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Review: The Book of Boba Fett is lots of fun but it’s really The Mandalorian 2.5


Temuera Morrison and Ming-Na Wen (supposedly) star as Boba Fett and Fennec Shand, respectively, in <em>The Book of Boba Fett</em>.
Enlarge / Temuera Morrison and Ming-Na Wen (supposedly) star as Boba Fett and Fennec Shand, respectively, in The Book of Boba Fett.

Disney+

When The Book of Boba Fett was still in production, creator Jon Favreau jokingly dubbed the spinoff series “The Mandalorian season 2.5.” It turns out that wasn’t really a joke. I mean, we knew beforehand The Book of Boba Fett would take place in the same timeline. I just didn’t expect that four episodes into a seven-episode season, the focus would abruptly shift from Temuera Morrison’s iconic titular character—i.e., the supposed star of the series—and the next two episodes would be spent mostly catching up with our favorite characters from The Mandalorian.  

It was (ahem) an interesting creative choice that generated considerable Internet discussion (and more than a few mocking memes). The good news is that, on the whole, The Book of Boba Fett is still a hella entertaining Star Wars adventure. And it closed the season with an action-packed, crowd-pleasing hour-long action sequence in which Boba and his various allies took on the nefarious Pyke syndicate in a climactic battle—with a squee-worthy heartfelt reunion for good measure.

The bad news is that the series never really figured out whose story it wanted to tell, essentially squandering the promise of the first four episodes by failing to develop its supposedly main character in any meaningful way.

Boba Fett makes his case:
Enlarge / Boba Fett makes his case: “Why speak of conflict when cooperation can make us all rich?”

Disney+

(Spoilers below, but we will give you a heads up before we get to the major reveals.)

As I’ve written previously, a spinoff film featuring Boba Fett had been in development at Disney as far back as 2013, but then 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story proved to be a box office disappointment for the studio. Disney’s strategy shifted to spinoff series for its streaming platform, Disney+, beginning with The Mandalorian. That series was a commercial and critical success, winning over audiences with the relationship between Pedro Pascal’s Mandalorian and the Child (aka Grogu, although some still think of him as Baby Yoda).

Morrison’s Boba Fett appeared briefly in the S1 episode, “The Gunslinger,” along with Ming-Na Wen’s Fennec Shand, returning in S2 for a much larger role. In the finale, he played a pivotal role in rescuing Grogu from Moff Gideon, tricking the Imperials into allowing his cohorts to land in a cruiser’s fighter launch tube.

Fans went wild over Mark Hamill’s surprise cameo as a (digitally de-aged) Luke Skywalker, who takes Grogu with him to complete his Jedi training. And there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Grogu and the Mandalorian made their farewells. The aforementioned post-credits scene showed Boba Fett and Fennec invading Jabba the Hutt’s palace on Tatooine, with the aim of installing Boba as the new Daimyo.

Boba Fett escapes the sarlacc pit.
Enlarge / Boba Fett escapes the sarlacc pit.

Disney+

The Book of Boba Fett got off to a strong start, beginning with the revelation of just how the bounty hunter managed to escape from that sarlacc pit he fell into in Return of the Jedi. He emerges only to pass out and have his armor stolen by Jawas, before being taken captive by Tusken raiders. Over time, he wins the tribe’s trust and becomes an honorary member himself. And then he rescues a dying Fennec Shand, who recovers thanks to some ingenious cyborg enhancements and becomes Boba’s second-in-command.

That backstory is woven into present-day events, as Boba and Fennec take over Jabba’s criminal enterprise on Tatooine and try to consolidate their power. They face opposition from “The Twins,” a pair of Hutts who think Jabba’s throne rightfully should be theirs; the duplicitous mayor of Mos Espa, who might be behind an assassination attempt on Boba and his crew; and the formidable Pyke Syndicate, which runs a spice train through Boba’s territory and is well-positioned to overthrow the newly established Daimyo. Boba does have some allies, most notably a group of street cyborgs and a Wookiee bounty hunter named Krrsantan (Carey Jones).

(WARNING: Major spoilers beyond this point. Stop reading now if you haven’t finished watching the series.)

Fennec Shand displays her considerable fighting prowess.
Enlarge / Fennec Shand displays her considerable fighting prowess.

YouTube/Disney+

Those first four episodes were solidly promising, setting up a final showdown between Boba’s motley crew and the powerful Pyke Syndicate. And then, inexplicably, the next two episodes are devoted entirely to the continuing adventures of Din Djarin, star of The Mandalorian, and the youngling Grogu. Din Djarin’s arc finds him tracking down surviving Mandalorians, including The Armourer, only to be outcast from the tribe because he admitted he once removed his helmet. When Fennec Shand asks for his help in the coming war for Tatooine, he agrees—after he runs a personal errand.

That errand entails visiting his buddy Grogu, who has started his Jedi training with Luke Skywalker on a remote planet, to give him a special chain mail shirt he had The Armourer forge out of his beskar spear. Grogu is deservedly a fan favorite, but he doesn’t get to see Din Djarin. Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) warns that his mere presence would be a distraction from Grogu’s Jedi training, so the Mandalorian reluctantly leaves, asking Tano to pass on the gift. Luke—sensing the youngling’s divided loyalties—presents the chain mail to Grogu and tells him he must choose between that and Yoda’s old light saber, i.e., between his love for the Mandalorian and his Jedi training.

Grogu tames the savage rancor
Enlarge / Grogu tames the savage rancor

Disney+

Conspicuously absent from all of this was any sign of Boba Fett. The two story lines did come together in the showy, mostly satisfying season finale, but it almost seemed like the writers were struggling to give their main character something significant to do. He fought valiantly next to his fellow Mandalorian, and got to ride his pet rancor into battle. But the showdown with Bane felt weirdly flat, perhaps because we hadn’t really seen them interact enough to buy into the idea of Bane being Boba’s big nemesis.

I’ve loved Temuera Morrison as an actor ever since his incredible performance in 1994’s Once Were Warriors, but his gifts are mostly wasted here. Boba Fett often seems like a supporting character in his own series, and we never really get much insight into his character and motivations. So why not just weave his story through The Mandalorian, if they didn’t have enough compelling material, rather than try to spin things out into a seven-episode star vehicle?

Don’t even get me started on the shameful sidelining of Ming-Na Wen’s Fennec Shand, who doesn’t get nearly enough opportunities to wield her impressive fighting skills. As for Jennifer Beals’ Garsa Fwip, who runs The Sanctuary cantina in Mos Espa, she’s on screen even less before getting blown up (along with her clientele) by Pykes in the penultimate episode. Talk about another waste of big-name talent.

Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant) falls at the hands of Cad Bane (Corey Burton/Dorian King). But a post-credits scene tells us he might be back.
Enlarge / Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant) falls at the hands of Cad Bane (Corey Burton/Dorian King). But a post-credits scene tells us he might be back.

Disney+

At least Timothy Olyphant’s Cobb Vanth, gunslinging marshal of Freetown, gets to engage in some Justified-style shenanigans with Duros bounty hunter Cad Bane (Corey Burton/Dorian King), before Bane guns him down at the behest of the Pyke syndicate. Judging by a post-credits scene, we might see more of Vanth in the future, perhaps with a few cyborg upgrades, like Fennec Shand.

Honestly, the best part of the finale was the sudden arrival of Grogu, having chosen the chain mail armor and Din Djarin, as we all knew he would. He leaps delightedly into his buddy’s arms with a squeak, melting hearts all around the planet, and does his own Force-ful part in the battle, including soothing a savage rancor.

In short, The Book of Boba ended up being more of an entertaining bridge to The Mandalorian S3, checking off a bunch of boxes to set up other series, including the planned limited series, Ahsoka. That’s admittedly similar to the function of Marvel’s WandaVision, but at least Wanda Maximoff and Vision got to be the actual focal point of their self-titled series. Boba Fett deserved better. This is not the way.

All episodes of The Book of Boba Fett are now streaming on Disney+.

Cad Bane (Corey Burton/Dorian King) looks suspiciously like another alien space cowboy.
Enlarge / Cad Bane (Corey Burton/Dorian King) looks suspiciously like another alien space cowboy.

Universal Pictures/Disney+



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