TV Show ReviewsJosh Reviews The Book of Boba Fett

Josh Reviews The Book of Boba Fett

One of the high-points of the terrific second season of The Mandalorian, for me, was the triumphant return of Boba Fett.  For years (decades!), Star Wars fans have speculated that perhaps Boba Fett survived getting knocked into the Sarlacc Pitt back in Return of the Jedi.  It seemed an ignominious end for a character who had immediately attracted so much attention and interest after his introduction in The Empire Strikes Back, despite his very limited screen time.  Boba was included in the Prequels, but I wasn’t so interested in the cute kid version of the deadly bounty hunter, and I didn’t much care for the whiny teenager version we saw in the animated Clone Wars series either.  But the glimpse of Boba Fett we got in The Mandalorian seemed to me like a fantastic reinvention of the character: older, wiser, more honorable, but still kick-ass.  I was super-excited when the final moments of The Mandalorian season two teased a Boba-focused new TV series: The Book of Boba Fett.

Having seen it, my head is spinning.  I am absolutely mystified by this show.  Is this truly the story they meant to tell?  Is this truly the way they meant to tell it?  There was a lot that I enjoyed in every single episode of this series.  It’s clearly made by people who know and love Star Wars in a deep way (in contrast to, say, the modern Star Trek shows, most of which seem to be made by people who don’t know anything about Star Trek), and I got a lot of pleasure out of every episode.  At the same time, I found the series to be almost bewildering in its inability to tell a compelling, coherent story, or to develop any characters about whom we would care even a teeny bit.

I cannot recall ever having seen a show with such a bizarre structure.  The first four episodes have an awkward split-narrative structure, in which half of each episode takes place in the “present day” (following Boba’s appearances in The Mandalorian season two), while the other half backtracks to depict what happened to Boba after escaping the Sarlacc.  I can see that split-structure seeming like a good idea on paper, but as executed I didn’t think it worked at all.  Splitting each episode’s narrative gave the show a weird stop-and-start energy, one that seemed to prevent either narrative for building up any sort of momentum.  Even more importantly, the two narratives seemed entirely separate from one another.  For this sort of structure to work, I think the two sides of the story needed to comment on one another; for them to connect in some thematic or character-based ways, in which what we’re learning in one timeline affects what we’re seeing transpire in the other, and possibly vice-versa.  The best example of this, of course, is The Godfather Part II, in which we follow Vito Corleone and his son Michael Corleone at approximately the same ages.  But that doesn’t happen here at all.  And while I thought that it worked in the first episode to use Boba’s time recovering in a bacta tank as the way to launch us into the flashbacks, I couldn’t believe that they continued to use that exact same device episode after episode.  It was laughable!  And it was one of the many ways in which the show undercut present-day Boba, by making him look so feeble that he constantly had to take a mid-episode nap.

Then, at the end of episode four, they drop that flashback structure entirely (and in the most awkward way imaginable, with one character declaring out of nowhere that, well, Boba is now entirely healed — so we could all understand that we have no more need for bacta tank flashbacks).  Episodes five and six didn’t feature Boba Fett at all, instead basically giving us two new episodes of The Mandalorian!  I was delighted to return to Mando and Grogu, and there was a ton of super-cool stuff in those two episodes.  But it seemed crazy to me that, in a short seven episode series, the title character would be almost completely absent from two entire episodes!  That’s just mind-boggling to me!  (Boba is completely absent in episode five, and he appears for one brief scene in episode six and speaks no lines of dialogue.)  Any momentum the show might have had in terms of developing this new iteration of Boba Fett, and the story of his attempting to replace Jabba the Hutt (and then Bib Fortuna) as the new daimyo (crime lord) on Tatooine was completely cut off at the knees.  Then we got a final episode that might have worked had the show been successful at establishing any of these characters as people we cared about, or as the culmination of story-lines and events we’d been following with interest… but since none of that happened, I found the finale to fizzle spectacularly.

It’s almost inconceivable to me that what we saw in these seven episodes was the original plan for this show.  Were those first four episodes originally intended to be split between flashbacks and the present-day narrative?  Or was that a late-in-the-process re-editing decision because they didn’t think the linear structure worked?  (The flashback structure feels so awkward that I find it hard to believe the episodes were originally written this way.  At the same time, it seems so clear to me that this show would have been much stronger had we followed the events linearly, with the first episode or two containing all the flashback material, and then building to the present-day stuff.  So I find it hard to believe they tried that and then thought this divided version worked better.)  Did they watch those first four episodes and decide, this isn’t working, we’d better bring back the characters from The Mandalorian who people actually like?  That’s what it feels like, but I can’t imagine that Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni & co. weren’t able to have all seven episodes written before the series went into production, so maybe this is what they’d wanted all along?

(I also wonder if there were additional flashbacks that were filmed but not included.  The show gives us several intriguing glimpses, in the early episodes, of Boba’s dreaming about his life as a kid on Kamino.  But those teases don’t go anywhere.  I’d heard rumors that they’d cast a new young actor to play young Boba on the show.  Did they film scenes of Boba’s childhood on Kamino that were intended to have been included?)

Probably the biggest failing of this series is that Boba Fett, the main character, is entirely uninteresting in all of the present-day sequences in the show.  Again and again and again, present-day Boba seems like a complete moron who doesn’t know what to do and constantly has to be saved by others.  In almost every fight sequence, he has to be bailed out by Fennec Shand, or Black Krrsantan, or the Mods.  Every bit of strategy seems suggested to him by Fennec Shand.  He just seems like a doofus.  Take, for example, the whole business of his getting back his Slave 1 space-ship (I’m sorry, his “firespray gunship”) (the series makes the understandable choice to ignore the Slave 1 name of Fett’s ship; I can understand this, but making Fett say “firespray gunship” was eye-rollingly awkward) in episode four.  First of all, Fett seems clueless as to how to do it — Fennic has to come up with the plan and actually do almost all the hard work of fighting off Bib Fortuna’s goons so they can actually get the ship out of Jabba’s (for some reason empty) hangar.  Then Boba goes ahead and bumbles around the Sarlacc Pitt, sticking the ship directly into the Pitt where they almost get crushed and eaten by the Sarlacc.  Nothing we saw in episode one (when we saw Boba escape from the Sarlacc) indicated to me that the Sarlacc was dead, so Boba seems like a moron for assuming that.  And since we saw Boba get his armor stripped off him by Jawas AFTER escaping from the Sarlacc, Boba again seems dumb for assuming his armor is for some reason still inside the Sarlacc Pitt.  (All they needed was a line of dialogue saying Boba’s memories of his traumatic time inside the Sarlacc are all jumbled, to give better context to this.)  And then, of course, it’s Fennec’s quick-thinking that saves the day, not Boba’s.  And Boba doesn’t thank her, he just petulantly complains about her touching the buttons on his ship without his permission.  Sigh.

Or look at the finale.  Come on, this is the Boba Fett show.  I wanted to see Boba Fett kicking ass and taking names.  But once again he seems to have no plan for taking on the Pyke Syndicate.  What little plan he has is suggested by Fennec.  When that dumb plan (hey, me and my five friends are going to take on this entire crime syndicate) turns south, Boba has to be told what to do (let’s not abandon the city) — which actually is a terrible plan, because they wind up destroying huge swaths of the city in the fight.  Wouldn’t it have been better to leave the city intact and have all this fighting take place back at Jabba’s palace?  Anyways, we do get some awesome stuff of Boba riding a rancor.  OK, I’d been waiting for that, that was great!  But Boba quickly loses control of the rancor, who goes on a rampage.  It gets left up to Mando and Grogu to stop the last huge Scorponek droid.  (Shouldn’t our main hero Boba have done that?)  At the end of the episode, after they somehow won the day, Boba tells Fennec “I’m not sure I’m cut out for this.”  Oh my god!!  First of all, no duh, we’ve been watching you be an idiot for all seven episodes.  Second of all, wait, so you don’t even want to be the Daimyo now?  Then why the hell have we been watching this story???  And then the show doesn’t even give Boba the final scene — that honor goes to Mando and Grogu (in a great scene in Mando’s new star-fighter, where Grogu begs Mando to use the super-speed button again).

I can see the echoes of an intended arc for Boba Fett.  I think the intention was to tell a story about Boba’s being reborn after escaping from the Sarlacc.  He didn’t want to be a cutthroat bounty hunter anymore; he remade himself into a sort of wandering samurai.  (That seemed to be how the character was depicted in The Mandalorian.)  I think the flashbacks were intended to show his journey to this new mindset.  But we never really understand WHY Boba Fett wants to be the Daimyo of Tatooine.  (He’d never had any connection to Tatooine based on what we’d seen before this; he just happened to almost die there.)  The early episodes seemed to show Boba being reluctant to fight.  That could have been cool; had Boba become a sort of Batman figure now?  One who was still a badass fighter, but sworn to avoid taking lives?  I’d thought that at first, but the show never actually showed that, and by the end of the series he was shooting people left and right again, so I guess that was never actually the case.  Plus, being Daimyo isn’t like being the mayor or the marshall — Boba wanted to be a crime lord!!  So why did he think that was better or more noble than his former life as a bounty hunter?  In the end, Boba takes a stand against the Pykes dealing Spice on Tatooine, but that just sort of seems like something he does to get the people of Freetown on his side.  Wouldn’t it have been cool had the flashbacks actually told a story of Boba’s seeing the way the Spice was destroying the planet, and taking a stand to stop it?  Wouldn’t it have been cool had the flashbacks told a story of Boba’s building a deeper connection to the people of Tatooine and actually now deciding this was his home, and that he wanted to fight for it and find a better way?  I feel like that was the intention of all the Tusken stuff in the flashbacks, but the show never really developed any connection between Boba and the Tuskens once the flashbacks were done; the Tusken story just seemed to fizzle out after Boba’s tribe was killed off.  I’d been hoping the show was building towards Boba’s fighting to return control of Tatooine to the indigenous people, the Tuskens, but that never happens.  I’d been hoping we’d see a horde of Tuskens come fight for Boba in the end, but that doesn’t happen.  The show drops several hints that Tatooine used to have water; I’d been hoping for a Dune-like turn of events in which Boba and the Tuskens take action to begin to reshape the deserts of Tatooine into a place with the potential for more fertile life and vegetation, but that never happens.

Are you starting to see how, time and again, the show let me down?

In the finale, we have all these characters fighting for our hero Boba, but not only does Boba not act like a hero or even a cool badass, but the show hasn’t allowed us to get to know any of these other characters, so I didn’t care about them.  So there was no drama or tension to that finale battle.  I don’t know anything more about Fennec Shand than I did before.  Why is she so loyal to Boba?  Yes, he saved her life, but I wanted to really see her come to see and connect with Boba’s vision for a better way.  (Of course, the show never shows us Boba’s vision.)  Black Krrsantan was cool, but we never got to know him as a character.  The Mods were completely bland characters whose names I don’t know.  We’re introduced to a young woman from Freetown; maybe it would have helped had the show taken the time to have her character appear in any of the previous episodes??

It’s a shame, because despite these many paragraphs I’ve now spent complaining about the show, there truly were so many aspects in each episode I enjoyed!

I loved the early flashback material showing Boba’s days living with the Tusken raiders.  I loved the way the show developed the Tuskens as interesting indigenous people with a whole culture of their own (as opposed to the savage faceless monsters they’d mostly been previous to this).  I loved getting to see Boba learn their ways.  I loved the hallucinogenic lizard.  I loved seeing the ritualistic process in which Boba is able to craft his own Gaffi stick.  I loved the awesome train heist sequence.  I loved seeing Boba feed his Bantha.

I loved Ming-Na Wen’s work as Fennec Shand.  She has an incredible presence, and she’s great in action sequences too.  (I wish she had more to actually DO in the show.)

I loved seeing the two Gamorrean guards who Boba took into his service.  It was cool getting to see the Gamorreans actually fight and be cool.  (In Return of the Jedi they basically just stood around.)

I liked the Hutt twins (and wish they’d had more of a role in the series).

I almost fell off my couch when Black Krrsantan appeared!  I was ecstatic to see this cool character from the Marvel comics appear in live action!!  That was an incredible surprise, and I was so happy by how perfect Krrsantan looked on screen.

I also squealed with delight to see Tosche Station make its first canonical on-screen appearance!!  It was PERFECTLY recreated from the famous deleted scene from the original Star Wars!  (And we even got to see Luke’s friends Camie and Fixer!!!)  What a deep cut this was!!!  This was a true thrill for a super-nerd like me.

I loved when the Hutts gifted Boba a Rancor!  I loved seeing the Rancor brought to life on screen!  (And I was THRILLED by Danny Trejo’s cameo as the Rancor wrangler!!  It’s the part he was born to play.)

Jennifer Beals made a strong impression as the Twilek who runs the “Sanctuary” cantina.  (I wish the show didn’t kill her off before giving her much of anything substantial to do.)

I loved seeing Max Reebo again!  (How did he escape the destruction of Jabba’s barge?  Did he similarly escape the bombing of Sanctuary??)

I loved almost everything about episode five, which brought Mando back into the story.  I loved the cool ring-type space habitat (a nice nod to Larry Niven’s Ringworld).  (That was the kind of cool new alien location I wanted to see more of on the show!)  I loved seeing the Mandalorian Armorer again.  I loved learning that the other big Mandalorian was from clan Vizla (a terrific connection to all the great Mandalorian stories in the animated shows The Clone Wars and Rebels).  I loved seeing the Armorer instruct Din Djarin in the use of the Darksaber (and I was THRILLED that she talked about the same things Kanan talked to Sabine about when he was training her to use the Darksaber in Rebels, specifically about how the Darksaber would get heavy if you weren’t in sync with it).  I loved seeing the flashbacks to the destruction of Mandalore by the Empire (a key moment we’d been missing in the Mandalore stories that had been told so far).

Pedro Pascal continues to be incredible as the Mandalorian.  He is so expressive, even when hidden behind his helmet!  (It’s a bummer that this Boba Fett imitation character was much cooler in this show than Boba Fett himself…)

I wasn’t sure at first how happy I was to see a Naboo star-fighter from Episode I back in the story, but in the end I loved the extended sequence of Mando and Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) building his new ship, and I thought it looked super-cool.  (Though there’s no way Mando and Grogu can LIVE on that tiny ship the way Mando used to live on the Razorcrest!)  (I loved seeing one of the props used was the same key prop from the trash compactor scene in the original Star Wars!!)

I was blown away to spend so much time with Luke Skywalker in episode six!  That was a huge surprise!!  I thought this CGI version of young Luke looked a million times better than he did in his appearance in The Mandalorian season two finale.  I loved getting to see more of this zen, at peace Luke post-ROTJ.  I loved when he used the force to lift up ALL the frogs.  I loved how he uses the Force to give Grogu little jumps as they’re walking along together.  It’s fun to see Luke carrying Grogu while training the way he carried Yoda in Empire, albeit this time Luke is the master, not the student.  I liked seeing what looked like the start of Luke’s Jedi Academy.  (Though was this the same planet that we’d glimpse in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi?  Is this the same Academy that Kylo Ren will eventually destroy?  Curiously, the stone buildings we saw being constructed looked to me more like Luke’s dwellings on Ach-To than what we glimpsed of his Jedi Academy.)  I loved those cool droids doing the building.  I loved when they built Mando a bench.  I loved seeing R2D2.  (I knew it was him the second we saw his radar-antennae!!)  I loved seeing Grogu’s memories of Order 66.

I loved getting to see Luke and Ahsoka on-screen together!!!  That was incredibly cool, and something I NEVER expected to see!  (Though I will admit I wanted more.  I wanted Ahsoka and Luke to have a more substantive conversation.  I love Ahsoka’s “I’m a friend of the family” line, but I wanted a more substantive conversation between her and Luke about Anakin.  After Ahsoka refused to train Grogu in The Mandalorian season two, I wanted to better understand what she feels about Luke’s training him now.  She’s older and more experienced than Luke; does she respect his choice and think he’s doing the wrong thing, or is she worried he’ll eventually go bad like his father?  I hope we get more of this in the Ahsoka show…)

I loved seeing Cobb Vanth again.  Timothy Olyphant continues to be awesome.  I loved his “think it through” line!

I loved seeing Cad Bane, PERFECTLY brought to life in live action!!!  I loved hearing Corey Burton voice the character again.  This was another super-fun connection to the animated Star Wars shows that I’d never expected to see!

What else didn’t I like?

The flashbacks felt like Boba spent several months living with the Tuskens, but then in episode four suddenly we’ve caught up to his saving Fennec Shand, which happened YEARS after Return of the Jedi (Fennec was shot and left for dead in The Mandalorian season one).  That really threw me.

I wish Boba Fett had left Tatooine.  I’d have loved for the show to have gotten away from Tatooine, and for us to have seen more of Fett’s adventures away from Tattoine (which he presumably had before meeting up with Mando in The Mandalorian season two).  Why did we skip over Boba’s reaction to learning that Marshall Cobb Vanth had his armor?

Why introduce the Hutt twins as a menace, and then immediately have them come back to apologize to Boba Fett and then vanish from the show?  (Wouldn’t it have been better for the Pykes to have killed the Hutts?  That would have been a much more dramatic way to take them off the board and it would have better established the Pykes as a threat to Boba & co.)

I couldn’t believe how bad that speeder chase was in episode three.  It was so slow!  So clumsily paced and edited!  Filmmakers have been creating exciting car chase sequences for many, many years — there’s no excuse for how lame that sequence was.

I wish the two Gamorreans hadn’t met such a lame end in the finale.

I was so excited to see Cad Bane; I wish they hadn’t killed him off so quickly.  And once again, I felt the finale let me down by not developing that Fett-Bane duel in the way it should have been.  Star Wars fans know that there is a lot of history between these two characters!!  In stories planned for the never-made final seasons of The Clone Wars, Bane would have trained Boba Fett as a bounty hunter.  Their partnership would have ended in a duel that would have resulted in Bane’s shooting Fett in the head, and giving Fett that famous dent in his helmet!!!  When they brought back Bane, I thought for sure they’d bring that piece of backstory to life, but they didn’t.  I wanted to see a flashback to that!  I wanted to better feel the drama of Fett and Bane’s history and their confrontation in the finale.

For all that the Luke-Grogu-Ahsoka stuff in episode six was incredibly awesome, I was also left with lots of questions.  Just what level are Grogu’s mental faculties at, anyways?  Luke is treating him like a Jedi Padawan, but isn’t Grogu still basically an infant?  It seems weird for Luke to be treating him like a young adult.  When Luke says to Ahsoka that he’s not sure Grogu’s heart is in it, I laughed — he’s just a toddler!!  Isn’t he?  Luke using the training drone to shoot at little Grogu plays a lot differently than Obi-Wan using that to train Luke!  That seemed very weird to me, as did the all-or-nothing choice Luke presented to Grogu at the end of the episode.  (That would seem like a reasonable choice for a Jedi Padawan to make, but it seemed cruel to me to ask to a child.)  (Though I did like seeing Yoda’s lightsaber again, and also Grogu’s Mandalorian mithril coat.)  (“A kingly gift!”)  Also, I felt the shadow of the choices made in the Sequel Trilogy fell over this story in a weird way.  We know Luke’s attempt to rebuild the Jedi will end in failure, with all of his students massacred by the Knights of Ren.  So it’s dissonant to hear Ahsoka tell Mando that there’s no safer place he could be than with Master Luke; we the viewers know that if he stays with Luke, he’ll die.  Does Ahsoka have a sense that Luke’s attempt to rebuild the Jedi is a bad idea?  It’s an unfortunate after-effect of these plot choices made by the Sequel Trilogy that, when watching Luke here, I know his efforts are doomed to failure.  I wish the sequel trilogy hadn’t established this story for Luke…

OK, wow, this review has gone on long enough.  As you can see, there’s a lot to discuss here!  There’s so much I enjoyed and so much that frustrated me.  I wish the different elements had come together in a more satisfactory way.  I wish this had actually felt like Boba Fett’s story and not The Mandalorian season 2.5.  I wish Boba had been smarter and cooler.  Was this a total catastrophe?  No!  Was this painful to watch like most modern Star Trek is for me?  No!  But it was very frustrating.  This should have been an awesome show and not this weird, bizarrely paced and structured jumble.  I hope the next Star Wars show on Disney+ (which looks to be the long-awaited Obi-Wan show!!) will be stronger.  I’m excited to see what’s next…!

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