Viewers may still be on an emotional high after last week’s much-applauded appearance of Ahsoka Tano on The Mandalorian, but, as this week’s episode makes clear, we ain’t seen nothing yet. Ever since actor Temuera Morrison made his stunning cameo on Tatooine at the end of the first episode of the season, fans have been waiting for the reappearance of Star Wars’ most feared bounty hunter ever. With this episode, courtesy of series creator Jon Favreau and director Robert Rodriguez, the wait is over.
Having been directed by Ahsoka, Mando and Grogu travel to the planet Tython in hopes of contacting a Jedi who can train the youngling in the ways of the Force. While they manage to access the power of some sort of “Force beacon” on the planet, they’re not alone for long. The arrival of the Slave I brings our hero face to face with an original trilogy legend who’s cast a long shadow over the series since the day it premiered.
“I’m a simple man making my way through the galaxy. Like my father before me.”
The appearance of Boba Fett’s iconic spacecraft, the Slave I, is a moment that will surely thrill the majority of fans watching while also sending a chill of anticipation down their spine.
Boba Fett has quite the history as a Star Wars character. Starting out as an unknown, masked figure who first appeared in the much-maligned Star Wars Holiday Special and then for only mere minutes in The Empire Strikes Back, this mysterious, masked figure intrigued many, but Boba really propelled into popularity during the explosion of the Extended Universe novels and comics in the early ’90s. While the character has been depicted as a deadly and unstoppable force in the pages of those novels and comics, he’s also often been mocked for the lack of actual onscreen action he sees in the original trilogy films (a critique often shared by the silver-armored Captain Phasma of the sequel trilogy). Despite that, this reviewer can still remember a time in Star Wars fandom where there was nothing cooler than Boba Fett. He was far more mysterious at the time, not yet having his origins revealed in the prequel films, and the various gadgets, adornments, and battle scars present on his armor made him visually fascinating and spoke of a history and experience carved out in the ugliest unseen corners of the galaxy. In the pages of both Marvel and Dark Horse Comics, the bounty hunter was confirmed to have survived his plunge in to the Great Pit of Carkoon during the rescue of Han Solo from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi and went on to continue to menace the galaxy with a few new scars. These days, it seems that Star Wars fans are split (as they often are) regarding their opinions of the legendary bounty hunter, with some still considering him the baddest badass there is and others feeling the character is massively over-rated and should stay dead and inside the Sarlacc’s belly for over a thousand years.
I will say that, on a personal note, Boba Fett never lost his “cool” in this fan’s eyes. Despite contrary opinions, Boba wasn’t ever a character who needed to prove his reputation on-screen, because it was clearly apparent by the way other characters, especially Darth Vader, treated the masked hunter. Vader shows respect to Boba (in direct contrast to the Imperials he’s overseeing… and often executing for failure), Boba is clever enough to outsmart our heroic rebels and track them to Bespin, and there are few scenes that make the blood run cold like Boba’s unconcerned meeting of the “eyes” with Lando Calrissian as the two men listen to the frantic screams of Solo being tortured by the Imperials behind closed doors. It’s hard to imagine many other characters in cinematic history who say so little, but carry such a powerful presence. While many see Boba’s comedic “death” in Return of the Jedi as anti-climactic or rendering the character a fool, it seems very appropriate to the themes of Star Wars to me, undercutting the expectations of some huge, dramatic battle, and providing another example of over-confidence (and a healthy serving of dumb luck) being the downfall of many powerful figures. Finally, the EU provided the character of Boba with his own basic code of honor that made him stand out from the other villains he was usually associated with, while also reaffirming the character’s status as the ultimate survivor. As a child who was the target of bullying throughout my early schooling years, I had a special connection to characters who appeared to take a licking, dust themselves off, and keep going.
With all that said, Boba was still someone who hunted down individuals under a fascist regime run by undeniably evil leaders. That truth cannot be denied and, even as a teen, my obsession with Boba Fett caused some concern with my parents. I remember, very clearly, a specific dinner table discussion about why my younger brother and I were so obsessed with a Star Wars character who sold other people for money and helped stamp out freedom and justice in the employ of the “bad guys.” While the conversation didn’t rid me of my fascination, it certainly caused me to reevaluate my feelings on the character and allowed me to later see the similarities between him and characters like Michael Corleone or Walter White, where many audience members struggle to separate their attraction of the character from who the character is and what the plot is telling viewers about them.
While is can be predictable as times, Star Wars does have a habit of delivering the unexpected when revisiting characters. We were told for years that Anakin fell to the Dark Side because of his lust for power, but it his motivation was revealed to be a desire to save the life of his wife. Luke was the only one who believed there was still good in Vader despite all who said differently, but seeing him again in The Last Jedi revealed he had somehow forgotten this lesson and become disillusioned with his former path. The Mandalorians were thought to be a race of warriors for years (and some were), but it was the Clone Wars that pulled the rug out from under fans’ feet, revealing a large amount of the Mandalorians to be pacifists who rejected the concept of war. Well, when it comes to The Mandalorian, this isn’t your daddy’s Boba either. While many probably expected Boba to be more than a little pissed that Mando’s carrying his armor given that the EU previously allowed the character’s near death in Return of the Jedi to harden him further, Morrison’s depiction of Boba is far more even tempered and willing to compromise than viewers may expect, and this choice seems to indicate a story that has yet to be told. Much like Ahsoka’s recent (and unknown) history in the previous episode, audiences know very little about what Boba’s been through since he exited the Sarlacc, but there are hints if one looks for them. His line of dialogue above is an interesting play on one of Luke Skywalker’s most heroic lines in the saga, and his statement to Mando that “fate sometimes steps in to rescue the wretched” implies some sort of enlightenment or redemption being reached by the character after being left for dead in the Dune Sea. And, while Boba clearly was employed by the Empire time and time again, he has no problem putting the hurt to the squads of stormtroopers that show up and his reaction to discovering “they’re back” definitely seems a negative one. So, what happened to the man in the beskar mask? Did he save himself from the Sarlacc? Was he rescued? Does the gaffi stick he carries imply surviving the Tusken Raiders or living with them? As Maz Kanata once said, this appear to be a story for another time (Is it that hard to imagine a Boba Fett miniseries coming to Disney+?), but make no mistake, something significant has changed inside of Boba Fett.
Now, while Boba does appear to be leaning a little bit further on the light side than before, this episode also clearly served as Favreau and Rodriguez’s effort to give the bounty hunter the “teeth” he was always rumored to have. Given his experience directing films like Sin City, From Dusk till Dawn, and El Mariachi, Rodriguez is a perfect choice for this episode and makes the most of his time in a galaxy far, far away by depicting Boba kicking ass out of his armor, in his armor, and in the cockpit of Slave I. Having the bounty hunter cutting down troopers and transports like some sort of Star Wars Terminator unit, Rodriguez has buried the idea of a Boba Fett whose action all takes place off screen and replaced him with a hardened warrior who strikes so viciously that he shatters the stormtrooper helmets of his prey like the shell of an egg.
Finally, we have to touch on Boba’s father, Jango Fett. When Disney purchased LucasFilm, they made definitive decisions about the convoluted Star Wars canon, rendering everything at the time (except for the films and Clone Wars) as non-canon and designating it as “Legends” content. From there, they began to build, adding new canon comics, books, animated series, and more, as well as slowly re-introducing (and re-imagining) select popular “Legends” characters and content. While Jango Fett (and his unaltered clone, Boba, who he raised as a son) were locked into canon via his appearance in Attack of the Clones, the past he was previously given by the 2002 Dark Horse Comics limited series, Jango Fett: Open Seasons, (written by Haden Blackman and illustrated by Ramón F. Bachs) was still in question prior to this episode. Given the info Boba communicates in this episode of The Mandalorian, it seems a safe bet that we can assume Jango’s past, as a foundling who was gifted his beskar armor by his Mandalorian mentor, seems fairly intact.
As described on the trade paperback’s Amazon entry, Jango was “born a poor farm boy on a forgotten planet in the galaxy’s Outer Rim. Taken under the wing of a wise mentor after the violent death of his family, he would rise up to lead a band of fighters struggling for survival against a dark force that threatens to wipe them out completely. His name would become known throughout the systems, and his legacy would change the galaxy forever. But his name isn’t Skywalker… it’s Jango Fett!” The Skywalker comparison is particularly interesting given Boba’s Jedi-like appearance when he first meets Mando in this episode and the previously mentioned play on an iconic Skywalker line of dialogue. While a physical copy is rare, I encourage interested parties to check out the digital version of Open Seasons that is available for a reasonable price on ComiXology. The canon may continue to evolve, but fans of Clone Wars, Rebels, and The Mandalorian will certainly be interested in seeing appearances from Death Watch led by Tor Vizsla and depictions of the Mandalorian civil war, while “old school” Boba Fett fans will be interested to see some of the elements of Boba’s original origin (such as the name of Jaster Mereel) reimagined into the prequel canon of 2002.
Ultimately, a figure many (myself included) might have expected to be seen as a blight on Mandalorian culture and one of Din Djarin’s deadliest adversaries actually becomes a peer and an ally. Instead of coming to blows, Boba and Din come to an understanding, like two Ronins finding an allegiance through their similar pasts, losses, and code of honor, and Boba Fett and Fennec Shand (in a move that blew this fan’s mind) pledge their services to Din until Grogu is safe in hand again. How cool is that? And what a draw having Boba Fett join the crew will be for these last few episodes of Season 2.
“You’re very special, kid.”
This episode is titled “The Tragedy,” and one must assume that tragedy being named is the loss of Grogu to Moff Gideon’s Dark Troopers (although those who purchased HasLabs Razor Crest may have other opinions after the ship’s annihilation). This episode open with Din sharing a real moment of connection with Grogu, using the metal ball the child loves to encourage his use of his Force powers, while also internally wrestling with the idea that he can’t be the one to train his tiny ward. It seems as if Ahsoka’s confirmation that Grogu has formed a strong attachment has bonded Din and the child even more intensely than before. It’s a subtle shift, but Din seems to act even more like a parent to Grogu in this episode, and this only makes the tragedy of losing the little guy sting that much more. One of the most emotionally impactful scenes in this chapter was Mando silently sifting through the utterly destroyed ruins of the Razor Crest to find the scorched metal ball that was Grogu’s preferred toy. The pain and sorrow is palpable, even through that thick, beskar mask.
– I haven’t yet fully addressed the return of Fennec Shand (played by Ming-Na Wen). While I’m quickly coming to assume that no dead character is ever definitively dead in Star Wars, I’ve enjoyed Wen’s status as a genre action star and welcome her return to the galaxy far, far away. Fennec’s now in Boba’s service and may also be part droid (Maybe similar to Beilert Valance?), which just adds further intrigue to the character. I’m hoping we learn more about her going forward.
– While it is natural to expect, Morrison’s older version of Boba definitely fits into the armor a bit differently than actor Jeremy Bulloch who portrayed the character in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Morrison’s frame is a bit more stocky and muscular than Bulloch’s, so Boba ends up being more reminiscent, visually, of his father Jango than the character’s previous appearances in the films. It’s not necessarily a bad thing given the character’s prequel connections now, and it was kind of cool to see Boba throw in a Jango pistol twirl as he dispatched those stormtroopers.
– Speaking of the Boba’s battle with the Imperials, I have to admit that firing the rocket on his jet-pack was less impressive given that we saw Cobb Vanth use it similarly in the first episode of the season. That said, it was still awesome to watch this Star Wars legend take apart two squads of stormtroopers without breaking a sweat.
– I can’t be the only one who absolutely loved the image of Din and Grogu jet packing through the air together. Wizard.
– There’s a lot of history to the planet Tython that’s not touched upon in this episode. I’d recommend those interested check out this stellar breakdown over at the website, io9.
– Those were Dark Troopers last episode, and they look just as creepy and intimidating as they should! Basically the latest in advance battle droid design, Dark Troopers first showed up in the 1995 classic PC game Star Wars: Dark Forces, and it’s quite exciting to see something like this step right out of the “Legends” canon and into a live-action series like The Mandalorian.
Final Verdict: Another stellar episode in a stellar season. Not only do Favreau and Rodriguez deliver a pulse-pounding chapter, but The Mandalorian continues to deliver unbelievable surprises while expanding and revitalizing the Star Wars universe and canon in unprecedented ways.
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Jon Favreau
You can find my reviews of the previous episodes of The Mandalorian Season 2 at the following links: