I’m still offended by Han Solo’s last name.
In a first scene, Solo revealed that Han’s last name is not a family affair; it’s just something handed to him by a terminally bored Imperial minion who became playfully uncreative with our favorite Star Wars villain’s lack of a traveling companion. I moaned about it at the time, and ever since. It’s the vibe you subscribe to when you sit down to watch Boba Fett’s Book on Disney+.
Something has happened to Star Wars stories in recent years. Solo and The Rise of Skywalker mostly had it on the movie side, but the worst offenders have been our now two live-action Disney+ series, boba and its predecessor, The Mandalorian. I’m talking about the prevalence of winks and nods.
It’s a thought that crystallized for me when Boba Fett’s Book visited the Tosche station in Tatooine. You remember that one, don’t you? This is the place a young Luke Skywalker complained about not being able to go to in the first Star Wars movie. The iconic line is actually linked to a deleted scene from A new hope where Luke do go there and meet some locals, including “friends” Camie and Fixer (they’re both a bit of an asshole to Luke).
Boba Fett’s Book heads to Tosche Station in its second episode, and technically the first time in a filmed Star Wars. A story trick is what brings our friend Boba there as he searches for Tatooine’s version of the Hell’s Angels. But that’s not what initially grabs our attention in the minutes before the bounty hunter arrives.
First, we see the interior of Tosche station: it’s a small canteen space occupied mostly by a large group of rambunctious Nikto bikers who cause trouble for the rest of the customers. The camera picks up everything, focusing particular attention on a man and a woman seated near the bikers. Pretty soon, the man makes a comment that enrages the gang moments before Boba steps in and breaks things up.
Credit: ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All rights reserved
Here’s the thing, though: the man and woman are as important from a fanservice standpoint as the setting itself. Deep Star Wars fans whose ears perked up at “Tosche Station” also likely recognized the two humans’ fashion choices. New actors are playing the roles, but it’s clearly Camie (Mandy Kowalski) and Fixer (Skyler Bible), Luke’s not quite friends from the old deleted scene. Still as sullen and disagreeable as ever.
Even if you don’t know who they are, Boba Fett’s Book communicate their meaning. Not directly, mind you; the camera just lingers with them for a while too long. The impression is that we are introduced to characters who will eventually have an important role to play. That’s not it, however. Boba Fett’s Book never really tells us who these two are, and this is the only scene in which they appear.
Just send any curious fan rush to Google with questions about “Tosche Station” and boba Easter eggs. What at first glance appears to be major new character introductions ultimately turns out to be a big, obvious Star Wars nod, a moment that screams “please take care and love us here is something old!“
More than any other Star Wars story in recent memory, Boba Fett’s Book is awash with moments like this. Our friends at IGN made the compelling case that the franchise “has a Tatooine problem,” in the sense that Luke’s “symbolic first step into a bigger world” in A new hope never quite delivered on the promise of taking us far beyond the confines of the desert planet. Of course, we’ve seen a lot more of the Star Wars universe since then; but simultaneously, repeated returns have made Tatooine feel like an anchor to which the entire series is tied.
I agree with that perspective, but I also think the issues here run deeper than a fictional planet. There’s a real-world context that directly bears on the current state of the franchise, and I feel like that informed some of the creative choices on Boba Fett more than anything.
I’m talking about the prevalence of winks and nods.
The Star Wars fandom reached something like a breaking point in 2017 as The Last Jedi arrival. Director Rian Johnson’s divisive take opened up the galaxy far, far away to more people. Until then, the Star Wars fantasy was almost always tied directly to Luke and the Skywalker family. But here’s that cheeky movie suggesting that Rey’s parents were unimportant galactic citizens, and that Force sensitivity can come to anyone.
I loved the pivot, personally. Not because of a problem with older stories. But Johnson’s more inclusive take on Star Wars was apparently meant to shake up the foundations and redefine what a Star Wars story can look like for the modern world. Not everyone agreed. The same kind of vicious backlash that targeted the 2017s Justice League The movie – the pre-Snyder Cut version that was corrected by Joss Whedon – apparently arrived in Star Wars fandom a few months later.
This “dark side” of Star Wars fandom had many opinions, and they were largely of the conservative (small C) variety: Force users are special; Luke is a “chosen” type of character, a special among specials; the Skywalker bloodline is at the heart of Star Wars, and all heroism should be tied to that. There is little room in this vision of Star Wars for progressive (small P) ideas that push fiction in new directions; a few decades worth of ideas to build upon and, in the case of decanonized legends, adapt.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling anything about what Star Wars should look like, to be clear! But the small-still-very vocal contingent of trolls who embraced these ideas became very aggressive in defending their perceived territory. The most infamous example, of course, was the online bullying that prompted The Last Jedi actor Kelly Marie Tran to quit social media completely. But Tran was not alone. Thousands and thousands of words have been written about the toxic Star Wars fandom and how boring it all has become.
All of this context instantly pops into my brain when I think about the current state of Star Wars stories. Boba Fett’s Book takes a decidedly fan-service-oriented approach, mostly to his detriment. That sort of thing can be fun, in moderation; I was as thrilled as anyone to see a live-action version of Cad Bane terrorizing Tatooine. And it’s hard not to love Grogu née “Baby Yoda”, the mandalorian breakout character who clearly has a bigger role to play in what lies ahead.
Credit: ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All rights reserved
However, for any singular “Hell yes!” moments, Boba Fett’s BookThe commitment to fan service seems downright stifling. The terrifying but extremely annoying moment of young, computer-reanimated Luke Skywalker comes to mind most quickly, but it’s not the only one. Cameos from the duo Tosche, Max Rebo, and BD-1 (among others) seem evident in the way they’re spotlighted and inserted into the story. The plot threads involving Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) and the Darksaber – all drawn from post-Disney canon – aren’t much better.
“Boba Fett’s Book” is an ill-chosen title for the story that spanned seven episodes. Many have rightly observed that the season’s home stretch was essentially a continuation of The Mandalorian Season 2. More than that, though, has anyone come out of these seven episodes with a deeper understanding of Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and what drives him?
It’s not Morrison’s performance; he did his best. But the season pretty much abandons its storyline along the way, instead focusing on the criminal underworld of Tatooine before taking a broader turn towards clone wars, rebelsand a diverse assortment of other touchstones from Star Wars’ past.
There is a version of this show where the whole setup of the early episodes feeds into a personal story about Boba Fett and his evolving view of the universe. We can see nuances of it at different times, little hints that there’s a compelling three-dimensional character somewhere behind what’s written. Enriching Boba, who has been popular for decades despite only appearing in the original trilogy for a few minutes, would have been a great outcome for this series.
That’s not what we have, however. Instead, the writers recorded Frankenstein’s monster from a Star Wars story together. Here is some Boba! Here are some Clone Wars and Rebels! Want Legends? A video game reference? Riffs on long-lost deleted scenes? Everything is here ! There are too many guidelines to call this an anthology series, but not enough to warrant the title’s focus on Boba Fett.
Boba Fett’s Book left me suffocated. Each episode is adrift and almost superficially detached from the last. Each one is marked by moments when you can to feel writers wink behind the camera. I know that Disney is capable of taking risks; 2021 Experimental Anime Anthology Star Wars: Visions did it perfectly. But as boba Highlighted to me clearly, these main stories continue to drink deeply and detrimentally from fanservice, seemingly oblivious or untroubled by its implied endorsement of toxic fandom.