A year after The Book of Boba Fett was announced in an end-credits scene of The Mandalorian season two finale, the second live-action show premiered, and we got a sense of what a Robert Rodriguez Boba Fett story brings. It is impossible to have a fully-formed opinion of a show with just one episode, but first impressions are it was good enough. “A Stranger in a Strange Land” presents more than a few challenges for the former bounty hunter turned crime boss so let us dive in:
Tatooine, the Character Builder
I like the planet Tatooine. It is the primary location of my favorite Star Wars film, A New Hope, and seeing sand vistas with the twin suns will never get old. But I would never want to live on Tatooine. It is a planet where you never want to travel into the vast wasteland of deserts for fear of Sarlacc Pits, Tusken Raiders, and now a six-legged creature that looks a mini Kaiju.
But Tatooine continues to be significant with personal stories of triumphs and tragedies. Luke Skywalker grew up there, Obi-Wan devoted time to protect Luke. And now we know Boba Fett is also a survivor of the worst Tatooine has to offer (particularly that Sarlacc pit). Tatooine might be more of a character in this series than any other piece of Star Wars content we’ve seen. And I am here for it because if we keep returning to this planet, it might as well grow and develop alongside its residents.
A Story Constructed Through Flashbacks
If the first episode is any indication, The Book of Boba Fett will unfold in the present and past. And “A Stranger in a Strange Land” reflects Boba’s introduction to two strange lands, the desert of Tatooine and the crime world.
Boba Fett was also born into a strange land on Kamino as an unaltered clone of Jango Fett. Nothing about his life has been normal (or as normal as life in Star Wars can be). The quick flashbacks from the Prequels of Kamino and the Battle of Geonosis could hint at further flashbacks, which I am hoping to see. Star Wars has struggled to bring in elements from the animated series that do not alienate casual fans (Ahsoka looks like a favorite but do people care as much about Bo Katan?). But the clones are familiar outside of The Clone Wars because of the Prequels, the latter of which is enjoying a surge in popularity. It would feel incomplete not to have clones factor in somehow during this series, and flashbacks are one way. The other is a clone appearance, but that might be wishful thinking for hardcore fans.
Boba Fett’s journey of learning how to be a crime lord interwoven with his journey of survival on Tatooine for five years sounds like the basis for a solid story. It would answer where he has been between Return of the Jedi and The Mandalorian while establishing the next steps for his character post-Galactic Civil War.
Who’s Going to Change: the Underworld or Boba Fett?
In a version of an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, perhaps The Book of Boba Fett is one big game of chicken. This is the Boba Fett more from The Clone Wars than from Legends. Fair but unyielding and more willing to give second chances.
That sentiment is not compatible with his new job title and, as Fennec repeatedly reminds him in different ways, fear is a powerful tool for submission. Boba already has a threat in the Mayor of Mos Espa, who does not appear in the episode but whose presence is felt right away. Instead of paying tribute in person to Boba, he sends his majordomo, Mok Shaiz. Actor David Pasquesi plays Shaiz as a condescending messenger who might be more than a lackey for the Mayor. In a bold power play, Shaiz then requests tribute from Boba. I hope they have a dynamic actor or actress playing the Mayor if they are the main adversary to Fett.
Another potential adversary is the owner of a cantina, a Twi’lek named Madam Garsa Fwip (played by Jennifer Beals). Filoni and Favreau love the Twi’leks (Filoni in particular as they are a big part of The Clone Wars and Rebels) and they are featured heavily in this episode. Garsa Fwip is not underhanded like the Mayor as Boba Fett seems to understand how things work in her establishment even more than Fennec Shand, but that does not mean she is not a threat. After all, someone sent those men that attack Boba and Fennec when they leave her cantina (on foot and exposed). It is a sloppy execution attempt of a crime boss (if that was the intention), but Fennec ends up capturing one alive so we can find out in the next episode.
Either way, Boba Fett’s insistence that he will rule with respect is going to be tested. It paid off with the two Gamorrean guards, but there are not many chances to make mistakes in mob life. If this is Star Wars’ version of a mob show, then Boba Fett is likely the one who will harden throughout the series. If Mos Espa survived a Hutt rule, can a former bounty hunter realistically change things for the better? And what is better? He is still collecting payments and will probably kill subordinates. The Book of Boba Fett is a Star Wars show, and Star Wars tends to have quick transformations of small towns. But, Mos Espa is not a small town, and the crime world is a whole different beast than bandits or a singular creature.
Let’s Talk About Marketing
The marketing for The Book of Boba Fett has been subpar. This is not subjective, and it is also not exclusive to this one show. It is a Star Wars live-action problem. Because the same marketing group handles both the MCU and Star Wars, I cannot help but compare their live-action shows. WandaVision, Loki, and Hawkeye had unique marketing campaigns that did a great job conveying the tone of their respective shows. Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the only live-action show where Disney dropped the marketing ball. Luckily, press tours with Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan helped to combat the poor effort from Disney. From the look and feel of the posters to the merchandise, brand partnerships, and trailers, viewers could gleam the vibe of the shows before they aired. Every MCU show has also let critics see at least the first episode in advance. Star Wars animation has also followed this path (the first two episodes of The Bad Batch and the entirety of Star Wars Visions).
There has been nothing memorable about the marketing of any of the live-action Star Wars shows. Both seasons of the Mandalorian had lackluster trailers and minimal publicity campaigns leading up to the premiere. The Mandalorian season one gets a pass because they successfully kept the biggest secret in Star Wars since the Original Trilogy (hello, Baby Yoda), but season two marketing was also bare-bones. And, aside from Luke showing up in “Chapter 16: The Rescue,” the other secrets were more for Star Wars fans that watched The Clone Wars and knew who Ahsoka and Bo Katan were. Leaks that Temuera Morrison was returning as Boba Fett came out long before the season two premiere, so the first episode could have been shown to critics early.
There was no such reveal in “Chapter One: A Stranger in a Strange Land.” Perhaps Lucasfilm felt that the episode was not strong enough to build hype if screened early, but the show needed something going into the premiere.
It is also possible that Lucasfilm bets that Boba Fett’s popularity is strong enough to carry the weight, and they might be right. But Lucasfilm thought Han Solo could carry a film solo, and that proved to be incorrect.
The Sum Might be Greater than the Parts
And this is a great time to remind everyone that Boba Fett WAS supposed to have a solo film. The box office performance of Solo: A Star Wars Story derailed that ambition, and now Fett’s story has been reborn into this series.
Because I believe The Book of Boba Fett, more than The Mandalorian, will unfold like one long film. It might even be a better binge experience once all episodes are released.
Like everything Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have done, there is a long-term plan for the characters in The Mandalorian universe, and The Book of Boba Fett might be a slower build to that endgame.