After Four Episodes, We Finally Know What the Heck Boba Fett Wants
It’s Wednesday, and Boba Fett is trudging across the desert again.
That’s just what he does at this point. The Book of Boba Fett is four episodes and about three hours old, and if I had to take a guess, I’d say that at least 20 minutes of that is just straight-up desert trudging. In Episode 4, “The Gathering Storm,” he trudges through a lengthy flashback, part of the ongoing explanation of how he went from seemingly dead at the bottom of the Sarlacc pit in Return of the Jedi to alive and the star of his own TV show.
As he lumbers through the sands of Tatooine, he keeps tabs on Jabba the Hutt’s palace, hoping to find a way to sneak inside and steal back his Firespray Gunship. Then Boba encounters another survivor: Master assassin Fennec Shand, who he nurses back to health. Together, the sneak into Jabba’s palace, retrieve Boba’s ship, strike back at the space biker gang that killed Boba’s adopted tribe of Tusken Raiders, and then search the bottom of the aforementioned Sarlacc pit for Boba Fett’s lost armor.
This was not the smartest place to look for that armor, and not just because we saw Boba Fett escape the Sarlacc while still wearing it in The Book of Boba Fett premiere. (I guess he was in so much pain that he forgot that how he escaped? Regardless, it’s like the old expression, throw me in the Sarlacc pit once, shame on you; jump into the Sarlacc pit a second time, shame on me.) Mostly it seems like Boba Fett goes back to the Sarlacc pit because everyone remembers it from Return of the Jedi and doing so will trigger the pleasure centers of the brain dedicated to nostalgia.
There’s been a lot of that on The Book of Boba Fett. If 20 minutes of it so far has been desert trudging, then at least another 100 minutes has been flashbacks to pointless backstory. Meanwhile, in the handful of scenes in the present, Boba Fett — Star Wars’ most notorious bounty hunter — acts nothing like the guy from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
Instead of a ruthless killer for hire, he behaves like a benevolent diplomat. Instead of stalking his prey with missiles and flamethrowers, he nuzzles with rancors and banthas like some kind of intergalactic Jack Hanna. Instead of slaughtering his enemies, he tries to negotiate with them. Instead of conquering Tatooine, he gets his butt kicked repeatedly by his underworld competition. He gets so thoroughly defeated on multiple occasions that he has to spend huge chunks of time healing his injuries in a tank, which the show uses as its excuse to segue into those arduous flashbacks. Describing the show’s pacing as glacial would be an insult to the majesty and wonder of glaciers.
Finally at the end of this week’s flashback — which takes up about 33 minutes of an episode that runs 44 minutes before credits — we get a scene that sheds some light on Boba Fett’s massive change of heart. His near-death experience, coupled with his time with the Tuskens, made Boba decide it was time to give up the bounty hunting game. Rather than work for ruthless, thoughtless criminals, he wants to be the one in charge. That’s why he’s taken over Jabba’s empire; that’s why he wants to control it more wisely and less violently than Jabba did.
That makes sense, I suppose, although I don’t know if it’s the direction many Star Wars fans who’ve been clamoring for new Boba Fett adventures for 30 years would have chosen. The bigger issue is that the series waited almost four full episodes — more than half of the entire season — to reveal its title character’s motivations. Until this point, Boba Fett was just a guy doing stuff. Every episode would end and I would think to myself, “Well, that looked really great, and the old school prosthetic creature effects are fantastic, but what is Boba Fett doing and why is he doing it?” Until now, I had no answer.
That’s despite the fact that the formerly quiet Boba talks so much on The Book of Boba Fett that even lead actor Temuera Morrison publicly acknowledged in an interview that he had begged producers to cut some of his dialogue. (Book of Boba Fett creator Jon Favreau supposedly said no.) The result is a talky, plodding series where no one’s behavior makes any sense for hours on end.
It’s a relief that the show finally cleared up Boba’s ambitions, but should that really have taken almost four episodes? Understanding what a protagonist wants and why does not feel like an outrageous ask for a television show or movie. Imagine waiting three hours to find out why Luke Skywalker wanted to get off of Tatooine or what Princess Leia was smuggling when she was captured by Darth Vader. That would not have been a very exciting motion picture.
Granted, this is an issue that pops up to varying degrees on a lot of streaming television shows, where the most important metric of success is increasingly the sheer amount of time people spend glued to your app. Note, for example, that Netflix ranks things on their new Top 10 website according to number of hours viewed, giving longer series an advantage in their analytics. Even before then, it had practically become a cliché to say of a new Netflix show “Oh it starts off slow, but if you stick with it for three hours, it gets really good by the midpoint.” The Book of Boba Fett is the most recent offender, but it’s far from the only one. (Meanwhile, people will sit through three hours of a mediocre Boba Fett show and then complain that any movie that runs more than 95 minutes is too long — but that’s a subject for another time.)
Maybe The Book of Boba Fett will turn the corner now that it’s seemingly explained all of the character’s key beats since Return of the Jedi. If it does, that won’t change the fact that the first half has been a tedious slog to rival any of the ones Boba Fett made through the Tatooine desert. This whole situation is even more baffling because Lucasfilm (and most of the same creative team) has already proven they can do an outstanding show about a soft-spoken bounty hunter with clear motivations and a mysterious past. It’s called The Mandalorian. And I’m really hoping it returns with a new season before The Book of Boba Fett does.
New episodes of The Book of Boba Fett premiere on Wednesdays on Disney+.