This column contains spoilers for Disney+ series The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett.
Dr. Mike ~ UL Communication Studies Professor
For many years, streaming services have been breaking down how we traditionally view television programming. Gone are the days of appointment television, when everyone was compelled (or at least felt compelled) to be watching a specific show at a specific time. While many shows still drop an episode per week, streaming technology also gives power to the binge viewer. The classic idea of a television season is changing. The Book of Boba Fett is breaking up how we think of an actual series.
Boba Fett is a fascinating example of a cult character in popular culture. For decades, the allure of the original Star Wars trilogy’s dangerous bounty hunter was largely based around mystery. His reputation came from only a few minutes of screen time. He was a compelling figure because we knew so little about him. Yes, there was that cartoon that introduced the character for The Star Wars Holiday Special, but fans were often unsure how official that was in terms of series canon. Really, we just knew him as the guy who captured Han Solo but who also died an ignominious death in the Sarlacc pit on Tatooine
Later, Boba Fett’s story became a backstory. Great efforts were made to fill in his past. Some of this was done in novels and comic books that are no longer considered official history. The character was seen as a child in the Star Wars prequel trilogies, various cartoon spin-offs, and video games.
It was not until Disney+’s The Mandalorian that the fan dream of a return of Boba Fett was achieved. We all knew that the great Boba Fett could not have died in that stupid pit. Set up in the second season of The Mandalorian, Boba Fett returns to take over the criminal empire of his former employer Jabba the Hutt.
As a highly anticipated return for a much beloved character though, The Book of Boba Fett was unlike a traditional series.
On the surface, the first four episodes of the new series are meant to establish Boba’s difficulties in taking power. However, they are largely dominated by flashbacks that show Boba’s escape from the pit and his transformation from amoral villain to anti-hero. This is mostly achieved by time spent with the Tusken Raiders. Star Wars is a Western in space and this transformation is reminiscent of other Western characters who spent time with Native Americans learning their ways.
To the surprise of viewers, the fifth episode of the series did not feature Boba Fett at all. Rather, it seemed to be a new episode of the series that spawned it. “Return of the Mandalorian” made major changes to that other bounty hunter in the beskar armor. In fact, I’m not sure how anyone who exclusively watched The Mandalorian alone will know what’s going on when the show returns for its third season. It was more like a backdoor pilot for a show that already exists.
The sixth episode, “From the Desert Comes a Stranger,” was all over the place too. While Boba Fett did appear in the story, it was mostly in scenes where he organizes a crew of allies to stand up against a dangerous alien criminal syndicate. The more compelling parts of the episode focused on The Mandalorian reuniting with Baby Yoda (aka The Child aka Grogu) before switching over to a story in which Luke Skywalker showed what a lousy teacher he is while training Baby Yoda.
The season finale, “In the Name of Honor,” turned out to be one gigantic fight that involved characters from all over the Star Wars mythology, with their origins in older series or even Marvel Star Wars comics.
None of this is meant to be a dispersion on The Book of Boba Fett. While not as good as The Mandalorian, the program remains entertaining. However, the show is not a coherent experience in and of itself. This moves it away from traditional expectations about TV shows and into something more like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where TV shows and movies blur together into one grand interconnected story. The Book of Boba Fett’s closest cousin is Avengers: Endgame.