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‘The Book of Boba Fett’ begins with a satisfying prologue, but it’s missing a few pages

Somehow, Boba Fett returned.

The following is an edited transcript of the video above.

The Book of Boba Fett is a new spin-off series from the same people who developed the massively successful The Mandalorian. But in a more real sense, this is a bookend to the story of Boba Fett, who was always somewhat shortchanged in the mainline Star Wars films, yet explored in greater detail via extended universe media due to the fan appreciation for the iconic-looking bounty hunter first seen in The Empire Strikes Back 42 years ago. This is his show, a first chapter in a book committed to faithfully adding dimensions to an often one-dimensional character.

“Chapter 1” begins with Boba Fett himself, reprised by Temuera Morrison (who of course played Boba’s canonical clone father Jango in Attack of the Clones and has been a mainstay of the Star Wars franchise ever since), now resting in a medical pod after we last saw him at the end of the second season of Mandalorian, preparing to muscle into Jabba the Hutt’s crime lord power vacuum in Tatooine, where it appears the bulk of this season (and series?) will take place.

For those who may have forgotten, these Mandalorian shows take place several years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and like many modern television series, Book of Boba Fett opts to layer in flashbacks concurrent with the show’s present in order to add context and fill in some curious gaps of exposition. So the first section of this 39-minute pilot lingers on the long-speculated escape from the Sarlacc Pit, where the character supposedly died in the movies, but that of course wasn’t acceptable for fans who knew George Lucas or someone could easily write the character out of that predicament for a triumphant return to the screen.

Oddly, this entire sequence, which fans have been waiting to see for decades, is quite brief and may come off as underwhelming if you set your expectations too high. The director of the episode, Robert Rodriguez, (along with writer and showrunner Jon Favreau) clearly have more interest in what happens after the Sarlacc Pit and beyond. Fett gets stripped of his bounty hunter armor, as expected, and is then abducted into slavery by Tusken Raiders.

Before that story really gets going, however, we cut back to the present, where Boba and his assassin ally and right hand, Fennec Shand—played once again by Ming-Na Wen, who was consistently excellent in Mandalorian—are trying to build their own crime syndicate out of the husk of Jabba’s palace. For now, they’re mostly recruiting allies, intimidating rivals, and debating how far Boba should go in creating an atmosphere of ruthlessness and fear, which is where we get into one of the show’s biggest weaknesses, but also its greatest opportunity. And that’s Boba Fett himself.

Thus far, Fett has been bit of a complicated figure, morally. He’s violent, but only up until a point. Perhaps to soften his edges, Favreau and co-executive producer Dave Filoni (who has simply been brilliant in this new legacy of post-Lucas Star Wars stories) sensibly recognize that a Star Wars antihero needs to be at least somewhat grounded in acceptable, ethical limits. Perhaps because they know parents are watching this with their kids, for better or worse. For example, they make it a point to address Boba’s refusal to torture or kill his enemies unless absolutely necessary. But the problem is that we don’t yet know why.

The movies certainly never got into Boba Fett’s ideologies beyond a distaste of the Jedi and political war that claimed his father figure. I haven’t seen Star Wars Rebels or any of the other legacy series that ostensibly address more of Fett’s backstory, but I imagine Favreau and Filoni know that there are a lot of viewers like me to that effect who shouldn’t have to do homework in order to understand the main protagonist of a live-action blockbuster series. But as I mentioned, this is also an opportunity to gradually reveal what makes Fett tick, as long as the show respects our collective patience and lays more groundwork over the next episode or two.

In terms of spectacle and set pieces, Book of Boba Fett is certainly of a piece with Mandalorian in the right ways. The world feels lived in, uncomfortable, and harsh. Whatever comforts there are to be had must be earned through hard work, luck, and smarts. In other words, it’s still a western set on alien planets a la the novel Dune, one of the original inspirations for the first Star Wars movie. But Book of Boba Fett has a different flavor from its Mandalorian cousin and other influences.

You get the sense that we won’t be hopping around planets and going on standalone adventures, but rather digging in for a more grounded, expansive exploration of the first Star Wars planet ever visited. Tatooine has always been one of the most diverse and fascinating locations in the lore, probably because we keep going back to it and learning more about its quirks every time. You can easily see how a show like this one can dig so much water from a single location when we have the Tusken Raider scenes focused more on sheer survival balanced against the present day underworld politics happening in Mos Espa, where Fett has to employ a different kind of skillset to win the day. There’s something surprising and investing about all these larger-than-life characters fighting so hard and acting so precious about a desert planet, as if they were in constant battle over a lush, luxurious place like the city planet of Coruscant.

In addition to the western motif, Book of Boba Fett also has a flair of the Showtime Spartacus series, where desperate underdogs battle within themselves and the system in order to thrive under harsh circumstances. Morrison is a great fit for this kind of rebellious leader, and as hoped, he keeps the helmet off for most of the show as a nice way to differentiate this spinoff from The Mandalorian; in the same way we could have John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, it appears we can also have Boba Fett and Mando.

In book publishing, debut authors are often advised to get rid of prologues because agents and editors simply want you to cut right to the chase. But the exception tends to be for more established authors, because they know their readers, their built-in fanbase, will see a prologue and have more than enough goodwill to just jump in and eat it all up. That appears to be the strategy with this first episode, which itself is a bit of a hybrid prologue. We do get a sense of the main conflict of the series and what Fett and his gang want. We don’t yet know what they need, though we can see glimpses of Fett needing some kind of redemption in the same vein as the iconic character, who was always in the margins of the Star Wars franchise, but never a main player. As it stands, Favreau and his team apparently have a reasonable and so far exciting proposition for how that can change moving forward.

“Chapter 1” of The Book of Boba Fett is now available to stream on Disney+. There will be seven episodes total, each one premiering on Wednesdays. Rodriguez has reportedly directed two additional episodes, along with Jon Favreau, Bryce Dallas Howard, Dave Filoni, and more. I might return with a full season review depending on how things go, but for now, I’m recommending fans of The Mandalorian give this one a watch, even if they found the character somewhat thin in that series. In this one, I think there are some missing pages that need to be filled, for this sake of old and new fans alike.

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