Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Boba Fett’s book finally puts his titular character in the spotlight.

The fan-favorite bounty hunter has long lurked on the fringes of Star Wars‘ history: his brief introduction in an animated short during the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special; and his popularity is rising thanks to his iconic armor (practically designed to sell action figures) despite his brief appearances in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, his backstory with a shoehorn in Attack of the Clones, and a half-baked arc in The Clone Wars. Despite all that, Fett himself was a mystery, a blank slate of badassery that was never filled.

But after years of rumors of a solo film, a broken history in the (de-canonized) books of Expanded Universe, and a surprising resurrection in the second season of The MandalorianBoba Fett is finally at the center of his own spin-off series, Boba Fett’s book. It has the potential to provide an interesting look at a new corner of the Star Wars universe beyond the titular interstellar battles for galactic supremacy or the machinations of the Jedi and the Sith – but at this point there are still many blank pages that the show seems in no rush to fill.

Warning: Spoilers for Boba Fett’s book, episode one ahead

Image: Francois Duhamel / Lucasfilm Ltd

A Boba Fett show once seemed like something that would almost write itself. A bounty hunter, clinging to his sense of honor and unique moral code as he takes on odd jobs to hunt down the galaxy’s most wanted criminals and becomes entangled in the wider machinations of the Empire and the New Republic – it seems like the perfect pitch for a Star Wars TV series. The problem, of course, is that Lucasfilm has already made that show: it’s called The Mandalorian, and it played a different armored Mandalorian hero who is not Boba Fett.

So where is the original masked bounty hunter in his own series? Well, if Boba Fett’s book‘s first episode shows, somewhere old and somewhere new.

The show begins by filling in some gaps in history between when fans last saw Fett (Temuera Morrison) disappear into the mouth of the almighty sarlacc who lived in the Great Pit of Carkoon, and “a new definition of pain.” and suffering” as he “was slowly consumed for a thousand years”, and his return in The Mandalorian (set five years later) Return of the Jedi). We see how he escaped (an almost pedestrian combination of durable Mandalorian armor and his wrist-mounted flamethrower), how he lost his armor (Jawas), and his capture and adoption by the enigmatic Tuskens.

It then jumps forward to na The Mandalorainsecond season after the credit scene: when Fett and his partner, the murderer Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), murder Jabba’s former majordomo, Bib Fortuna, and lay claim to Hutt’s infamous crime empire.

Barring a Baby Yoda-level twist in the coming weeks, Boba Fett’s book looks like it will be the next six episodes to tell both stories: filling in his missing years with the tuskans (because if there’s one thing Star Wars hate, it literally leaves every bit of backstory unexplained) and his emergence as a new kind of power in the political and criminal world of Tatooine, as a sci-fi version of The wire with the edges sanded down to be more family friendly.

Fett is still a man of few words – the episode runs over ten minutes before a single line is spoken – but he is determined to try and do things differently in Mos Espa than Jabba did. “Jabba ruled by fear; I intend to rule out of respect,” he growls, eschewing Jabba’s habit of street-carrying elaborate litters and attending meetings in person rather than sending followers.

The problem is, Fett is almost charmingly bad at being a crime boss. He and Shand are utterly unable to understand a visiting vassal; he is shown by the mayor, whose unctuous lackey demands it Fett pay tribute instead; and he is almost immediately ambushed on his first visit to Mos Espa. If Boba is going to fill Jabba’s metaphorical boots (I assume Hutts doesn’t wear shoes), he’ll have to get better at this soon.

But Boba Fett’s book also has a much bigger job than a new crime empire or an explanatory backstory: filling in Fett’s conspicuously missing character and motivations. At this point, the ostensible hero of the show is still a blank slate. Despite appearances in two films and more than one episode of The Mandalorian, his most defining moment is still a decades-old warning from Darth Vader that disintegrations are not on the menu for his hunt for Han Solo.

Image: Francois Duhamel / Lucasfilm Ltd

What is Boba Fett doing here anyway? Tatooine is not exactly a nice place to live. (As Luke Skywalker once put it, “If there’s a bright center in the universe, you’re on the planet it’s furthest from.”) Why does Fett, the galaxy’s most notorious bounty hunter, want to fill Jabba’s shoes and create a mafia boss on a remote desert? Is it just about the money? A more fun retirement plan than chasing idlers? Any (already suggested) pity for the poor, damp peasants who suffer under the boot of Jabba’s empire?

In brief, Boba Fett’s book has to show us what Boba really cares about, other than looking like a badass (which, admittedly, he does very well).

Boba Fett has been known for decades as one of Star Warscoolest looking characters. But if Boba Fett’s book is going to succeed, it must do more than talk: it’s time for Fett to walk the lofty reputation he supposedly has and let us know more about the man in armor.

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