Among the first three Mandalorian spinoffs announced, The Book of Boba Fett (created by Jon Favreau; run by Robert Rodriguez) seemed the likeliest to hold my attention.  Boba Fett impressed in the original Star Wars trilogy mainly for superficial reasons, but Lucasfilm has since put forth some fascinating efforts at fleshing him out.  His surprise revival on The Mandalorian demonstrated Disney+’s potential for exploring his character and skillset in greater detail than any of the preceding movies did, as I previously discussed in my review of Chapter 14 – which later became the first Mandalorian chapter to earn five full viewings from me.  Additionally, undoing Boba’s embarrassing send-off in Return of the Jedi didn’t sound detrimental to any major Star Wars character arcs.  After I lowered my impatience for The Mandalorian Season 3, by accepting that Lucasfilm shouldn’t rush out a mediocre third season, the thought of following further adventures of the man who introduced Mandalorian culture to Star Wars viewers sounded enticing.

With Māori Temuera Morrison and Macau-born Ming-Na Wen reprising their respective roles of Boba Fett and Fennec Shand, The Book of Boba Fett marks the first live-action Star Wars TV show with AAPI lead actors.  Advertising hasn’t drawn too much attention to this piece of trivia, relying more on their fame and talents, and Boba’s cult following, to attract viewers.  I’ve admired the actors even before The Mandalorian, thanks to such works as Attack of the Clones and Mulan.  Since the Fetts and Fennec lack any vow to continue wearing a helmet outside of battle, I could expect Morrison and Ming-Na to show their human faces in every episode, and for Boba Fett to demonstrate more of their chops than a typical Mandalorian episode can for Pedro Pascal’s.  Morrison and Ming-Na have helped generate interest in their show with their strong passions for Star Wars, and – at least in Morrison’s case – for integrating international elements of real-world customs into the galaxy far, far away.

I came into the first episode completely unspoiled, aside from the clips shown in the previews.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Airdate: December 29, 2021
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Writer: Jon Favreau

Jabba ruled with fear.  I intend to rule with respect.-Boba Fett

Boba Fett and Fennec Shand continue their efforts to take over Tatooine’s criminal underground, despite disagreeing over whether to befriend or intimidate other Mos Espa authority figures.  While Boba recuperates from battles, he flashes back to some of his past traumas.  In this chapter, the flashbacks encompass the death of Jango Fett, to the start of Boba’s stint as an armorless captive of Tusken Raiders.

So far, Boba Fett feels the most intriguing when filling in the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Mandalorian.  The flashbacks to Boba’s ordeals in Tatooine’s desert demonstrate his resilience and ingenuity, as he utilizes whatever he can get his hands on to overcome fantastic obstacles.  With Boba as the only human-like character in his glimpses into the past, the mostly-silent sequences depend heavily on Temuera Morrison’s performance to convey Boba’s humbling attitude under agonizing conditions.  Some of his recollections begin to rationalize his surprising decision to “rule with respect”, such as witnessing lingering signs of injustice on Tatooine, and earning higher regard from his Tusken captors by rescuing an abusive youngling.  Despite the goals of Favreau, Rodriguez, and Morrison to portray Boba more impressively than the Skywalker Saga did, the chapter doesn’t portray him as unrealistically invulnerable, either.

The present-day sequence fascinates mainly thanks to the dynamic between compromising Boba, and traditionally vengeful Fennec.  While their disagreements seem like the strongest complication in their ascent through the criminal underground, Morrison and Ming-Na demonstrate chemistry through their characters’ witty conversations, and when Boba and Fennec each seem willing to adjust a little to the other’s philosophies.  Their fight against a gang of technologically-advanced assassins feels like an attempt to address criticisms of The Mandalorian protecting Din Djarin with too much “plot armor”; caught off-guard with limited arsenal, the duo suffers a beating that they overcome with assistance from bodyguards, and from Fennec’s established ability to use her surroundings to her advantage.

For better or for worse, a viewer might wonder at this point if Boba went in over his head by launching his takeover attempt.  His inability to cooperate with some of Mos Espa’s other authority figures establishes the town as another “strange land”, at least for someone still adjusting to a leadership position.  After an injured Boba bails the fight against the assassins, it insinuates that interrupting his first recuperation session to collect tributes weakened him down to RotJ levels.  While Boba and Fennec appear to successfully gain some allies, he evidently still needs time to prove his worth as a leader.  Taking into account all of the excitement and the lulls, “Stranger in a Strange Land” only mostly succeeds at delivering a promising start to The Book of Boba Fett.

Plugs

  • If you’d like an inclusive place to further discuss Star Wars, join the Star Wars Television Discord server, which I help moderate: discord.gg/swtv
  • Violence towards Asian-Americans has reached alarming levels.  I made a donation to The AAPI Community Fund, and would like my readers to do the same, even if I personally take no share of the funds.

This review is dedicated to the Star Wars franchise’s ultimate on-screen feminist icon, Carrie Fisher (1956-2016), and her also-legendary mother, Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016), due to The Book of Boba Fett premiering two days after the fifth anniversary of Fisher’s death.

By NJ

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