Boba Fett’s journey from bounty hunter to crime lord largely takes a breather in this fourth episode; the midpoint of the series as a whole. It is an odd episode this time around, one which probably works an awful lot better if one never watched The Mandalorian and thus did not know the backstory of how Fett (Temuera Morrison) met his sidekick Fennec Shand (Ming-na Wen). It is odd because it seems unlikely anybody watching The Book of Boba Fett did not see the characters’ episodes in The Mandalorian already, and it is odd because even if they missed them, we are four episodes into a series and only now providing the audience with the information.
It is a creative choice that makes “The Gathering Storm” feel largely redundant. There is an awful lot of fan-pleasing action involving Jabba the Hutt’s palace, Boba Fett’s Firespray starship – which lost its Slave I moniker last year in a small piece of retro-active continuity – and the Almighty Sarlacc. As an aside, I love that the existence of an Almighty Sarlacc implies that elsewhere in Tatooine’s Dune Sea there was also the Underwhelming Sarlacc or the Somewhat Genial Sarlacc.
These extended scenes, while superficially exciting and staged well, are simply narratively redundant. There is nothing here to cause offence, and nothing that is specifically bad per se, but it all adds up to a relatively ordinary 45 minutes of television. What present-day intrigue and plot development there is could easily have been squeezed into episode 5.
Something that has seemed quite out of place in both this and the last episode has been the cybernetically advanced humans that seem to populate Tatooine. This episode notably features a yellow-dreadlocked cybernetic technician who replaces human body parts with mechanical replacements. The design of both him and the cyborg street gang in episode 3 jar quite badly against the general aesthetic of Star Wars as a whole. They might fit in better in a prequel era Coruscant setting, but on the sandy deserts of Tatooine they simply do not work for me. That’s the problem with Tatooine; ever since Luke Skywalker described it as ‘if there’s a bright centre to the universe, you’re on the planet that is farthest from’ in the original Star Wars, it has progressively getting bigger, more populous, strategically central, and technologically advanced with every minute. It used to be Jabba the Hutt was the biggest show in town – now every mob boss and their pet seems to want in on the Tatooine action. Once this seven-part story is complete, I’d happily never see the planet in a Star Wars production again.
Halfway through the series, and while The Book of Boba Fett seems a stronger series generally than The Mandalorian it still feels stuck in much too low a narrative gear. That the series looks good was never really in question, but there’s no point in looking gorgeous if there is not a narrative worth caring about.