The Mandalorian fulfilled its unstated purpose to Boba Fett fans in episode 14 “The Tragedy” by confirming the continued existence of the greatest bounty hunter in the galaxy. Revealing his iconic armor at the start of the season and a glimpse of him on Tatooine were pleasant appetizers but I’m sure I was not the only one who shouted in excitement at the sight of Slave I streaking across a clear blue sky in the early minutes of the episode.
I have always been a Boba Fett fan. I have a pewter Boba Fett figure and alarm clock on my desk, and Boba Fett and Slave I ornaments hanging on my Christmas tree. I broke the binding of my copy of “The Art of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” because I kept turning to the Boba Fett concept art. After The Mandalorian based the ice spider in episode 10, “The Passenger” on Ralph McQuarrie concept art for The Empire Strikes Back, I now hope to someday see a Mandalorian wearing the white armor on the show.
Ironically, while I watched the original 1978 broadcast of the Star Wars Holiday Special, I missed the animated segment introducing the character. We had company over that night and it must have come on when mom was serving cake from Bea’s Bakery; the only thing that could lure me away from Star Wars. My interest in Boba Fett thus began with the 1979 mail-away action figure, which I still have. He just looked so cool in green and gray armor, wrist and knee blasters, and a jet pack with rocket launcher (though my version has the rocket, the launcher mechanism was already removed). I wrote about the strange wonderfulness surrounding seeing Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for the first time. Finally watching Boba Fett on the big screen was one reason for my love of the movie.
“So what is it about Boba Feet?” You may ask.
“He only had a few minutes of screen time and lines of dialogue in Empire.” You may point out.
“He had a ridiculously stupid death in Return Of The Jedi.”…We’ll get to that.
As I pointed out, there is the look. Boba Fett’s armor is not only covered with weapons, he has wookie scalps hanging from his belt. Remember Han’s warning, “It’s not wise to upset a wookie?” Yeah. Boba Fett has done far worse than upset more than a few of them. This guy screams, Don’t Mess With Me.
Boba Fett and Han Solo share an appeal distinct from Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in that they are both common humans. They have no connection to Force and its mystical powers. Just like anyone can imagine becoming a swashbuckling scoundrel like Han, they can imagine becoming a feared bounty hunter like Boba Fett, and all without surrendering yourself to the Dark Side, or running around a swamp planet trying to levitate rocks.
I always felt Boba Fett wins in a comparison with Han Solo. When we first meet Solo in A New Hope, he’s already wanted by Jabba the Hutt for dumping a smuggling shipment after detecting an Imperial cruiser. His excuse to Greedo, “Even I get boarded sometimes. Do you think I had a choice?” comes off a bit whiny. He was being pursued by the cruiser. He simply saw it, got spooked, and ran. So much for being a hotshot.
When we meet Boba Fett, he is with Darth Vader and other notable bounty hunters, for instructions to locate the Millennium Falcon and capture the opponents alive. “No disintegrations” is one of the great lines of the movie, and the fact that Vader has to tell Boba Fett suggests he has either employed Boba before or knows of his reputation for letting nothing stop him from getting his prey.
Han does show some skill by evading imperial pursuit through a mock attack run at a star destroyer’s bridge, followed by an insanely complicated maneuver of deceleration, swinging around, and clamping on to the hull. The result being the Falcon mysteriously dropped off the ship’s scopes. Once the imperial fleet dumps its trash before jumping to hyperspace, Han disengages from the hull and safely floats, undetected, with the rest of the garbage. It’s a good plan that appeared to work, except for Slave I drifting out of the star destroyer along with the trash. Boba Fett knew the only way Han could have escaped and successfully countered it. He then proceeded to stealthily follow the Falcon and even determined its intent to travel to Bespin, allowing Vader and his troops to arrive ahead of them and set a trap.
At Bespin, we meet Lando Calrissian, old “friend” of Han and the administrator of the facility. Through slick and polished, when Lando questions Vader’s plans for Leia, Vader turns on him with such menace, Lando immediately backs down. This is different from when Boba Fett demands to know about Solo, “What if he dies? He’s no good to me dead.” Instead of a threat, Vader responds with, “The Empire will compensate you if he dies.” These exchanges demonstrate Boba Fett’s value to Vader and the Empire as opposed to Lando, who is clearly disposable.
This brings me to Return Of The Jedi and the Sarlacc Pit. Nothing about Boba Fett’s fate, from the ignition of his jet pack to being swallowed by the sarlacc, makes sense with everything we know or surmise about the character. So why did it end that way? I read a recent article stating George Lucas always thought Boba Fett survived the Sarlacc Pit. This is interesting because years ago in the early Internet days, I read an interview with Lucas in which he was asked about Boba Fett. He explained he didn’t know about the character’s popularity coming out of Empire when he wrote his death in Jedi. Boba was just a loose string in the story. This never sat well with me. It was not the fate befitting the greatest bounty hunter.
While I am happy to see Boba Fett’s return in The Mandalorian, I am also reminded of the old warning, “Be careful what you wish for.” The quality of Star Wars storytelling has been inconsistent, to say the least, since The Force Awakens. I would be content to have him fade from the spotlight once again, to exist only in memory and mystery, but we know that’s not going to happen, not with a Boba Fett series now planned. Hopefully Boba’s journey will trade a cute sidekick for a harsh gritty story of danger and, of course, disintegrations.
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