatrical production of Andrew Osborne’s SPECIAL — about the making of said infamous television special — shouldn’t hate yourselves too badly.

I mean, give yourselves a break. You can’t see every Star Wars related thing ever created! Though one can try).

But I digress. Why? Because the best thing “The Gunslinger” does is remind us of the Star Wars of yore.

OK, I’m being harsh.

But, man, after some really kick-ass episodes — including last week’s “Sanctuary” — this one is a let-down.

Riot Mar: I can bring you in warm, or I can bring you in cold.
[Mando breaks suddenly, causing Riot Mar’s ship to jolt past it]
Mando: That’s my line.
[Mando fires and Riot Mar’s ship explodes]

It starts excellent enough, with a killer mini space battle between Mando and another bounty hunter named Riot Mar (Rio Hackford) who is pursuing Mando and the stolen Jedi baby. 

Then when we hear that the odd couple are going to land at Mos Eisley spaceport on Tatooine, we feel a chill.

Any visit to Tatooine is bound to be a Star Wars fan’s wet dream, yeah? 

But while we get to reminisce on Tusken Raiders, dewbacks, pit droids, the Mos Eisley Cantina, and more dwellers of Tatooine, one can’t help but think without those elements, nobody would care much more than a vegan Trekkie cares about milking a thala-siren.

We also miss any encounters with Jawas or Hutts (though Hutts are referenced).

And then there are the guest stars.

We have Amy Sedaris (Strangers with Candy) as ship mechanic Peli Motto, Jake Cannavale (Nurse Jackie) as bounty hunter in training Toro Calican, and Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as elite assassin Fennec Shand.

All three guests perform decently enough and shine a bit.

Athough Sedaris appears to think she’s in the Holiday Special — rather than a critically-acclaimed new Star Wars show — with her presentational, broad, sketch-like comedic strokes. 

That’s alright. I know. That was really loud for your big old ears, wadn’t it? It’s OK. Shhh shhh shhh shhhh.


But by the end, nothing substantial adds to the overall series arc, except for a closing sequence suggesting Fennec could return. 

Everything in “The Gunslinger” is too damned easy! It’s frustrating as hell, man.

After a whole exchange between Mando and Toro about how deadly Fennec Shand is and that pursuing her is a suicide mission, the duo sure captures her easily. 

Mando’s beskar armor is an easy justification for why Fennec’s shots hardly phase him, but would she really be caught off-guard merely by a piddly plan to wait till dusk to attack?

Toro: You alright?
Mando: Yeah. It hit me in the beskar. And at that range, the beskar held up.
Toro: Wait, I don’t wear any beskar.
Mando: Nope.

Peli fixes the ship too quickly and without difficulty.

Toro’s plan to turn Mando into the Bounty Guild by himself to create a legendary reputation got dismantled too painlessly.

I mean, he already knew the beskar armor was basically impenetrable.

And Jedi baby’s agile escape from Toro’s dying arms was totally cartoonish.

Toro: I really should thank you; you’re my ticket into the Guild.
Fennec: You’re welcome.

And we know Fennec’s demise was too easily obtained — though the possibility of her return was left open.

Episode 5 comes across half-baked compared to prior episodes.

Toro: Looks like I’m calling the shots now, huh, partner? Drop your blaster and raise ’em. [To Pelo] Cuff him. [To Mando] You’re a Guild traitor, Mando. I’m willing to bet that this here is the target you helped escape {referring to the Jedi baby].
Peli: [Whispering to Mando] You’re smarter than you look.
Toro: Fennec’s right. Bringing you in won’t just make me a member of the guild, it will make me legendary.

It’s possible this episode sets up some future awesomeness, but we will have to wait and see.

It has got to be a challenge to sustain churning out brilliance. But this is Star Wars, and Star Wars changes lives.

Yes, it’s cheesy to say so, but it’s also hard to deny.

Toro Calican - The Mandalorian Season 1 Episode 5


Our desire for Star Wars to continue shaping and influencing the entire science-fiction genre is a big ask.

But what’s done is done.

And the last thing we want is for The Mandalorian to float off into obscurity without maintaining its distinctiveness. 

Here’s hoping The Mandalorian picks up more nuanced story arcs again and that some of the planets and folks we have visited will play greater roles in the bigger picture.

But hey, what do you think? Am I being too pessimistic here? Do you disagree with me and love “The Gunslinger?” 

Sound off in the comments below and give me what-for. Defend it or agree; we want to read your opinions.

 And while reaching your own conclusions, watch The Mandalorian online here.

Kerr Lordygan is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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