The Book of Boba Fett Launches Into a Life of Crime in “Stranger in a Strange Land”

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Let’s ring in the new year with bounties aplenty! The Book of Boba Fett has begun….

 

Recap

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) is sleeping submerged in a healing chamber in Jabba’s Palace on Tatooine. In it, he dreams of Kamino, his father’s death on Geonosis, and how he escaped the Sarlacc Pit following the death of Jabba and his entourage. He remembers being stripped of his armor by Jawas, then found by a group of Sand People, tied to the back of their bantha, and taken to their encampment. He is tied up next to a Rodian prisoner, and guarded by a massiff. When he tries to escape, the Rodian sounds the alarm.

Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) comes to wake Fett so they can begin receiving tribute now that they’re newly installed in Jabba’s Palace. They received many gifts, and pull a droid up from the basement to translate for them. They are expecting a visit from the Mayor of Mos Espa, but only his Twi’lek majordomo (David Pasquesi) arrives. He tells them that the Mayor extends well-wishes but offers no tribute—instead, they expect the tribute. Fennec tells the majordomo that their tribute is allowing him to leave with his life. The majordomo assures them that they will receive other envoys from the Mayor in the future. They take on two Gamorean guards who worked for Jabba and then Bib Fortuna after they swear their loyalty in exchange for their lives.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Boba and Fennec walk into Mos Espa; Fennec tells Boba that he should be carried through the streets to show people he is the new man in charge, but Fett isn’t interested—he plans to rule via respect instead of fear. They arrive at the Sanctuary, a large Catina and gambling establishment run by Garsa Fwip (Jennifer Beals). Boba introduces himself and explains the new state of business. Her staff clean Boba and Fennec’s helmets and return Boba’s full of money. As they make to leave the city, they are stopped and surrounded by shielded and armed assassins. A fight breaks out, made easier once the Gamoreans find them and enter the fray. Two escape, and Boba tells Fennec that he wants them alive. Fennec chases the men down and captures one for questioning. After the fight, Fett heads back into his tank to rejuvenate.

More flashback resumes: Eventually, Fett and the Rodian are taken by one of the Sand People youths to the edge of a moisture farm that is in the process of being raided by a gang. The boy instructs them to dig for pods containing water beneath the sand. Eventually, the Rodian hits a multi-armed-legged creature (it’s a giant bug centaur) and is killed. Fett strangles the thing with their chain after a long fight. The boy takes the head of the creature back to his people, and one of the adults finally gives Fett some water in respect for what he did.

Commentary

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

If we’re only here to clock vibes, this show has truly got it all.

Mafioso offering sequence? Check. Hardcore parkour over the rooftops of Mos Espa? Check. Helmets full of money? Cha-ching-check. Half-naked Gamorean bodyguards? Check. Burrowing your way out through the side of a giant dessert acid stomach monster? Mega-effing-check.

That said, if we’re here to appreciate some semblance of plot and storytelling, I’m… underwhelmed? Hopefully, we’ll gain some momentum as the show continues, but if The Mandalorian has taught us anything, it’s that Jon Favreau doesn’t really write scripts, he writes mood boards that he then asks directors to fill in. Robert Rodriguez has already proven that he does it better than most with his work on “The Tragedy” last year, but there’s only so much empty space you can hide with good direction and a killer design team.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

We start straight out the gate with one of the goofiest fiction conceits of film, the old “we’re having a lengthy and extremely involved flashback and calling it dreams.” Because that’s how dreams work, right? You remember your past, exactly as it happened to you. Dreams are just memories we don’t wanna look too closely at because that’s how trauma works, I guess. Not with you going to a therapist that specializes in hypnotism to tap away at your subconscious, but with naps.

We’re gonna do this every week, aren’t we? *sigh*

On the other hand, I do love Boba going “Aw man, I’m having those shitty dreams again,” and Fennec being like “Cool story, put some clothes on.” As a friendship dynamic, that is truly god-tier in its familiarity and exhaustion. I also love her constant check-ins of I kills this one? as he shakes his head in the negative and tries to get her on board with his way of doing things. They’re a great team, and I hope this show gives them more by way of dialogue and interaction so that we can understand their bond a bit better. We still don’t know why Fennec feels loyalty to him, aside from the vague suggestion that he saved her life following her seeming murder in Mando season one.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

The ‘whys’ of this story are largely missing so far, namely, why does Boba Fett want to take up Jabba’s seat anyhow? Being a bounty hunter is a very different game from taking over an entire sector of organized crime. And what’s more, he claims he wants to run the joint through respect, but doesn’t seem to have any plans on how to earn said respect. It’s not like anyone is impressed by his dispatch of Bib Fortuna, after all. That guy was a lightweight pretending toward heavyweight status.

For the flashback sections, I feel as though The Mandalorian was putting in some work toward portraying the Sand People as actual people rather than monsters, which was important given the native-ized background the group has always had. This depiction doesn’t do them any favors, though; they have Fett and a Rodian kidnapped and tied to posts… for giggles? The Sand People have no reason to keep them around unless they want them for food—digging for those water pods is something that is undoubtedly built into their societal structure, not something they need exhausted and dehydrated slaves to do for them. Maybe that kid is just making them do his chores, but that still doesn’t explain why they were kept in the first place. (Also wtf are those water pods plant things and where do they come from because that’s waaaaay too convenient for you to throw out there. They’re just there, buried under a thin layer of sand? The whole planet has them? Sure. And I’ve got a Sandcrawler full of beskar to sell you.)

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Even if we get more information explaining their capture of Fett, this set up made no sense. And if it turns out that they only put Boba in this position so that we know how he learned to fight with a gaderffii, then that’s a real bad look on the production team’s part. The Sand People don’t need to be anyone’s noble savage combat trainers: Again, this is where the reliance on Western tropes really fall flat.

Which brings me to the title of the episode, because that was an unnecessarily weird flex? Stranger in a Strange Land is the title Robert Heinlein’s seminal SF work, but it’s also a quote taken directly from the King James Bible in the book of Exodus. I get that its use by Heinlein means that it’s a quote that genre fans are well acquainted with, but what could possibly be the purpose in referencing it here? Because nothing about Heinlein’s story really aligns with this narrative, which means you’re more likely to look for the biblical connection and… what, is Boba Fett supposed to be Moses in this analogy? Is Tatooine supposed to be Egypt? Is he going to go track down the remaining clone troopers and, um, free them? I know I’m belaboring the point here, but if you’re gonna try to be clever with your references, they need to actually be clever.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

I’m assuming that the tank Fett’s sleeping in is a bacta tank, which is an interesting place to start from, and probably what I have the most questions about regarding his health. We’re not exactly sure when Mando and this show are set, but current wisdom puts it somewhere in the five-to-ten years post-Return-of-the-Jedi range. We can be sure that Boba didn’t have access to that tank the whole time, and at the moment it looks like he needs to use it pretty constantly to keep him alive. This tracks somewhat with what the Legends canon did, acknowledging that time in the Sarlacc’s stomach pretty irrevocably fucked up Boba’s body, to the point where he eventually needed cloned organs to stay alive. This could be part of the reason he wants to be a crime boss—bacta isn’t cheap, and if he needs tons of it, bounty hunting might not be enough to keep him going.

There’s obviously something going on with the group who looted the moisture farm and left their mark on the house. I’m guessing those are the people who sent the assassins with shields to kill Boba and Fennec, but they’re not showing their faces yet. Also, who’s gonna be the mayor of Mos Espa?

Hopefully we’ll find out next week.

Bits and Beskar:

There was a long-standing joke in the fandom about how Jango Fett’s head should have fallen out of that helmet when Boba picked it up after his murder, to the point where I’m pretty sure someone on the film had to insist that you could see a shadow of his head bouncing away after Mace Windu sliced it off. As a result, I’m always expecting to see that head drop out when little Boba takes up the helmet.
While I like the escape that they give Fett from the Sarlacc, I’ll always be emotionally attached to the Legends canon story that portrayed it, in which he insulted the being symbiotically attached to the Sarlacc badly enough that the whole place went haywire and he was able to explode his way to freedom.
I do love to see Fett taking a page out of Leia’s book and strangling big threats with his own chain.

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

My meager kingdom for people to stop pretending that you can go even two days in a desert without water. I can buy Boba taking on all sorts of physical abuse in combat, but you cannot stay out tied to a post in the blazing heat for over a day. Let alone dig a hole in the ground later.
The Trandoshan who comes to pay tribute gives them a Wookiee pelt, which is part of a long-standing background dating all the way back to the Legends canon stating that those species are enemies, with the Trandoshans hunting Wookiees for sport. We see evidence of this in The Clone Wars episodes “Padawan Lost” and “Wookiee Hunt.”
MAX REBO LIVED

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

(No but for serious, that’s kind of a big deal that he’s sitting there after the sail barge done blew up, good for you Max Rebo, four for you, but also I wish that they gave you and presumably that’s Figrin D’an a new number to play, come on, making the space music is half the fun of even having space bands.)
So we’ve got Matt Berry of What We Do in the Shadows (and AD/BC) fame as their extremely tired torture-turned-translator droid 8D8. (He’s likely the one we see burning the Gonk droid in ROTJ.) We’ve also got Jennifer Beals as Garsa Fwip, who you might know from The L Word, and most famously, as the eponymous dancer (who does not do the dance) of Flashdance. She looks very cool in the Twi’lek ensemble.
I mean, Fwip’s people put something in the helmets when they cleaned them, right? Aside from money? Surveillance or detonators or something?

See you next Wednesday, everyone!

[Please note that comments will be temporarily closed over the holiday break, but will be open for discussion on Monday, January 3rd.]

Emmet Asher-Perrin would like them to explain what that bug centaur was and why Tatooine would ever have a lifeform like that. You can bug them on Twitter, and read more of their work here and elsewhere.

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