The Book of Boba Fett
Who is Boba Fett? There’s an easy answer to that question, and for that, look no further than Under the Helmet, a neat little history of the character’s origins, including rare footage of his first appearance marching alongside Darth Vader at a sparsely attended parade in San Anselmo in the summer of 1978. The short answer, at least until fairly recently, is that he is a skilled and pitiless bounty hunter who works for whoever pays him, be they Hutt gangsters or intergalactic fascists. He is also the cloned “son” of Jango Fett, and while there’s a lot of backstory we don’t know, The Book of Boba Fett so far seems much less interested in where he comes from than what he’s becoming. To Mok Shaiz, the Ithorian mayor of Mos Espa, he denies being a bounty hunter. But if that’s not who Boba Fett is, then who is he?
Whatever he is, he’s not yet a crime lord competent enough to play daimyo and sit on Jabba’s throne. At least not yet. Picking up where the last episode left off, “Chapter 2: The Tribes of Tatooine” opens with Fett and Fennec Shand trying to get some answers out of an assassin hired by somebody to kill them. As a member of the feared Order of the Night Wind, he is ready to keep mum — until, that is, Shand threatens to feed him to the palace’s rancor. “He fears no man,” 8D8 cautions. But rancors are another story. It’s the mayor who hired him, he claims. “Overpriced,” Shand says of the Order of the Night Wind. “You’re paying for the name.” It looks like she might have been right.
The assassin needn’t have broken his silence. It seems that Bib Fortuna never got around to replacing the rancor. (Or maybe his weeping keeper seen in Return of the Jedi was too heartbroken to stay on the job and take care of another rancor?) Either way, they’re off to see the mayor of Mos Espa, and, after getting past an annoyed receptionist and the mayor’s supercilious assistant (the jerk who showed up without a tribute in the premiere), they all but accuse him of trying to have them killed. “You should remember,” Fett warns, “you serve as long as the daimyo of Tatooine deem it so.”
Maybe. But after taking the mayor’s suggestion, they visit Garsa at Sanctuary, and Fett and Shand learn they might have bigger problems than a mayor who won’t play ball. Figuratively and literally: Though previously believed to be debauching it up on Hutta, the twins are back in town. Cousins to the late Jabba the Hutt, they’ve come to Tatooine to claim his territory as their own, no matter what Fett says. They’ve got paperwork to back up their claim and, more troublingly, a mean-looking wookie enforcer who looks a lot like Black Krrsantan, a character from Marvel’s recent Star Wars comics (in which he and Fett have history). None of this bodes well.
But whatever’s coming will have to wait because it’s time for a flashback to Boba Fett’s time with the Tuskens. It looks like this strand is heading down the same track as A Man Called Horse, Lawrence of Arabia, and (most obviously), Dune, with Fett, an outsider, joining an Indigenous people, becoming accepted by them, then ascending to a position of power. Not that getting there is easy. First, he has to learn to fight like a Tusken (while using a humiliatingly blunt staff). (The proper term is gaderffii, or gaffi stick.) Then he has to prove himself extra-useful by finding a way to defeat the train that passes through Tusken territory, indiscriminately shooting Tuskens and their banthas with little regard for their autonomy or humanity, for want of a better word. (We mentioned there are some parallels between this situation and the American West, right?)
To do so, Fett takes out a biker gang terrorizing some locals and teaches the Tuskens how to ride — and how to hop from one vehicle to another. Then it’s time to raid the train, which provides the series (and the season so far) with its action highlight and leaves Fett in a position to demand that the criminals — spice dealers, we learn — mend their ways and show some respect when it comes to the Tuskens.
As a reward, Fett gets a lizard up his nose. To be fair, it’s not an ordinary lizard. It’s one that sends him on a hallucinatory vision quest in which he recalls his time in the belly of the Sarlacc and his childhood before returning to the camp with a hunk of wood. This, too, turns out to be more than it appears. With some help from the tribe’s weapons-maker, he soon has a gaffi stick of his own. (Well, not that soon. It’s a long process that the episode depicts in meticulous detail.) By the episode’s end, he is dancing around the fire in perfect rhythm with his Tusken brethren, bringing this chapter of The Book of Boba Fett to a close.
• As the series starts to take shape, you have to wonder what its two timelines have to do with each other. That’s not a criticism. It’s more like the central mystery of the show. Fett is deeply invested in the fate of the Tuskens, but we haven’t seen them at all in the present-day scenes. Will this ultimately explain why he wants to be Tatooine’s daimyo? Is it all for their sake? Or is it a mission of revenge against those who wronged the Tuskens? Presumably we’ll find out down the line.
• For this episode, at least, The Book of Boba Fett seems far more invested in the desert past than the urban present. It mostly works, though the episode pretty much loses all momentum in its final scenes, as interesting as it is to learn about Tusken culture.
• Spice, huh? The original film’s reference to the spice mines of Kessel felt like a nod to an obvious influence, Dune. The Book of Boba Fett’s Tusken story line borrows even more explicitly from Dune, with Fett seemingly on the path to becoming a kind of Muad’Dib who could lead the Tuskens to victory. Could we be headed for a George Lucas–Frank Herbert convergence of some kind? Will he take a Tusken bride?
• This episode was written by Jon Favreau and directed by Steph Green, a veteran of shows like The Americans and Watchmen. Another familiar name in the credits: Dean Cundey, who shot some of the best-known films by John Carpenter and Robert Zemeckis. Cundey has focused on comedies in recent years, but it feels right seeing his name back in the world of science fiction.
• Presumably everyone has already seen this Patton Oswalt–Boba Fett item, right?