The so-called fifth chapter of The Book of Boba Fett, “Return of the Mandalorian”, has left me struggling to process the irony of the show becoming more engrossing the less and less it focuses on Daimyo Boba Fett. Despite the objectively enjoyable qualities of Chapters 4 and 5, Boba’s complete absence from the latter provoked my uncertainty over whether the episodes kicked off a streak of high-quality chapters, or if the creatives deemed Boba and his gang war unworthy of their greatest resources and talent. It didn’t help that in chapters preceding Din Djarin’s addition to the Book, the show felt most engaging during the intrusive flashbacks to Boba’s post-Original Trilogy ordeals in the Dune Sea. Chapter 6 brings Boba back into the Book, but goes overboard in attempted reminders that others in the Galaxy have stories worth telling. Each of those others was spoiled for me beforehand.
From The Desert Comes a Stranger
Airdate: February 2, 2022
Director: Dave Filoni
Writers: Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni
Din Djarin delivers his present for Grogu, but Jedi customs to abandon attachments forbid them from meeting again in person yet. As the Child continues his training under Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Din agrees to help Boba Fett and Fennec Shand build troops for the imminent war against the Pyke Syndicate. Din’s friendship with Marshal Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant) helps form an alliance between Freetown and Boba’s gang, but the Pykes continue to extend their reach on Tatooine.
As someone enticed by the thought of following denizens distanced from the Skywalkers’ influence, I can only revisit this episode in sections. Boba and Fennec don’t get involved in any of the action; their roles respectively reduced to set decoration and expositor for one scene. Instead, about 2/3 of the episode – including the ending – focuses on Grogu’s lessons from Luke. I read a leak beforehand about this program providing a look at his training, but continue to miss Lucasfilm’s point for putting it here. Due to my anxiousness for the show to refocus on Boba, I couldn’t appreciate the lengthy montages beyond, “Wow, that recreation of OT Luke looks almost too good.”
Sadly, I can’t yet call Luke’s personality faithful to the Original Trilogy. Requiring baby Grogu to choose between his father and his training feels too cruel for someone who dismantled the Empire by imploring his own father to demonstrate indestructible love. Depending on what Luke and Grogu do next, it could disappoint if Luke repeats the mistakes of Prequel-era Jedi instructors, which Grogu’s flashbacks of Revenge of the Sith can call to the audience’s minds. This episode at least does less than I feared to undermine the bittersweetness of The Mandalorian Season 2’s ending. It doesn’t rush to reunite Din and Grogu, and Din can break hearts when disclosing turmoil over having to choose between the reunion granting his clan short-term happiness, or the Force granting them long-term survival.
This week advances the gang war further than most Boba Fett chapters do, at least speaking relatively. The crimes of the titular stranger (Corey Burton) and Pykes successfully create a sense of urgency, and provide the most ostensibly-relevant guest spots. Characters in these vignettes I can recall from other Star Wars projects seem consistent in both appearance and personality, even if the stranger doesn’t perfectly match previously-used designs.
Without sharing major spoilers, the most intriguing point I can discuss concerns indication that Fennec could become the true mastermind of Boba’s gang. When she hosts a strategic meeting, Boba neither says anything, nor receives any requests for input. Temuera Morrison confessed to NME that to align his portrayal of Boba with the character’s tight-lipped cinematic introduction, he attempted to pass on some of his dialogue to Ming-Na Wen; I must wonder if that resulted in his complete silence.
In context, the thought of Fennec overpowering Boba feels very logical. Thanks to her successes at outsmarting or trapping enemies, she constantly comes off as both smarter and tougher than him, as well as noble and proactive. At this meeting, she instills fear by calmly restating the gravity of a potential war against the Pykes, and by refusing to tolerate rude interruptions. However, she also exhibits respect by addressing the gang and “muscle” – half of which she selected herself – in positive terms, despite acknowledging their need for more troops, and by accepting trustworthy outsider Din’s suggestion to form an alliance with Freetown. Although, this meeting gives only an incomplete look at her capacity to lead; it doesn’t show who comes up with the battle plans, and similar to Boba and Fennec individually recruiting Krrsantan and Din, Din visits Freetown alone.
Despite several stimulating sequences, I find it worrisome that the creatives of Boba’s show actively do not seem to care for him. These past two weeks of his sidelining imply – hopefully unintentionally – that not even four chapters’ worth of bacta submersions could turn him into a competent crime boss. Additionally, the lack of a conversation between him and Din makes the parallels I found between them seem unimportant to their friendship. This season went from constantly embarrassing its title character, to shoving him aside. “From The Desert Comes a Stranger” puts a distressingly high level of effort into rekindling The Book of Boba Fett viewers’ interest in people other than Boba Fett.
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