Disney+’s The Book of Boba Fett has been a disappointment so far. Boba’s journey has proved painfully long and rather dull with an obscene amount of screen time given to Sand People, toothless standoffs, and slow-moving chase sequences that feel like they were ripped straight out of Spy Kids. However, this week’s episode of Boba Fett had the reverse effect and was actually really good from almost every notable standpoint.
For the first time since the show began, we actually had a plot worth caring about, some genuinely great action worth watching, and solid production values worth gawking at. Seriously, the visuals in this episode, particularly that ring city, were wondrous to behold and served as a powerful reminder as to why we watch Star Wars in the first place: to explore strange new worlds with cool characters.
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One of the biggest reasons why the episode was a marked improvement? Well, because it didn’t feature Boba Fett. Temuera Morrison’s bounty hunter with a heart of gold surrendered the stage to everyone’s favorite Mandalorian with a heart of gold, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal). It’s a bizarre change of pace, for sure, but one The Book of Boba Fett sorely needed. Remarkably, I found myself instantly involved in the episode from the moment Din stepped into that alien meat locker, which isn’t something I’ve been able to say about Boba Fett or meat lockers in general.
Wizard. #TheBookofBobbaFett https://t.co/KiTNOtq7Ya
— Pedro Pascal he/him (@PedroPascal1) January 27, 2022
So, why did this episode work so well? Let’s break it down.
The Mandalorian Still Rocks
For all the flack the Season 2 finale of The Mandalorian received for eschewing creativity in favor of pointless fan wanking (via a silly cameo by Luke Skywalker that all but overshadowed the main characters), creator Jon Favreau did a stellar job throughout the first two seasons establishing an interesting narrative populated with likable heroes and villains.
As such, when Din reemerges in Boba Fett with his trusty Darksaber in tow, silently weeping over shapes that look like a certain baby someone, all the while battling the surviving members of his Creed, we eagerly strap in like a Rodian child preparing for his next Star Tours.
At this point, Din is practically family, which just goes to show how effective the first two seasons of The Mandalorian truly were — so effective that I’m willing to give Boba Fett time to get his act together because, man, when Star Wars is good, it’s really good.
Episode 5 of Boba Fett had a lot of story to tell. So much so that director Bryce Dallas Howard — who, again, demonstrates a remarkable touch behind the camera — practically zips through the 50-minute runtime like a drunken Ewok on a stolen speeder bike. No really, the pace of this episode was ridiculous, but in a good way.
At one point, we follow Din into a room where he seeks to collect a bounty (and retrieve info) from a shady group of aliens seated around a massive table. Howard utilizes an extended shot (during which her camera pans around the characters during their brief conversation) that keeps the action moving at a riveting pace. There’s no time to linger because there’s too much to do.
Contrast that sequence with Boba, which has mostly meandered about without much sense of purpose. I’m still not entirely sure what the famed bounty hunter’s end game is — though I suspect it involves riding into battle on a Rancor — or whether I should actually care.
Admittedly, I felt the early episodes of The Mandalorian were a little slow, but I was always interested in the overarching narrative. There were clunkier moments, but the presence of the mysterious “Baby Yoda,” and the intrigue surrounding Din’s personal creed, were enough to get us past the bumpier terrain.
At this point, I just don’t care about Boba’s mob family. I mean, I’m glad he got his Firespray Gunship back, and that he was able to murder the biker gang that wiped out his Sand Buddies (off-screen, without much fanfare), but otherwise I’m just not invested in his storyline.
As stated, the action in this episode was phenomenal. We got a few quick flashbacks to the Emperor’s Purge of Mandalore, some nifty and well-choreographed fight sequences that made good use of the fabled Darksaber, and some fun callbacks to the podrace sequence in The Phantom Menace.
What’s more, each action beat felt like another step in Din’s character arc. His battle with Paz carries plenty of heft in and of itself, but also demonstrates how much more he must learn to master the Darksaber. Even the Naboo N-1 Starfighter bit carries emotional heft as the ship takes the place of Din’s destroyed Razor Crest.
So far, Boba Fett lacks a truly signature moment. The train heist was cool but kind of wonky in its execution; the aforementioned bike chase through Mos Espa lacked anything resembling excitement, while the scattered fight sequences haven’t taken full advantage of Boba’s arsenal of weapons — I love how he chose to cower when those spandex-clad shield guys attacked rather than, you know, blasting them all to shreds with his knee rockets.
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A Sense of Mystery
The more we learn about Boba Fett, the less interesting he becomes. This is a problem that goes back to Attack of the Clones, where George Lucas foolishly inserted the character (and his father) into the larger narrative — they were responsible for the Clone Army?! — a decision that lessens his impact and ultimately shrinks the Star Wars universe.
Part of Boba’s appeal in The Empire Strikes Back was his foreboding sense of mystery — he’s a bounty hunter who works/worked for the Empire. That’s all we really need to know. No amount of backstory or character development could match the narratives we conjured in our heads over the years. As such, perhaps Boba is best served as a side character in someone else’s show, a silent villain with allegiance to whoever offers the most money.
Imagine the character as a sort of Joe Pesci to Din’s Robert De Niro — think Casino more than Goodfellas. The pair travel the galaxy performing odd jobs that occasionally require more heat than Din is able to conjure, in which case he turns the mission over to his more unpredictable companion.
Kind of like this:
Without the mystery, Boba is just another simple man trying to make his way through the universe. Comparatively, while Din has certainly evolved over the last few years, he still carries an aura of mystery about his person. We’re never quite sure what he’s thinking or planning next, and that sense of unpredictability makes him worth hanging around, even if he is just a warm-hearted softie beneath that thick armor.
Maybe it’s unfair to compare Boba with Din. The former must contend with decades worth of built-up anticipation, while the latter appeared on screen without much expectation beyond, “I hope this doesn’t completely suck.”
Still, it’s telling that I was more excited watching Din spend half an episode refurbishing a Naboo N-1 Starfighter with Mos Eisley mechanic Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) than I was watching Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) drop a seismic charge on the Sarlacc Pit. So much so that when Fennec pops up and asks for Din’s muscle, I was a little disappointed that the further adventures of The Mandalorian were subsequently put on carbonite for future exploration in Season 3.
With a few more episodes of Boba Fett remaining, there’s a chance Favreau and Co. right the ship and deliver a spectacular finale that makes up for the sluggish first half.