By now, we’ve all had time to absorb an unfortunate fact: The Book of Boba Fett’s (BoBF) first season is a total mess. It hasn’t “destroyed Star Wars” or any of the other hyperbolic claims made by the show’s more alarmist detractors, but it’s pretty bad. The plot is glacial, the conflict is as confusing as it is bland, and Boba himself is a one dimensional cutout. This is especially disappointing after The Mandalorian provided us with some of the best live-action Star Wars in years. But why is BoBF so bad, and could it have been better? Now that we’ve had a few weeks to process, it’s time to answer those questions.
What’s Wrong With This Show?
A lot of things! BoBF has scene-level issues like any other story, but the real problems are foundational.
Cutting to The Mandalorian
Episodes five and six are a strange experience in this show. On the one hand, it’s a palpable relief when the story pivots away from Boba Fett and his bland crew to focus on Din Djarin and Grogu, characters we already have significant attachment to. On the other hand, when a story is in trouble, cutting away from it doesn’t improve things! In fact, it just creates more problems.
For one thing, the Din and Grogu scenes aren’t actually very good. After some cool bounty hunting and Darksaber politics at the start of episode five, we watch Din slowly put a ship together for half an hour. Then we visit Grogu and discover that modern Star Wars is fully embracing the prequel films’ idea that Jedi aren’t allowed to have any outside attachments. Great, Luke is starting a cult now. Fun times.
That distasteful issue aside, very little happens with Grogu’s scenes either, except the little guy making an offscreen decision to skip out on this cult business and head back to his space dad. Hopefully no Mandalorian fans decided to skip BoBF, otherwise they’ll be very confused when season three starts and not only is Grogu back with Din, but Din’s also been booted from the Death Watch for lapsing on the rule of always wearing his helmet.*
This all pales in comparison to the real problem though: by switching to Din and Grogu for the better part of two episodes, BoBF robs its actual story and protagonists of time they desperately needed. Boba’s war with the Pyke Syndicate is tragically underdeveloped, and losing such a big percentage of the season is one reason why. This would be even worse if Boba was a character we actually liked, as then we’d have been yanked out of a story we were enjoying to go watch a different story for a while. You know things are bad when a blow is softened by the protagonist being super boring.
As bad as Din and Grogu’s adventures are, they aren’t actually the worst aspect of this show when it comes to wasting time. That honor goes to the flashback scenes, which take up an extraordinary amount of time. The early episodes seem to spend at least 50% of their scenes in the past, with episode four being particularly bad. The flashbacks get less severe from there, but they never go away entirely.
The most obvious problem with the flashbacks is they starve the present storyline until it’s a desiccated husk with little to offer. The show speedruns Boba and his right-hand assassin, Fennec, through all of their actions in the present because there’s no time for anything else. This exacerbates the existing feeling that we don’t really know anything about Boba, his motivations, or his enemies. It’s especially bad for the story’s criminal-politics plot, most of which is condensed into a single meeting scene where Boba talks to the various family leaders. We have no context for anything they discuss, what the different characters want, or why Boba thinks he can trust them to keep their word.
In return, the flashbacks give us precisely nothing of use. A lot of time is spent showing us stuff we had pretty much figured out. How did Boba Fett escape the sarlacc? He climbed out. How did he lose his armor? The Jawas took it. How did he get his ship back? He shot the people who had it. The list goes on. Some things actually make less sense than they did before. I assumed he had some medical equipment with him when he saved Fennec from her traumatic blaster wound back in The Mandalorian, but no. Apparently he had time to take a leisurely bantha ride into town first. I guess it wasn’t that serious a traumatic blaster wound.
The flashbacks’ other focus is to show Boba Fett bonding with a group of Tuskens. This doesn’t make any sense. The Tuskens enslave Boba and treat him horribly, and then he joins them instead of getting the heck out of dodge at the first opportunity. It seems like maybe this is to justify why he can call on Tusken allies in the present, but no, the Tuskens all die in the flashbacks. Then it seems like maybe this is to set up a grudge match, but again, the answer is no. Boba quickly gets revenge on the Tuskens’ killers, and it’s not until way too late in the finale that the show finally reveals how the Pykes were actually behind it. Boba is already fighting the Pykes by then, so it doesn’t matter.
All this just to explain why Boba has a gaffi stick in The Mandalorian.
An Underwhelming Crime Lord
At the end of The Mandalorian’s second season, Boba Fett guns down a rival named Bib Fortuna and takes over Jabba’s palace, making him the new crime lord of the city of Mos Espa. Or at least, the new feudal lord of Mos Espa, since Tatooine doesn’t seem to have any law enforcement worth mentioning. Either way, he’s in charge going into BoBF’s first season.
At least, that’s the theory. In practice, he doesn’t seem to be a lord of anything, criminal or otherwise. He begins with exactly three employees, two of them salvaged from the previous guy’s entourage, and a handful of background droids. That’s it. He doesn’t seem to have an organization at all, certainly nothing that would make any money or enforce his will. Instead, he and his three minions awkwardly stand around in a huge palace that’s obviously meant to hold far more people.
The only income Boba seems to have is collecting tribute from businesses and important people around Mos Espa, but why do any of them pay? I cannot emphasize this enough: Boba represents a force of exactly four, and as we see later, the people paying him tribute have dozens of soldiers at their command, at least. Since we have no way to judge the value of this tribute, it gives the impression that they’re throwing loose change at him because killing him would come with an expensive cleaning bill.
Logic aside, Boba never feels like a crime lord. He does everything personally because there’s no one else to do it. NPCs show up to give him quests, the same way they do with Din on The Mandalorian. At one point, he yells at a bunch of cyborg teens to stop taking water because “that’s a crime.” Boba, are you a cop? If you’re a cop, you have to tell me!
The only part of this that makes sense is that the other crime families eventually betray Boba to ally with the Pykes, because why wouldn’t they? Jabba’s weird laughing pet from Return of the Jedi had more influence than Boba does.
Boba Fett’s Lack of Character
BoBF does not know who Boba Fett is, and I don’t mean that he’s acting differently than the fanon that’s been built up around him since Empire Strikes Back. That was always going to be the case, since Din already embodies the role of a stoic bounty hunter who has lots of cool gadgets and disintegrates people.
Instead, the issue is that this show cannot figure out what motivates this version of Boba or what his arc is supposed to be. We get almost nothing to indicate why he wants to be a crime lord, other than a short exchange with Fennec where he talks about the people in charge mistreating hired muscle like them. This is, notably, not something that ever happened to Boba. Both the Empire and Jabba treated him very well as far as we can tell. His brief sarlacc trip wasn’t a good time, but it happened because he chose a violent profession, not because his employer was unreasonable.*
With no idea of what drives Boba, he’s almost a nonentity in his own show. Most of the important decisions are made by other characters: usually Fennec, but Din also gets in on the action. He’s the one who decides that Boba should ban the spice trade, and our hero just goes along with it as if he has no opinion. Granted, I’m not sure what Boba’s opinion would even be since the spice trade is barely mentioned before the last two episodes, but it’s a bad look regardless.
In what I assume is a desperate attempt to give Boba some character development, the final episodes introduce Cad Bane, a bounty hunter from the Clone Wars cartoon. Boba and Cad have some history in that show, and if you haven’t seen it or just don’t remember, too bad. BoBF doesn’t have time to establish why this blue-skinned bounty hunter is important to Boba, or maybe that kind of critical context is considered an easter egg these days.
Even if you do remember Cad and Boba’s interactions in Clone Wars, their present-day interactions are really hard to follow. Cad wonders why Boba is even fighting the Pykes, which I’d also like to know, and then they have a back-and-forth about whether Boba’s a killer. We know he’s a killer! This whole story started when he executed Bib Fortuna in cold blood; what’s there to talk about?
Lack of Tension
Almost every episode of BoBF is remarkably low on tension, which is a technical way of saying they’re booooooring. Some of this is because of decisions at the scene level. It’s not exciting to watch Boba Fett slaughter a speeder bike gang from his ship because they have no way of shooting back. When the teenage cyborgs chase an enemy of Boba’s, they do it at about five miles per hour.
But the tension problem is structural as well. By their very nature, the flashbacks lack tension since we already know Boba and Fennec come through them okay. In the present, there’s little at stake for us to invest in. Who cares if Boba succeeds at being the crime lord of Mos Espa? There’s nothing to suggest he’s better or worse than any of the other contenders.
Once the Pykes are introduced, their fight with Boba is primarily over protection money. Again, who cares? No one is particularly concerned about Boba meeting his quarterly earnings goal. In the final episode, the stakes suddenly shift to banning the spice trade on Tatooine, but let’s be honest, do you even know what spice is? From context, it’s presumably some kind of drug, but you need to be pretty well read on soft-canon sources to know any details.
Whatever those details are, BoBF fails to show any reason spice should be banned. We don’t see any of the harm that comes with a drug trade, and if we did, we’d probably be more interested in the social and economic conditions that made people turn to addictive narcotics in the first place.
The only significant source of tension is the uncertainty over our heroes’ safety, and that’s just not enough. If there are no greater stakes in the overarching conflict, it just feels like this isn’t a fight worth having in the first place. Nor does BoBF present itself as the kind of story where major characters can die. Except for the Tuskens, apparently. Speaking of which…
Despite BoBF’s poor showing, it has gotten some praise for developing the Tuskens beyond the angry desert raiders they were back in A New Hope. Unfortunately, it does that with a white savior narrative, despite Boba Fett not being played by a white actor.
We start with a technologically advanced outsider being taken prisoner by an Indigenous-coded group of desert dwellers. After a bit of slave labor hazing, Boba the outsider proves himself to the Tuskens and learns their ways, eventually so well that he can be inducted into their culture. The only significant difference between BoBF and The Last Samurai or Avatar* is that Boba doesn’t become the absolute best at gaffi-stick fighting, just really good.
While this is happening, the Tuskens are portrayed as bizarrely naive and helpless. They don’t seem to understand speeders, even though they’ve lived alongside that technology for centuries. They can’t mount an effective defense of their territory until Boba shows up to teach them more effective tactics – and to lead them in battle, of course. And then they all die because Boba leaves them offscreen for a few minutes.
Like any good white savior narrative, this part of BoBF focuses on making the hero look cool by showing that he can master the Tusken way of life in just a few months. The Tuskens are never given any agency, and they are made to look incompetent so Boba can be cooler by comparison. The only twist is that instead of Boba saving the Tuskens, they all get fridged at the end.* To quote the wise Chidi Anagonye: “That’s worse. You do get how that’s worse, right?”
How to Fix It
With all those problems, it can seem like BoBF is unsalvageable. If I just spent 2,300 words telling you what’s wrong with it, can it really be fixed? The good news is that not only can the show’s problems be fixed, but we can fix more than one at the same time, so part two of this post will be a little shorter!
Create a Tense Problem
An unavoidable problem with BoBF’s premise is that crime lords don’t make very good protagonists for the same reason oil CEOs don’t: their business model is unavoidably harmful. It’s just not much fun to watch the main character break a shopkeeper’s kneecaps or send mercenaries to attack Indigenous protesters. To get around this, most stories with this kind of protagonist will have the antagonist be even worse, so we still have someone to cheer for.
BoBF fails in that regard because the Pyke Syndicate doesn’t seem worse than any of the other criminal factions, including Boba himself. This is probably why they include his last-minute decision to ban the spice trade, but that’s far too little, far too late. What BoBF needs is for the villains to be obviously worse than Boba’s own organization right from the start.
An obvious option is to have Boba be fighting a remnant of the Empire, but The Mandalorian already used that plot, so let’s think of something better. Instead, the Pykes could represent an offworld space nation that’s gearing up for war with the New Republic, and they plan to occupy Tatooine as a base after buying off the criminal elites. It would be easy to show why that’s worse than being ruled by Boba Fett, and it would also explain why the Pykes seem to have such extensive resources.
If the writers want a few episodes about Tatooine’s crime scene before ramping up the Pyke plot, that’s easily done. All we need is to show that since Jabba’s death, the many factions in Mos Espa have been in open war, each trying to fill the vacuum. This war is causing serious destruction and endangering everyone who just wants to live in peace. Boba seizes Jabba’s palace and tries to start a criminal enterprise, but to do so he has to stop the violence, as it’s putting a hole in his bottom line. Since an end to the war will also be good for Tatooine as a whole, this makes Boba easy to cheer for.
Such a storyline would let us explore Mos Espa’s crime families in a little more detail than one awkward meeting scene. It would allow for action as well as intrigue and social conflict. Meanwhile, the Pyke presence would build in the background as they encourage conflict to weaken Tatooine before they invade.
Make Boba Fett a Leader
For the “Boba Fett as a crime lord” premise to work, he has to actually be a crime lord. Currently, Boba spends several episodes building an entourage; he needs to start with one instead. In the first episode, we could see how Boba has called in his old bounty-hunter contacts and Tusken allies to form the core of his new organization. His palace should be full of people, though it should probably have a different mood than when Jabba was in charge. Boba doesn’t seem like the kind of crime lord to be constantly throwing a debauched party. Instead, we should see Boba’s lieutenants cataloging bounties, negotiating payments, maintaining weapons, etc. This would be more expensive than an empty palace, casting-wise, but that’s the premise they picked.
Beyond the population of his palace, Boba needs to act more like a crime lord and less like a solo adventurer. He shouldn’t deal with menial tasks like a gang of teenaged cyborgs stealing water; he has minions for that. If he does insist on doing everything himself, then it needs to be part of an arc where he learns to delegate. That doesn’t mean he can’t ever get into fights, just that they should only be important fights. Think of Boba like the powerful lords in A Game of Thrones. Eddard Stark still fights sometimes, but only when it really matters. Plus, developing the conflict over Mos Espa would give more opportunities for meaningful battle plans. In the current show, Sanctuary is basically the only location we know anything about other than the palace, so there’s no chance for Boba to consider which areas are strategically vital to hold and which he can afford to lose.
The rest of Boba’s time should be filled with high-stakes diplomacy and intrigue. To negotiate with the other factions, he needs to understand who they are and what they want. That might include classic tropes like inviting his enemies to play cards so he can study their poker faces, or it might mean sending Fennec to spy on them and dig up their secrets.
Speaking of Fennec, this premise would also give the show time to develop Boba’s lieutenants as fleshed-out characters. Since Boba can’t be everywhere at once, a lot of the show would feature him sending others on missions so we can learn more about secondary characters like Krrsantan and the Mod Squad. Yes, there would be more characters to remember, but this is supposed to be a story about Boba Fett running a criminal organization; that’s just to be expected.
Focus on Boba
All these changes would require a lot of screen time, but fortunately, we have plenty to go around. All we need to do is cut the flashbacks and Din’s weird side adventure, which frees up about half the show’s total run time. There’s almost nothing in those flashbacks we need to know. A couple lines of dialogue can tell us that Boba climbed out of the sarlacc and that he knows how to fight with a gaffi stick now. Done. Din can still make a cameo to help Boba at a critical moment, but that should be it. Disney, I’m begging you, please stop putting critical plot points for one show in another show. Not everyone watches all of your shows!
Once we’ve made room by cutting all the boring junk that shouldn’t be there, we still have one important task: figuring out Boba’s character. This is tricky because he’s currently so blank that his character could be almost anything. I’m not even sure what the writers were going for, since they gave us so little to work with.
I think the intention was for Boba to have an arc where he goes from being driven solely by money to legitimately caring about the people of Mos Espa and Tatooine. That’s what I gather from his dialogue with Cad Bane, at least, particularly the “you’ve gone soft” line. That’s pretty similar to Din’s arc in The Mandalorian, but it’s still an arc, and I’ll take what I can get at this point.
For this to work, we would need to show how Boba changes over the season. It’s still important for him to help people in the early episodes so we can cheer for him, but he should only do it because it also aligns with his goal of making money with his new criminal empire. When he stops two gangs from shooting up a neighborhood, it’s because he wants the people in that neighborhood to be repairing his ships, and they can’t do that if they’re dead. When he fixes Mos Espa’s damaged water mains, it’s because his Tusken allies need to water their banthas. The citizens getting their plumbing back is just a side effect.
This pragmatic indifference would slowly morph into a genuine sense of duty. To help externalize this conflict, Boba should have at least one advisor who represents the people of Mos Espa, so that we can see his changing attitude. The mayor would actually be a great character for this: an elected official who normally lacks any power, but whom Boba brings on board for additional knowledge of the city. The mayor would then be an advocate in Boba Fett’s inner circle for the populace at large.
For the arc to pay off, there would need to be a moment where Boba chooses to help the people of Mos Espa even though it hurts his own agenda. This would prove Boba has changed. Perhaps the Pykes are bombarding Mos Espa, and most of Boba’s advisors want him to retreat so their forces aren’t hit as well, but Boba says no. Instead, he takes his Firespray gunship and destroys the Pyke cruiser, but Boba’s vessel is irreparably damaged in the process.
This way, when Cad says Boba’s gone soft, we’d know what he was talking about. Also, if Cad is so important, he should show up earlier, and we should know about his history with Boba without having to undertake a Clone Wars rewatch.
Treat the Tuskens Better
Despite how badly BoBF handled the Tuskens, I still love the idea of giving these gaffi-stick wielders more screen time. Fortunately, there’s a very easy way to do this without invoking toxic tropes: just treat the Tuskens like any other group with their own goals and agenda. We know this can work because The Mandalorian already did it. Din teams up with the Tuskens the same way he would anyone else who needed a bounty hunter’s services, and the same trick would work with Boba.
All we need is some dialogue or a very brief flashback to establish that after losing his armor, Boba did some jobs for the Tuskens to get back on his feet. They developed a good working relationship, and now he’s offering them a slice of his Mos Espa profits in return for martial support. Hopefully, it goes without saying that there should be at least one major Tusken character, someone who has a more significant role than tragically dying offscreen.
From there, the show could do any number of things with the Tusken characters. Perhaps their presence complicates Boba’s political situation, since there’s bad blood between Mos Espa and the desert dwellers. Maybe Boba’s enemies try to entice the Tuskens away from him with promises of even greater wealth. What’s important is that we don’t lock the Tuskens into existing only to justify why Boba has a new skill.
With a tense main plot and a well-supported premise, The Book of Boba Fett could have been a great show. Instead, it’s made me pray for future Star Wars shows to stay off Tatooine for a while. Then I remembered the Obi-Wan Kenobi show will premiere soon. Oh well, we can still hope Disney learns some lessons from BoBF’s disaster – otherwise I’ll be back here in a few months, explaining why Obi-Wan should have done more in the first season than practicing his krayt dragon scream.
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