This STAR WARS: THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT review contains spoilers.
The Book of Boba Fett Episode 4
Let’s talk about Fennec Shand. She’s a competent bounty hunter with a cool outfit and few, if any, moral scruples. Introduced as a legendary sniper in The Mandalorian, she also tangled with child hero Omega in The Bad Batch. But we still don’t know much about her. Not even the basics, like her home planet or a scrap of history outside her job, come up during this week’s dull, exposition-heavy episode of The Book of Boba Fett.
“The Gathering Storm” sets out to explain how Boba rescued Fennec from a gut wound and took her on as his business partner. The answer: he brought her to the Mods, who are also likely responsible for the cyborg biker gang from last week. Once patched up by the Modifier (a Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner cameo!), Fennec pays her debt to Boba by helping him get his starship back from Jabba’s Palace. With a brief diversion to silence some nosy kitchen droids, this plan succeeds and the two agree they could work together well in the long term. Their mission to get Boba’s armor out of the sarlacc doesn’t go as well. (After all, it’ll take tracking Cobb Vanth and Din Djarin in The Mandalorian before Boba gets his kit back.) Back in the present, Boba recruits Black Krrsantan to provide muscle at a meeting of Mos Espa’s crime families. Boba can’t quite convince them to ally with him against the incoming Pyke army, but they agree to stay neutral if war does break out.
Fennec, like most characters on this show, still feels more like an action figure than a person. What does Fennec want? She says she wants “freedom” and seems to find Boba a useful way to get it, taking a bet on his success while keeping enough distance to maintain her tough reputation. Consider Cara Dune, who, while not an especially deep character herself, at least had a home planet and a tragedy to avenge (if both in one). I want to see some equivalent of Cara’s memorial tattoo, something that hints at a deeper motivation. We also know Fennec is from the Mid Rim now, the economic middle ground of the galaxy, but that doesn’t really tell us anything about her cultural background.
A recurring problem is that the dialogue simply sounds like someone reading an encyclopedia. You won’t find subtlety or metaphor here. There’s almost a sense that the show is afraid the audience will have forgotten what happened last week or last year. Yes, the dialogue does make it clearer now that Boba’s time with the Tusken Raiders changed him. “You can only get so far without a tribe,” he says, and doesn’t want any more bounty hunters to have to die needlessly. But in many places, it’s simply endless exposition and the lead actors doing their best with it.
Boba also claimed “we’re smarter” than the needless deaths he’s faced in his long life. (To his credit, it’s a pretty grim life.) But the episode doesn’t bear that assertion of smarts out. Instead of contrasting with Boba to make him look either cooler or more inept, Fennec is simply better equipped. Her plan for sneaking in to the palace is simply to watch the guard rotations and go quietly, which, even to someone whose knowledge of infiltration pretty much comes from Assassin’s Creed, seems like the basics.
Later, Fennec complains that the bounty hunters should have stuck to the plan, even though Boba didn’t make a choice to go against it: he simply dealt as he needed to with the nosy droids. To be fair, this kind of banter-above-consistency too is a Star Wars staple. What the Rebels’ plan to rescue Han Solo in the beginning of Return of the Jedi actually was can become a source of jokey debate. But in a show with so little heart, every line seems like a wasted opportunity.
At first, I set out not to compare The Book of Boba Fett with The Mandalorian at every turn. The latter was a surprise hit, the former a direct adaptation of a beloved character. However, the studio links them: the first teaser for The Book of Boba Fett was a stinger at the end of an episode of The Mandalorian. They are connected. And thinking about it that way, I wonder if some of the first show’s strengths easily became the second’s weaknesses. The Mandalorian has less dialogue, as well as characters who feel mostly archetypal but have just enough to differentiate them. Maybe writer Jon Favreau was smart to avoid using as much dialogue in those scripts. Note that villain Moff Gideon, the character who most seems to enjoy hearing the sound of his own voice, also first appeared on screen with a Wookieepedia-esque monologue. Perhaps The Mandalorian‘s scripts rightly chose to hide behind the general silence and broodiness of its main characters — one of them is a baby who can’t talk at all, after all — and I’m starting to wish Boba Fett had done the same.
Alas, I hope Ming-Na Wen is getting paid well to deliver lines like “Fire in the hole.” Overall, both she and Temuera Morrison continue to try to turn lead into gold. Boba is earthy and Fennec flinty, and both try to inject some humor into the bland lines. They’re trying so hard to have some sort of chemistry. In that typical moment where action heroes’ eyes meet after a big fight, their affect changed convincingly enough I wouldn’t even mind if a romance sparked off between them. Fennec closing her eyes to sleep in Boba’s ship sells her comfort with their partnership more than the dialogue ever does. Overall, as in the first episode, I like the neutrality with which the camera handles Fennec, but it also means her character doesn’t effectively convey a message.
Fennec napping brings us to some high points. I liked the interior shots of Boba’s ship, with the camera looking directly down on him as he clambers through the inverted interior. “The Gathering Storm”‘s set piece battle sees Fennec going hand-to-hand on the ship’s ramp while Boba struggles to pilot it out of close quarters. Fennec neatly sells the combat and the mix of big machinery, and her precarious perch made the scene feel truly exciting and dangerous.
There are other fun visuals in this episode. The return to the sarlacc is also effectively creepy, and the alien costumes, especially Black Krrsantan, continue to be a joy just to look at. Too bad the latter is so one note beyond his imposing figure.
With Boba fully healed, this may be the last we see of the flashbacks, and with so many characters continuing to shuffle on and off stage, I’m wary of speculating anything about what’s on the horizon. The one thing that’s for certain: this show seems destined to take second fiddle to The Mandalorian.