And so it begins. For 37 years, the faithful followers of the holy trilogy (I suppose I should call it “the sacred saga” instead since it’s nine movies, but the overzealous purists may protest) have sat and wondered whether or not their beloved would-be badass bounty hunter, Boba Fett, survived literally the stupidest accidental death ever caught on film.
And thank the maker (or rather “the makers” — Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni) that last year, the question was not only answered, but the death was fully retconned, when the baddest merc in the galaxy returned in his full glory and dignity in the second season premiere of The Mandalorian.
However, as fans know fully well, the surprises during that epic season of television kept coming, as in the finale of The Mandalorian Season 2, Favreau announced that The Book of Boba Fett was coming December 2021! Well after over a year of waiting patiently, The Book has been opened!
When we last saw Fett (a fierce and pensive Temura Morrison) and loyal assassin, Fennec Shand (played by the incomparable Ming-Na Wen), they had dispatched of Bib Fortuna and taken control of Jabba’s palace on Tatooine. The new series picks up shortly after, with Shand and Fett taking over the underground mafia scene, which ends up stirring the pot significantly for the other criminal heads of the underworld. From there, we can anticipate a fight for control and power between our antiheroes, and those unwilling to bend the knee.
One of the biggest surprises to come out of the first chapter of this series was the notion that it acts as both a prequel to the events of Fett meeting Din Djarin in The Mandalorian, and a sequel following his takeover of Jabba’s throne. The series’ first episode, written by Favreau, and directed by veteran action maestro, Robert Rodriguez (who created the El Mariachi trilogy, Sin City, and the brilliant Mandalorian episode, “The Tragedy” where we first see Fett return to action) takes equal amounts of time telling both stories, as seems to be the intent of the series. Favreau, unlike his “Man with No Name” spaghetti Western approach to The Mandalorian, appears to be envisioning the series as a mafia-focused, Godfather Part II-style story about Fett’s survival on Tatooine immediately post-Return of the Jedi, and the current power struggles he’s having post-The Mandalorian Season 2. Which is not only incredibly interesting, but also refreshing! This approach doesn’t stray too far from the tone and pacing of a Mandalorian episode, but manages to feel somewhat unique, for better or worse.
One of the most interesting things about the style of this first episode was definitely how the conservative approach to dialogue made it more evocative of a Genndy Tartakovsky (creator of Samurai Jack, Primal, and the Cartoon Network early ‘00s Clone Wars microseries) series come to life, with actions speaking much louder than words here. Gorgeous, sweeping desert shots, tone, and world building really take precedent here. And the narrative is more driven by situation and circumstance rather than exposition. Much like the the Season 2 premiere of The Mandalorian, we dive heavily into the lives and culture of the Tusken Raiders. We also are introduced to the culture of the crime syndicates and the intents of Shand and Fett to disrupt the status quo.
Clocking in at around 30 mins, the episode is incredibly short, but it is still a bit of a slow burn. Such an approach will be greatly appreciated by older fans, but may strain the attention of anyone looking for immediate action. When the action gets started, it’s exciting and intense. But this initial outing takes its time to establish backstory and intent before lighting the match and paying off the build up to said action. However, given that the series is trying to tell both the prequel and the sequel stories of its title character, the shorter run time proves a bit of a disservice for anyone looking for immediate gratification. Narratively speaking, less gets accomplished because of this.
My advice to you all is to enjoy the ride. Take in the tone and atmosphere. And appreciate the answers and questions Favreau, Filoni, and Rodriguez are attempting to set up for us!
Morrison and Wen are terrific together. Wen provides a lot of the levity via snarky comments, and cynical skepticism, but also proves, as she always has, to be a force of incredible action to be reckoned with. She gets two chances in this episode to do what she does best — take names and kick ass — and she doesn’t disappoint!
Morrison’s performance is also primal, yet, as previously stated, pensive. There’s a lot of unsaid trauma and concern behind his soulful gaze, whether or not the helmet is on. His Fett is not just a background character that says token lines like “He’s no good to me dead.” He’s a fully formed person, and the role benefits from Morrison’s ability to create sentiment with so few words.
The visuals in the episode are as strong as ever, and the action at times is a bit more gritty than some of the more polished episodes of The Mandalorian (reminiscent of Rodriguez’s approach to the action in “The Tragedy”). But it’s still fun and entertaining — particularly one flashback sequence towards the end. Another strong highlight is the effectively moody score, provided by Mandalorian and Black Panther mainstay, Ludwig Göransson.
Is it as engaging or strong as the first ever chapter of The Mandalorian? Perhaps not, given the dominoes are merely beginning to be set up now. But overall there’s a lot to love here, starting with the ambitious nature of how The Book of Boba Fett sets itself apart from its parent show. In utilizing the Godfather approach to telling two stories (so long as the two stories don’t cancel each other out) there’s a great deal more potential for the series to establish itself to be even more interesting than its predecessor, or at minimum more unique. Furthermore, we got our favorite bounty hunter back in all of his awesome, badass glory. And at the end of the day, that, my fellow Star Wars fans, is what makes that 37-year wait all the more rewarding.
Overall Score: B+
Episode 1 of The Book of Boba Fett is now streaming on Disney+. And new episodes drop every Wednesday!