“In the Name of Honor”
At the end of its seven-episode run it is now possible to take one step back and consider The Book of Boba Fett as a whole. I do not think it is controversial to note that it was, all in all, not good. That does not mean people are not free to enjoy it – the constant stream of fan-pleasing cameos and continuity references even charmed me from time to time – but as a seven-part serial it seemed to fail on most reasonable measures.
The basic premise was not necessarily a bad one: Lucasfilm had been developing concepts for a Star Wars spin-off based around Boba Fett for some time. He was a popular character with fans, and had a good design aesthetic. It was always going to present one creative challenge, of course, in that there was never much depth to Fett. In action cinema you do not always need it. In serialised drama it often becomes vital.
I think there were two major mistakes in developing this series. The first was that The Mandalorian came out first, depicting a near-identical character working as a bounty hunter in the Star Wars universe. I am going to assume Fett himself was unavailable to the Mandalorian production team when they started, and I think that was ultimately to their benefit. It did, however, make the character redundant once he was available. That redundancy is part of the second problem. The Mandalorian’s story, in which a hardened and ruthless bounty hunter is transformed by a growing responsibility for a child, is a perfect story for Boba Fett. Fett shifting careers from bounty hunter to wannabe crime lord to civic leader for no clearly discernible reason is not.
Fett’s journey over the course of this series has been poorly motivated, weak, and unconvincing. His original plan to replace Jabba the Hutt has been effectively abandoned. For one thing, with episode 7’s decision to ban the spice trade from his own territory of Tatooine, Fett is a crime boss who fights crime. One has to ask why he wants to control the city of Mos Espa at all. This is all before we get to the weird period when the series spent two whole episodes furthering the plot of The Mandalorian at Boba Fett’s expense. Now that we’re at the end, it overwhelmingly feels as if no one behind the camera had much enthusiasm for making The Book of Boba Fett at all.
The climactic episode does what it does. At first it seems the battle of Mos Espa is going to be presented like the oft-quoted BBC Zulu (two men in a tent, one points out the door and exclaims, ‘there’s thousands of them!’). It does slowly build in scale, thankfully, but never quite manages to feel emotionally engaging. There are beats clearly intended for an audience to cheer at – Fett (Temuera Morrison) turning up riding the back of a rancor, for example – but they feel forced and ring hollow. When Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) sneaks away and executes the entire enemy leadership in the space of 20 seconds, what should be an enjoyable action beat short-circuits the whole series. Why go through the past seven episodes if the conflict was this easy to resolve from the beginning?
Disney’s next Star Wars series, Obi-Wan Kenobi, premieres worldwide in late May. It is coming from a different creative team. Hopefully this group can better focus on the work, and bring more complex storytelling. As for The Mandalorian team, it seems best for them to collectively move on: this is none of their best work. It is not even close