There is a critical difference I think between the Star Wars of George Lucas – essentially the Star Wars of my youth – and the Star Wars that Disney+ is streaming every Wednesday night. A core change appears to be the manner in which the franchise appeals to its fans. The cinematic version constantly focused on the new: new planets, new aliens, new starships. That each different character was later sold as an action figure brought accusations of storytelling purely to sell toys; something that was never the case in the 1980s. Rather, the popularity of Star Wars’ imaginative creations drove an entire global market for action figures that did not previously exist.
The Disney+ Star Wars exists in a post-action figure environment, save for the dedicated adult fans who continue buying them as effectively cost-effective statuettes. It tries to please its audience in the opposite way: much less in the way of new characters and environments, and much more in bringing back loved elements from previous iterations. The audience is not as inspired by new things, but rather the parade of old ideas – often remixed and re-tooled to give them a sort of freshness. Nostalgia is king, with the franchise settled into its fifth iteration – the first in which the previous four are all available to stream at any time.
This week Boba Fett is gifted with a new rancor – a carnivorous giant monster – to replace the one killed by Luke Skywalker back in Return of the Jedi. The old Star Wars would absolutely have introduced some new hideous menace; for shows like The Mandolorian and The Book of Boba Fett bringing back the old hits is entirely the point. This is not a criticism per se – although personally I’d prefer Lucasfilm forge new territory sooner rather than later – but I think it does limit where these spin-off series can go.
This third episode sees Fett further consolidate his power base by hiring a gang of young cyborgs from the streets. They are a rather ridiculous group, all things considered, and certainly do not match the general aesthetic of Tatooine as we have seen it before. They also ride little souped-up bikes that they’ve painted in bright colours which unfortunately look a little too much like mobility scooters. The flashbacks to Fett’s experiences in the desert also return, in a sequence of events that are terribly cliched but mercifully brief.
The return of the Wookiee bounty hunter Black Krrrsantan is a welcome thing, and acts as the episode’s highlight. An odd unexpected cameo by Danny Trejo is weirdly jarring, as such cameos generally are. This is a frustrating series. Episode 1 felt like a colossal misfire. Episode 2 seemed pretty sensational. Episode 3 simply sort of sits there, trading in used narratives and set dressings. There are worse ways to spend 45 minutes of your week, but there are also absolutely better ways too.