“Jabba ruled with fear. I intend to rule with respect.”
(This review is mostly spoiler-free, but as always, if you want to go in completely blind, do not read this).
Boba Fett. The enigmatic and endlessly cool background character in the original three Star Wars films, able to win over an entire fanbase with little more than a few nods and four lines of dialogue. It’s only natural that he would be expanded upon eventually, with George Lucas’ prequel trilogy giving us a glimpse of the boy clone who witnessed his father Jango’s death firsthand, and the 2008 animated Clone Wars show featuring the young Boba as a recurring character in a few episodes. As The Mandalorian affirmed the belief that a stoic and masked warrior could headline a successful show, series creator and writer Jon Favreau took that a step further with The Book of Boba Fett, a limited series dedicated to the titular bounty hunter. But unlike the other show featuring a Mandalorian bounty hunter, TBOBF is tentative and wildly uneven, seemingly refusing to commit to its eternally awesome lead. Although it certainly has its high points and is a perfectly acceptable piece of Star Wars content, The Book of Boba Fett disappointingly hemorrhages opportunities for dynamic storytelling at every turn and all too often comes across as a waste of star talent on both sides of the camera.
Where we last left Boba (Temuera Morrison), he was helping the Mandalorian rescue his beloved Grogu from the remnants of the Empire, and then taking Jabba the Hutt’s former throne in his palace on Tatooine. The Book of Boba Fett picks up directly after that, with Boba having assumed the role of daimyo (crime boss) of Mos Espa along with his partner Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen). The show is mainly split into two parallel storylines (with the addition of a random third one, but we’ll get to that later), one focusing on Boba’s time prior to when he showed up in The Mandalorian, and the other continuing his story in the present day. Star Wars has always harkened back to the idea that people and creatures of all kinds can come together to defeat fascist dictators, and TBOBF is no different, with its present day storyline depicting Boba and Fennec toiling to create a new kind of benevolent empire, rather than the oppressive and dangerously unstable empire that Jabba used to operate. For a character that has almost always been characterized as a lone wolf hunter who only looks out for himself, it’s an interesting turn for the man who’s still feared across the galaxy for his prowess as a merciless bounty hunter.
Although this show is titled “The Book of Boba Fett”, Ming-Na Wen’s assassin Fennec Shand is just as much as a lead as Boba (she is the only character who shows up in every episode), and even though the show gives her barely more than a hint of a character arc, she makes the most of it. Fennec’s steely and guarded nature meshes well with Morrison’s dry wittiness and the raw physicality he brings to Boba, who spends most of his time unmasked, affording more opportunities for Morrison to flex his acting chops. Due to this, Boba is a much more sympathetic and likable character than he’s ever been, but the direction that the show takes him works against his intrinsically moral gray standing. He’s a crime boss (or supposed to be one), so it’s strange when the series refrains from showing him do a single illegal thing. In other words, Boba and Fennec spend half of the present-day storyline talking about how they are crime lords, but never actually show it.
Throughout the first few episodes, we get to see how Boba escaped from the Sarlacc Pit, as well as what happened to him between that and when he appeared in The Mandalorian, told to us through Boba’s dreams as he sleeps in a bacta tank (the same thing Luke Skywalker used to recover from the wampa in The Empire Strikes Back) at night. We know that Boba linked up with the Tusken Raiders, and over these flashbacks, the show posits that Boba’s more mellow and altruistic approach to life in the present day is due to the newfound respect he gains for the Tuskens. This increased focus on and care for the Tusken Raiders, which started with The Mandalorian, is only highlighted even more in TBOBF, with Boba living among them, adopting their traditions, and even becoming a respected member of that particular tribe. Boba grows to realize that he – and everyone – is stronger when they’re part of a larger tribe or community, rather than on their own, and this is presumably why Boba tries to ally with his “subjects” in the present day storyline, rather than dictate over them like Jabba did. It’s refreshing to see Star Wars content give this much weight towards the creatures that were formerly and rather callously referred to as “Sand People”.
Running parallel to the amazing Tusken flashbacks is the present day storyline, where Boba and Fennec attempt to assert their newfound control over Mos Espa, only to discover that the Pyke Syndicate has formed a conspiracy to remove the newly crowned daimyo. The Pykes (top image), who had previously made the leap from animation (The Clone Wars) to live action (a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story), are impressively weak antagonists here, never feeling like a threat to anyone and having incredibly bland motivations and goals. The entire present day storyline is more of the same, with the majority of the conflict being “he who controls the spice (drugs) controls Tatooine”, which would be great for a gritty and grounded Star Wars property like Rogue One…but Boba makes it very clear that he doesn’t care about the spice trade in the slightest. Due to this, the Pykes simply want Boba gone, and the conflict becomes “Boba and friends fight the Pykes and their enforcers”, an extraordinarily boring one that only really finds its legs in the SEVENTH and final episode, wasting the better part of four episodes spinning its wheels (I’ll get to the other two episodes they waste).
The present day storyline with the Pykes would be tolerable if there was at least interesting things being done in the little screentime that it gets, but the vast (and I mean vast) majority of that storyline is Boba and Fennec recruiting people to their cause, deliberating on what they should do, or wandering around Mos Espa. That doesn’t exactly make for great television, especially when Robert Rodriguez’ direction is bland and uninspired. Rodriguez, of Sin City and Spy Kids fame, helmed the episode of The Mandalorian where Boba first reappeared and does most of the heavy lifting on direction here, quickly showing that his episode of The Mandalorian may have been a fluke, as Tatooine has never looked more drab and gray, nor have action scenes been more boring. A particular speeder chase in episode 3 moves at a snail’s pace, with absolutely zero stakes or tension, and much of the finale is an extended chase with some of the most awkward shootouts ever seen in a Star Wars property. Finally, the inclusion of the mod gang and their brightly colored neon Vespa scooters (top picture) is a mind-boggling addition, as they stick out like a sore thumb against literally everything else in the show. It’s extremely confusing as to how anyone gave the green light for such a strange vehicle design, as they feel much more Grease than Star Wars. It is a small nitpick, but it does stand out way too much for me to not mention it.
Perhaps most telling is how TBOBF completely deviates from both the flashbacks and the present day storyline in episodes 5 and 6 to essentially give us the first two episodes of The Mandalorian season 3, with Boba getting ONE MINUTE of screen time across both episodes (he doesn’t even make an appearance in episode 5) and the present day storyline grinding to a halt. While it’s great to see Pedro Pascal’s Din Djarin again as he deals with the aftermath of obtaining the Darksaber and allowing Grogu to leave with Luke Skywalker, it’s extremely frustrating when these two episodes are exponentially better than any of the other five TBOBF episodes. Bryce Dallas Howard and Dave Filoni take over for Rodriguez in these two episodes, and it’s sad that both of them (neither with anything close to the body of work that Rodriguez has) have better direction than him in these two episodes. With all of this in mind, it’s not out of the question to think that series creator and writer Jon Favreau is more interested in Mando’s story, not Boba’s, especially with how episode 6 sets up a massive amount of threads that will undoubtedly be followed up on in The Mandalorian‘s third season.
Besides this random sojourn into the Mandalorian’s story, TBOBF almost exclusively relies on cameos to carry excitement from episode to episode, especially when you consider that the plot progresses extremely slowly for a 7 episode limited series. Famous household names from other Star Wars media constantly pop up when you’d least expect them to, and even the few that do belong like Black Krrsantan (the Wookiee in the top picture), Mando himself, or a certain bounty hunter that I’ll leave nameless for spoiler purposes are awkwardly placed and utilized, with their appearances seeming gratuitous and shallow.
Despite great performances all around and a solid character arc for its titular character, The Book of Boba Fett frustratingly squanders a Sarlacc Pit’s worth of potential at every opportunity, relying too heavily on a glut of fan service and an abrupt departure into a completely different narrative. While the aforementioned fan service is excellent, The Book of Boba Fett is a disservice to its two leads, and a disappointing follow-up to the highs of The Mandalorian.
Let me know what you thought of the show in the comments below!
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these promotional posters, stills, or screencaps. Disney and Lucasfilm own all of these images! I got the screencaps from https://www.cap-that.com/