The Book of Boba Fett may be the most uneven event series Disney (DIS)+ has offered in its young life. After a mediocre debut, a strong sophomore episode, and a dreadful follow-up, here we are on the upswing again: “Chapter 4: The Gathering Storm” is fitted with pulp sci-fi action and youthful humor in the vein of the original Star Wars trilogy. More importantly, the characters now have clear goals and motivations and the story is actually moving forward. There’s still no rhyme or reason to the pacing of the season as a whole, but for the moment, we’re cruising pleasantly in the fast lane.
“The Gathering Storm” begins another bacta tank flashback, which takes up the first two thirds of the episode. Following the death of his Tusken tribe, Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) wanders the Dune Sea atop his friendly bantha, waiting for the opportunity to strike against Bib Fortuna and take over Jabba the Hutt’s former palace. One night, he follows a distant set of flares and finds a mortally wounded Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen). This is the aftermath of The Mandalorian’s “Chapter 5: The Gunslinger,” in which Shand is shot in the gut by a fellow bounty hunter. Boba brings her to a nearby mod parlor, where a rad-looking technician/artist (Stephen Bruner, a.k.a. bassist Thundercat) replaces her damaged organs with droid parts. The mod parlor is a textbook example of a cool Star Wars location, populated by well-designed characters and complete with its own distinctive soundtrack.
To repay him for saving her life, Shand offers to help Fett retrieve his lost starship and armor. The ship is still where he parked it in Jabba’s garage, now guarded by Bib Fortuna’s forces; the armor is presumably still down the gullet of the Sarlaac, though we know he won’t find it there. They go for the ship, first, and the effort is silly and entertaining the way that an adventure in the first act of a Star Wars film tends to be. Their opponents are pushovers, dispatched via gags and gadgets. (When threatened by Fett, one of the smaller, cuter guard droids decides to punk out and flip his own off switch.) If The Book of Boba Fett employed kids cartoon antics like this more often, I wouldn’t complain so much about its failures as a dramatic series. Their getaway with the ship is a reasonably fun set piece, establishing Boba Fett and Fennec Shand’s working relationship and the latter’s fighting prowess better than any previous scene in the series so far. Their subsequent encounter with the Sarlaac, in which the subterranean beast tries to drag Fett’s ship into its maw, is similarly diverting and ends with a satisfying bang.
After their mission together is a qualified success (they recover the ship, they’ll find the armor later on The Mandalorian), Fett invites Shand to be a part of the dynasty he’s planning to build. Here, Fett spells out his goals plainly: He’s tired of risking his neck fighting in pointless power struggles between foolish crime lords. He wants to be the thinking man’s gangster, someone who resolves squabbles before they blow up into bloody, costly wars. His time with the Tuskens has taught him that “you can only go so far without a tribe,” and he believes that if he offers his colleagues and followers respect and loyalty, he’ll receive it in turn and everyone will prosper. (What kind of business they’re supposed to profit from is still unclear; it’s apparently above board to center a “kids show” around a crime boss so long as we’re never explicit as to what kind of crimes he’s ordering.) This mission statement is pretty easy to extrapolate from his actions over the past few episodes. I had hoped that if we were to get a full explanation that there might be some additional wrinkle to reveal, but it’ll do.
This brings us up to date with the events we’ve already seen on The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, and since it coincides with Fett completing his recuperation in the bacta tank, might also spell the end of this season’s bouncing between timelines. The flashbacks have been by far the most entertaining part of the series, but their conclusion means that the story in the present will have to actually get moving. And it does, to a degree, as the episode’s final 13 minutes are occupied taking care of some business concerns. Boba returns to the Sanctuary, where proprietor Garsa Fwip (Jennifer Beals) tries to talk down an unruly Black Krrsantan (Carey Jones) from assaulting her customers. Boba hires Krrsantan to stand guard over a meeting of Tatooine’s other crime lords, former captains under Jabba who have gone into business for themselves. Boba invites them to join him in defending the planet from a takeover by the Pyke Syndicate, and barring that, to stay out of his way while he eliminates the Pykes himself. They opt for the latter, and Boba prepares to prove his worthiness as the planet’s daimyo by expelling the Pykes once and for all. Fennec tells him he’ll need muscle, and a motif from The Mandalorian plays under the episode’s final moments, teasing that Din Djarin may be making an appearance on the spin-off.
Like every episode of The Book of Boba Fett so far, “The Gathering Storm” is oddly constructed, in this case packing all of its action in its middle third and closing on an anticlimactic business meeting. But, compared to its immediate predecessor, this chapter is a breeze. One can only hope the second half of the season is more consistent than the first, but after the roller coaster of the past three weeks, it’s hard to be optimistic.