Updated: Jan 30, 2022
Major spoiler alert for this one.
I've struggled with how to begin this for a while now and I've decided the best thing to say is just that this is hands down the best bit of Star Wars content since Empire Strikes Back (coincidentally also episode 5).
If you're still here it means you've read the spoiler warning so I'll just go straight into it. Episode 5 sees the return of the Mandalorian, but not just the cameo that many expected but a full solo episode. This episode is less of a fifth episode for Boba Fett and more like the start of season 3 of the Mandalorian. His appearance sort of undermines the actual main character of this series but it doesn't matter one bit with how good it was to see him. The moment he appeared was done so well. You know it's going to be him but it still builds up the suspense of it perfectly. His immediate appearance felt just as good as Leia/Vader in Rogue One and Luke in the Mandalorian, that says a lot about how great this character is and how great the performance is by Pedro Pascal.
The episode kicks off with Din Djarin on his way to capture a bounty. Routine stuff. Except it isn't, they're fully commiting to the darksaber plot which is very bold given that this isn't even his series. I can't fully explain it but the darksaber in this feels a lot like how Venom did in Tobey Maguire's Spider-man 3, maybe because in his first time wielding it the Mandalorian just straight up beheads his bounty. No messing around with taking this one in alive. Maybe it was just to speed the episode up, no need to show the whole bounty hunting routine, but tonally the whole darksaber heavy first half of this episode felt like a glimpse at a much darker future for the show.
There's even an Armourer and Pas Viszla appearance. The fight for the darksaber was great, the Grogu mandalorian helmet is campy and awesome just like Star Wars used to be, but best of all was that the writers had the guts to actually kick Din Djarin out of the creed (I guess he's not the Mandalorian any more then). It served as a reminder of what makes these shows so great, they take risks and gambles and they have the runtime to let it fully play out. It was a very bold move to give the whole episode to the Mandalorian (although a no-brainer) it shows if nothing else that they're listening to the fans.
They also showed the great purge and the night of a thousand tears, a great little bit of fan service and a very very visually stunning scene. I hope that the Mandalorian season 3 expands on it and sees him hunting for the living mines and regaining his place in the creed.
The suggestion that Grogu would become a foundling with Jedi training rather than a Jedi is very clever and something I can't wait to see.
The second half of the episode feels like a whole new episode in itself. It's visually lighter (definitely intentional) and it's tonally lighter. The BD droid had me excited for a BD-1 and Cal Kestis cameo that never came, although this is probably for the best but would be awesome down the line (maybe after the recently announced second game). Moments later though Amy Sedaris appears as Peli Motto which is an equally welcome appearance.
I'm glad they went in on the lack of Razor Crest and have already sourced a replacement. The N-1 starfighter is the coolest ship in Star Wars, the Corvette Stingray of space. It's not practical for a bounty hunter (unless he exclusively just takes the head in from now on) but is just awesome to see a fully tricked out version of it, fully equipped with a grogu pod (Disney has to get that toy money from somewhere). Speaking of Star Wars ships, why hasn't there been an open world Need For Speed, The Crew, Forza style Star Wars flight game, the test drive scene in this is a perfect example of how awesome that could be (although probably wouldn't work in practice) it was totally a case of Star Wars meet Top Gun.
The end of the episode was perfectly handled to, a great way to bring it back round to the Boba Fett side of things and more screentime for the criminally underrated Fennec Shand. Even more excitingly it sounds like we might get a Grogu and Luke Skywalker appearance first.
I was amazed to see that this episode was directed by Bryce Dallas Howard. I like Solo more than most but based on this I'd have to say her record with Star Wars is infinitely stronger than her dad's.
I've said it once but I'll say it again, this episode is the best piece of Star Wars content since the Empire Strikes Back. A 10/10 episode, visually stunning, well written, and very promising for the future of Disney+ Star Wars.