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‘The Mandalorian’ Explained: Chapter 9 Redeems an Action Figure

We explore the implications of Jon Favreau validating his childhood fantasies for characters who never stood a chance with George Lucas.
The Mandalorian Explained Chapter 9 Season 2
By  · Published on October 30th, 2020

The Mandalorian Explained is our ongoing series that keeps an eye on Lucasfilm’s saga about the Galaxy’s most dangerous single dad. In this entry, we look at what went down in The Mandalorian Chapter 9 — the first episode of Season 2 — and explain how its shocker ending compares to the original premiere reveal. Yes, there be spoilers here.

The task of topping The Mandalorian‘s first season premiere surprise is difficult, if not impossible, but the Season 2 debut does its darndest and will surely ignite the enthusiasm of certain desperate fandom offshoots. The final shot re-introduces the most iconic character of the Star Wars franchise who really never did much of anything. Is that as revelatory as a force-wielding cutie-pie Baby Yoda, or whatever their name is? Uh, let’s hold that thought for a second.

Entitled “The Marshall,” The Mandalorian Chapter 9 begins relatively where the first season dumped our characters. Mando, or Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), seeks answers regarding the Baby’s origins. The universe is an infinite landscape. He can’t simply start knocking on houses. He needs a game plan.

As explained by The Armorer (Emily Swallow), the little creature displays gifts similar to those once honed by the Jedi Order. She knows not where Mando might find them, so he sets off to find other Mandalorians who might have a clue or two. After some aggressive negotiations with a one-eyed mob boss named Gor Koresh (John Leguizamo), Mando learns of a Mandalorian who calls Tatooine his home.

We will never be rid of the desert planet. It may orbit the Outer Rim, described as the galaxy’s armpit, but movie after movie, episode after episode, we return to Tatooine. Be it by fate, nostalgia, or branding, there is no escaping Star Wars’ first planetary environment.

Chapter 9 is The Mandalorian‘s second visit to the backwater hive of scum and villainy. The show last skulked these sandy streets in Chapter 5. At the end of that episode, we saw and heard a pair of jangly boots stroll upon the corpse of Fennec Shand and considered the possibility of Boba Fett’s return.

As speculated sometime later, the spurs don’t belong to Kenner’s most popular action figure, but to those of Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant). The character strolls right out of author Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath novels, written to bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. In those books, we learn that Vanth was a former slave who rose to the rank of Mos Pelgo marshall after he liberated Boba Fett’s armor from a band of Jawas.

The name Boba Fett never comes up in Aftermath, nor is it ever uttered in The Mandalorian Chapter 9. However, there is no mistaking the armor we see in this episode. The color, the blaster scoring, the forehead dent — these details are tattooed on every collector’s psyche.

The story Vanth tells Mando of how he acquired the armor from the Jawas differs slightly from Wendig’s depiction. There’s no mention of Lorgan Movellan, the Red Key Raider whom Vanth gunned down while procuring the suit, or the fact that Vanth already negotiated with the Tusken Raiders to act as bodyguards against any Red Key goon seeking retaliation. Either Vanth wants to keep a few sins to himself, or these Expanded Universe (EU) novels are exactly what we’ve always known them to be: mere test runs for the authentic adventures of the live-action entertainment.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter.

Mando does not care how Vanth got the Mandalorian armor. He just wants it back. The two characters nearly draw on each other upon meeting, but their duel is interrupted when a gargantuan Krayt sand dragon rips down Mos Pelgo’s main street. We’ve never seen one of these beasties on screen before, but in A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi did imitate its cacophonous roar to scare off the Tusken Raiders from making a meal out of Luke Skywalker’s body. At least, that’s what the EU would have you believe.

Every frame of The Mandalorian is creator Jon Favreau validating his childhood action figure collection. The Tusken Raiders may have only nabbed a few moments of screentime in the original films, but Favreau, and many of those watching, built massive Tolkienian epics around those characters through their toy collections. The Mandalorian is his chance to realize those molded plastic fantasies.

This effect occurred nowhere more powerfully than around Boba Fett. The Joe Johnston design, a sci-fi fetishization of The Man With No Name, tingled all the right parts of our brain. Thanks to the Star Wars Holiday Special, we were already in love with the character before he ever shimmied into The Empire Strikes Back. George Lucas barely gave us scraps when it came to Fett’s narrative, but EU writers would happily dump bounty hunter backstory whenever allowed.

Then, Han Solo blindly bumped into Fett during the first few minutes of Return of the Jedi and sent our beloved galactic gunslinger into the belly of the Sarlacc Pit. Our most precious action figure left this universe like a chump. The sequence stung, and over the years, more and more EU writers attempted to bring new life to Boba Fett.

Mando is another extension of that fannish desire. He’s the badass we always wanted Boba Fett to be. Over the course of the first season, whatever sore feelings still lingered as a result of Return of the Jedi faded. Fett, we don’t need you. We finally got The Mandalorian we always wanted.

The Mandalorian Chapter 9 Season 2

Timothy Olyphant playing cowboy inside Boba Fett’s armor is all of us. We want to be cool. We want to give respect back to the dope who practically tripped into a monster’s mouth. We’re never gonna achieve this dream, though. It’s best to give up the armor and let Mando do something respectable with it.

And that’s exactly what Cobb Vanth does. After Mando brings the Tusken Raiders and the people of Mos Pelgo together, and they successfully slay the Krayt dragon, Vanth relinquishes Fett’s clothing. Mando and the Child return to their Razor Crest and happily put Tatooine in their rearview.

We’re free of Boba Fett! He’s dead and digested. His armor is back with the people whom his father Jango Fett clearly idolized.

Oh wait, there’s that final shot. We’re not yet in the clear. As the Razor Crest zooms skyward and Tatooine’s twin suns set in the distance, we catch a silhouette in the foreground.

A bald man with a Tusken Raider blaster rifle and gaffi stick slung over his back watches from a hilltop. How much of the Krayt conflict did he see? Did he get a good look at the two men in Mandalorian armor? Who cares? Oh, just everyone watching this program.

The man turns, and we see the face of Temuera Morrison. It’s the face of Jango Fett and every clone soldier who marched to the beat of the crumbling Republic’s drum. As a clone child of Jango, Boba Fett would sport the same face. So, yes, indeed, Boba Fett lives.

We don’t know how, but at some point, Boba Fett dug his way out of the Sarlacc. He either sold his armor to the Jawas, or they picked up the parts after he cast them off. Having faced such a pathetic end, it appears the bounty hunter chose a life of exile as a Tatooine hermit. Hey, what worked for Obi-Wan Kenobi should work for him.

Boba Fett was never a Mandalorian. He wore the armor cuz his dad wore the armor. Who knows what emotions seeing a real-deal Mandalorian square off against a Krayt dragon will spark in Fett? What’s for certain is that this will not be the last time we see the character this season.

Favreau seems determined to bring respect back to Boba Fett. He wants to redeem that toy he clutched so tightly in his kiddie fist so many moons ago. Wish him luck. The Mandalorian had already cured me of such a desire, and it’s a little concerning to see Favreau drudge up these old fanboy feelings. Please, don’t hurt me again.

The reveal of Boba Fett is not as catastrophic to the Star Wars universe as Baby Yoda’s first appearance. It’s more of a step backward than a game-changer, a secondary mystery to occupy our minds while the series delays its answers regarding the Child’s origins. The fact that Morrison takes the same spot Baby Yoda did in the first season’s premiere suggests a level of import that may not be.

Baby Yoda directed where the second episode of the first season would go next. Boba Fett has zero impact on the plot of next week’s episode. The Mandalorian Chapter 9 behaves as its number suggests; one more episode in a much longer story.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)