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The Book of Boba Fett episode 1: a delightful return to Star Wars’ criminal underworld

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About this episode

– Episode 1 (of 7), ‘Chapter 1: Stranger in a Strange Land’
– Written by Jon Favreau
– Directed by Robert Rodriguez
★★★★

Spoilers for The Book of Boba Fett follow.

It looks like getting out of the Sarlacc was the easy part. How Boba Fett, the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy, escaped a thousand years of pain and suffering in the belly of the beast was one of the biggest gaps in Star Wars lore. And it was the sort of mystery that could easily have been exploited to keep us hooked for the duration of this spin-off series from The Mandalorian.

So seeing The Book of Boba Fett answer a decades-old question within its first three minutes was something of a surprise. It didn’t take us long to realize, though, that what happens next is much more pivotal to the legendary mercenary’s story.

Emerging acid-burned and weak from the Great Pit of Carkoon – a place where Star Wars meets the goopy horror of Aliens – Fett is light years away from the feared bounty hunter who took mere seconds to sear himself into fan consciousness in The Empire Strikes Back. Uncharacteristically vulnerable, he’s powerless to prevent his trademark armor being stolen by scavenging Jawas, or to avoid being taken prisoner by Sand People. 

But, now that we’ve seen Fett hitting rock bottom on the sands of Tatooine, the story of how he takes control of the crime empire left behind by the late Jabba the Hutt becomes infinitely more compelling. In a few short minutes, a character who spoke just four lines in the original Star Wars trilogy – whose status in canon was built as much on a cool suit of armor as his actions on the big screen – gets a backstory worth telling. And while the outfit clearly remains a key part of the Fett brand – the scene where he suits up in Jabba’s Palace has a real ‘let’s go to work’ vibe – this is a chance to see the man beneath the helmet. Luckily, this debut episode makes that an intriguing proposition.

(Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney Plus)

Perhaps The Book of Boba Fett’s smartest move, however, is taking the action back to the planet where Star Wars began in 1977. 

With no Force powers and Imperial entanglements limited to an unfortunate Stormtrooper who’s taken a tumble into the Sarlacc, this is an entertaining return to the Tatooine underworld that was integral to the original trilogy, yet has largely been side-lined since. Capitalizing on the world-building George Lucas started nearly 45 years ago, director Robert Rodriguez effortlessly recreates the Space Western aesthetic of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, ensuring there are plenty of familiar faces and races hanging around in those wonderfully wretched hives of scum and villainy, too.

The biggest surprise in ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’, though, is how much is told in flashback.

Using Fett’s Bacta tank dreams – as a framing device – is an ingenious move that allows his memories to mesh seamlessly with his present as a Tatooine’s number one crime boss. The two timelines interweave without ever feeling contrived or confusing, although the over-reliance on Fett’s backstory does leave the episode feeling unbalanced; its criminal machinations slightly undercooked as a result.

The trips to the Bacta tank also show the physical and mental scars that Fett’s extended stay in the Sarlacc have left on him, with his need to regenerate after the Mos Espa street battle an indication of his new limitations – whether intentional or not, the parallels with fellow masked Star Wars villain Darth Vader are clear. It’s the perfect environment for Fett, a place where he’s known and feared, yet still has to reinvent himself to fill Jabba’s (metaphorical, obviously) shoes.

The episode also does enough to suggest that Boba Fett and his right-hand-woman, Fennec Shand, won’t be getting everything their own way. Midway through episode 1, they’re forced to deal with at least one display of defiance from a rival crime boss, and a fantastic street battle that belatedly shows – nearly four decades after their first appearance – why Jabba chose to employ Gamorrean guards as bodyguards. Pre-release interviews for The Book of Boba Fett have promised it’ll play up the organised crime elements of the story – and that’s definitely borne out here. 

But ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ also hints that what we thought we knew about Boba Fett – which, to be fair, is next to nothing – may be wrong. While the street brawl shows he’s still partial to the odd disintegration, all that chatter about respect could have spouted from the mouth of The Godfather’s Don Corleone. And while taking down an angry reptile on Tatooine – a wonderfully Ray Harryhausen-esque creation – should be all in a day’s work for the man who delivered Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt, ruling by consensus feels like a push beyond his comfort zone.

With The Mandalorian having introduced Fett’s previously unalluded-to code of honor, his approach in The Book of Boba Fett implies that one of Star Wars most iconic villains might be on a journey towards more ambiguous antihero status. Continuing Fett’s story without destroying his hard-earned mystique was always going to be a path fraught with danger, but this entertaining season premiere does enough to suggest he’s in safe hands.

Our verdict

The Book of Boba Fett

Fennec Shand and Boba Fett take control of a new criminal empire. (Image credit: Lucasfilm)

While this debut episode can’t quite deliver on the impact of that end credits announcement in The Mandalorian season 2 finale – then again, what could? – this is an extremely enjoyable prologue to Boba Fett’s exploits as top dog in Tatooine’s criminal underworld.

Instantly establishing itself as a very different beast to The Mandalorian, it wastes little time dealing with Fett’s escape from the Sarlacc – and removing the Bantha in the room proves a smart move, as the episode uses the trauma as motivation to shape a more tolerant Fett than the one we thought we knew.

With the scene beautifully set, it’s now time to add a little more humor, to allow Fennec Shand to be more than just hired muscle, and to push the story forward rather than relying on flashbacks and nods to past glories. This episode is an excellent foundation: now let’s see where Boba Fett can go next.

Force facts

The Book of Boba Fett

Did Garsa Fwip’s gift of helmets full of coins suggest she’s trying too hard to get Boba Fett and Fennec Shand on side?  (Image credit: Lucasfilm)
  • The episode’s title, ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’, is taken from a 1961 science fiction novel by Starship Troopers author Robert A Heinlein. It tells the story of a human born and raised by Martians who has a radical effect on Earth’s culture when he returns.
  • Assuming the episode picks up soon after The Mandalorian season 2 finale, it’s five years since Boba Fett tumbled into the Pit of Carkoon in Return of the Jedi. It’s unclear how much of that time he spent being digested by the Sarlacc, though the amount of acid damage he received suggests he didn’t get out immediately.
  • The episode opens with Boba Fett immersed in a Bacta tank, a fluid that has incredible healing properties. We first saw it being used to treat Luke Skywalker’s wampa-inflicted injuries in The Empire Strikes Back, and IG-11 applied it to Din Djarin’s wounds in The Mandalorian season 1 finale. Darth Vader also spends time meditating in a Bacta tank, as we saw in Rogue One.
  • Fett’s dreams flash back to the cloning facility on Kamino where he was born, and the death of his father on Geonosis. Both were originally seen in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
  • When Fett grabs the air pipe out of the Stormtrooper’s helmet in the Sarlacc, he’s taking advantage of a filtration system in their helmets that’s designed to remove toxins from the air.
  • Fett also escaped the Sarlacc in the pre-Disney Expanded Universe stories, which are no longer part of official canon. In 1996 anthology Tales From Jabba’s Palace, JD Montgomery’s short story ‘A Barve Like That’ explains how the bounty hunter used telepathic contact with a fellow victim, and an exploding jetpack, to free himself from the creature’s belly.
  • In The Mandalorian season 2 episode ‘The Marshal’, Mos Pelgo marshal Cobb Vanth told Din Djarin that he’d bought Fett’s armor from some Jawas – presumably the same ones we see removing it from Fett in The Book of Boba Fett episode 1.
  • Like the Jawas, the Sand People/Tusken Raiders date back to the original Star Wars movie, and Anakin Skywalker slaughtered an entire camp’s worth in Attack of the Clones as revenge for their part in his mother’s death. Their reptilian pets are known as massiffs.
  • The other prisoner held captive by the Sand People is a Rodian. They’re the same species as Greedo who did/didn’t shoot Han Solo first – depending on your point of view.
  • The droid who acts as Fett and Shand’s temporary master of ceremonies is 8D8, a long-term staff member at Jabba’s Palace who was last seen torturing an unfortunate GNK droid in Return of the Jedi. His voice is provided by Toast of London/What We Do in the Shadows star Matt Berry.
  • Dokk Strassi, the reptilian Trandoshan who brings Boba Fett a Wookiee pelt as a tribute, is played by the episode’s director Robert Rodriguez. Strassi is the same species as bounty hunter Bossk, who – like Fett – was hired by Darth Vader to track down Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back.
  • Daimyo, the term used to describe Fett and his predecessors as Tatooine’s crime lord, is taken from feudal Japan. The Daimyo ruled much of the country under the command of the Shogun.
  • Mos Espa, the town where Fett and Shand meet Garsa Fwip, is where Anakin Skywalker grew up.
  • Garsa Fwip, a Twi’lek, is played by Flashdance and The L Word star Jennifer Beals.
  • The band in Garsa’s Sanctuary are playing a version of the famous Cantina theme from A New Hope, suggesting it’s a big crossover hit on Tatooine. Unless it’s another Ortolan on keys, that looks a lot like Max Rebo – suggesting that he, like Bib Fortuna, managed to escape from Jabba’s Sailbarge before it blew up in Return of the Jedi. He’s joined in the group by a Bith (possibly a member of Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes from A New Hope?) and an R2 unit.
  • Anchorhead, the town Fett mentions to the Rodian while they’re digging for water in the sand, was first mentioned by Luke Skywalker way back in A New Hope.
  • The fact Fett has managed to gain the respect of the Sand People by the end of the episode explains why he was wearing similar robes and carrying a gaffi stick (their signature weapon) when he turned up in The Mandalorian.
  • This isn’t the first attempt to give Boba Fett his own star vehicle. The bounty hunter was slated to be a pivotal character in a pair of aborted pre-Disney Star Wars projects: TV show Star Wars: Underworld and videogame 1313. After Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, there was briefly a Boba Fett movie in the works, but Chronicle/Fantastic Four director Josh Trank left the project in 2015.
  • Boba Fett made his first ever appearance in ‘The Story of the Faithful Wookiee’, an animated segment of the infamous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special. Subsequently disowned by George Lucas, it also features Princess Leia singing an ‘uplifting’ song to the melody of John Williams’ Star Wars theme.
  • Fett made his live-action debut two years later in The Empire Strikes Back. The character was retrospectively added to A New Hope when the Special Edition was released in 1997.
  • British actor Jeremy Bulloch was the man inside the famous helmet in the original trilogy of films. His voice, meanwhile, was provided by Jason Wingreen who – at the time – had a recurring role in US sitcom All in the Family. Sadly, Bulloch passed away the day before The Book of Boba Fett was announced in the end credits of The Mandalorian season 2 finale.
  • Boba Fett Fett is an unaltered clone of his ‘father’, Jango Fett, the bounty hunter who supplied the genetic template for all of the Republic’s Clone Troopers.
  • Although he wears the signature armor of the Mandalorians, Fett is not a Mandalorian. In canon he inherited the suit from Jango, a foundling who received the armor as a reward for his service in the Mandalorian Civil Wars.
  • Temuera Morrison originally played Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones, and went on to play the Clone Troopers in Revenge of the Sith. Daniel Logan played the younger Boba Fett in Attack of the Clones and The Clone Wars TV show, and makes a brief appearance in one of the older Fett’s Bacta tank flashbacks.
  • Since the 2004 DVD release of the original Star Wars trilogy, Morrison’s voice has replaced Wingreen’s on Boba Fett’s lines in The Empire Strikes Back.
  • The brief sighting of Boba Fett in ‘The Marshal’ was Morrison’s first on-screen appearance in the role. It was also our first in-canon confirmation that Fett had survived his tumble into the Sarlacc in Return of the Jedi.
  • The Mandalorian had already alluded to Fett’s return in season 1 episode ‘The Gunslinger’, however – the clinking spurs of the mysterious figure who rescued the left-for-dead Fennec Shand on Tatooine are one of the character’s trademarks.
  • ‘The Gunslinger’ marked the first appearance of Ming-Na Wen’s Fennec Shand. As well as returning in The Mandalorian season 2 episode ‘The Tragedy’, a younger version of the bounty hunter has popped up in The Bad Batch.
  • Ming-Na Wen attended the same Pittsburgh high school as The Book of Boba Fett executive producer and Lucasfilm executive creative director Dave Filoni.
  • The episode was written by Iron Man/Iron Man 2 director, The Mandalorian showrunner and The Book of Boba Fett creator Jon Favreau.
  • Director/executive producer Robert Rodriguez previously directed that pivotal The Mandalorian season 2 episode ‘The Tragedy’. He’s also helmed Alita: Battle Angel, From Dusk Till Dawn, and Sin City.
  • The episode’s musical themes are written by The Mandalorian composer Ludwig Göransson, with the score composed by Joseph Shirley. Shirley has previously worked in music departments on Tenet, Black Panther, Venom and The Mandalorian.
  • During production, Rodriguez and Morrison formed a band called Boba Fret and the Strumtroopers.

New episodes of The Book of Boba Fett debut on Disney Plus every Friday.

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