In Defense of ‘The Book of Boba Fett’s First Chapter
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for the Disney+ series The Book of Boba Fett Season 1 episode 1, “Stranger in a Strange Land.”]
Some critiques of the episode are understandable. A few fight scenes felt a little “off”—perhaps they fell victim to COVID restrictions—and while we don’t think it’s a bad thing, there’s no denying the episode is slower-moving than The Mandalorian’s premiere.
But some of the points fans have griped about have potential logical explanations—or are likely to be explored further within the next six episodes. And we don’t think the show’s first 35 minutes should be judged harshly for them.
Here are our responses to four complaints about “Stranger in a Strange Land” that we’ve seen throughout the past week.
Criticism #1: Boba Didn’t Use His Jetpack During the Fight on the Street
We’ll admit the choreography of the brawl between the mysterious thugs and Boba and Fennec could’ve been better. But one common criticism of the scene has a few explanations, and that’s Boba opting not to use his jetpack.
For one thing, soaring away, even if only to get outside of the shield wall and keep fighting, would’ve been majorly uncool to Boba’s partner, Fennec (Ming-Na Wen). She would’ve taken the full force of those shock batons until he hit the ground again. It seemed out of character for him to leave her, so it made sense to us that he didn’t. He might’ve been able to take her with him and fly away, but it’s not clear whether the jetpack can carry two people. And given that it landed Boba in the Sarlaac, we do know it’s prone to malfunction, even when it’s carrying one person.
Others complained about Boba firing a missile straight into the thug’s shield. Yes, he could’ve gone for the guy’s legs or used a different attack, but 99% of the time, a missile to a shield is effective, and Boba’s reflexive attack is at least understandable. He was simply unlucky.
Criticism #2: Boba is Too Weak
While it was unexpected to see Boba struggling, we weren’t necessarily upset by it. He was stronger in The Mandalorian’s “The Tragedy,” but as others have pointed out, he hadn’t taken several hits with an electric baton then and Stormtroopers aren’t known for their effectiveness as soldiers. He fought briefly against Sasha Banks’ Koska Reeves in the Season 2 finale, but that wasn’t on the level of the fight in “Stranger in a Strange Land.”
In fact, given everything Boba has been through, it makes sense he would have a difficult time taking down a squadron of trained assassins. Being partially digested by the Sarlaac undoubtedly left him with some health issues, and his appearances in The Mandalorian wouldn’t have left enough time to explore them. It’s likely Boba’s condition will be a major plot thread through the season, and for those left disappointed, he just might be back to his badass self by episode 7.
Criticism #3: Boba’s Philosophy is Out of Character
Anyone who’s seen a trailer for The Book of Boba Fett knows how Boba intends to rule: “With respect.” That might come as a shock to those who knew him as a stone-cold, ruthless bounty hunter who talked back to Darth Vader and had to be told, “No disintegrations.” While the change is perhaps unexpected, we think his decision to adopt a philosophy based on respect rather than fear makes sense.
For one thing, what he was doing wasn’t working—it landed him in the belly of a nightmare alien where he was digested over thousands of years. That, alone, is enough to spur a life change. But given the flashbacks to Kamino and Jango Fett’s death, we know Boba’s childhood and his father are weighing heavily on his mind, and Jango operated under a code of honor. In tribute to his father, it’s logical Boba would do the same. Finally, in his episodes of The Clone Wars, a younger Boba is remorseful when his botched attempted assassination of Mace Windu winds up with innocents being harmed. In the end, Boba wants justice for what happened to his father, and justice and respect oft go hand in hand.
In addition, in pre-show interviews, the cast stated that their characters were neither bad nor good guys. There’s still plenty of time for Boba to show that less-than-good side… and just because he intends to rule with respect doesn’t mean he won’t lay down the law if someone goes against him.
Criticism #4: The Premiere Was Too Slow
While it doesn’t quite have a clear “instant classic” moment like Baby Yoda/Grogu utterly upending the presumed plot of The Mandalorian, we’d still argue The Book of Boba Fett’s first episode wasn’t even remotely close to being a snoozer. In fact, it accomplished quite a bit.
It got the whole Sarlaac thing out of the way in the opener, so the show isn’t bogged down in later installments. It established a few characters we’re guessing will be central to the story, like Jennifer Beals’ Madam Garsa Fwip and the majordomo (David Pasquesi). It set up plot threads likely to weave through the next six episodes, like Boba’s declining health and reliance on the bacta tank, as well as his dreams and the demons still haunting him from his past. It elaborated on the relationship between Boba and Fennec, establishing the trust he has in her as well as their differing philosophies regarding how to rule. It gave us a (presumed) antagonist in the form of the mayor. And at times, it was genuinely funny—for example, the moment when Boba and Fennec realize they really need a protocol droid.
With the exposition out of the way, The Book of Boba Fett will likely become a page-turner (so to speak). Whether Boba goes to war with the mayor or someone else, a conflict seems destined to break out. And there are still plenty of questions yet to be answered; we don’t know why Boba saved Fennec, how he got his ship back, what’s ailing him and if it can be cured, who sent the assassins, if Boba and Fennec are going to get the protocol droid they so desperately need, etc. Since this is a Star Wars show, cameo appearances are likely still to come… although if WandaVision taught us anything, it’s to keep our expectations in check. Whether or not another “big name” in the galaxy shows up, we’re looking forward to seeing what the next chapters of The Book of Boba Fett have to offer.
The Book of Boba Fett, Wednesdays, Disney+