Was this ever meant to be a Boba Fett show?
Once again, we find ourselves removed from Tatooine, and Boba Fett, for most of the episode. We do get a nice surprise at the beginning with Cobb Vanth returning to stop a Pyke Spice run through Mos Pelgo.
“From the Desert Comes A Stranger,” is an episode that should have focused on that stranger, and what that means for towns like Mos Pelgo (and why Boba Fett’s fight matters). Instead, we have an episode full of cameos that are pulling weight for other shows. This episode is likely to be a fan favorite but, structure-wise, it was a head-scratcher. And, amidst the praise that Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni (who directed this episode), and to a lesser extent, Robert Rodriguez are getting, they also bear some criticism for an uneven series.
This review is going to have a lot of questions.
Didn’t See That Coming
The episode begins with the no-good Pykes (who are just a faceless entity at this point) running Spice through an outside town we discover is Mos Pelgo. This is followed by a great showdown between Cobb Vanth and the unfortunate Pykes, who think they can overpower him. Timothy Olyphant is just made for these roles and was an excellent casting decision for Vanth based on the character’s brief appearance in The Aftermath Trilogy.
It was a great scene and tied into what I think is one overall theme that The Book of Boba Fett wants to show us. Too bad they do not put the theme in front of the episode like The Clone Wars to keep everyone focused.
While it was nice to see Cobb Vanth reappear (and made the most sense), he was not the only guest star.
In the last episode, we took a slight detour and followed Mando around, learning what he has been up to after season two. In this episode, we spend time with Grogu, which means we see other people and are even more removed from Boba Fett’s storyline.
I will never NOT be excited to see R2-D2 in live-action. It is pure bias as the droid is one of my favorite Star Wars characters. I will make excuses of why that droid should be in every single piece of Star Wars content. And he does the smart thing and powers himself off to avoid answering Mando’s questions.
Mando first encounters the droid when he lands on a secret planet and sees the Jedi Temple being built that will be destroyed by Kylo Ren.
I have no idea why Ahsoka is there, other than to let fans know that she and Luke connected after Return of the Jedi. And to make Mando feel guilty for wanting to see Grogu while Luke makes Grogu feel guilty for wanting to see Mando. These scenes are all a big guilt trip.
And it is good character development for both Mando and Grogu as they have to ask themselves “Is this life for me, or do I want something different?”
But it has nothing to do with Boba Fett.
But Was It Necessary?
There were connections to Mando and Boba Fett in “Return of Mandalorian,” which contrasts two bounty hunters going through different journeys. However, the entire time that I was watching Luke and Grogu train in this episode, I was thinking, “This is cool…but why is it here?”
Luke and Ahsoka having a conversation is great too, and it is what a lot of fans have wanted. But does it fit this show?
All this was great and exciting in The Mandalorian season two, but why is it in the penultimate episode of a show about Boba Fett? We could have used a Boba Fett/rancor bonding and riding sequence in preparation for the final episode instead. That could still happen, but it would be rushed as everything else has been since episode three.
There is also the possibility that this was a production issue. Boba Fett was never announced at the Disney Investor Day like the Ahsoka series and the now halted Rangers of the New Republic, but it was still in the works. There was mention of a big crossover event, and this could be the beginning of that story. This means the problem with the Pykes will not be completely resolved in the final episode. And, realistically, it should be harder to purge a syndicate like the Pykes from an entire planet.
But if this is all a part of the big event mentioned years ago, did it have to come at the expense of Boba Fett and Fennec Shand?
Boba Fett did not have a single line of dialogue in this episode. He has now had zero lines of dialogue in two episodes of his own show. The result is that this is no longer his show, it is just an odd mesh in the Mando Streaming Universe.
Again, the scenes that happened with Mando, Ahsoka, Luke, and Grogu all make sense for those character journeys, but I question whether this was the right space to have them.
Of course, if Luke Skywalker decides to make nice with Boba Fett and lay waste to the Pykes to protect his home planet of Tatooine, I reserve all rights to walk everything back.
And Then They Came for Me…
But let us shift focus to what did make sense and was the best part of the episode. It is a lesson never learned. People pay no attention to problems outside of their borders or communities until it arrives at their doorstep.
Here, that problem is the Pykes and now Cad Bane. His appearance is not a surprise as we have seen Cad Bane return in The Bad Batch, where he had a direct confrontation with Fennec Shand. I mentioned in my post, Whatever Happened to…Cad Bane?, the bounty hunter has a history with Boba Fett. And now he has a history with Fennec Shand, so it makes sense why he would show up on Tatooine as muscle for the Pykes. The shot framing is pure western, and Cad Bane’s translation to live-action is another winner (no toothpick, unfortunately). The silent standoff between Vanth, the deputy, and Bane holds for what feels like a full minute before the shoot-out, but it serves its purpose of having the viewer fear for Cobb Vanth. And the editing gives a nice misdirect in foreshadowing who is going to get shot first.
Although Bane has lost his wits in his old age leaving Cobb Vanth alive and galvanizing the town. I guess that is a tale old as time, too. Mos Pelgo, now renamed Freetown, learns it still has to take up arms to remain free.
Mando tries to make this case to Vanth and leaves right before Bane arrives (because Lucasfilm doesn’t want to answer who would win that fight yet). But, it should have been Boba Fett. It would give the ex-bounty hunter more screen time, and it would be cool for him to have a scene with the former owner of his armor. Something to hope for in the finale I suppose.
Cobb Vanth understands the warning Mando is offering and attempts to gather the citizens of Freetown, but it is too late. Now the citizens are in this fight, for better or for worse.
I have no qualms with Cad Bane. He looks fantastic in live-action and poses a legitimate threat to everyone in this show (he is far more intimidating than the Pykes). Filoni has set him up to be the real big bad in the finale, and I would have happily forgone everything with Luke and Grogu to spend more time here. But he was not even given the final scene. That also went to Luke and Grogu.
Side note- I did enjoy the flyover from Mando and the Jawas, who apparently have the Krayt Dragon skull.
De-age Tech Has Its Moment
Last year, Lucasfilm hired Shamook (the deepfake artist), signaling that we could be seeing many de-aged characters in Star Wars. And this is what they had in mind. Bringing in Shamook has paid off as Luke looks much less uncanny valley than The Mandalorian Chapter 16.
And now the floodgates are open. I am not sure whether they would try this again with Carrie Fisher (there has to be a difference working with an actor who is alive versus one who has passed), but could it mean a de-aged Harrison Ford? That would seem a bit much since they have already cast a younger actor. But Lucasfilm might be interested in having Billy Dee Williams de-aged instead of waiting on Donald Glover’s schedule to clear for any future Lando appearances.
I have a list of other characters we will likely see de-aged, spurred by the Shamook hire, that you can check out here.
What A Waste
This deserves some dedicated time to discuss. Jennifer Beals’ Garsa Fwip has now had to deal with Boba coming in, the Hutts laying claim, and Black Krrsantan making a mess of Trandoshans in her establishment. All with limited screen time, but still with her star power shining through. And that all seems to go out the door this episode with no dialogue from Beals, just looks.
Two Pykes come in with what looks like Spice canisters, order drinks, and then walk out. You cannot do that at airports without arising suspicion, and you should instantly be alert if it happens in Star Wars. Unfortunately, realization never dawns on Fwip as she stares away from the canisters her service droid is holding looking out at the Pykes as her bar explodes.
I doubt she survived that blast. It’s a waste of an interesting character that deserved more. But now looking at how Boba Fett is being handled in his own show, I guess it goes with the territory.
The Book of Boba Fett should have just been season three of The Mandalorian if that was the intent. It is all about expectations and Lucasfilm, Favreau, Filoni, and Robert Rodriguez straight failed in setting those. It won’t matter to a lot of fans and that is fine. But moving forward, I wonder if this is what we can expect with their Star Wars content. Is Ahsoka going to take a few episodes to focus on Boba Fett or Mando?
Favreau and Filoni’s attachments are laid out in Chapter Six. Will they ever be able to let their favorites go to allow other characters (like the still underutilized Fennec Shand) to thrive?
My expectations now are that these shows are just dumping grounds to bring all the animated characters to live-action. What that means for animation is a post for another day. For now, we will see if this show can pull focus back to Boba in time for the finale.