The Book of Boba Fett (created by Jon Favreau; run by Robert Rodriguez) marks the first live-action Star Wars TV show with AAPI headliners, thanks to Māori Temuera Morrison and Macanese/Malaysian-American Ming-Na Wen reprising their roles of mercenaries-turned-crime lords Boba Fett and Fennec Shand.  The advertising didn’t draw too much attention to this trivia; instead relying on the actors’ charm and talents, and Boba’s cult following, to entice viewers.  Lucasfilm’s efforts to increase Asian creatives’ involvement in Star Wars took another important step forward in Chapter 4.  With Thai-American entertainer Kevin Tanacharoen as the director, the chapter became the first live-action Star Wars project directed by either someone with Southeast Asian heritage, or a male of Asian lineage.  His installment of Boba Fett sounded like one of the most exciting ones for me to review, especially after Disney+ revealed that it would look at the origins of the partnership between Boba and Fennec.  In the slow-paced, questionably-structured first three chapters of Boba Fett, the duo’s chemistry and conflicts of interest provided the highlights of the modern scenes.

Relevant highlights of Kevin Tancharoen’s resume include 16 episodes of Agents of SHIELD; a show co-created by his sister Maurissa Tancharoen, and co-starring Ming-Na as Melinda May.  Works I saw from him prior to Boba Fett include the short Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, and his first Agents of SHIELD joint, “Face My Enemy.” (The 27th AoS episode, and one of only three I’ve seen in full.) His greatest strengths seem to include defining a gritty tone, and delivering brutally tense fight scenes.

The Gathering Storm

Airdate: January 19, 2022
Director: Kevin Tancharoen
Writer: Jon Favreau

I’m tired of our kind dying because of the idiocy of others. We’re smarter than them. It’s time we took our shot.

-Boba Fett

Boba Fett spends the last cycle of his bacta healing process recounting when he helped prove that “fate sometimes steps in to rescue the wretched,” as he put it on The Mandalorian, and saved Fennec Shand from dying of fatal gun wounds.  Fennec agrees to repay Boba for cybernetic implants by helping him recover his Firespray gunship and Beskar armor, as part of a larger plan to claim Bib Fortuna’s throne.  In the present, Daimyo Boba Fett and Fennec Shand attempt to negotiate with Jabba the Hutt’s former captains for a rematch against the Pyke Syndicate, otherworldly spice dealers Boba fought earlier in the show.

Morrison, Favreau, and Tancharoen successfully balance the self-centered portrayals of Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back and The Clone Wars, with the more generous approach taken in The Mandalorian and this show.  Boba’s experiences at cheating death and accepting help from unexpected sources, which he shares by recollecting his escape from the Sarlacc Pit and care from Tusken Raiders, give him reason to sympathize with Fennec.  However, his praises for her cunning reputation demonstrate that he also saves her because he knows he could benefit from her skills.  His long-awaited explanation for wanting to become a daimyo essentially makes explicit what this show and The Mandalorian already implied, but does make his displays of incompetence in previous chapters feel more understandable.  He and Fennec seem so cocky when discussing their potential worth as crime leaders, that it almost feels relatable in hindsight to see Boba get in over his head later in the timeline.

Ming-Na, Favreau, and Tancharoen supplement Fennec’s confidence and quick wits by instilling some necessary humanity.  When Fennec awakens at Boba’s campsite, Ming-Na effectively conveys shock and confusion at her mechanical transformation.  Fennec also demonstrates that the double-cross against her in The Mandalorian Chapter 5: “The Gunslinger” has left her very critical about her alliances.  She initially only helps Boba to pay off her debt, but agrees to extend their collaboration after he spends at least one action-packed day proving his capacity for loyalty towards her.  While Fennec surpasses Boba in strategic and combat skills, Ming-Na’s naturally expressive performance clarifies that the master assassin doesn’t do so effortlessly.

(For the record, I could line up Boba’s flashbacks with Mandalorian Chapter 5 if I can assume that Boba and the Bantha saw Din Djarin’s flares from so far away, that they had to take some breaks while slowly heading towards the source.)

With The Mandalorian and Boba Fett already confirming that Boba and Fennec will reclaim the Firespray and survive beyond the heist, the action scenes must excite through less suspenseful means.  The chapter sufficiently paces the heist, and Boba’s subsequent revenge against the Tuskens’ apparent killers.  Both of the sequences entertain mainly through eye candy and catharsis.  When the search for Boba’s armor sends him and Fennec on an unexpected detour to the Sarlacc Pit, “How will they get out?” replaces “Will they get out?” and “Will they find the armor?” as the viewer’s most important question. (Chapter 1: “Stranger in a Strange Land” already showed Boba still wearing his armor while crawling out of the pit, but after rewatching the Jawas’ theft of the suit, I feel inclined to blame dehydration and a blow to the head for him forgetting that he still had it.) Fennec and Boba kill the Sarlacc by combining her swiftness with his technological resources, reinforcing Boba’s need to overcome his traumas through forming new personal relationships.  Sequences from both Chapters 1 and 4 of him emerging from the bacta tank have him briefly discuss his mental health with Fennec, whose own trauma from nearly dying manifested into the aforementioned wariness when forming new pacts.

The present-day end of this chapter generates more excitement than Chapters 1-3 could for the thought of Boba Fett providing no more flashbacks to the Dune Sea.  Boba seems to find the middle ground between ruling with fear and respect, permitting characters with whom he mutually respects – including Fennec, the Wookiee mercenary Black Krrsantan (Carey Jones), and Boba’s pet Rancor calf – to intimidate other gang leaders into agreeing with his needs.  This compromise also strengthens a thematic similarity between The Book of Boba Fett and The Mandalorian, demonstrating the inspirational value behind unexpected acts of kindness.  On more superficial levels, Krrsantan – in the set piece that comes the closest to a Mortal Kombat degree of brutality – proves his strength against enemies less weak than those he faced in Chapter 3: “The Streets of Mos Espa”, and some tantalizing dialogue and music cues hype up the notion of a fully-recovered Boba Fett teaming up with at least one of the Galaxy’s other most iconic hunters.  Overall, “The Gathering Storm” provides an exhilarating examination of a consistently fascinating partnership.

Updates

On February 8, 2022, one night before Disney+ released the Book of Boba Fett Season 1 finale, Kevin Tancharoen pushed Like on a Twitter comment sharing my hopes for him to direct more Star Wars.  My wording acknowledged a chance that the finale could become my new favorite Boba Fett episode, but Chapter 4 still held the top spot afterwards.  If The Book of Boba Fett gets a second volume, I’ll only review any episodes directed by Tancharoen again.

Plugs

  • If you’d like an inclusive place to further discuss Star Wars, join the Star Wars Television Discord server: 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.

By NJ

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