Serial Consumer celebrates and interrogates Evan’s relationship to franchised media and his addiction to purchasing its licensed products.
For the second week in a row, Boba Fett has no actual dialogue in the series named after, and supposedly all about, him. At least he gets a few seconds of screen time here, and his silence in those moments feels purposeful rather than what it generally has been: Jon Favreau trying desperately to avoid writing for a character about whom he does not care.
If The Return of the Mandalorian was the backdoor premiere to a third season of The Mandalorian, then From the Desert Comes a Stranger is the backdoor … second episode in a third season of The Mandalorian. It isn’t quite as divergent from Boba’s ongoing story with the Pykes as the previous episode, but only because it features a great subplot about another returning character from The Mandalorian who might help out in next week’s finale. That particular subplot features the first live-action appearance of another big character from The Clone Wars, too, who has personal beef with Boba Fett. The main focus of the episode, though, is Grogu.
Dave Filoni returns to write and direct this episode. His season two episode of The Mandalorian, The Jedi, was far and away that season’s best, introducing a live-action Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) to deliver some really soulful Jedi goodness as well as great action and a deep Star Wars tonality. Likewise, this is the best episode of The Book of Boba Fett. Filoni uniquely embraces what makes Star Wars Star Wars, in a way a lot of directors and writers don’t seem to understand. I’m willing to chalk it partially up to his experience in the franchise, but there’s also a reason he was George Lucas’s protege.
From here on out, I’m going to be heavy on spoilers. My recommendation is that you actually watch the episode before reading this. It has many surprises, all of them wonderful.
We open with the return of Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant), who was introduced as Space Raylan Givens in The Mandalorian‘s season-two premiere. Although Vanth returned Boba Fett’s armor to the Mandalorian in exchange for assistance with the Krayt Dragon, it hasn’t stopped his mission to protect Mos Pelgo from criminals and other aggressors. He happens upon the Pykes making a spice deal and sends them packing with the message: Don’t mess with Mos Pelgo. It’s a strong opening scene that gives us some grounding in the ongoing Boba Fett plotline after last episode almost entirely diverged from it.
And then this one diverges, too.
The Jedi of it All
I wrote and have written at length about how much I hated Luke Skywalker’s return at the end of The Mandalorian’s second season in The Rescue. It remains a huge disappointment to me, a scene from which I get very little. What I wanted from Luke Skywalker returning is twofold: I want to see the character of Luke Skywalker and I want it to not seem cheap. Last year’s finale to The Mandalorian felt cheap and lacking in character, a paean to fans who wanted to see him kick ass during the sequels and not much else. In my Serial Consumer essay about that episode, I compared it unfavorably to The Jedi and the way Filoni managed to thoughtfully introduce Ahsoka into a live-action corner of Star Wars.
This episode does for Luke Skywalker what The Jedi did for Ahsoka, and I couldn’t be happier. The team at Lucasfilm has vastly improved the deep-fake / de-aging technology that looked so damn terrible a few years ago. It’s not perfect, as there are certainly some instances where Luke’s mouth looks particularly strange, but it’s to the point where Mark Hamill’s expressions aren’t lost by the face overlay or whatever it is they do to it. Maybe it’s because they hired the deep-fake guy from YouTube who did a better job than them. I hope they can go back and make a Special Edition of The Rescue. It would be worth it.
More importantly, the technology allows them to tell a story about Grogu after he left his default daddy to go to Jedi daycare. Luke is a kind Master, and Grogu is his first Padawan (providing a bookend for Luke’s experience with Rey in the sequels), but being a Master takes much learning, too. I feel like Hamill’s performance actually shines through here. Luke is patient but only to a point. He’s kind but also trying to be stern. He isn’t entirely sure where to start his tutoring. It’s an interesting era for Luke, and I kind of hope the rumored Tales of the Jedi series gives us more of this version of him. Filoni understands that Luke is a character.
Meanwhile, Din Djarin shows up to deliver his gift to Grogu and leaves it with Ahsoka because she points out how hard it would be for Grogu to see him under these circumstances. It felt a lot like when I drop my son off at daycare every day, and indeed Grogu still gives those sweet-bb angel feelings for which he’s so well-known. His Jedi training with Luke is adorable, heartwarming and so damn good that it doesn’t really register how weird it is to be seeing a Grogu episode in the middle of The Book of Boba Fett. Frankly, the scene where Luke shows off his mad lightsaber skills to a toddler hit very close to home.
As maybe the bitchiest bitch about last year’s The Mandalorian finale, let me say I am completely won over now by the potential of more stories about Luke, written by Filoni and using this technology.
But it’s not just the character work that sings. The unnamed planet where Luke has established his first temple is teeming with life. We see strange new aliens wandering around, which is something Filoni also brought to The Jedi and which other writer-directors have failed to embrace. This planet feels alive, like a place straight out of one of the 1990s Planet Guides that were published. There’s so much to learn about it. Star Wars is best when it feels lived in and alive, and this episode really nails it.
Maybe what Filoni does beset about Jedi in general, in the context of Din Djarin’s journey, is that he makes them feel just a little unknowable and weird. That is how they should feel to someone not invested in their cause or their creed. Din Djarin comes upon Luke’s training academy, only to find R2-D2 marshaling strange ant droids to build it. Ahsoka is a little mysterious to him and Luke even more so. Din Djarin doesn’t quite understand their customs or their ways. Why do they spurn attachment? Why does Ahsoka approve of Luke training the youngling she would not? Jedi should feel strange. They’re space-wizards.
Spending more time with live-action Ahsoka was a treat. Her forthcoming show will hopefully be as good as Filoni’s work on these shows. Seeing her and Luke Skywalker together is a dream come true. Her saying she’s a “friend of the family,” and telling Luke he reminds her of Anakin, is just unspeakably wonderful for a fan of the extended Star Wars story.
Back to the Desert
We spend a lot of this episode with Luke and Grogu, and it’s all time well spent. Of course, this is Boba Fett’s show, so we return to Tatooine to check up on him doing whatever dumbass stuff he’s doing. This time, he’s planning a war against a crime syndicate with the help of a space-Vespa gang, two Gammoreans and two hired guns (one of whom is just there to be a bro). It’s a very underwhelming army, so Din Djarin says he’ll go recruit his old friend Cobb Vanth and the townsfolk of Mos Pelgo to help them.
Although I’m pleased that this brings Cobb back into the picture, it just underscores how fucking stupid the Boba Fett portion of this show has been. This is the moment where Boba Fett should’ve revealed his Tusken clan was not dead and that his journey to becoming a crime lord was in part a plot to return power to his newfound family. An army of Tuskens would be amazing to see and tie together the anti-climactic flashbacks and the underwhelming present-day storyline. There is no excuse for the Boba Fett plot being so bad in this series that bears his name. It makes no sense. It boggles the mind.
Anyway, another cool-but-headscratching development in this episode is that appearnce of Cad Bane, Filoni’s big bounty hunter from The Clone Wars. Bane’s introduction here is incredible, wandering out of the desert just to shoot Cobb Vanth and tell the people of Mos Pelgo to stay out of the battle in Mos Espa. Bane is a bad, bad dude. My excitement over him showing up here is the same as when he showed up in The Bad Batch last year. Still … why now? Why this way? Why isn’t Boba involved in this at all? I wrote about this previously in Serial Consumer, but one of the big hanging plot threads from Filoni’s work is that Bane was supposed to die in a duel against a young Fett, establishing the latter as the baddest bounty hunter in the galaxy. I’m perfectly OK with Bane still being around after Return of the Jedi to give Boba shit, but why wasn’t he introduced as an antagonist for present-day Boba from the start of the show? He has everything a writer could ask for: a cool name, a badass look, a mean disposition and a simple-to-explain grudge against the main character of the show.
Bane’s introduction scene is great, and plays well because we all like Cobb Vanth, but it also brings to mind a glaring omission in the design of this season: Where are all the other bounty hunters? Boba is planning a war, and all he’s done is enlist some body-mod teenagers, an old friend in Mando, and Black Krrrsantan, who tried to kill him for a buck just a few episodes ago. Why isn’t he also enlisting Bossk? IG-88? 4-LOM and Zuckuss? Dengar? There are a ton of other bounty hunters we’ve met in other media who would surely help him for a dollar and are easy fan-service lay-ups.
It’s outright strange that the best fan service in this show has all been stuff we should’ve been seeing in The Mandalorian.
At this point, I’ve told friends who like that show to watch last week and this week and just skip the rest. I’m not optimistic about Robert Rodriguez returning to finish out the show next week, but at least we’ll probably see Boba ride a Rancor, which would’ve been cooler if it wasn’t 1) the only cool thing he’ll do this season and 2) telegraphed a few weeks ago.
But anyway …
- I loved R2-D2 being a sassy bitch and just shutting down on Din Djarin, just like he does to make J.J. Abrams’ shitty plot contrivances work in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
- Grogu jumping around was adorable. It really struck my parenting feelings.
- Filoni understands that Boba just needs to look stern and not open his dumb mouth. Much respect.
- Hearing Timothy Olyphant speaking dialogue that asks Din Djarin if his ship is a “Naboo Starfighter” is a fantasy I didn’t know I had before I heard it.
- Cad Bane looks scary in live-action, which is a great addition to the character.
- The standoff between Vanth and Bane was awesome. Subtitles imply Vanth survived, which would make me happy even though they played the same “Bane wins the duel but doesn’t kill the hero” thing in The Bad Batch. But at least here, I care about Vanth.
- The music was top notch.
- Glad Max Rebo wasn’t in the bar when it got blown up. He doesn’t deserve to live through an explosion twice.
- It was very, very neat to see a glimpse of Order 66 from Grogu’s perspective, particularly because we get to see actual live-action 501st Soldiers for the first time. (All of the Clones in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith were CGI.)
- Neat to see the remains of the Krayt Dragon used as decoration in Mos Pelgo and on that Sandcrawler.
- Choice is a key element of the Star Wars saga, and giving Grogu a choice at the end of this episode feels like a very Star Wars-ian twist. I hope we get follow-up on that in this series, but at the same time, the next episode really should belong to Boba even if this show doesn’t care about him.
- It feels really, really nice to not be nervous about Luke showing up again in live-action. I’ve really dreaded it for the past year because of how lousy he looked in The Mandalorian, but now I have faith they can pull it off — as long as the right person writes the character and his appearances are as meaningful as this. That said, I’m really hoping they do not try to shoehorn Han Solo into this show this way. But another? I wouldn’t say no to a well-done and considerate reunion between Hamill and Harrison Ford, especially if it’s the latter dropping off his little emo boy for Jedi training.
I bought the Star Wars Legends: Rise of the Sith Omnibus, out next week, and am excited for the Empire– and Rebellion-era books. I remain perplexed by Marvel’s strategy with the Legends Omnibus editions because it would make more sense to follow The Old Republic with John Ostrander’s lengthy single-story series, The Clone Wars and Legacy, rather than these grab-bag books. But I already own those two in the paperback Epic Collections, so it’s not like I need to buy them again. Right?
On the Black Series front, Tython Boba was finally announced. That’s his look from The Tragedy, when he’s all fat and his armor is rusty. That’s the look I’d like for my season-two collection from The Mandalorian. Unfortunately, yesterday’s pre-order window was canceled and he’s not even supposed to be out until a year from now. That’s just fucking pathetic. I really enjoy my Black Series hobby, but these compulsive consumer pastimes are built on constant hits. They’re an addiction, and Hasbro has completely dropped the ball. I still haven’t gotten figures I pre-ordered last April, last September … stuff slated for release last fall is indefinitely delayed. I am just not having fun collecting these anymore. I’ll still purchase some, but the temptation to buy everything has waned somewhat. I want to complete The Bad Batch. I want to complete my season-two Mandalorian shelf. Otherwise, we’ll see.
After last week, it occurs to me that I really would like the Force FX Elite Darksaber someday. The thing is, it was also supposed to come out last summer and is still basically unavailable at most major retailers. These Force FX Elite sabers often go on sale after a few months, so I was hoping to avoid the $250 price tag. I guess I’ll wait longer. Currently, the last Lightsaber I have on the docket is the forthcoming Force FX Rey Skywalker saber, which I have pre-ordered for full price. We’ll see how that goes. Besides those two, the last saber I really hope to buy is Qui-Gon Jinn’s, if they ever release it.
This episode was relatively light on new figures, but I’d love to continue my Luke collection with a version of him in his training robes. I like this look.