“I’ve known you a long time, Boba,” bounty hunter Cad Bane says as he squares off with former bounty hunter Boba Fett in The Book of Boba Fett’s finale. “One thing I can’t figure: What’s your angle?”
Bane was seemingly speaking for everyone who’d invested their time and attention in the first six episodes of the Disney+ spinoff, two of which weren’t about Boba at all. Coming into the season, uncertainty surrounded both the series’ raison d’être and Fett’s potential as a protagonist. From the first post-credits reveal at the end of The Mandalorian’s second season, The Book of Boba Fett’s relationship to the series that spawned it was murky. Fett’s capacity to be more than a cool-looking background character was equally unclear. Perhaps it’s unsurprising, then, that watching the series was a lot like the experience of riding a rancor: exhilarating at times, but bumpy and prone to catastrophic losses of control. When it wasn’t functioning as a false-flag soft launch of The Mandalorian Season 3, The Book of Boba Fett often fell flat, because it couldn’t produce a satisfying answer to Bane’s question or justify its existence as a separate series.
In more than one way, the finale was set up for failure. For starters, it was almost doomed to disappoint compared to the two episodes that preceded it, de facto installments of The Mandalorian that treated viewers to a thrilling and cathartic cavalcade of characters from multiple eras of Star Wars. (Din Djarin! Grogu! R2-D2! Luke Skywalker! Ahsoka! Cobb Vanth! Cad Bane!) Although more crossovers and reveals were widely expected in the finale, Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni didn’t have a Han Solo or Qi’ra up their sleeves; apparently the Pykes were the big bads all along. But the biggest letdown wasn’t the lack of cameos or big-picture implications for the franchise; it was the way the episode muddied the motivations of its main character (if we can call him that). The last act of the season restored Fett to the spotlight, but if anything, the finale made it even less clear what he was doing there in the first place.
“In the Name of Honor,” written by Favreau and—like the premiere and the especially uninspired third episode—directed by co-showrunner Robert Rodriguez, is the longest episode of either The Mandalorian or The Book of Boba Fett, a product of an extended shoot-out that’s supposed to pay off the season’s slow-paced buildup. But no number of explosions and blaster bolts could substitute for emotional stakes, the only semblance of which was supplied by Mando and Grogu, who continued to post a prodigious plus-minus by carrying a franchise that tends to fall flat when they’re off the floor.
Lengthy as it was, the finale fell short in three respects. First, it broke down on a basic level of logic and sequencing, stacking confounding character decisions to set up a special-effects-fest endgame reminiscent of one of the more mind-numbing DC or Marvel movies, in which nuanced storytelling gives way to the wanton destruction of a disposable city that’s caught in the crossfire. Second, it under-delivered on an adrenaline level, both through its repetitive portrayal of Pykes taking potshots at characters protected by both beskar and plot armor, and in its refusal to provide a compelling puppet master who was pulling the Pykes’ strings. And third, it floundered on a storytelling level in its listless stabs at fleshing out its protagonist’s sentiments and motivations; in attempting to tell what the first six episodes of the series had neglected to show, it only further exposed the cracks in the spinoff’s Fett foundation. The best bits of the finale, like the season as a whole, had little to do with its titular lead. The only consolation is that for now, at least, Lucasfilm can stop trying to make Fett happen.
Last summer, Rodriguez said The Book of Boba was “going to blow your mind.” The finale lived up to that billing, though less in the exciting sense than in the way its plotting and half-hearted character work robbed me of brain cells. The bewildering decisions—by characters and creators alike—start in the first scene, which takes place in the ruins of Garsa Fwip’s Sanctuary. As the preceding episode suggested, Fwip is indeed dead, along with any hope of a purpose for the character Jennifer Beals played in a smattering of inessential scenes. (Maybe she’ll pop up in Obi-Wan Kenobi, but even the “Modifier” can’t save someone who’s vaporized.) Surveying the wreckage, Fett tells Fennec Shand, “We are at war. It was inevitable.” For the first time in three weeks, he speaks!
Of course, war was inevitable only because Boba abruptly shape-shifted from a simple man making his way through the galaxy to a jumped-up Daimyo with delusions of grandeur. “Even if we win, there might not be anything left of this city,” Fett says, a price he’s apparently willing to pay. As Boba and his right-hand Shand ruminate on Mos Espa’s sad fate with their typical impassivity, Din strolls in to inform Fett and Fennec that he’s recruited Cobb Vanth and his handy Freetown foot soldiers (approximately 10 of them). Although initially Mando makes it sound as if Vanth pledged his support just for funsies, it soon comes out that Mando promised Cobb that the Daimyo would shut down the spice trade in exchange for his help, which seems like something Din probably should have cleared with Fett first. This business about ending the most profitable part of Jabba’s and Bib’s operation is news to Fennec, and also to the audience. Perhaps it was implied that “ruling with respect” would entail removing the spice from the streets, but this could have been stated, oh, sometime before the finale, given that up until this point it wasn’t at all apparent what Fett actually wanted to do differently from his predecessors.
In fact, Fett doesn’t seem to have thought about banning spice before this scene, but he decides on the spot that in the long run, eliminating his regime’s main source of income will work out well for everyone. “Mos Espa can become a prosperous city under our protection,” he informs Fennec and Din. Fett doesn’t let us in on his blueprint for the economic renewal of Tatooine—exporting sand? Bringing back podracing? Rebranding as a luxury resort where tourists can get some suns?—but I’m sure he has it all figured out, because he’s clearly not making up every aspect of his plan as he goes along. After all, he says, “Spice is killing our people.” We’ll have to take his word for it, given that The Book of Boba Fett has hardly delved into the ramifications of the planet’s criminal implications. What was so bad about Bib’s reign? Thus far, the only hardship we’ve witnessed in Mos Espa is that the mods must resort to stealing overpriced water after they’ve spent their savings on polishing their extremely slow bikes and undergoing voluntary cyborg surgery.
“In the Name of Honor” makes a convincing case that the real culprit killing Mos Espa’s people is Boba Fett, who decides to fight the next phase of the war within the city itself. He comes to this conclusion after spending whole seconds weighing the wise counsel of his teenaged spies, who peer pressure him into surrendering the most fortified place on the planet. “If you want to abandon Mos Espa and hide in your fortress, go ahead,” the main mod says. “We’re staying. The people who live here need our protection.” Evidently, the best way to protect those people is to turn them into collateral damage and reduce their dwellings to rubble instead of settling the conflict on less populated and more tactically advantageous turf. Drawing on his decades of combat experience, Fett immediately accedes to the wishes of (sigh) Skad and Drash and vacates the high ground, the latest indication that he’s unqualified for a leadership role. Fwip’s setup wasn’t called the Sanctuary because it was built to withstand an assault.
The problem isn’t that Boba is bad at being the boss of an incipient syndicate; he’s been following orders—from his father, his other bounty-hunting mentors, and his clients—for most of his life, so it stands to reason that he’d have trouble transitioning to a management role. The problem is Boba’s actual answer to Bane’s question about his angle, which is supposed to explain his last stand: “This is my city. These are my people. I will not abandon them.” To which I would say: Since when?
The first few episodes of The Book of Boba Fett established that Fett cares about the Tuskens, who admitted him to their tribe (after initially imprisoning him, but hey, misunderstandings can occur). But what does his allegiance to the Tuskens have to do with Mos Espa or its people, who range from indifferent to hostile toward the Tuskens? Do Mos Espans even know or care who he is, just because he declared himself Daimyo and walked around town once or twice (in a purposely unostentatious way) before retiring to his out-of-town palace? (At least Eric Adams might actually live in New York.) Why isn’t helping the planet’s surviving Tuskens or improving relations between Tuskens and city folk part of his platform? And as an honorary Tusken, isn’t there some friendly tribe whose help he could call on? (Anyone who thought the Tusken kid and duelist might make their returns because their bodies weren’t shown at the smoldering camp finally had those hopes dashed; Fett’s two closest Tusken companions didn’t even get a Fwip-style sendoff.)
The Tusken tribe wasn’t wiped out by the spice trade; it was wiped out, indirectly, by Fett’s insistence on taking out the Syndicate’s train. Now he’s plunging another community that didn’t ask for a fight into the thick of one, and The Book of Boba Fett is asking us to be behind him because this time he’s determined to be present for the fight. Why should we root for Fett to repeat the pattern or regard this latest costly conflict as a sign of supposed personal growth?
Meanwhile, in Mos Eisley, mayor Mok Shaiz—who’s fled Mos Espa but not Tatooine—is meeting with the Pykes and complaining about the bombing of the Sanctuary. Bane attends too, and the first shot of his foot from behind mirrors the first shot of Fett in Chapter 5 of The Mandalorian, foreshadowing Bane’s assertion later in the episode that he and Fett are a lot alike (which is further reinforced by his using a phrase that Fett has trotted out too). When we (and Bane) join the conversation, Shaiz is saying, “I have to respond. I have to respond in some way. At the very least, I should—” His cryptic remarks seem to hint at a powerful party other than the Pykes—perhaps fans’ long-anticipated intervention of Qi’ra and Crimson Dawn—but that thread leads nowhere. We do learn, though, that the Pykes killed the Tuskens and framed the Kintan Striders for the crime. As in Episode 3, Rodriguez employs a heavy-handed flashback a little later in the episode to remind viewers that the Nikto gangsters exist, though in this case the narrative hand-holding is borderline defensible because it’s been so long, and so much has happened, since this series actually featured Fett. (If Boba feels bad about murdering the bikers for a crime they didn’t commit, he doesn’t show it.)
Even the finale doesn’t feature him full time. After these establishing scenes, Favreau crosses streams and gives the ball back to his leading scorer. In the second-season finale of The Mandalorian, the arrival of a lone X-wing signaled the salvation of Grogu. This time, that X-wing’s approach announces that Grogu is here to help. When we left the little guy, he was facing a choice straight out of the Lone Wolf and Cub playbook: Mando’s mithril and at least a temporary rejection of the traditional Jedi way, or Yoda’s lightsaber and continued training. As expected, he chose the prize behind door no. 1. Grogu doesn’t have his pilot’s license, but R2-D2 adorably drops him off with voice-of-the-fans Peli Motto, who reacts to Artoo calling him “Grogu” the way most of the internet did when Ahsoka told Din (and by extension, Star Wars fans) that The Mandalorian’s breakout character had a name other than “Baby Yoda”: “Whoa, that’s a terrible name. Sorry about that, pal. No way am I calling you that.” Favreau could have saved Grogu’s decision for Season 3, but this accelerated timeline lends some star power to the spinoff, while also echoing The Empire Strikes Back. Like Luke at Cloud City, Grogu is putting his training on hold to help his friends, though unlike Luke, he’ll be on Boba’s side.
As Grogu chows down on dung worms—confirming my fear that Luke wasn’t feeding him enough—Fennec lays out her grand plan back at the Sanctuary. The Gamorreans are stationed at the spaceport, where they’re keeping their snouts peeled for Pyke reinforcements. The mods are assigned to the Worker’s District, and Krrsantan is stationed in Trandoshan territory, which seems extremely ill-advised considering the longstanding enmity between Trandoshans and Wookies and Krrsantan’s recent history of attacking Trandoshans on sight. That’s not the only flaw in Fennec’s scheme, which relies on the admittedly untrustworthy leaders of the local gangs to stay on the sidelines.
At no point in the planning phase, by the way, does anyone seem to recall the rancor at Fett’s command. No offense to the Freetown militia, but the rancor seems more likely to turn the tide of battle than a ragtag group of conscripts from the boonies. I get that this temporary amnesia re: rancors allows Fett to ride to the rescue later, maximizing the dramatic effect, but Favreau and Rodriguez aren’t fooling anyone; Boba was bound to mount that monster from the second it arrived. Hell, forget the rancor; where was the Firespray, which could have made much quicker work of the Pykes’ ground attack? (Granted, that might have required strafing the city that Fett so suddenly professes to love—another reason to fight on the outskirts instead.)
In the midst of this spotty pre-battle briefing, Cad Bane shows up to offer Fett an out: “Let the spice move through Mos Espa, and all this can be avoided.” He also lets slip that the Pykes killed the Tuskens, which ensures that the negotiations are short. (“You know it’s true,” Bane says, echoing the Emperor, Darth Vader, and Han Solo.) Fett suppresses his urge to blast Bane, who tells him that he’s going soft in his old age. “We all do,” says Boba, though Bane has 30 years on Fett and still seems plenty tough to me. With a menacing grin, Bane walks away, which serves as the cue for the local criminal element to betray Boba. The mods and Krrsantan are quickly pinned down, and the Gamorreans are forced to retreat right off the edge of a cliff, suffering the same fate as the Tuskens for their loyalty to Fett.
Fennec speeds off to take the fight to the Pykes in Mos Eisley (and save the mods on her way), which leaves the soon-to-be-vastly outnumbered Boba and Mando to hold the Sanctuary, à la the jail in Rio Bravo or the building at the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Fett tells Mando to leave and save his skin, but abandoning Boba would go against the Creed, and he’s still buying into that bantha fodder (Fett’s words, not mine) despite having been expelled from the Children of the Watch. Fett won’t walk away either: “I can’t abandon Mos Espa,” he says. “These people are counting on me.” Again: Are they? Is there any evidence at all?
The Pykes give Fett another chance to spare Mos Espa a firefight, but instead of surrendering, he sends the mayor’s majordomo out to deliver an oddly alliterative ultimatum about ceasing the spice trade and departing Tatooine. “If you refuse these terms,” the emissary reluctantly reads, “the arid sands of Tatooine will once again flourish with flowered fields fertilized with the bodies of your dead” (which sounds fairly florid for Fett). While the Pykes are thinking this through, Boba and Din rocket out of their hideout and open fire from above. What follows is an extended sequence of co-op horde mode, in which the Pykes display sub-stormtrooper marksmanship. As Boba and Mando blast away back-to-back and beskar-to-beskar, every bolt aimed their way magically misses or hits armor, harmlessly impacting on the surface.
Just as the barrage becomes overwhelming, the Freetown contingent arrives (minus Marshal Vanth), joined not long after by the mods and a wounded but still standing Krrsantan. For an instant, the streets are clear—and then the Pykes deploy a pair of Scorpenek annihilator droids, Clone Wars–era killing machines that first appeared in concept art for Attack of the Clones. You thought it was weird that Boba held his rancor in reserve? Well, the Pykes can play that game too, opting to die in droves before sending in their artillery. Fortunately for Fett and Co., the droids can’t aim either, but their droideka-style shields make them impervious to blasters, rockets, and the Darksaber to boot.
“We need reinforcements,” Daimyo Obvious says, almost 10 minutes into the fight. “From where?” Mando asks. “You’ve run out of friends.” Not quite! Boba’s been brainstorming, and he’s remembered his rancor. (Which he’s presumably spent time training at some point since Chapter 3, though the last time we saw it or Danny Trejo was when Boba said, “We begin today.”) While he jets off to recover his steed from the palace where he could have holed up from the start, Mando finds friends too, as Motto and Grogu roll up in a droid-driven rickshaw. Mando is suitably surprised, and pleased, when Grogu emerges from under a blanket and puts his recent acrobatic training to use by leaping into Din’s arms. “I missed you too, buddy,” Mando says, and then “Hey, that’s the shirt. You got the shirt.” It’s touching, of course, though I wish we could have had more time to savor this reunion, rather than having it happen at high speed in the middle of an interminable battle. As Motto says, “Save your tender moment. We’ve got a Scorpenek droid chasing us.” I care much more about Mando and Grogu than I do the droid, but we weren’t expecting to see these two together until December, so we’ll take whatever OTP tenderness we can get. (It still seems like there’s either an oral history or an exposé to be written about how this season ended up structured so strangely.)
Their reverie ends when the RIC droid falls apart, sending the cart’s occupants flying. Mando snags Grogu in midair like OBJ in the end zone, and that’s when the rancor arrives, bearing Boba on its back like an ichthyodont. The rancor’s claws weaken the droid’s shields enough for the Darksaber to slice in, and when the droid recovers to put Mando in a compromised position, Grogu bails him out—not by levitating it as he did with the mudhorn, but by pulling a piston out of its leg. More Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla action ensues, but the rancor eventually subdues both machines, bringing an end to about 20 minutes of largely suspense-free fighting. (I know this is a Disney+ show and that no good guys were going to die aside from the Gamorreans, a few nameless mods, and who knows how many Mos Espans—who at least had the sense to clear off the streets—but man, make it look good, at least. You’re telling me the mods are crack shots but the Pykes and their droids can’t hit our heroes at point-blank range?)
Even after the droids go down, there are two more foes to fight before the boss rush can come to an end. The first is Cad Bane, who boldly ambles up to the rancor and delivers a dose of flamethrower to the face, causing it to buck Boba off its back. That sets up the Boba-Bane standoff that was once intended for The Clone Wars but never produced. “Don’t toy with me,” Fett says, hinting at their history. “I’m not a little boy any longer. And you are an old man.” (He also insists, once more for good measure, that “This is my city.”) Bane taunts Fett about the Tuskens, lands a solid burn about Boba’s bacta tank, and says “I’m still faster than you,” a boast he backs up by outdrawing Fett and hitting him in the arm.
As he advances on his fallen foe to finish him off, Bane sums up the central conflict of Fett’s character arc: Can he leave his past and the legacy of his father behind? “You gave it a shot,” Bane says. “You tried to go straight. But you’ve got your father’s blood pumping through your veins. You’re a killer. This isn’t the first time I beat you out on a job. There’s no shame in it. Consider this my final lesson: Look out for yourself. Anything else is weakness.”
Or is it?! Just as Bane delivers those last two lines, contradicting Fett’s epiphany from Chapter 4 that “You can only get so far without a tribe,” Fett reuses a move from his fight with Krrsantan, whips out his hidden gaffi stick, and disarms Bane, as if to say “See? The Tuskens mattered after all!” (I’m sure they’d be gratified that Fett found a use for his souvenir of their sacrifice, though Cad wasn’t the one who killed them.) “I knew you were a killer,” Bane says, but these days Fett is killing for the greater good, or at least what he believes it to be. He deflects Bane’s last-ditch flamethrower volley and uses the stick to stab him through the heart, assuming his heart is roughly where a human’s would be. I hate to see Bane lose to a past-his-prime Boba, but he may not be dead. As Fett walks away, the readout on Bane’s chest is still beeping, and you wouldn’t believe what Tatooine’s surgeons can do these days. Even if he doesn’t survive, he’ll likely still serve as a recurring character in series set in earlier eras.
Boba barely gets a second to savor his victory, because another crisis soon shunts him from the stage. The last obstacle between the anti-Pyke crew and a happy ending is the rancor, who’s gone rogue. This situation seems solvable, but the mods won’t wait for Fett to come control his pet. Instead, they open fire on the ally who just saved their asses, scaring him into climbing a tower King Kong–style. Mando, who had a hard time riding blurrgs, doesn’t do any better when he tries to tame the rancor; he may mount a mythosaur someday, but the rancor is Boba’s beast. Although he can’t control the off-leash animal, Din’s beskar keeps him from becoming a snack, and Grogu saves the day by using the Force to soothe the rampaging rancor, after which the tired twosome snuggle up for a nap. (Maybe the mithril will come in handy in a future fight?) Over in Mos Eisley, Fennec executes the mayor and the Pyke commander, which is hardly a test for her skills.
In the season’s last (pre-credits) planetside scene, Fett and Fennec stroll down Mos Espa’s suddenly-less-mean streets, awkwardly accepting hosannas from their appreciative public. “Why must everyone bow at me?” Boba says. Not since the finale of WandaVision has a series so blithely given its protagonist a pass for fucking up a town. Fett’s final words are “We are not suited for this.” I don’t disagree. (Maybe he means he’s not used to public approval, but the comment comes off as Fett still feeling on the fence about being Daimyo, which isn’t a stirring “I am Iron Man” note to end on.)
Before the credits roll, we get one more glimpse of the season-stealing faces/helmets of the franchise: Mando is flying his fighter off-planet, with Grogu occupying his appointed place in the old astromech bubble. Grogu holds his favorite toy, salvaged from the Razor Crest, and taps the glass to get Mando to engage the N-1’s afterburner, sending us out of the season with a smile. The triumphant, reimagined ending theme features a chorus singing Boba’s name, which makes it sound like the “Peter Dinklage” version of the Game of Thrones theme. This time, there’s no new show announced in a stinger; instead, we see Cobb Vanth (who hasn’t even shared a scene with Fett) submerged in Boba’s bacta tank, with the “Modifier” poised to save him via abilities that some may consider to be unnatural. Maybe Bane will be next.
With that, the questions we had when the season started are joined or replaced with a fresh set. What explains the sloppiness of the storytelling in comparison to Favreau and Filoni’s work on The Mandalorian? Why did Rodriguez’s action scenes seem so painfully prolonged, in contrast to Steph Green’s scintillating train heist in Chapter 2? (Or Taika Waititi’s better-paced and poignant first-season finale of The Mandalorian, a more riveting version of an urban free-for-all.) Why make the Tuskens the heart of the story for three episodes and, in the end, reduce them to a symbolic stick? Why introduce the Twins and never bring them back? Why quote the Crimson Dawn theme and not include Crimson Dawn, making Qi’ra the Mephisto of The Book of Boba Fett? I wouldn’t mind the misdirects if they camouflaged some other intriguing development, but nope: nothin’ but Pykes. Maybe Favreau is saving an interesting adversary for a still-unannounced second season.
Hopefully he’s also saving something for The Mandalorian Season 3, a subject we’ll explore more in the coming days. But there’s time to cook up more Mando adventures: Grogu and Din’s next ride is presumably about 10 months away, with The Bad Batch, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Andor coming in the meantime to tide us over. With a few years of hindsight, maybe Boba’s journey will fit more neatly into a well-woven tapestry, playing a part in the interlinked tale that The Mandalorian, Ahsoka, and possible spinoffs to come are planning to tell. That might make this season seem less like a kludge, but for now, it looks like a whiplash-inducing, grafted-together aggregation of the start of the flagship show’s third season and what should have been a Solo-style anthology movie about Boba. (More on that this week, too.) Its fluctuations in quality confirmed what we should have already known: For both better and worse, there’s no such thing as a stand-alone story in Disney’s dominant universes. The Book of Boba Fett was one uneven volume in a Star Wars streaming library that grows bigger by the year.