SPOILERS for Episodes 5 and 6 of The Book of Boba Fett.
Before I start writing this, I need to say that this post is not a knock on Temuera Morrison or his performance in this show. It’s about the limitations of Boba Fett’s character, and those limitations probably hinder the performance that Temuera can give. I think he’s doing his best with the writing he’s given!
Okay, so I was going to blog about how boring and surface-level The Book of Boba Fett. I made myself watch the first four episodes of this show, and they were so dull! When I was watching those episodes, my sister would occasionally poke her head in and say, “NO ONE ASKED FOR THIS!”
And she’s partly right. Most Star Wars fans did not ask for The Book of Boba Fett. But Boba has this weird cult following of people who REALLY want to watch and/or read about Boba having various adventures. Those people read a bunch of novels about Boba during the ’80s and ’90s, and they’ve been clamoring for a Boba Fett movie. So this show exists to placate them. I hope they enjoy it.
The thing is, Boba’s not meant to be a main character. He works best as a flashy visiting character because that’s what he’s always been. Boba shows up, looks cool, and does badass stuff. Then he leaves or falls into a Sarlacc pit. I think Boba should show up every so often in things like The Mandalorian, but he doesn’t have enough of an interior (or exterior) struggle to warrant an entire show about him.
That’s why I loved Episodes 5 and 6 of The Book of Boba Fett. Instead of focusing on the (honestly rather dull) underworld of Mos Espa, it revisits characters that we love and that have some sort of struggle going on. Our friend the Mandalorian is missing his adopted child Grogu and struggling with the fundamentalist ideas of the rather extreme Mandalorian culture he was raised in. Cobb Vanth struggles to keep his town safe on a planet that inherently attracts dangerous criminals and outlaws.
Boba Fett, on the other hand, wants to be a respectful crime lord because…why not? And he went native with the Tuskens. Okay? That’s not an interesting struggle. The only interesting things was that the Tuskens were yet again humanized after years of George Lucas treating them as a violent “other” type of people. (Newsflash: George Lucas has never been good at representation.)
I think I prefer Mando and Cobb over Boba because I had no expectations for their characters when they were introduced, and they were given sympathetic backstories. Boba Fett…worked for the Galactic Empire and froze Han Solo in carbonite to deliver him to Jabba the Hutt. Sure, the guy has cool armor, but why am I supposed to root for a guy who did those things?
Mando and Cobb have done not-great things, but they’ve often struggled because of those decisions. Mando lost his covert (tribe of other Mandalorians) because he took money from Moff Gideon’s Imperial Remnant and wouldn’t hand Grogu over to them. Cobb killed many Tuskens (supposedly to protect Mos Pelgo/Freetown), and that makes it difficult to collaborate with the Tusken tribe that wants to destory the Krayt Dragon that threatens both of their communities.
Boba never really faces those kinds of consequences. He mostly ambles around trying to take over the crime lord throne of Mos Espa, but people are either indifferent or hostile to his new reign. And then the narrative tries to make him a good guy, but he doesn’t make a very compelling hero. Boba Fett just sort of…is.
I think my frustrations with Boba come back to this issue: Boba Fett is not a protagonist. He’s a cool minor character. Not every character is meant to be a protagonist, and that’s fine. You can still love them anyway.
For the record, I don’t think Cobb Vanth could carry a show on his own, either. (Timothy Olyphant can, but that’s a different post.) Mos Pelgo/Freetown and Tatooine as a whole doesn’t have enough going on for an entire show about Cobb to be truly interesting. Cobb is a fun character, but I think he’s best in small doses, mainly acting as a friend and ally to Mando. And the same is true for Boba.
I’ve seen a few memes on social media that have Mando telling Boba “this is my show now” or say things like “Boba Fett to cameo in The Book of Boba Fett.” While those memes are amusing, I think people aren’t realizing why the show’s narrative moved away from Boba. The writers probably got bored with writing him because he doesn’t have clear motivations, and the fandom wouldn’t like it if he changed.
That’s the thing about protagonists: they have to grow and change as the narrative goes along, and I don’t if hardcore Boba Fett fans actually want him to do that. The thing about Boba Fett is that when he was introduced in The Empire Strikes Back, all the ways back in 1980*, he didn’t have a lot of dialogue, but he looked cool. And he was heavily marketed through action figures and stuff. So Gen-Xer children** in the early 1980s had this cool bad guy action figure that they played with and projected their fantasies onto. So all the people who have become fans of Boba Fett over the years are excited over a character that mainly exists in their heads.
*Nine years before I was even born!
**I feel that it’s important to call out the Gen Xers for Boba’s popularity because they were the children who were playing with the Boba Fett actions figures and making up stories about him. In fact, I think Jon Favreau, David Filoni, and Robert Rodriguez were some of those Gen-Xer children. Compare their enthusiasm for Boba to my Baby Boomer parents’ reaction to the appearance of Boba’s armor in the Season 2 premiere of The Mandalorian: after they watched that episode, I asked each of my parents separately if they recognized that armor, and each one of them said no. And my dad was a big Star Wars fan when the original trilogy was released. But the Baby Boomers were young adults when the original trilogy came out, and thus, they weren’t viewing Boba Fett with a child’s imagination the way the Gen Xers were. This is a slightly silly tangent, but I wanted to talk about how Boba’s popularity is at least somewhat generational and has to do with children’s imaginations.
Like, authors tried writing novels about Boba Fett, and I guess some people liked them. But I’ve also heard that some of the Star Wars fandom didn’t like what one of the novel writers, Karen Travers, did with Boba Fett. She apparently had him survive the Sarlacc and then have new adventures, and not everybody was on board with that. Karen Travers was apparently a big fan of the character, and I think she wrote her version of Boba Fett, but I guess her readers didn’t want her Boba to get in the way of their own versions of the character.
And that’s the thing with this show: people want more Boba Fett, but I think the showrunners probably don’t want to get in the way of people’s personal versions of the character. So they have to move on to other characters that they can dramatize without stirring up fandom controversy.
Also, Boba Fett looks cool, but he doesn’t have Mando’s pathos or Cobb’s swagger. He’s just this stoic bounty hunter who looks cool and does cool stuff. There isn’t more to him than that. And that’s fine. I just think Lucasfilm and Disney+ need to be aware of that. They may try to make more Star Wars content by spinning off various characters into their own shows, but they need to know that not every character is a protagonist. And that’s okay because minor and supporting characters can be effective in their own ways.
My sister suggested that The Book of Boba Fett should actually be called Star Wars Adventures, Volume 1, and I agree with her. Instead of try to force supporting characters into lead roles without testing them first, use an anthology series to see if they can carry an episode first. Boba’s narrative got stale pretty quickly because there’s nowhere for the narrative to go, thematically or emotionally. That’s why we ended up focusing on Mando, Cobb, and Grogu (the Mandalorian-Jedi Formerly Known at The Child/Baby Yoda). Those characters are more dynamic and emotionally engaging than Boba.
Ultimately, the narrative goes back to the characters that can make it interesting. I can’t fault the writers for doing that because Boba Fett is more of a Star Wars fan’s fantasy than a three-dimensional character.
Then again, that’s just my opinion as a Millennial who never owned a Boba Fett action figure.