[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “The Book of Boba Fett” Episode 7, “Chapter 7: In the Name of Honor.”]
As was ordained by last week’s fateful standoff between Cad Bane (voiced by Corey Burton and performed by Dorian Kingi) and Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant), the “Book of Boba Fett” finale had to end with the blue-skinned, red-eyed, tube-cheeked cowboy playing quickdraw with our titular bounty hunter. Besides invoking the “who shot first” argument from the original film, the mercenaries’ last duel gave Boba (Temuera Morrison) the chance to defeat his one-time mentor by refuting his teachings: “Consider this my final lesson,” Cad says. “Look out for yourself. Anything else is weakness.”
And then Boba kills Cad — by himself, a hunter to the end, but fueled by the righteous cause of caring for his chosen family, his new town, and his desert planet.
From a certain perspective, this may feel like a fitting end to “The Book of Boba Fett”: The former wandering loner who spoke rarely and never removed his helmet is now a leader with a home, a partner (in business), and a loyal crew. He shows his face around town with abandon, and his loquaciousness has proved surprising, to say the least. Over a full season, we watched Boba remember the events that led him to spurn a solitary life lost in the stars — where he often did the Dark Side’s bidding — and embrace a benevolent opportunity to protect the innocent. As his ol’ buddy Mando (Pedro Pascal) might say: “This is the way.”
Only “The Book of Boba Fett” sure doesn’t feel like the way, unless you mean the Disney way. Just as the original film was reedited so Han no longer shot first, the House of Mouse has softened Boba Fett into a character that fits their family-friendly platform — which isn’t to say that people can’t change, only that everything about Boba’s “Book” feels forced into fitting the incongruous mold of a Disney dad. His terse edges have been sanded off. His mystique has been clarified. His profession retired. To change so much for a purpose is one thing, but what’s left to look at in the finale is a cool suit of armor with nothing of interest inside. Boba is boring now. The spotlight has only lessened his shine.
Typically, such statements require a subjective interpretation of the text, but “The Book of Boba Fett” makes its own case against its star by completely ditching him for two full episodes. Not even creator Jon Favreau could stomach spending any more time with Boba Fett by Episode 5, when the story randomly pivots to Mando. Calling “Return of the Mandalorian” or “From the Desert Comes a Stranger” parts of Boba’s “Book” is akin to considering episodes of “Better Call Saul” parts of “Breaking Bad.” There are shared characters. Stories overlap at times.
But nothing about Mando’s journey is crucial to what’s happening in “The Book of Boba Fett.” Boba needs help to defend his community. Fennec (a criminally under-utilized Ming-Na Wen) goes to get help. All Mando needs to do is show up for “Boba’s” plot to keep moving. Even the finale’s closing moments, when Baby Yoda saves the locals from a randomly raging rancor, feels tacked on, as if Favreau (who wrote or co-wrote every episode this season) knew he needed to justify the little green guy’s presence somehow, so he just, you know, decided that the previously helpful rancor would get angry.
It’s hard to blame the creators for being so disinterested in the hero they revived, but it’s easy to see where they went wrong. Unlike “The Mandalorian,” “The Book of Boba Fett” speeds through its hero’s emotional development while restricting his physical journey to a lonely desert planet. Investing in Boba taking a leadership role isn’t that exciting on its own, but it’s less so when he’s pretty eager to accept. Mando is also a Disney dad, but he gives in slowly to Baby Yoda and his responsibility to care for him. That’s why their hug in the finale hits home. Who’s Boba going to hug? His rancor? Krrsantan? Mando?
Frankly, it would help if he did. For how poorly “The Book of Boba Fett” develops its main hero, it does a decent job introducing prospects around him. Krrsantan, the vicious Wookie who nearly killed Boba (and his entire crew), is amazing. I don’t care that all I know about him is that he’s happy to pay for the chance to rip off a reptile’s arm. His eyes, his hair, his surly demeanor — he’s an ideal partner in crime. Fennec maintained her cool aloofness mainly through a general lack of advancement. Dave Pasquesi, as the long-eared majordomo to the mayor, is an absolute delight (and pairing him with Amy Sedaris in the finale is by far the smartest move in all of “Boba Fett”). And maybe it’s just because of Sophie Thatcher’s role in “Yellowjackets,” but I’m even ready to watch Drash lead her ragtag gang of teen cyborgs into future battles. (Hopefully, they’ll come up with better plans than to destroy the machine behind an impenetrable, all-encompassing force field by shooting at it from… higher… up.)
What all these characters have in common is the unknown. They have to be built fresh, which means they can be anything, do anything, and go anywhere. They can’t exist purely on nostalgia. Boba Fett’s arc was frustrating because it was uninspired, sure, but also because it betrayed who he was in the past without creating any curiosity about his future. The best scene in both “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett” so far is still two stormtroopers (played by Jason Sudeikis and Adam Pally) shooting the shit on their motorbikes. The two comedians are funny, sure, but what makes their Season 1, “Chapter 8” opening so memorable is that they peeled back a corner of “Star Wars” we recognized from the outside, but had never been invited into. The perspective of two Galactic guards accepting the ruthless practices of their commanding officer with a long sigh and peculiar impatience invites questions, rather than affirms what’s already known or suspected.
“Star Wars” used to take us to places we’d never seen before and introduce us to people we never imagined meeting. If the franchise is going to expand its universe, it has to look forward, not back.
“The Book of Boba Fett” Season 1 is available to stream via Disney+.