From the moment his action figure hit shelves ahead of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, armored bounty hunter Boba Fett has been adored by Star Wars fans. His brief appearances in Empire sparked wild speculation as to his true nature, with many convinced that a character so visually striking had to have a greater role to play in future installments of the series. Indeed, at some point, Star Wars creator George Lucas considered upgrading Fett to primary antagonist of the franchise, but when Return of the Jedi concluded the original trilogy in 1983, Fett died a chump’s death, knocked into the waiting mouth of the Sarlacc by a blinded Han Solo as a comedy beat. Decades of comics and novels have attempted to rehabilitate Boba Fett into the stone-cold badass that fans wanted him to be, an effort undercut by his reintroduction as a ten-year-old kid in 2002’s Attack of the Clones. It took until 2020 for Fett to make another live-action appearance, alongside his spiritual successor Din Djarin in Season 2 of The Mandalorian. Now, he’s the star of his own spin-off, the Disney+ series The Book of Boba Fett, but after almost 40 years and a flood of Star Wars content, its debut episode feels like too little, too late.
The Book of Boba Fett picks up where his appearance on The Mandalorian left off, with the legendary bounty hunter (Temeura Morrison) taking over the criminal empire left behind by his deceased employer Jabba the Hutt. Against the advice of his pragmatic lieutenant Fennic Shand (Ming-Na Wen), Fett attempts to establish himself as an honorable, merciful ruler, which proves to be easier said than done. The series premiere, “Stranger in a Strange Land,” juxtaposes this story with flashbacks to Fett’s escape from the Sarlacc and subsequent enslavement by a tribe of Tusken Raiders. The two temporalities work well together, showing Fett struggling to assert himself as a planetary power while demonstrating that he’s overcome far greater challenges on his way to the throne.
The trouble is, the version of the character that fans waited so long to see has already been realized on The Mandalorian, which filled the position of “terse bounty hunter in badass space armor” with Pedro Pascal’s Din Djarin. So Boba Fett has to become something else. The series wisely leans into star Temeura Morrison’s age (60), depicting Fett as a warrior past his prime who wants to graduate to the business end of the underworld. He’s not as attached to his helmet as Djarin and spends most of the episode without it, and while this helps him to stand apart, it also means surrendering the thing that made Boba Fett cool in the first place. This new series essentially has to rebuild the character from scratch without relying on the trappings that made him famous. What’s left is Morrison, and the first episode doesn’t make much of a case for him as a leading man.
The production also fails to step out of The Mandalorian’s shadow, and with good reason — it has essentially the same crew. “Stranger in a Strange Land” is written by Jon Favreau, who wrote 12 of The Mandalorian’s 16 chapters. The production design is led by The Mandalorian’s Andrew L. Jones and Lucasfilm legend Doug Chiang, the show’s themes are composed by The Mandalorian’s Ludwig Göransson, and even the credits are in the same typeface, displayed over the episode’s concept art just like at the end of each Mandalorian episode. “Stranger in a Strange Land” director Robert Rodriguez, who also oversaw Fett’s return on The Mandalorian, adds none of his own flair to the visual language of the show—in fact the staging and action are well below his usual standards. Even star Ming-Na Wen says she didn’t know she was two weeks into production before she knew she was shooting a new series rather than the next season of The Mandalorian. The Book of Boba Fett is The Mandalorian Season 2.5, and thus absent the excitement of something new.
Of course, the Disney model isn’t built around new, it’s built around more, and for many fans that will be entirely sufficient. There are still six episodes ahead of us, during which The Book of Boba Fett may find an identity of its own, or at least provide evidence that its main character is more than just a memorable action figure.