Put “Boba Fett” in the title of a TV show, and millions of Star Wars fans will say, “Boba Fett? Boba Fett? Where?” The intrigue attached to any new live-action Star Wars series, and the mystique surrounding a popular legacy character, convinced a sizable audience to treat The Book of Boba Fett’s premiere as a holiday special. But Boba’s first solo act couldn’t rely on riding Din Djarin’s and Jeremy Bulloch’s coattails to full-season success. The spinoff produced more tepid first impressions than The Mandalorian or most Marvel streaming series, launching without any shocking twists, major character crossovers, or internet-breaking babies. And while it delivered the long-awaited wish fulfillment of Fett’s escape from the sarlacc, it left a lot of questions about the series’ place in the larger Star Wars streaming ecosystem, as well as whether its lead character could be equally compelling in large doses and with his armor off.
Though its protagonist extricated himself from a sand trap, “Stranger in a Strange Land” was essentially a safe, predictable approach shot, which applied some pressure to the series’ second episode to put The Book of Boba Fett in position to score better than par. Written by creator Jon Favreau and directed by Emmy-nominated Watchmen alum Steph Green, “The Tribes of Tatooine” boasts a listed running time of 53 minutes (counting recap and credits), longer than any episode of The Mandalorian except the Season 2 premiere (in which Fett first showed his face). It’s a more ambitious, better-paced episode that includes a stirring set piece, clever callbacks and crossovers, and a modest expansion of the series’ scope and lore, though it doesn’t defuse the spinoff’s central tension: Disney+ already has a streaming series about a man in Mandalorian armor who renounces bounty hunting. And no offense to Fennec, but Boba’s sidekick isn’t quite as cute. (Nothing and no one is.)
Like “Stranger in a Strange Land,” “The Tribes of Tatooine” plays out in both the past and present, though this time Favreau switches settings via bacta-tank dream only once instead of skipping back and forth. The episode starts in the post-Mandalorian timeline, as Fennec escorts the captive assassin from the premiere back to Boba’s palace. (Shand appears to have walked from Mos Espa to Boba’s palace after the injured daimyo was whisked back to his bacta.) Boba, back on his throne, questions the assassin, who in lieu of offering his name, rank, and serial number offers a choice “E chu ta,” a Huttese curse that could be a clue to who hired him.
8D8 explains that the assassin is a member of the Order of the Night Wind, just like Dr. Maguire’s wife from Good Will Hunting. Fennec, whose haughtiness suits her skills, says the Order is overpriced and that its clients are “paying for the name,” but when the torture droid repeats, “There is no way he will talk,” it sounds as if he’s speaking from experience. However, Fennec finds one way: She drops the assassin into Jabba’s rancor pit, which Bib Fortuna evidently declined to restock. Not knowing that a rat has replaced the rancor Luke Skywalker killed—which speaks to some out-of-date intel—the assassin seems to give up his employer: Mayor Mok Shaiz, who refused to pay tribute to Lord Fett in the first episode.
That’s the cue for Fett and Fennec to pay Shaiz a visit. When they arrive at his headquarters and push past the gesticulating majordomo, we discover that the mayor is an Ithorian. Tatooine seems an unlikely long-term location for a native of a jungle planet like Ithor, but Shaiz, like Momaw Nadon of Mos Eisley cantina fame, may be an exile from his home. Nadon was cast out because he shared agricultural secrets with the Empire to keep his planet safe, but Shaiz may have been banished because of violent tendencies, taboo among members of his pacifistic species. Although Shaiz doesn’t do the dirty work himself, he gets a Gran guard to gun down the assassin, explaining that the Order isn’t allowed to operate outside of Hutt Space, which doesn’t encompass Tatooine. Although Fett turns down a reward, insisting that he’s no longer a bounty hunter, he accepts the mayor’s payment as a tribute to the daimyo.
The mayor may have had the assassin killed to prevent him from contradicting Shaiz’s claim that he didn’t hire the Night Wind to kill Fett. (The majordomo’s comment in the premiere about the mayor sending a “delegation” certainly makes it sound as if Shaiz placed the assassin order.) But regardless of whether Shaiz brokered the contract, it’s clear that the mayor isn’t Boba’s real rival; he’s just deferring to the party in power and waiting to see which way the wind blows. “Running a family is more complicated than bounty hunting,” he warns. That cryptic comment comes with a piece of advice: Go to Madam Garsa’s Sanctuary, where the true threat to his dominion will become clear.
(Shaiz may or may not present a problem for Fett, but say this much for the mayor: Mos Espa seems to be thriving under his administration. Although The Mandalorian suggested that Mos Eisley has fallen on hard(er) times in the post-Imperial era, business appears to be booming in Mos Espa, which has gotten a glow-up since the prequels. Maybe Mayor Shaiz or his predecessors used tax incentives to lure some scum and villainy away from Tatooine’s other spaceport.)
Shortly after Fett and his retinue arrive at the Sanctuary, a distant drum sound silences Max Rebo’s band and draws the daimyo outside. (The episode’s subtitles refer to Rebo’s sound as “fusion music,” so maybe Max has moved on from traditional Jizz and recorded his Bitches Brew.) There he meets two challengers to his throne: a pair of Hutts known as “the twins,” a brother-sister combo of cousins to Jabba. (Although Legends had it that Hutts could switch sexes at will, Hutts in current canon have a single sex.) These Hutts, who look almost as massive as Tatoo I and II, are traveling on a double-wide litter supported by servants, the customary mode of transportation for Tatooine crime lords before Fett. A hoversled would do the job just as well, but the litter isn’t just a means of traveling in comfort; it’s a way to project power and flaunt forced subjugation as a warning to anyone who would defy the Hutt’s crime cartel. These unidentified Hutts could’ve been carbon copies of Jabba, but everything about them—from their intertwined bodies to their speaking styles to their differing methods of keeping cool and dry—is laden with extremely specific and eye-catching details that set them apart.
The smaller sis and bigger bro (who has a facial tattoo à la Jabba’s uncle Ziro) lay claim to their cousin’s old territory—belatedly, given that Jabba has been dead for five years. (Either news travels slowly to Nal Hutta, or the Hutts didn’t mind Jabba’s majordomo taking his place.) But Fett, who speaks at least some Huttese, doesn’t back down, even after the Hutts deploy some scary muscle who looks like he could lift a litter by himself. Their Wookie enforcer appears to be Black Krrsantan, a fan-favorite bounty hunter introduced in 2015’s Darth Vader comics, who had been rumored to be ticketed for The Mandalorian Season 3. Although Fett has his helmet on, which makes it hard to tell whether he recognizes the Wookie, he refers to him as a “gladiator” and says he’s “not a sleeping Trandoshan guard,” allusions to Black Krrsantan’s first occupation after he was captured and enslaved following a tangle with Trandoshans on Kashyyyk.
Fett and Black Krrsantan have a history. Both worked for Jabba, and when Darth Vader traveled to Tatooine after the Battle of Yavin to negotiate with the Hutt for supplies, he requested the Hutt’s two best bounty hunters for his personal use. Jabba offered him Fett and Black Krrsantan. While the former looked for Luke, the latter was tasked with tracking down an agent of the Emperor. After completing that mission, Black Krrsantan worked with another fan-favorite comics character, the criminal archaeologist Doctor Aphra, who was introduced during the Darth Vader run and later starred in her own Marvel comics series. Eventually Vader hires Black Krrsantan to find Doctor Aphra, but after initially turning her over to the Dark Lord, he decides to save her life. (Which means that in theory, she could cross over next.)
Black Krrsantan’s unobtrusive appearance in “The Tribes of Tatooine” is the best kind of crossover cameo. It’s a nice nod to fans of the comics, who have the pleasure of seeing a familiar face in all his horrific, live-action glory. It also sets up Black Krrsantan as a possible adversary not only for later this season, but for Obi-Wan in the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi; while working for Jabba about 10 years before the events of Episode IV, the Wookie tangled with Kenobi and was left somewhat worse for wear, though the lightsaber scar on his head in the panel above isn’t easily visible in live action.
But unlike some of the crossovers and references in The Mandalorian’s second season, the bounty hunter’s appearance shouldn’t leave casual watchers with the nagging sense that they’re missing something. For Book of Boba Fett viewers who haven’t read the comics and aren’t interested in speculation about future shows, Black Krrsantan is just a terrifying Wookie who looks like he might be a match for Fett and Shand, and that’s enough to justify his presence. Better yet, the episode adds to Star Wars lore in addition to drawing from it, by introducing the previously unknown Order of the Night Wind and tossing in neologisms like “the death pits of Duur” and the expression “sweating like a gumpta on Mustafar.”
For now, at least, we won’t get to see Black Krrsantan in action. After a Western-style standoff in the street, the Hutts turn tail, observing that “Bloodshed is bad for business.” Rather than acknowledge Fett’s right to rule, they leave the usurper with a warning: “This can be dealt with later. Sleep lightly, bounty hunter.” As they watch the twins leave the scene, Fennec says to Fett, “They’re Hutts. We would have to get permission if you wanna kill ’em.” But permission from whom? Is there a lead crime lord who oversees the five syndicates? And what’s Qi’ra up to, anyway? At last check in the comics, which have continued her story from Solo, she was running the syndicate Crimson Dawn and outsourcing its services to other organizations in a bid to destabilize the Empire and stay in other power brokers’ good graces.
Answers to those questions will have to wait as well, because staring down the Hutts earns Boba a bacta bath. (He’s taking “sleep lightly” literally.) That triggers a mental trip to the past, where the bulk of the episode takes place. Boba, who was handed a symbolic black melon after slaying the sand creature at the end of the premiere, is now picking up the finer points of gaderffii fighting from a Tusken duelist. But the training montage is interrupted by the approach of a huge, hazy shape. From a distance, it sounds like a krayt dragon and looks like a sandworm, but it turns out to be a different fast-moving spice provider: a hovertrain, speeding above the sands and passing with impunity through Tusken territory. In the ensuing panic—which reminds us that Fett, like Mike from Breaking Bad, is much more intimidating when he doesn’t have to run—a few Tuskens are killed by long-distance blaster bolts from the train’s guards. After the train passes, Fett carries one of the corpses back to camp, where the tribe is having a body bonfire. There isn’t a single deathstill in sight, the latest piece of evidence that the Tuskens are much more lax than the Fremen when it comes to water conservation.
While the bodies are burning, Fett sees a swoop gang pass by, which gives him an idea. (Who knew the Dune Sea saw so much vehicle traffic?) In a sign of his new standing within the tribe, Fett convinces the leaders to let him leave with a rifle and gaderffii stick, on a mission to stop the “long speeder.” He follows the Nikto miners—whose insignia, which looks like the letter “k” in Huttese, marks them as the same group that raided the moisture farm in the first episode—to Tosche Station, where Luke once whined about wanting to pick up power converters.
At the Tosche Station cantina, the Niktos are menacing a couple first mentioned in the novelization of The Last Jedi. Camie Marstrap and Laze Loneozner (a.k.a. “Fixer”) were childhood friends of Luke and Biggs Darklighter; when Luke and Biggs joined up with the Alliance, Camie and Fixer stayed on Tatooine. Years later, while in self-imposed exile on Ahch-To, Luke dreams about an alternate history in which he marries Camie and keeps on moisture farming. Maybe he and Biggs would’ve been better off following Camie and Fixer’s lead and leading a quiet life of enjoying the twin sunsets. Camie and Fixer appear in a deleted scene from Episode IV, but The Book of Boba Fett gives them their first uncut closeup, the latest example of Favreau and Dave Filoni following up on an ancient tease.
Fett puts his gaderffii training to good use in rescuing Camie and Fixer from the Nikto toughs. After knocking the Niktos around, he steals their bikes and brings them back to the Tusken camp. Favreau proved adept at mixing in comic relief amid the drama of The Mandalorian, and he’s pursuing the same tonal blend in The Book of Boba Fett. This week’s levity takes the form of a driver’s ed session conducted by Boba, who stops the Tuskens from dismantling the swoops. The tribe taught him the art of gaderffii fighting, and he returns the favor by teaching the tribe to ride. Despite what Fett says, steering the swoops isn’t quite like controlling banthas, but after another training montage, the Tuskens get past their student-driver-style miscues and start leaping from seat to seat like seasoned swoop pros.
The Dune Sea is a big desert, and if the train is following a predictable route, the Tuskens could presumably pick up stakes and stay out of its way. But running from a fight isn’t Fett’s way. Leading others into battle is, and he’s ready to pass his fearlessness and mastery of technology on to his Tusken captives turned friends. This isn’t the first time Fett has led an assault on a train: In “Bounty,” the 20th episode of The Clone Wars Season 4, the precocious kid leads a team of bounty hunters on a similar assault. The mission he mounts in “The Tribes of Tatooine” culminates in one of the franchise’s most exciting action sequences since the train heist in Solo.
Favreau rarely passes up a chance to pay homage to George Lucas’s influences, from Westerns to Dune to jidaigeki. The train robbery is a Western staple, but in this case, Favreau is also offering an obvious ode to the train attack from Lawrence of Arabia.
Lawrence of Arabia, the 1962 Oscar winner, put Alec Guinness in the desert 15 years before Obi-Wan came out of hiding on Tatooine. Lucas borrowed liberally from the themes and look of the film, reusing some of director David Lean’s shots and filming locations in crafting his own hero’s journey. If there’s a single piece of media that the first two episodes of Book of Boba are most indebted to, it’s Lawrence. It’s not just the train attack: It’s also the beautiful but desolate depiction of the desert, the savior narrative (without the white lead), and the journey of the foreigner who fits in with and wins over a native tribe. Lawrence even wears Arab robes, a gift from a local leader who gives them to him as a sign of acceptance, as the Tuskens do with Fett toward the end of “The Tribes of Tatooine.”
Despite the best efforts of a resourceful, many-limbed conductor droid, the train falls to the Tusken, er, raiders, who pull alongside at high speed, board the train, and fight car to car. (Now this is podracing.) Even Fett’s former Tusken-kid captor, who’s become a compatriot, has a part to play in the takedown, though it seems dubious that the light he flashes actually aids the Tusken sharpshooters, whose target is tough to miss. When the train comes to a smoking halt, we discover the identity of its owners: the Pykes, a creation of The Clone Wars who operated the spice mines of Kessel in Solo. One of the aforementioned five syndicates, the Pykes are best known as the galaxy’s leading spice dealers (and sansanna spice consumers), though during the Clone Wars they also participated in the invasion of Mandalore orchestrated by the Shadow Collective, the criminal mashup of other orders and syndicates led by Darth Maul. In the span of a single episode, then, Fett’s operations in the past and present have put him on the wrong side of two of the galaxy’s most dangerous criminal entities.
Fett lets the Pyke survivors walk away, with a melon of milk apiece and a message for the syndicate: “These sands are no longer free for you to pass. These people lay ancestral claim to the Dune Sea, and if you are to pass, a toll is to be paid to them.” To drive the message home, the Tuskens spring a leak in the Pykes’ water car and, while basking in the stream, let most of the precious fluid spill onto the sand. (Again, the Fremen would never.)
In a subsequent scene, the Tuskens extend more offerings of fellowship to Fett. Their leader explains that there are many Tusken tribes on Tatooine, some of which are more violent than this dark-robed clan, which depends on secrecy and stealth. “Since the oceans dried, we have stayed hidden,” their leader says, confirming that Tatooine, like Mars (well, maybe), was once wet. Fett tells them that they don’t have to hide, and that they can use the outlanders’ tools and weapons against them, like the Ewoks on Endor. In return, the tribe honors Fett with a lizard that leaps onto his face and crawls up his nose. Some reward.
The lizard leads Fett on a hallucinatory, Luke-on-Dagobah-style vision quest that takes him to two trees, which look like Tatooine’s Trees of the Valar. As the bigger tree wraps its branches around him, he flashes back to his time in the sarlacc pit and his dad departing Tipoca City, and his appearance flickers from old armor to new Tatooine garb, symbolizing his transition to a new life and purpose. (In a mysterious touch, the tree seems to be surrounded by Jawas’ red eyes, which could hint at some shared ancestry between Tuskens and Jawas—not a new idea.) The trees seem to be standing simultaneously in seas of sand and water, reflecting the polar-opposite environments of Fett’s old and new homes. Finally, Fett frees himself from the tree—and the burdens of his old life—by snapping off a branch, which ignites a gush of water that fades into the next day’s desert sky.
The morning after snorting his gekko guide, an exhausted Boba, carrying the very real branch, returns to the Tusken camp, where he loses the lizard, earns the Tusken attire (minus the sweet facemask) that he was wearing in The Mandalorian, and—in a scene reminiscent of a Jedi constructing a lightsaber or the Armorer molding Mando’s beskar—helps chisel, carve, and sand the branch into a personal, metal-reinforced gaderffii stick. The fashioning takes place next to a piece of detritus that echoes a piece of mid-1970s Ralph McQuarrie concept art.
In the final scene, Fett completes his Tusken citizenship exam by participating in a haka-esque dance around the fire with his adoptive tribe (evoking Temuera Morrison’s Maori roots). If I were the Tusken chief, I might be a bit worried about how quickly Fett has made himself at home, performed multiple unmatched feats of heroism, and taken the lead on a lot of the tribe’s big decisions. It makes sense that Fett, like Mando, feels at home among the Tuskens, a partly displaced warrior race with distinctive weapons, getups, and traditions. Unlike Mando, though, Boba has hardly belonged to anyone or anything since his dad (and his mentor Aurra Sing) died. Falling into the Great Pit of Carkoon may be the best thing that ever happened to him.
Although “The Tribes of Tatooine” runs a lot longer than the premiere, it feels shorter, a testament to the tightness and tension of its storytelling and the quality of its action. Book of Boba’s central tale is pretty tropey—it’s basically Dances With Dewbacks—but when hasn’t Star Wars been an amalgam of existing stories and styles? The success of Star Wars projects depends on execution as much as originality, and from a production standpoint, the series is clearly in capable hands.
Even so, the spinoff has more work ahead of it as it fights to escape The Mandalorian’s orbit and establish Boba as a character deserving of extended screen time (and Fennec, who was almost absent from this episode, as a meaningful partner in crime). The Boba we met in The Mandalorian had already left bounty hunting behind, and watching him make that transition via flashback is a little less engaging than watching Mando do the same—and catch fatherly feelings—in real time, with Grogu at his side. That said, Fett may have hidden depths. “The Tribes of Tatooine” hints at why he wants to take Jabba’s (and Bib’s) place, which initially seemed somewhat out of character given the way he was portrayed in The Mandalorian. Perhaps past Boba plans to unite the Tusken tribes of Tatooine and present Boba aspires to do the same with the syndicates, less out of desire for personal gain than out of interest in promoting harmony, order, and the greater good. Perhaps present Boba is still serving the Tuskens’ interests. But like all of us, he’s bound to keep dragging some baggage behind him as he tries to let go of the younger self who idolized his dad and intended to follow in his footsteps. In his vision, Boba’s self is still divided; maybe by the end of the season, that self will solidify, even if it means taking off the trademark armor he worked so hard to reclaim.