It’s fair to say that The Book of Boba Fett is one of the most mysterious Disney Plus TV shows. Initially held back from Lucasfilm’s big announcement of Star Wars shows (so that it could be unveiled at the end of The Mandalorian season two), TBoBF has since kept an even tighter grip on its secrets, with only a couple of cast members (Temuera Morrison and Ming-Na Wen) confirmed and little to no details of its plot laid out.
So I went into this first episode with a certain amount of trepidation. Would this be The Mandalorian mark two, or just another Falcon and the Winter Soldier? And just what was The Book of Boba Fett hiding anyway?
The answer, as it turned out? Not that much. There’s no big Baby Yoda-style twist awaiting in episode one, changing the series as we knew it. Instead, most of the episode is left filling in the gaps in Boba’s backstory, explaining how he got to where we find him today.
As a piece of blatant fan service, The Book of Boba Fett doesn’t mess about. Within the opening four minutes we see flashbacks of Boba’s time on Kamino, the death of his father Jango (who knew the much-maligned Attack of the Clones would be such a touchstone?) and, of course, fans’ long-argued question – just how did Boba Fett escape the Sarlacc Pit he flew into during Return of the Jedi?
As it turns out, he does it fairly easily thanks to his trademark flamethrower – he gets more trouble from a gang of Jawas who steal his armour afterwards – before being captured by some Tusken Raiders, whose children hit him with sticks for fun. Truly, this was Boba Fett’s Terrible, Horrible, no good, very bad day.
The first episode leans quite heavily on these flashbacks, experienced by Boba as dreams while he’s snoozing in a bacta tank. They quite handily fill in the gaps between his last film (Return of the Jedi) appearance and his comeback last year in The Mandalorian, though at some point viewers might start wondering – are we actually going to tell some new story here?
Happily, we do eventually pick up in the “present day” of the series, where Boba is struggling to take control as the new crime lord of Tattooine. Surprisingly, this is where Boba Fett reveals its vein of…comedy? Which is a slightly unusual development for a series based around the most taciturn, badass tertiary Star Wars character of all time, but it works. Morrison plays the older Boba as a slightly wry, pragmatic man trying to introduce a less violent method of criminal control.
“Jabba ruled with fear; I intend to rule with respect,” he says, in what may be something of a tagline for the series. Obviously, it doesn’t work.
Some of the wacky aliens who come to greet him are insolent; later, he’s attacked in the street and brought to the ground, in an exciting if brief action sequence that shows Jabba the Hutt’s iconic pig-guards (aka the Gamorreans) in a new, more formidable light. It’s only the actions of his number-two Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen, another returning from the Mandalorian) that hint towards a brighter future, with her more ruthless instincts and penchant for impressive, high-flying martial arts.
Boba’s new ethos is an interesting reworking of a character who, lest we forget, was a villain of the original Star Wars trilogy, who worked for the Empire and appeared to have a personal vendetta against Han Solo (Harrison Ford). This Boba, by contrast, is a gruff action hero type, a spacefaring John McClane able to fight off legendary monsters with only a bit of chain and reluctant to inflict violence on those who don’t deserve it. It sort of holds together, though it’s possible it’ll slightly dilute the character’s mystique going forward.
In more flashbacks, it’s this fighting ability that finally earns him the respect of the Tusken Raiders, presumably explaining how he picked up a set of robes and one of their weapons by the time he met up with Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) in The Mandalorian. It’s unclear whether that’s it for the flashbacks, or whether there’s more to be revealed – considering we saw him get his armour back onscreen, there’s not that much more that needs telling, but that might not stop this series from telling it.
Overall this is a solid, slightly unremarkable first episode that leans a little too much on the past, in a series that’s arguably doing that with its entire concept. Nothing in the flashbacks particularly surprised me – who would have thought Boba could escape the Sarlacc by shooting it a bit? Not me! – and they were so long that we barely saw anything of the main plot. What actually happened in this opening episode? Boba is the new boss, and not everyone is going along with it. We’re basically in the status we opened the episode with.
However. However, however. I do have to admit that like the Mandalorian before it, it’s hard to deny how much fun this series is to watch anyway. The Star Wars world feels fully realised, the action and characterisation are strong, and generally speaking its muscular, old-fashioned storytelling that you don’t see much on TV any more.
This is a pretty imperfect first episode, but maybe it had to be to get the series going. Certainly, I remember being a little underwhelmed by the first episode of The Mandalorian, and look where that took us in the end.
For now, I’ll be watching the Book of Boba Fett carefully. Hopefully, it still has some secrets to reveal.