Charlie von Peterffy ‘24 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The Book of Boba Fett follows the titular bounty hunter after he survives being swallowed by the Sarlacc in his infamously short scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. The show takes place five years after that film (also just after the finale of the second season of the mass hit Star Wars show The Mandalorian) and immediately after Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) escapes from the Sarlacc pit, shown in various flashbacks. The show follows Fett and his right hand mistress Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) as Fett takes control of his old employer, Jabba the Hutt’s territory, exploring the criminal underworld of Tatooine. It also attempts to give Fett more solid ground to grow on, as he struggles with accepting his past actions as a ruthless bounty hunter, while also trying to “rule with respect.”
In short, this show is another solid entry in the Star Wars conglomerate, adding another entertaining story that further expands the universe’s lore. Watching Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) get a central role is something many fans have desired for years. Ever since his “death” in Return of the Jedi, fans have speculated that Fett never died; that somehow, against all odds, he used his tools, wit, and raw survival skills to escape offscreen. Naturally, as showrunner Jon Favreau (showrunner of The Mandalorian and director of Iron Man) and executive producer Dave Filoni (creator of animated shows Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and Star Wars Resistance, and executive producer of The Mandalorian) are diehard fans of the franchise, they embarked on making that theory come true. The result is a mash of many great characters, actors, visuals, and story beats, but a messy narrative that struggles to find the purpose of the show’s existence. In other words, it has a lot of strengths, but the show’s struggle to find a straightforward narrative weighs down on the emotion, character arcs, and consistency.
The story is relatively decent. The first four episodes are consistent and entertaining. There are a few pacing issues, but for the most part, the show expands on Fett’s past to fill in the gaps between the last movie and this series and expertly delves into Fett’s struggle with ruling crime. The most exciting aspect of the central premise is how it delves into crime politics. While they have appeared in past shows, they have never had center stage. As a result, much of the nuance, exploration of shady characters, and emotional impact is lost. Here, that side of Star Wars shines bright, giving a more holistic picture of who roams the franchise’s galaxy.
Unfortunately, the show begins to lose its focus by the fifth episode, “Return of the Mandalorian.” As the name details, the episode takes the focus entirely off of Fett, reverting the audience’s attention to Din Djarin/the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal), the main star of the other Star Wars live-action show. While this Mandalorian-centered episode and the one following it are by far this show’s strongest episodes, they strip the value of the original narrative, making it feel pointless. This also makes the season finale feel like another big narrative swing. It is almost as if the directors forgot this was a show about Fett and not The Mandalorian season three, reverting it rapidly later in the production process. Thus, it feels inconsistent and uncertain of its own goals by the show’s end, leading to two stories that feel frustratingly clipped too short.
The cast is fantastic. Every actor does a superb job animating their characters, whether old or new. Temuerra Morrison’s return as a Fett (albeit his original character’s offspring) is the filmmakers’ best decision about this show. Morrison has a commanding presence in everything he does, so seeing him return to the franchise is invigorating. Ming-Na Wen also does a great job. If handled by another actress, her character could easily fall to the wayside as nothing more than Fett’s right hand. Wen makes an identity of her own, separating herself from the rest of the cast. This makes her character persuasive and irresistible. Mok Shaiz (John Rosengrant), the cowardly assistant of the mayor of Tatooine, also brings a surprisingly effective performance by Rosengrant. The character mainly appears for comedic effect, and Rosengrant owns that well, making Shaiz incredibly memorable and relatable.
For the most part, the characters themselves are well-written. Fett, unfortunately, is the only exception. He feels like a cutout of his past appearances throughout the series. The show tries to portray him struggling with his past as a ruthless killer and redeeming himself by stepping into a more cooperative, passive role (“Let the past die,” as Han Solo’s son says 25 years later). However, while some scenes provoke these ideas––and the showrunners occasionally portray them quite well––he never really changes; he’s static. Kicking him out of episodes five and six certainly did not help, as they minimized his redemption arc’s importance in his own show. Fett is wasted.
The visuals are as great as always. As is expected, there are loads of fantastic sets, costumes, and practical effects that the showrunners seamlessly pair with great CGI monsters, special effects action sequences, and entirely digital characters. What is especially surprising is the realism of a digital de-aging of one specific character. In past examples, these effects have been much more noticeable. Faces would look rendered, eyes wouldn’t naturally react, subtle mannerisms would be absent, etc. Here, there are massive improvements. Everything looks and feels natural. It is clear that the showrunners learned from their past mistakes, demonstrating the franchise as a frontrunner of technological innovation, much like it was during the prequel and original trilogy eras.
Overall, the newest entry in Star Wars live-action TV is not the franchise’s most robust. It fails to give its central character a satisfying arc, muddles around its narrative to the point of meaningless plot occurrences, and has some trouble determining whether to focus on Fett or add to the story of The Mandalorian. However, thanks to solid acting, some well-written moments, a great ensemble cast of side characters, and solid action, the show excels more often than it strains.