While watching this week’s episode, my brain kept on returning to the existential question of what is it people want from Star Wars? It certainly can’t be tense, well-scripted crime dramas, unless The Book Of Boba Fett looks to deconstruct the genre by exploring one man’s attempts to become boss in the sloppiest, most roundabout way possible.
The first two trilogies told, to varying degrees of success, a tidy little fairy tale. And it was the fable-like quality of the movies that was first to be lost in the massive, outward expansion of material; flattening the mystery of this weird, unique space opera into just another technical-heavy sci-fi universe. Or at least almost lost, since Star Wars is one of the few ongoing properties that can sustain itself on being a feeling. It’s a feeling that relies too heavily on nostalgia, and yet there’s something about infiltrating a kingpin’s castle through the cavernous, boiling kitchen and facing off against a janky old droid with six meat cleavers for arms and a tiny net-wielding rat catching companion that you just don’t see anywhere else.
It’s a very specific mood. Fantastical, absurd, cute, and dangerous—all mixed together. And while there are plenty of examples (including last week’s episode) that put a great strain on this theory, as long as it’s delivered competently, whatever story you want to tell to allow more time in the Star Wars universe is sufficient. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t like to see greater aspirations from the franchise, but it is impressive how reliable a return you can get on deliberately un-aerodynamic spaceships and aggressive Muppets.
In a more grounded examination of this week’s episode, there are entire sections of “The Gathering Storm” that would have made a whole lot of sense to occur during the first or second episodes. It seems impossible that weeks into his aggressive move to become the head of a massive and dangerous power structure that it would occur to Boba Fett, à la Homer Simpson, that he needs a crew and money can be used to secure him a crew. It’s the kind of epiphany you would expect him to have before trotting all around town declaring himself the new boss, but I guess better late than never.
Even the banquet scene where Fett meets with the three factions who oversee Mos Espa feels like it would have been a first order of business. Though at least waiting this long facilitated the power move of placing the table right above his new Rancor. And sure, we all make rookie mistakes our first time trying to upend a crime family, but I truly don’t understand how a man who, until this point made an entire career being hired to bolster the legitimacy of criminals through the threat of violence, wouldn’t think to bolster his legitimacy by hiring people trained in violence. Or where to find them for that matter; Fennec’s final line of the episode, “Credits can buy muscle, if you know where to look.” That has to be the most superfluous statement an assassin-for-hire has ever made.
This episode also lays out the explicit reason Fett wants to become Daimyo. There’s no hidden agenda, he’s just another long line of subordinates who has decided it’s probably better being the boss instead. Fett claims that most employers are idiots who cause the needless death of their employees. Earlier in the episode, he even vows vengeance against Bib Fortuna for double-crossing him. I don’t know if this alludes to some yet-unknown event that led to the death of the Tusken tribe, because it surely can’t be in reference to the events of Return Of The Jedi, where it was explicitly shown Fett’s greatest enemy is his lack of peripheral vision.
As far as motivations go, raw ambition is a perfectly acceptable one, though again, it’s strange to wait until halfway through the series to make such a straight-forward decision clear. It now seems clear that the whole point of Fett’s time with the Sand People (a few years, apparently!) was solely to function as his character development. He was a lone wolf, cold-blooded killer until these humble desert nomads taught him the meaning of family. It’s a true testament to how insufficient the show has been at telegraphing any of these character aspects that they’re completely unclear until delivered in one of the episodes many explicit fireside monologues.
And yet, despite all these issues, “The Gathering Storm” still fares better than last week. Maybe it’s because it seems like the show is focusing in on a climax instead of feinting among a bunch of disposable power players. Maybe it’s because Boba Fett got his ship back. It was a very fun sequence to have the pair infiltrate Jabba’s palace. The aforementioned kitchen fight was a highlight, but so was Fett trying to maneuver his Firespray through a docking bay that was barely large enough to accommodate the ship. There’s still a very strange cadence to the melee action sequences that I can’t quite put my finger on. They all feel like a video game that has suddenly dipped frame rate. They look choppy and inelegantly edited. Using his newly recovered ship first thing as a flashlight to stare down Tatooine’s largest throat was an odd choice, though it’s reasonable that a delirious, semi-digested Fett wouldn’t recall being stripped by Jawas when he first emerged from the Sarlacc. The creature tried to eat the ship, as giant mouths do, forcing Fennec to set off a bomb to free the pair. The Sarlacc is officially dead.
There’s not much to say about the other major development of the episode; the events leading up to Boba Fett and Fennec Shand working together. He found her dying of the gut shot she received in The Mandalorian, she repaid him by helping him recover his ship, and became intrigued enough by his proposal for a crime co-operative that she decided to stick around. It was all fine. Their relationship certainly doesn’t require anything more complicated than that. I think she also enjoyed how willing he was to gun down an entire biker gang without hesitation. We are now past the halfway point in the series with only three episodes remaining. That’s a just a few too many to present a straight-up battle against the Pyke Syndicate, so I assume there will be at least one more twist before the climax. My new guess is Stephen Root’s water monger is the secret puppet master guiding the strings.
- We get another in-depth look at Tatooine’s fresh-faced counterculture underground, with their well-scrubbed bio-hackers still with baby fat on their cheeks. I’m glad Luke didn’t fall in with that crowd. Instead of learning the ways of the Jedi, he’d still be on Tatooine, lighting death sticks with the lighter he installed in his hand.
- Sure enough, Black Krrsantan joins Fett’s posse this week. The show felt the need to stall his recruitment long enough so we’d have the chance to see him get drunk and surly and tear the arm of off a Trandoshan. See? He’s nobody’s chump.
- The low thrum of the detonator Fennec set off in the Sarlacc was the same as from Attack of the Clones, when Jango was trying to shake Obi-Wan in the asteroid belt. It’s a reminder that among other things, sound design is one of Star Wars greatest assets.
- The standoff with the kitchen bot had shades of Indy’s duel with the Cairo Swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
- I feel as though Fett should have taken at least one of the bikers hostage to get some information. As was pointed out, it seems unlikely that a gang would be able to take down a tribe of trained warriors. Once again, the need for vengeance has clouded judgement.
- Not surprisingly, the name Slave 1 seems to be phased out of Star Wars lexicon. Fett refers to his vehicle solely as a Firespray Gunship, and I expect it will never be further elaborated upon.
- So I guess bacta tanks can cure scar tissue? The whole point of the apparatus was to provide us a more conventionally handsome protagonist. Good thing his final healing regiment happened to coincide so nicely with the closure on his flashbacks.