(SPOILER ALERT: this review will cover a spoilery detail for Chapters 5 and 6 of The Book of Boba Fett. While you probably know what this detail is and I don’t write too deeply about it to make it that spoiler-heavy, I still want to throw up a warning for viewers who’ve managed to avoid all news about the series. Normally, I’d just leave my thoughts on this particular segment out of the review, but it affects the rest of the show greatly enough that I need to address it.)
What’s new, everyone? When Season 2 of the Disney+ Star Wars series The Mandalorian wrapped up all the way back in December 2020, its finale ended on a post-credits scene that showed iconic bounty hunter Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), with the aid of mercenary ally Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), whacking Bib Fortuna and taking over the criminal empire that ol’ Bib had been running on the desert planet of Tatooine after the death of its previous kingpin (or Daimyo, as they keep calling the role in this world) Jabba the Hutt. Now, in The Book of Boba Fett, we’re following Boba on his journey to cement his authority in the underworld by gaining respect from his subordinates rather than pressuring them to feel terrified of his might. Created and written by Jon Favreau with Robert Rodriguez (who is also Book’s executive producer), Steph Green, Kevin Tancharoen, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Dave Filoni snagging directing credits, this latest Star Wars series premiered on Disney+ December 29, 2021 and finished on February 9, 2022 with a total of seven episodes.
A major reason for why it can be challenging to get invested in the show early on is rooted in the nonlinear storytelling of the first four episodes, which spend 70 percent of their time in the past and 30 percent in the present. The past timeline, which was much more riveting for me in comparison to the present timeline, explores Boba’s journey to survive on Tatooine after escaping the Sarlaac pit that had apparently gobbled him up in Return of the Jedi. The surprisingly touching bond he built with a tribe of Sand People along the way got me rooting for both Boba and the Sand People and is full of Indigenous cultural themes (I wonder if it was an intentional choice for them to be coupled with Morrison’s Maori identity), although the contentious conclusion that this particular plotline met felt clumsily executed. As for the present-day story that revolves around Boba’s mission to secure his power in Tatooine’s criminal network, it just isn’t that interesting for the first half of the series. Aside from the plot obviously centering on Boba’s plan to successfully take over Jabba’s former domain, it takes a while to head in a firm direction due to the show’s penchant for sticking Boba in a bacta tank as a way to transition into flashbacks.
It doesn’t help that the fifth and sixth episodes divert from the central plot by reintroducing Pedro Pascal’s Din Djarin, the eponymous star of The Mandalorian. Now, let me make it clear that I overwhelmingly loved these episodes, which were a well-written return to the gritty tone of The Mandalorian. Honestly, they may as well have been Episodes 1 and 2 of Season 3. The thing is, this fanservice steals time away from TBOBF in the process, leaving its present-day thread with even less room to develop. Because there’s much more story meat filling the past timeline, I wonder if it would have been beneficial for the show to unfold in chronological order. This way, it could keep viewers captivated all the way through the first few episodes, then condense the present-day events to make them appear like they’re developing more quickly. However, this doesn’t iron out the grinding halt that the storyline of Boba’s underworld struggle comes to when the show shoehorns Din into it.
Underpinning the disjointed and sluggishly paced show is the startlingly endearing characterization of Boba Fett, whom Favreau succeeds in distinguishing from Din. Considering Boba and Din are both soldiers of fortune who don the same Mandalorian gear, it could have been easy to copy Din’s traits and hand them over to Boba. But whereas Din is terse and ruthless save for his protective and affectionate interactions with Grogu, Boba comes off as a relatively warmer and personable figure who is predominantly concerned with making the residents of his territory feel genuinely seen and cared for under his charge and maintaining diplomatic partnerships with shifty leaders of fellow underworld regimes. He even says as much early on that his objective is to rule with respect rather than fear, and when he actually executes this plan, you have no choice but to root for him despite his Daimyo status. The moments when he shows compassion for others who are in misfortune and befriends animals, along with Morrison’s enthralling performance, further humanize him. Without diving into spoilers, though, I do take issue with the unsatisfying resolution that his arc reaches in the finale—an entry in the series that’s weighed down with its own batch of flaws. By the way, I recently saw the Star Wars prequel trilogy for the first time, so it was nice to see Morrison play Jango Fett, Boba’s father, in Attack of the Clones. As for the rest of the prequels, my opinions aren’t nearly as—how shall I word this—complimentary. But we’re not here to break down that trilogy, are we?
It’s unfortunate that, aside from some thrilling action sequences in the first episode and the finale, the show sidelines Fennec for the majority of its runtime. What a pitiful waste this is, considering she’s currently one of the most compelling bounty hunters in the Star Wars universe and she’s being portrayed by an effortlessly steely Ming-Na. But there is a pleasing aspect to watching two people of color, one in her late fifties and the other in his early sixties, lead the show. The supporting roster isn’t too shabby either, boasting David Pasquesi as the wonderfully unctuous majordomo for the mayor of the local town of Mos Espa, Jennifer Beals as a Twi’lek who owns a cantina called The Sanctuary in Mos Espa, and Danny Trejo in a cameo as a rancor handler. As for the biker gang made up of mods (Star Wars talk for cyborgs), I took a liking to them, but I can understand why they’ve been bugging a significant portion of the audience. Let’s not forget to praise the top-notch set design for creating visually palpable environments that feel like they belong in Star Wars, as well as the main theme work by Ludwig Göransson and the score by his assistant Joseph Shirley. That’s right, it isn’t the former helming all the work this time around, but I’m glad he’s letting Shirley—whose apprenticeship with Göransson has seen him through Creed, Black Panther, The Mandalorian, and Tenet—step up to the plate. The bold choral foundation is an excellent fit for the score, evoking an amusing image of Vikings who have been thrown out of time and left stranded in the Wild West.
My personal episode ranking:
- Chapter 5, “Return of the Mandalorian”—directed by Howard and written by Favreau
- Chapter 6, “From the Desert Comes a Stranger”—directed by Filoni and written by Favreau and Filoni
- Chapter 2, “The Tribes of Tatooine”—directed by Green and written by Favreau
- Chapter 7, “In the Name of Honor”—directed by Rodriguez and written by Favreau
- Chapter 3, “The Streets of Mos Espa”—directed by Rodriguez and written by Favreau
- Chapter 1, “Stranger in a Strange Land”—directed by Rodriguez and written by Favreau
- Chapter 4, “The Gathering Storm”—directed by Tancharoen and written by Favreau
The Book of Boba Fett had a wealth of potential, but it’s undercut by a plot that lagged like it had all the time in the world, a duo of admittedly splendid episodes that Favreau should have penned for The Mandalorian rather than using them to hijack Boba’s narrative, and a finale that left me sinking into a bog of frustration at times. It really does say plenty about the quality of TBOBF when “Return of the Mandalorian” and “From the Desert Comes a Stranger” are the episodes that rejuvenate the series. People have been saying that Star Wars can find success on TV shows instead of movies, but aside from The Mandalorian, that line of thinking doesn’t look entirely true at the moment. Hopefully, Obi-Wan Kenobi, which has been set for a Disney+ premiere date of May 25, will turn out to be more fulfilling, although I’ve had my own reservations about it after watching the prequel trilogy.
Until next time, stay healthy and stay strong!
Windup score: 50/100