In The Book of Boba Fett’s second episode, Mos Espa mayor Mok Shaiz warned the would-be daimyo of Tatooine that “Running a family is more complicated than bounty hunting.” In the third episode, Fett finds out what the mayor meant. In “The Streets of Mos Espa,” written by Jon Favreau and directed by Robert Rodriguez, Fett survives a second assassination attempt, gains some new allies, and trades one adversarial syndicate for another, in addition to reliving a loss in the past. The latest installment helps explain the state of play on Tatooine, though what it gains in great guest stars it lacks in pacing and satisfying set pieces, resulting in a step down from the highs of the series’ sophomore effort.
After an establishing shot of Boba’s palace that features a B’omarr monk, 8D8 briefs Boba on how Bib Fortuna maintained order in Mos Espa. I don’t want to tell the torture droid or the daimyo how to do their jobs, but it seems like this meeting should have happened before. (Maybe that’s the price you pay for hiring a torture droid to do a protocol droid’s job.) Given that Boba has presumably been on the planet for years and is no stranger to Tatooine’s underworld or the workings of criminal organizations in general, it’s somewhat surprising that he’s so out of touch. (Was he wandering in the wilderness for Fortuna’s entire reign?) Belatedly, 8D8 fills him in: Because Bib lacked Jabba’s enforcers, he preserved his title and tribute by paying off Mok Shaiz, splitting the city into three sectors, and outsourcing oversight of one sector apiece to the Trandoshans, Aqualish, and Klatooinians. It’s still unclear why the Twins or another strong syndicate didn’t horn in on Bib’s business—maybe he worked his connections and paid people off—but in the old daimyo’s absence (and the Empire’s), this fragile balance has begun to collapse.
This overdue intro to the Tatooine org chart is interrupted by the arrival of one of Fett’s new vassals, Mos Espa watermonger Lortha Peel (played by Stephen Root). “Perhaps we’ll learn what’s really going on in this murky fen,” Fett says, perhaps echoing the thoughts of some members of the audience who’ve been frustrated by Book of Boba’s slow burn. “No one respects you,” the supplicant says, proving his own point by speaking more frankly than he would to a more commanding daimyo. Peel complains about a street gang that’s stealing his water, describing the youths as “half-man, half-machine” cyborgs who augment their bodies with droid parts to make themselves more deadly. (At least they’re not more machine than man.)
Fett promises to investigate this scourge of the streets and marches off to Mos Espa, flanked by Fennec and his two Gamorrean guards—the whole of his retinue, as far as we know, which doesn’t seem like nearly enough help for him to hold the planet. Fortunately, Fett is about to make some new hires. When he talks to the street gang, he learns that the watermonger is gouging them and that they don’t have jobs, “Worker’s District” evidently being more of an aspirational name for their neighborhood than a promise of employment. Boba tells them they can work for him and pays off their debt to Peel, though he gives the greedy, dissatisfied watermonger only a fraction of the credits he claims to be owed. Fett’s solution gives us a glimpse of how he would “rule with respect”; he won’t permit exploitative pricing for a life-giving good, though the Kaminoan in him still struggles to grasp the scarcity of water.
It’s all well and good that Fett has doubled his workforce by recruiting the six biker kids, but I’ll be blunt: The street gang seems more Spy Kids than Star Wars to me. I’m not suggesting that every Star Wars series has to adhere to a single aesthetic, but everything about them, from their steampunk-style cybernetic implants to their shiny, color-coordinated chrome space Vespas, seems transplanted from another franchise and clashes with the show’s established look. Maybe they can’t afford water because they’re splurging on speeder wax, prosthetics (including Kano’s bionic eye), and unfortunate fits that range from Hufflepuff formal to hand-me-downs from the Batman & Robin motorcycle race. No shots at Sophie Thatcher, who does her best to bring the same smoldering gravitas to the role of lead urchin Drash that she does to young Natalie from Yellowjackets—not to mention her part in 2018 sci-fi film Prospect, in which she played the Grogu to Pedro Pascal’s helmeted, adoptive dad—but for now I’m all the way out on this Tatooine take on Quadrophenia or The Wild One.
Mercifully, a trip to the bacta tank provides a reprieve. After another brief recollection of Kamino—either this moment of Jango’s departure holds deep meaning for Boba, or Favreau and Rodriguez are recycling Daniel Logan’s only leftovers from Attack of the Clones—Fett’s flashback to his Tusken sojourn picks up where it left off. Having sent the Pykes packing in last week’s train heist, Fett saddles up a bantha and rides solo to Mos Eisley, where he sees the stormtrooper helmets from The Mandalorian being stuck on their spikes (and also passes Grogu’s future babysitter Peli Motto, pit droids in tow). He’s bound for the local Pyke outpost, where he informs the syndicate’s representative that he’s come to collect the Tuskens’ payment for the Pykes’ passage across the Dune Sea. But as he’ll relearn later when he tries to collect tribute as daimyo, there’s always a bigger fish—or, at least, a different fish with a preexisting deal. (Speaking of fish, the Pykes’ faces seem more piscine than they did in The Clone Wars and The Bad Batch; they never removed their masks in Solo.)
The Pyke explains that the higher-ups on his homeworld of Oba Diah have forbidden him to pay protection money to two groups, which means that Fett first must deal with the previous recipients—the Kintan Striders speeder gang, whose Nikto heads he bashed, and whose bikes he stole, at Tosche Station. (Kintan is the homeworld of the Nikto, and striders were first seen as holographic pieces on the Millennium Falcon’s dejarik board.) As he rides back to the Tusken camp, Fett spies smoke, not unlike the black cloud Luke Skywalker spotted when he found the Lars homestead destroyed. The Tuskens have met the same fate: They’ve been slaughtered like animals by the Striders, who’ve left their telltale tag of the Huttese letter “k.” (A connection that the audience could have made without the heavy-handed flashback-within-a-flashback to the moisture-farm raid.)
Maybe the Striders lucked out and happened to strike when Fett was away. Or perhaps the Pykes tipped them off, in which case the future daimyo will have a personal score to settle with the syndicate as he tries to protect his turf. That possibility offers the first tangible link between Book of Boba Fett’s bifurcated timelines; considering the series is approaching its halfway point, it’s about time that the through line became clear.
However it happened, the Tusken chief and some portion of his people are dead, and it’s Boba Fett’s fault; it was he who encouraged them to fight rather than scavenge in secret. Boba builds another body bonfire, upon which he places the branch of his young Tusken companion, who’ll never get to turn it into a full-fledged gaderffii stick—unless he was away from the camp and merely left his branch behind. When he spoke to the Pykes, Boba boasted that the Tuskens “far outnumber” the Striders, but there don’t appear to be many bodies on the pyre. He may have been bluffing—we know Tuskens excel at hiding their numbers—but there are far fewer Tusken corpses piled up than there were dancers in the last scene of the second episode.
It’s possible that part of the tribe escaped, presumably led by Fett’s friend the female Tusken Warrior, whose body isn’t shown. One would hope that some Tuskens survived, so that the tribe serves some purpose beyond sacrificing itself for Fett’s character growth or to drive him into self-exile. (As an aside: I’ve seen some speculation that the Tusken Warrior is Fennec in disguise. I hope not; the Warrior is a cool character in her own right, and while that would explain why Boba saves Fennec, it’s tough to figure why she would have gone from bounty hunting in The Bad Batch to living as a Tusken and then back to bounty hunting again.)
For me, at least, this scene didn’t hit quite as hard as I wanted it to, partly because Boba is his usual stoic self. Temuera Morrison—and, for that matter, Ming-Na Wen—doesn’t emote much in general; maybe it’s me, but I picked up more feelings from puppet Grogu and helmeted Din than I did from Fett in this scene. We’re left to imagine his loss, guilt, and rage with the score’s funereal chant doing much of the emotional lifting. Given his history of seeking vengeance and his reaction to his dad’s death, I wouldn’t expect Boba to be a blubbering mess, but he has just discovered that he delivered a death sentence to the closest thing he’s found to a family. If you squint, you can possibly see a hint of moisture welling up in his eyes, but if ever a scene deserved a significant change in expression, it was this one.
If Boba broke down as the bonfire burned, we may never know, because his bacta reverie is rudely interrupted by Black Krrsantan, who yanks him back to the present by prying open his tank and hauling him out. (“Sleep lightly,” indeed.) The bounty hunter is hardly unobtrusive, so palace security seems a little lax; Fett’s already weathered one assassination attempt, so you’d think someone would be on watch while he’s getting his beauty time in the tube. In the comics, Obi-Wan and Bossk individually best BK (or at least duel him to a draw), but an unarmed, unarmored, and abruptly awakened post-sarlacc Fett is no match for the massive Wookiee, whose significance to the franchise I explained in last week’s recap and Ringer-Verse deep dive. BK beats Boba with an electrified version of the brass knuckles he once used to knock out Chewbacca, then holds him aloft, bites his hand, and delivers a loud spinal adjustment.
BK is prevented from snapping Boba’s back by the belated arrival of Fett’s plucky Power Ranger street gang guards. (Oh good, they’re back.) Drash stabs BK, and by quadruple-teaming him, she and her cohorts hold him at bay long enough for the Gamorrean guards to arrive. Not that they’re much help: BK makes quick work of them, just as he did when he walked all over Jabba’s bodyguards to demonstrate his mettle. The fight ends only after Krrsantan tackles the guards and crashes downstairs to the throne room, where he lingers over the rancor pit long enough for Fennec to show up to retract the trap door. Boba graciously has his injured guard sent to his bacta tank, though one imagines that Lord Fett may soon need another dip himself.
As was the case with the assassination attempt in the first episode, this fight scene is at times confusingly choreographed, though BK is sufficiently fearsome. Unfortunately, there’s a chance that this is the last time we’ll see him in action, at least until Obi-Wan Kenobi. After the melee, Fett picks at a spread fit for Jabba; no wonder Fortuna looked lighter in the lekku before he inherited the Hutt’s bottomless buffet. But brunch is disrupted by more unexpected visitors—this time, the Twins, who show up to say sorry for siccing the Wookiee on Fett. The Hutts declare that they’re relinquishing their claim to Jabba’s territory and leaving Tatooine, having learned that Mok Shaiz promised the planet to another major syndicate. Given what went down in Fett’s flashback, you can probably guess which one.
The Hutts leave Krrsantan to Boba, and Fett sets him free with the professional courtesy accorded from one accomplished bounty hunter to another. (Maybe he’ll be back for a teamup later on, but given the threat Fett is facing, it’s pretty perplexing that he doesn’t offer to hire the hunter on the spot.) Although BK beats a quick retreat—I guess he was getting his steps in—the Hutts came bearing an even bigger gift: a rancor, kept by Rodriguez’s second cousin and frequent collaborator Danny Trejo. The keeper tells Fett that his new pet is depressed; “rancor are emotionally complex creatures,” he explains, adding that “They can become very loving.” No wonder former rancor keeper Malakili grew so attached.
Unlike the Hutts, whose CGI look can’t quite compare to the one-ton puppet that made Jabba seem so lifelike in Return of the Jedi, the rancor looks great in its closeup—better, even, than the tiny puppet Luke killed. And Boba looks great to the rancor calf, who—assuming the rancor keeper can be trusted—imprints on Fett when its blinders are removed. Fett seems just as taken with his extremely ugly duckling, which he intends to ride, though he remarks that he’s ridden beasts 10 times its size—an allusion to the ichthyodont he mounted in his debut in The Star Wars Holiday Special.
One wouldn’t know it from the movies, but various Star Wars reference guides and animated series have previously established that the rancor’s violent look can be deceptive. Native to Dathomir and symbiotically bonded with the planet’s Nightsisters, the rancor is a docile creature unless provoked. This rancor is bound to draw the blood of Boba’s enemies before the series is out, but its peaceful portrayal in “The Streets of Mos Espa” is in line with Favreau and Dave Filoni’s larger project of forcing Star Wars fans to unlearn some of what they learned in George Lucas’s films. Boba Fett was a bounty hunter, but he isn’t one now. If Jabba’s rancor seemed brutal, it was only because it was kept in a cage and shown during dinnertime. If some of the Tuskens menaced moisture farmers, that may have been prompted by the outlanders othering them and encroaching on their terrain. And if the once-watery Tatooine seems like a wasteland where the only way to live is to leech vapor from the air, it could be because the moisture farmers who depend on technology don’t know about the true natives’ natural source of sustenance.
In the episode’s ending sequence, Fett and Fennec attempt to pay another visit to the mayor. But Mok Shaiz isn’t at Mos Espa City Hall, and his majordomo tries to give them the slip in his landspeeder, which supplies an excuse for Fett’s ruffian riders to swing into action. The laughably low-speed and oddly jerky chase that ensues definitely didn’t overdeliver or blow my mind; it’s dull, drawn out, and unnecessary, considering that Fett seems more than capable of keeping pace with his jetpack alone. Compared to last week’s vibrant train heist, this looks like leftover footage from Spy Kids 3.
Rodriguez may be stretched thin by his showrunning and cameo-making responsibilities, but to this point in the series, the action he’s shot has been both less coherent and less dynamic than Steph Green’s work last week or much of The Mandalorian’s direction. Maybe it’s for the best that only one of the remaining episodes will have him at the helm, with the remaining three (in some order) reportedly directed by Filoni, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Kevin Tancharoen. The highlight of the suspense-free pursuit comes when the street youth who’s wearing Matt Berry’s wardrobe from What We Do in the Shadows barrels through a canvas covered in Ralph McQuarrie concept art, which features Fett himself. (Whoever commissioned this painting seems not to like Luke.)
After the majordomo’s speeder dies amid the melons to the tune of the well-known “hyperdrive failure sound,” he confesses that the mayor is with the Pykes, about a dozen of whom are seen disembarking from a starliner that touches down at Mos Espa. “These are just a first wave,” Fennec says. “They’re going to war.” Maybe that war will enliven the series’ present timeline, in which Fett has seemed weak, in over his helmet, and content to take meetings. (And does he have to walk everywhere?) Your mileage may vary, but Boba’s adventures with the Tuskens have grabbed me more thus far, and this week’s episode suffered from the scant time spent in the past.
We don’t yet know why the Pykes are so eager to fight for what the Twins spitefully dismissed as a “worthless rock”; are they there just to distribute spice, or something more? And will the Hutts actually abide by their abdication, or let their rivals duke it out and return once the sand settles? Although the mayor may have promised the planet to the Pykes, another reveal could be coming, because the mayor and the Pykes as Book of Boba’s Big Bads would be a bit anticlimactic. Nor do we know whether some Tuskens survived; we don’t know how and why Fett saved Fennec; and we don’t know exactly why Fett wants to be daimyo. In short, Favreau and Filoni are still playing this series’ sabacc cards close to the vest, which is partly a product of a past-and-present structure that forces plot to be parceled out slowly. “Everyone is waiting to see what kind of leader you are,” 8D8 tells Lord Fett. So are we.