If The Book of Boba Fett has taught us anything, it’s that banthas are painfully slow. Riding the hirsute taxis of Tatooine’s Dune Sea may help the Tuskens hide their numbers, but it’s not exactly expeditious. If banthas gallop, canter, or trot, we’ve yet to see the evidence. They seem to have a single speed, and it’s nowhere near a speeder bike’s, which helps explain why the Kintan Striders got the best of Boba Fett’s adoptive tribe. Banthas might be perfect pack animals, but for people who tend to travel light, they make curious mounts. After all, cowboys don’t ride cows.
For large swaths of its first season, Boba Fett’s spinoff series has followed a similarly plodding pace. Sometimes its tendency to meander pays dividends, but at other points it can be a bit of a slog—and not only during last week’s episode-ending, slow-motion speeder chase, which delivered as much adrenaline as George Costanza’s escape from a pack of senior citizens on mobility scooters. This week’s fourth episode, “The Gathering Storm,” brings the season up to and past its halfway point and appears to unify the show’s two timelines by bringing Boba’s backstory up to where we joined him in The Mandalorian. By leaving its flashbacks behind, the series sets up a possible big finish—and teases the potential return of a familiar face (or helmet) as soon as next week. But the way in which Book of Boba ties up Fett’s occasionally compelling path to the present undercuts some of the significance of the time he (and we) spent immersed in his transformative past.
“The Gathering Storm,” which was written by Jon Favreau and directed by Star Wars rookie Kevin Tancharoen, begins with Boba in his bacta tank, dreaming about riding a bantha to Bib Fortuna’s palace. He finds it swarming with Gamorrean and Weequay sentries, which doesn’t seem to surprise him. “Not today, old girl,” he tells the bantha. “Still too many guards.” That night, just after tossing some meat in the bantha’s extremely Muppet-like mouth, he sees bursts of light in the distant sky. Now we know when we are: These are the flash charges that Din Djarin and Toro Calican used to temporarily blind Fennec Shand as they assaulted her sniping position in The Mandalorian’s fifth chapter.
While it’s welcome news that we’re finally finding out how and why Fett saved Fennec—and that we’re finally seeing more of Ming-Na Wen—it’s also disorienting that the spinoff’s past timeline has suddenly almost caught up to its present. When we last saw Fett, he was burning the bodies of the slaughtered Tusken tribe. Now he’s finding Fennec, which takes place roughly five years after he fell into the sarlacc pit. Assuming Fett didn’t actually spend years finding a new definition of pain and suffering in the sarlacc’s stomach, there are two ways to explain the passage of time. Either Fett spent much more time with the Tuskens than the series had previously suggested, or the spinoff has taken a time jump, in which case Fett evidently didn’t do much in the intervening years other than hang out in the desert and commune with his bantha. Has the formerly fearsome Fett ridden to the palace and said, “Nope, not today” hundreds of times? It’s as if Favreau, having depicted the events that made his protagonist decide to stop bounty hunting, opted to fast-forward through the inconvenient gap between then and when Fett finally decided to take action.
However he passed the preceding period, Fett eventually finds Fennec, whom both Calican and Mando had left for dead. As Boba approaches her body, Favreau reuses the few seconds of footage from the end of “The Gunslinger” that introduced a then-unconfirmed Fett to The Mandalorian. Recognizing Shand as an assassin of some repute who could potentially help him break into Bib’s palace, he rushes her to the hospital—by which I mean he slowly brings her on bantha-back to the “mod parlor” outside of Mos Eisley where last week’s spy kids* seemingly received their cybernetic implants. The Mos Vespa Gang, we learn, are actually called “the mods,” a reference to their enhancements and a tribute to the ’60s scene that inspired them. (Fun fact: Film editor Sean Barton worked on both mod homage Quadrophenia and Return of the Jedi.)
*“The Gathering Storm” is mercifully free of Fett’s scooter kids—the mod parlor didn’t bother me much, as even the scene’s grating score seemed to suit its milieu. But before we move on, a note about last week’s divisive hired hands. One semiviral tweet asserted that there was “not an ounce of Star Wars” in the spy ki— er, mods, which in turn prompted others to defend them on the grounds that they look like prequel-era George Lucas creations. I’d humbly suggest that both sides of that debate may have been missing the mark. The statement that sparked the social-media dustup was way too broad; who’s to say what Star Wars as a whole can’t look like? It’s a big galaxy. That said, just because they weren’t totally foreign to the franchise doesn’t mean the mods were good. I don’t doubt that they would fit in some Star Wars project, but they didn’t go well with the established tone and look of this one. It’s one thing to see shiny speeders operated by privileged sophisticates on the capital of the Old Republic before its fall, and another to see them driven by out-of-work Tatooine teens who can’t afford water. Finally, while a lot of Lucas designs also looked like crap or appeared to be out of place, that’s not necessarily an argument in favor of making design decisions in gritty TV dramas based on the Dex’s Diner precedent. This concludes my multipoint response to the backlash to the backlash to Book of Boba’s Glower Rangers.
The parlor’s master modder, played by musician Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, turns out to be a miracle medical worker as well as a guy who can give you goofy goggles. Both Calican and Mando believed Shand was dead or mortally wounded, and between the excruciatingly slow bantha ride and the unassisted modder seemingly scooping out her insides, replacing them with hydraulic pistons, and leaving her body cavity exposed to the elements in order to admire his handiwork, one wouldn’t think the assassin would pull through. But somehow, Shand returned, without the aid of bacta or a drop of visible blood. When she wakes up, she isn’t thrilled to discover her metal midriff, but she’s happy to be breathing. She quickly comes to terms with her newfound core strength and chugs a black melon, the liquid from which will presumably squirt through her internal series of tubes.
As they sit by a campfire, Boba tells his partner-to-be how he was saved by the Tuskens. “They took me in, treated me as one of their own,” he says. “I tried to help them. Instead I got them massacred by Nikto speed bikers.” Last week’s scene of devastation left open the possibility that some of the Tuskens could have survived—the body count in the smoking camp seemed fairly low, and the corpses of Fett’s young Tusken companion and gaffi stick instructor weren’t explicitly shown—but Boba’s actions and comments seem to suggest that the tribe he joined was entirely eradicated, bringing an abrupt end to the series’ efforts to flesh out Tusken culture.
Some Indigenous viewers have expressed dismay that the Tuskens were never directly given a voice and that they may have been humanized merely to heighten the tragedy of their deaths and provide character development for Fett, while others have suggested that the tribe’s violent end honors Native experiences of actual events. Without weighing in on whether the Tuskens’ deaths were disrespectful or meaningful and fitting, I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed that—barring a surprise reappearance—the two most memorable Tusken characters that the series established got neither a farewell word nor a memorial. Before their sudden demise, the Tuskens received enough screen time that I had hoped they would play a part in the present beyond being the impetus for Boba’s career change and dreams of revenge. But based on what we know now, aiding Tuskens doesn’t seem to be one of the latter-day Boba’s concerns, and it doesn’t seem as if any Tuskens from his tribe survived to help him ascend as Daimyo.
Foremost on Fett’s mind is recovering the ship formerly known as Slave I** from the hangar in Bib’s palace, made possible by Fennec’s spy drone, which helps the pair map out the locations of the ship and the guards. Fett frees his bantha and declares what he’ll do next: “I’m gonna find my armor. Then I’m gonna kill that bloated pig who double-crossed me. Take his throne.” It’s confusing to call Fortuna a pig given that he’s protected by porcine guards, and it’s not clear what double cross Fett is referring to, though Jabba and Fortuna placed a bounty on Fett’s head in the comics when they believed that Fett had sold the carbonite-frozen Han. (In reality, Han was stolen by Qi’ra’s Crimson Dawn, who should show up in this series at some point.) Vengeance aside, Boba wants to be a boss now. “I’m tired of working for idiots who are gonna get me killed,” he says. “The Tuskens took me in. Made me part of their tribe. I was ready to leave hunting behind.”
**I know the original name of the Fett family’s ship is canceled, presumably because Disney doesn’t want to brand toys with the word “slave” or because the old moniker doesn’t suit its newly enlightened owner, but is Boba going to keep calling it “my Firespray gunship”? A ship needs a name! Even Firespray would be better than the generic “Firespray gunship,” though that would be a bit like renaming the Millennium Falcon the YT-1300.
But Boba and Fennec still have some hunting ahead of them. They infiltrate the palace, disable some droids—including an LEP droid from The Clone Wars, a COO-series cook droid, and a sous chef from the same series as EV-9D9—and commandeer the, um, Firespray gunship at the expense of an exploding gonk droid and several unlucky guards. Fennec agrees to go along for the ride as Fett settles some scores—specifically, by strafing the Kintan Striders. He then makes an ill-advised close approach to the sarlacc and gets saved from another trip to its stomach by Fennec’s clutch seismic charge. After a fruitless spelunking expedition into the dead sarlacc’s stomach in search of Fett’s armor—which the Jawas have long since scavenged***—Fett promises Fennec loyalty and obtains hers in return. They then consummate their partnership by anticlimactically killing Bib in a snippet of the stinger we saw after The Mandalorian’s Season 2 finale.
***In the series premiere, Fett woke up as the Jawas were stripping off his armor, but I guess he forgot after they hit him in the head? And then remembered during his subsequent bacta bath? Yeah, let’s go with that.
When Boba wakes from this final reverie, his dressing droid says he’s completely healed—on the outside, at least—which presumably signals that the series is finished with flashbacks. (We still don’t know how Fett traces his armor to Timothy Olyphant’s Cobb Vanth or follows Mando to Tython, but there isn’t much suspense in seeing how Boba handled things he’s already done.) The remainder of the episode is devoted to Fett’s efforts to shore up his forces in preparation for a showdown with the Pykes (who may have been the real culprits behind the Tusken tribe’s destruction). “Power hates a vacuum,” he says, as he sets out to fill one.
With Mok Shaiz’s majordomo “singing like a Yuzzum” but the mayor still on the run, Fett puts in an appearance at Garsa Fwip’s Sanctuary, where he walks in on an altercation featuring Krrsantan, who’s been triggered by the sight of some Trandoshans, the species that hunted and enslaved him and other Wookiees on Kashyyyk—though the bloodthirsty Krrsantan went with them willingly. Madam Garsa tries to placate Krrsantan with praise for his former pit-fighting career and an offer to pay off his tab, but he decides to tear off the Trandoshan’s arm instead. After watching this display, Fett offers his former colleague a job, which he inexplicably didn’t do when the Hutts released him from their service in the third episode.
I won’t complain too much about getting to watch a raging and possibly tipsy Wookiee tear apart a Trandoshan—or the fact that Max Rebo extended his appearance streak—but between the Boba-Krrsantan team-up that could and should have happened on the preceding episode and the extended, semi-extraneous droid fight in Bib’s kitchen, this 48-minute episode wasn’t exactly lean. All I’m saying is, if you forced me to trim The Book of Boba Fett’s running times, I could find a few places to cut.
The episode ends with a scene we saw excerpted in the trailer, in which Fett meets with Jabba’s former captains, who tried to take his place but were stymied by Fortuna’s “guile and treachery.” Fett prevails upon them to form a defensive alliance against the Pykes, and then—when the captains quite rightly point out that the Pykes aren’t after them—he settles for pledges that they’ll remain neutral in the power struggle to come. The captains can’t be trusted, but perhaps he can use Bib’s credits to recruit outside support; as Fennec says in the episode’s closing line, “Credits can buy muscle, if you know where to look.” Maybe Boba will get the old Empire Strikes Back crew back together again, though Bossk and Krrsantan don’t get along.
More likely, he’ll recruit Din, whose theme plays just before the credits roll (which can’t be any more of a coincidence than the musical quotation from Solo’s Crimson Dawn theme in the Book of Boba theme is). In a sign of these Star Wars times, Boba Fett, a legend for 40-plus years, may be Mando’s opening act, the man who warms up the crowd for his spiritual progenitor. With Grogu at Luke’s side and Gina Carano (Cara Dune) fired from Star Wars, Mando likely has time on his hands to repay Fett for his help with rescuing Grogu, and rumor has it he may have a hot new ride to replace the Razor Crest. Maybe Bo-Katan will come along too, in exchange for Fett’s help with retaking Mandalore.
Through the first three episodes, The Book of Boba Fett left most of its major questions unanswered. What happened to the Tuskens, and how would the episodes’ past events relate to the present? Why does Fett want to be Daimyo? How did he save Fennec, and why did the two deadly mercenaries decide to work together? “The Gathering Storm” addresses those questions, but now that we know the answers, I almost wish I could take a bacta trip back to when we could still imagine what they might be. “You wanna head a gotra?” Fennec asks. “Why not?” Fett replies. But “why not” isn’t a great reason on its own, and Fett’s other stated reasons aren’t much more moving than that.
It would be one thing if Fett wanted to legalize and regulate the spice trade, or appoint the Tuskens to positions of power, or overthrow the families and develop Tatooine into a law-abiding bastion of culture. Instead, he wants to … commit crimes more cleanly? “How many times have you been hired to do a job that was avoidable, if they only took the time to think?” Fett asks Fennec. “How much money could’ve been made? How many lives could’ve been saved?” he continues, “I’m tired of our kind dying because of the idiocy of others. We’re smarter than others. It’s time we took our shot.”
There’s something to be said for Fett finally leaving behind the bounty-hunting legacy of his father, realizing that cooperation pays better than competition, and discovering that there’s strength in what could be called softness. (“You can only get so far without a tribe,” he tells Fennec, not that adding Fett to their tribe helped the Tuskens.) Boba nearly died because of Jabba’s actions, just as Jango died because of Count Dooku’s. But would becoming a better crime lord or cutting down on collateral damage be enough of a hook to hang this series on if not for fans’ preexisting affection for Fett? (Or, to be more specific, for Fett’s armor?) Do we care about better working conditions for killer criminals? Is warring with the Pykes the best way for Boba to go about finding a family? And can any Star Wars series tell a more engrossing saga about renouncing bounty hunting and bonding with ex-adversaries than The Mandalorian already did?
“People like us don’t get to decide when we’re finished,” Fennec tells Fett. In this case, Favreau and Dave Filoni have decided that Fett will be finished (for now) in three weeks. What he’ll leave behind might not be a fully satisfying stand-alone story, but instead an integral part in paying off the crossover “climactic story event” that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy teased last year, which could be related to Mandalore, Grand Admiral Thrawn, or the crime war one of Solo’s screenwriters had in mind for its sequel. Book of Boba probably can’t beat The Mandalorian at its own game, but this week’s belated deepening of Fett’s character and narrowing of focus to one timeline are overdue developments. In some respects, “The Gathering Storm” felt more like a series premiere than a prelude to the big finish, but next week could really ramp things up. If you can’t overshadow Mando, you might as well have him join you.