Goodfettas

As entertaining as the The Book of Bobba Fett sometimes is, it ultimately has too many ideas for its own good.

*Full spoilers for Book of Bobba Fett and the rest of Star Wars Canon*

Book of Bobba Fett is a tough show to generalise about. My reaction constantly cycled from “this is really cool” to “this is really dumb”. Whilst the story veered so wildly that the only way I can really discuss it is by breaking it down into into chunks.

The first two episodes pick up from the stinger at the end of the Mandalorian season 2 in which Bobba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) seize control of the Jabba the Hut’s criminal empire. We see them managing that empire, whilst fending off challenges from those who would have liked to have seen the status quo on Tatooine remain. This is intercut with flashbacks to the aftermath of Bobba’s escape from the Sarlac Pit, in which he falls in with Tusken Raiders. The ‘present day’ (as it were) sections meandered without obvious stakes or directions. The flashbacks were far more successful. As the Native American writer Jordan Maison argues in an excellent essay for Gizmodo, these episodes provide “the single most genuine look at Indigenous cultures in a galaxy far, far away to date”. They also give Morrison a chance to re-establish Bobba as a resourceful, stoic figure. The Tusken’s lack of English also makes room for some visual story telling.*

However, Bobba’s time with the Tuskens is wrapped up at the very start of episode 3 with their untimely fridging. For a couple of episodes that leaves us to track how events develop on Tatooine in the ‘present’. We might expect this to allow for the pace to build. Instead, we get several strange digressions. Most jarringly the introduction of the “Mods”, a group of Quadrophenia inspired yoofs driving bright coloured speeder bikes around Mos Espa. A pair of Hutts turn up and then leave again. Finally, we reach the gasp subduing revelation that the big bads of the series are the fish-themed Pyke crime syndicate from Solo.

Then the Book of Bobba Fett takes a surprising shift away from being about Bobba Fett. Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) is reintroduced for what is essentially s.3 ep.1 of the Mandalorian. And for one glorious episode it all just works. Even though the events it shows are almost mundane, we see how heartbreakingly adrift Din is without Grogu. Slotting an episode of Mandalorian into the Book of Bobba Fett like this worked. However, fitting in a second one becomes awkward. In the penultimate episode, we meet Grogu, Ahsoka and Deepfake Luke Skywalker again, whilst Bobba is upgraded from absent to a non-speaking role in his own show. The consequences and weight of the Mandalorian s.2 finale is essentially wiped out by Grogu choosing his attachment to Din over being a jedi. The same scenes also demonstrate that these CGI replicas of characters work fine for individual moments, but are offputting and unconvincing but are no substitute for a human actor in scenes where they have to convey nuance and generate empathy.

Then we are on to the all action denouement in which Bobba and his allies fight the Pykes for control of Tattoine. This features a rancour saving the day, Grogu and Din being reunited, the Mods and the people of Mos Pelgo reaching an understanding, and the ruthless bounty hunter Cad Bane getting his comeuppance.

None of this is bad but it is messy. The show felt lackadaisical in the moment and then rushed in hindsight. Characters and plot threads are built-up, dropped and sometimes picked up again seemingly at random. We jump from Book of Bobba Fett into the Mandalorian with just a bar of music to warn us. An arc which should have taken Grogu a whole season is done in part of an episode. We are given enough time with the Mods for them to be distracting but not long enough to become acclimatised or attached to them. Despite being the co-lead of the show, Fennec is not given an arc or even a coherent motivation.

Nowhere is this confusion more obvious than in how the series deals with its central character. Morrison ably depicts Bobba as a man of warmth, compassion and honour. In short, very much not the guy Vader singles out for a warning against disintegrations! The Tuskens are presented as the agents of this redemption. His time with them supposedly teaches him that “everyone needs a tribe”. However, the script doesn’t sell this transformation. We don’t see him trying to be the ruthless old Bobba and this backfiring amongst the Tuskens, nor do we see scenes where he has to wrestle with his new intentions and his old instincts. His face turn just sort of happens through rapid onset osmosis.**

It is also a shame given how central the Tuskens are set up to be that they essentially disappear from the start of episode 3 onwards. Their absence leaves a thematic and emotional void at the centre of the show, which it only fills by cannabilsing the Din/Grogu relationship from the Mandalorian.

The lack of focus is not fatal. Too many ideas are probably preferable to too few. However, the Book of Bobba Fett left me with the uncomfortable sense that solid storytelling had been replaced with an onslaught of accumulated cool things. This approach is not sustainable basis for an ongoing franchise. To keep going Star Wars needs to open up dramatic possibilities as quickly as it explores them. Regrettably, the Book of Bobba Fett did the opposite.

* It’s perhaps to be expected that Star Wars is at its best when its storytelling is primarily visual. It’s relationship to dialogue has often been strained. Think “somehow Palpatine returned” and “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere”!

** Just a thought but maybe they should have left Bobba as a villain. He could serve as an antagonist and dark mirror to Din Djarin.

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