Another Visit to the Low-Rent Desert Planet
The Book of Boba Fett: Season 1
It's easy to crap on Star WarsThe modern blockbuster: it's a concept so commonplace now we don't even think about the fact that before the end of the 1970s, this kind of movie -- huge spectacles, big action, massive budgets -- wasn't really made. That all changed, though, with Star Wars, a series of films that were big on spectacle (and even bigger on profits). A hero's journey set against a sci-fi backdrop, nothing like this series had ever really been done before, and then Hollywood was never the same., so I don't want to do that this article. While it's easy to list off the various recent failures of the franchise, not everything produced since Disney bought up Star Wars has been bad. Most of the success has been on TV, yes, but you take the win when you can get it and that's great. When the franchise gets going it's stories can be really good... it just often struggles to find that footing.
There are two sides to Star Wars, two directions that it feels like the franchise wants to travel in. One side, as shown by season one of The Mandalorian, season seven of Clone Wars, the best parts of Rebels, takes the series into new directions, showing new stories set against the backdrop of the Galaxy Far, Far Away. It's when the franchise veers towards navel-gazing, expounding on characters, places, and details we've already seen over and over -- Solo, The Rise of Skywalker -- that things fall apart. Hard.
A common thought about the creation of The Book of Boba Fett, a spin-off of the wildly successful Mandalorian, is that the TV series was going to be stuck with an uphill battle. The concept of The Mandalorian was "cool, tough-as-nails Mandalorian bounty hunter explores the galaxy and kicks ass". In essence its everything fans wanted from a Boba Fett adventure just with an off-brand version of the hero. And it worked. Freed of past continuity and able to explore the galaxy on its own terms, The Mandalorian found a fresh take (at least in its first season) that was really cool. Could The Book of Boba Fett do that same trick with an established character? In a word: no.
The fact that we already had a Mandalorian bounty hunter running around in the universe seems to have hobbled the creative team on this show. Instead of finding a cool adventure for Boba Fett to take on, he gets mired int he politics of Tatooine. Early in the season we witness his escape from the Sarlaac and, well, it's about what you'd expect: he doesn't die, but he does get burned by the stomach acid. He cuts his way out, flies off, passes out, and the Jawa's find him a steal all his gear. Magically that sets him in basically the position we found him in when he reappeared in season two of The Mandalorian. It's all very expected.
Thing do shift after this, for a time. Defenseless he's easily captured by the Tuskens (you know, the sand people kidnap single file to hide their numbers), but then he's able to befriend that tribe and become "one of their own" (you know, the sand people make friends single file to hide their numbers). Sadly, after helping them take back their lands from encroaching spice traffickers, the Tuskens get wiped out by the Pike Syndicate (although for a time it's framed as a hit by a rival biker gang). And thus Boba was alone again (you know, the sand people get slaughtered single file to hide their numbers).
After the events of The Mandalorian, though, Boba (Temuera Morrison) and his new partner in crime, Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), head to Jabba's old palace, take over, and Boba declares himself the new Daimyo of Tatooine (Jabba's old job). That leaves him having the battle the forces of Tatooine -- other criminal families, strange biker gangs, and the Pike Syndicate -- all while consolidating his own power in the vacuum left by Jabba the Hutt. Why does Boba want this, what interest would running a planet have to a field-tested bounty hunter? Well, that's a question the series never really answers.
Frankly I think the producers -- Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, and Robert Rodriguez -- wrote themselves into a corner at the end of the second season of The Mandalorian. They had Boba, and they wanted to use him, so they thought it would be a cool idea for Boba to kick the puppet off Jabba's throne and sit on it himself. Haha, it's a funny idea. But where do you go with the character from there? It's not like with Din Djarin, our Mandalorian, who was a blank slate that the series could give any back-story they wanted. Boba is a character that's been running around in the series (in continuity) for thirty-odd years. We've seen in him Clone Wars, Empire, and Return of the Jedi. What he does in this series has to work within his known history. Having him kick a leader off their throne makes sense for this bad-ass. Having him them having care for a rule a city (let alone a world) is a whole different ball game.
The way the series handles this is by having Boba become... well, not Boba. Suddenly he has a conscience, he cares about people, and he wants to be a good and fair Daimyo to the people of Tatooine. Everything we've seen of Boba in the past (let along Fennec Shand as well) says that while he might enjoy the power and money Boba care not for other people. Him suddenly taking over Tatooine to be its benevolent dictator feels out of character. It's a move the Mandalorian could do, not Boba Fett.
Worse, though, is the fact that the series seems utterly disinterested in Boba. We never really learn about him as a character outside of his time with the Tuskens. Mind you, the Tusken storyline is great. It has this weird, Dances with Wolves vibe, but with sand people on Tatooine (you know, the sand people co-star with Kevin Costner single file to hide their IMDB credits). Frankly, if the show could have devoted an entire season to this (instead bits and pieces of about three episodes) it would have been a stronger story and would have given us a Boba that actually could care about people on Tatooine.
But, again, the hands of the producers and writers were tied. They'd already reintroduced Boba on the The Mandalorian so they couldn't spend all their time on a prequel for him, not when they have the story of his taking over the Hutt Throne to tell as well. It leads to a very disjointed and muddled season, one that doesn't really know how to resolve the character we have, the things he's done, the places he's been on Tatooine, and where the series wants to go from here. It's a mess.
That's before we even get back to The Mandalorian. For some reason this season spend two episodes (of its seven total) to tell a side-story all about Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal). Boba, it should be noted, barely appears at all in these two episodes and says absolutely nothing (in two episodes of his own series). Instead we get a two-episode arc that largely resolved plot points from The Mandalorian season two. As far as continuing the story of The Book of Boba Fett this is a completely mind boggling decision. The storyline for show completely stops, ground to a halt to go do something else in the galaxy. They're great Mandalorian episodes, make no mistake, but they're terrible Boba Fett episodes.
Structurally this season needed a lot of work. It needed, frankly, to be two seasons -- one that came out before the events of Mandalorian season two, focused solely on Boba's time with the sand people (who aid travelers single file to hide their numbers). Then we needed a season dedicated just to Boba and Fennec taking over Tatooine, stealing it from the Hutts and then the Pike Syndicate, all while he works through his revenge at the death of his people (the sand people, buried single file to hide their graves) and realizing he wants to be something more than a bounty hunter. Meanwhile the whole Mando plot line needed to be in the third season of The Mandalorian. If they producers wanted to do more with Mando they needed to do it in his show, not here.
It's hard to say if there are bones that work in this show because, frankly, the show doesn't even know what it wants to be. If it could settle down, tell a focused story, and just let Boba be Boba maybe it could work. This messy first season, though, is an absolutely dud. There are scenes and sequences that work, mostly in the action department, but by and large this whole this is one giant cobbled together mess of ideas with absolutely no cohesion. Assuming it gets a second season the producers really need to sit down and figure out what they want a Boba Fett show to be because right now they are stupidly far from the mark.