by Nick Sergi
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
Just prior to the release of the seven-episode series The Book of Boba Fett on December 30, showrunner Robert Rodriguez (yes, that Robert Rodriguez, known for creating both the Desperado and Spy Kids films, among others) touted that this series will “over-deliver” when Collider interviewed him about it. Now that the series has ended when the finale dropped on Disney Plus on February 9, it seems that now we can see if he was right.
Before we can make that call, let’s look back to Season 2 of The Mandalorian, where Boba Fett dropped in to make an appearance (yes, if you look closely, he actually appeared in Chapter Five of season one, and that event is elaborated on in a flashback scene in the new series to provide the context for that appearance despite the fact that we really didn’t need it) as he lurked around Tatooine in the first episode of Season 2, tracking Mando and his famous suit of armor that Mando had acquired from the Marshall of Mos Pelgo. But it wasn’t until Fett caught up with Mando on the planet of Tython in Chapter Six of Season Two (“The Tragedy”). There he took the spotlight away from Mando, and he and his accomplice, Fennec Shand, started wrecking shop! This was over-delivering: we got to see Boba Fett literally cracking skulls (ok, not skulls, but stormtrooper helmets, so close enough) with a gaffe stick while dressed only in black robes, he hits stormtroopers harder than we’d ever seen before in Star Wars, in a visceral sequence of some of the best fight scenes in the franchise. That’s before he finds his armor, which he spots on Mando’s ship. When he puts it on, he spends the rest of the episode as the Boba Fett we’d always wanted, looking awesome as he uses guns, knee rockets, and his rocket-pack to take down a small landing squad of troopers. Robert Rodriguez directed the episode, and while barely over thirty minutes long, it certainly over-delivered.
Oddly enough, the first episode of The Book of Boba Fett did not deliver on the promise that “The Tragedy” laid out before us. This show could have come out swinging but starts out relatively slow. The first few episodes split their time between telling the “current” story of Boba Fett, having taken over Jabba’s palace, attempting to run Tatooine’s crime families differently than Jabba had. Other flashback sequences show his escape from that Sarlacc Pit he fell into during Return of the Jedi and how he became a part of a tribe of Tuskans. The first episode was a pacing nightmare, as we are never sure what Boba (in the current time) really wants to do. The flashback sequences begin as reasonably standard fare, so the first episode, directed by Rodriguez, indeed lacks any punch at all, particularly when compared to “The Tragedy.”
Chapter Two was far better and more focused, particularly during the flashback scenes where we spent most of the episode. We get an authentic Dances with Wolves feeling as Boba joins the tribe, personally creates his gaffe stick, and he and the other tribe members ward off the Pykes’ spice train when it sweeps through their territory. When this episode aired, a lot of fans online were antsy to have the story in the present receive more development, but Chapter Two sets up a lot of important story points during these flashback sequences that do pay off. Yes, they do pay off - later. Much later.
The less said about Chapter Three (which, like Chapter One, was directed by Rodriguez), the better. While it tried to develop the “present” story, it was lackluster in both pacing and execution. It concluded with an action scene so absent of movement that it was becoming a concern that the show could ever pick up the pace again. How can the series over-deliver when it struggles at times like this to actually deliver at all?
With Chapter Four, things could only go up, but the flashbacks in that episode only serve to show us what we already know and catch us up to what Boba had been doing up until The Mandalorian starts. A good episode (apart from one ridiculous scene where Boba has a “duel” with a kitchen droid) but it still doesn’t over-deliver, save for one incredible scene where Boba wrecks some fools with his newly-acquired Firespray Gunship.
So, we come to a critical junction in the show, with three episodes left. Can the show still live up to Rodriquez’s promise? “Wait till you see what’s coming,” he told Collider. “It’s going to blow your mind. That’s all I can say. I can talk it up all I want because I know it over-delivers. It way over-delivers and viewers are going to be pumped when they see it.” When Boba considers his options at the end of Chapter Four to fight the Pykes’ gang of spice-runners, which has plunged his little empire into submission, Shand suggests they get some help. The Mandalorian theme plays, and viewers anticipate the return of the Mandalorian. (So telling that the next chapter is called “The Return of the Mandalorian.”)
The Mandalorian comes back into the fold, and for fans of the character, the show finally delivers. For fans of various aspects of Star Wars lore, Chapters Five and Six certainly not only provides, they over-deliver. This is kind of unexpected, as Boba Fett himself seemingly becomes absent in his own show as the focus turns to The Mandalorian. We don’t just find out what he’s been doing since the end of The Mandalorian Season Two when Luke Skywalker took Grogu (Baby Yoda, as he is better known in popular culture) for Jedi training. We get a bit of history into Mandalorian Culture and what part the Darksaber (which Mando possesses) plays in Mandalorian history. Chapter Five concludes with Mando being kicked out from The Watch (the sect of Mandalorians that he is a part of) and finding himself on Tatooine to procure a new means of transportation. We get an extended sequence inChapter Five of the Mandalorian creating a unique gift for Grogu, thanks to the return of the Armorer before she expels him because she learns that he broke their sacred code. Then, we get extended sequences where Mando and his friend, Peli Motto, a mechanic, fix up an old N1 STarfighter that Mando will now use to get around the Outer Rim. As already stated, it’s quite a good episode for expanding the lore of Star Wars, but where is Boba Fett?
The Mandalorian continues to hold our attention through the next episode, as we see him venture out to some unnamed planet with his starfighter. His mission: to pay a visit to an old friend. Like the previous episode, it’s the kind of storyline we’d thought we’d get in the actual Mandalorian Season Three that is yet to come. Instead, we are getting it here: Mando is seeking Luke Skywalker himself to personally give his gift to Grogu before helping Boba Fett fight off the Pyke Syndicate. We are treated to a glimpse of the Jedi Temple that Luke is having his droids build (is it the same Temple that we see burning to the ground in the sequel trilogy?) and some extended sequences where Luke is training Grogu much in the way he was trained by Yoda during The Empire Strikes Back.
If it is just an accepted constant of the Universe that Star Wars fans want to see more of Luke Skywalker in his prime, and they want to see more of the adorable Grogu and learn more about him, then the show is definitely over-delivering.
Eventually, Mando returns to Tatooine to help Boba Fett. After trying to recruit some more help, we finally are introduced to the real villain figure of the series, Cad Bane (yes, yes, they probably should have introduced him much, much earlier. They probably only kept him out of the spotlight for so long, if only to increase the “cool” factor of seeing this iconic bounty hunter in a live-action production). And thus, the pieces are set up for quite a final episode. It delivers perhaps the most significant battle, set in the city of Mos Espa, and Rodriquez retakes the director’s chair. For the most part, he delivers the goods, shooting a high-octane episode-long battle that’s big enough for a feature film. Is it art? No, The characters don’t always make smart decisions (. Why are Boba’s allies not taking cover and instead are out in the open when patrolling the streets? Why does Boba think a bunch of street punks with cybernetic parts and the Star Wars version of Vespa scooters would be real help? We won’t really know the answers to these questions, and the episode is a hot mess. It’s also pretty freaking awesome and delivers the goods as far as action goes. Boba Fett riding a rancor monster? Yup (Fett and the beast were always two of my favorite things from Star Wars when I was a kid.) Boba facing one on one with Cad Bane? Yup. Mando using the Darksaber to wreck some droids? Yup. My favorite moment might be when the wookiee, Black Krrsantan, throws a bad guy and then shoots him while he is in the air. Yeah, that was awesome—that over-delivered. I’m not sure if the series itself could even be considered a coherent whole, but it delivered some fantastic moments, furthered some of the lore, and was decent fun. By the time it was over, it seemed like Rodriquez just took all the action figures he was using and threw them back into his closet in great haste, hoping no one would notice the great big mess he’d made.