Last week on The Book of Boba Fett, the titular character ceded the leading role to his quasi-cousin Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) from The Mandalorian. Fett is sidelined once again this episode, appearing in a non-speaking capacity while the Djarin and other characters from Star Wars’ past take center stage. The plot threads borrowed from The Mandalorian are gradually connecting back to Boba Fett’s war for Tatooine, but the momentum of the story is now being carried entirely by guest stars from other series. None of the charm of “Chapter Six: From the Desert Comes a Stranger” is original to The Book of Boba Fett, but if you think of this show as just another vessel under a big tap marked “Star Wars,” you’ll get more than your fill.
The episode opens with a prologue on Tatooine, where a Pyke spice deal is broken up by Marshal Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant). Vanth was introduced in the Star Wars: Aftermath novel trilogy before being imported into The Mandalorian, where he essentially became Olyphant’s US Marshal Raylan Givens from Justified. Vanth lays down the law, delivering a badass Old West Sheriff speech and out-drawing his four Pyke opponents, leaving one alive to tell his bosses to keep his town out of their spice trade. Olyphant is so well-practiced at portraying an icy-cool lawman that he could probably play this role in his sleep, but he seems present enough and the scene is an effective appetizer for Vanth’s reappearance later in the episode.
But first, we take a detour to a far-off forest world where Din Djarin hopes to find his former companion, Grogu, and deliver him a gift of beskar chainmail armor. At the end of Season Two of The Mandalorian, Djarin left Grogu in the care of Luke Skywalker (perhaps you’ve heard of him), a Jedi master who could help Grogu fulfill his potential with the Force. On the planet, he’s greeted first by Luke’s droid R2-D2, who leads him to a site where a modest Jedi temple is being built by a small army of construction droids styled after giant ants. The sequence has a great sense of classic Star Wars whimsy, as a frustrated Djarin gives up on trying to communicate with the droids and takes a seat on the park bench they’ve built for him. Credit goes both to Pascal’s performance as the put-upon Mandalorian (how much of his on-screen appearance is performed by double Brendan Wayne is hard to know) and to composer Joseph Shirley for establishing this sense of playfulness before we get our first glimpse of the precious Baby Yoda himself.
Up on a hilltop, Grogu is training with his new master, Luke. The effects used to depict a Luke Skywalker in his early 30s are truly remarkable, far less wonky or distracting than his previous appearance on The Mandalorian. Lucasfilm famously hired the YouTuber who one-upped their digital face replacement technique using deepfakes, and this is probably the result. Mark Hamill’s name is featured prominently in the episode’s credits, but deeper and much smaller you’ll find “Performance Artist – Jedi: Graham Hamilton,” who is probably the person we’re actually seeing on screen and possibly also the voice we’re hearing. (Luke’s voice was synthesized last time around, but Hamilton is also a voice actor who’s a fair match for young Hamill.) In any case, it’s a seamless representation of Return of the Jedi-era Luke, calm and composed and as bland as ever. Like on The Mandalorian, Luke doesn’t upstage the show’s main characters because the fact that he’s Luke Skywalker barely matters. He’s the Jedi who’s training Grogu; if you somehow don’t know who Luke Skywalker is, you’re not actually missing much.
We’re treated to some sweet snippets from Grogu’s training that mirror Luke’s time with Yoda, as Luke attempts to unlock Grogu’s repressed memories of his previous schooling at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. Following Grogu and Luke on a day of training isn’t just an opportunity for callbacks and cute gags, it’s a glimpse at the peaceful but isolated life Grogu might have if he chooses to join Luke’s new academy. At the end of the episode, Grogu is offered a choice between the path of the Jedi and his life with the Mandalorian, and it’s important that both he and the audience understand that choice. There’s also a geeky thrill to seeing Luke share the screen with Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) for the first time. Ahsoka is Anakin Skywalker’s padawan from The Clone Wars, and knew Luke’s father far better than Luke ever did. It’s natural that the two would share a strong bond, and it’s the sort of territory that would be ripe to explore further in a novel or comic book where neither party needs to be depicted via CGI trickery.
Back at the bench, Ahsoka greets Djarin, whom she met during Season Two of The Mandalorian. Ahsoka asks Djarin not to meet Grogu face to face but to allow her to deliver his gift, since it would be difficult for Grogu to say goodbye to him for a second time. Djarin and Grogu miss each other, but the Mandalorian code of “loyalty and solidarity” is in direct conflict with the Jedi’s edict of personal detachment. As much as it pains him, Djarin respects Ahsoka’s request and leaves without seeing his surrogate son. (An emotional character dilemma? On this show?) Later, Luke lays out Grogu’s choice between accepting the beskar armor and living as a Mandalorian or taking up Yoda’s lightsaber and becoming a Jedi. Safe money says Grogu gets dropped off by Luke and/or Ahsoka to turn the tide of next week’s climatic mob war.
Speaking of which, back on Tatooine, Din Djarin attempts to enlist the aid of Marshal Vanth and the citizens of Freetown to serve as Boba Fett’s infantry against the Pykes. Vanth plans to gather the townsfolk to discuss the matter, but the meeting is preempted by a visit from the mercenary Cad Bane (another Clone Wars character making his first live-action appearance, complete with original voice Corey Burton). Cad Bane is a perfect nemesis for Vanth, a gunslinger modeled after Angel Eyes from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. A Leone-style showdown ensues, wounding Vanth and killing his deputy (stunt actor JJ Dashnaw). Bane considers this a warning to Vanth to stay out of the Pykes’ way, but it all but guarantees that the Marshal and his constituents enlist with Fett.
Finally, the war formally begins as the Pykes blow up the Sanctuary cantina in Mos Espa, presumably killing proprietor Garsa Fwip (Jennifer Beals). Boba Fett will have to respond to this attack on his territory, and the stage is set for a climactic conflict. All of the potential players in the final battle have ties to Fett—Grogu, who he helped rescue from the Empire; Tano and Skywalker, with whom he’s done battle; Vanth, who once wore his armor; Cad Bane, who trained under his father—so it’s truly bizarre that Fett himself has had nothing to do with bringing any of them into this story and hasn’t breathed a word in the past two episodes. Don’t get me wrong, these two chapters have been much more entertaining than the first half of the season, but we’re now left with only one hour to tie the title character back into a story that is, ostensibly, about him. Whether or not next week’s finale can redeem the season’s unruly mess of a structure, I am at least more confident that it will be a good time.