The season one finale of The Book of Boba Fett features what is supposed to be an incredibly climactic stand-off between bounty hunters Boba Fett and Cad Bane. Boba Fett finally faces his mentor turned enemy Cad Bane in a battle for control of Mos Espa in the western-style face-off, shot by director Robert Rodriguez. Cad Bane, a character from the animated series The Clone Wars, trained Boba Fett in bounty hunting, which you’d only know if you watched Clone Wars yesterday or recently read one of the many articles circling the internet right now called “Who Is Cad Bane?” But even with knowledge of who Cad Bane is and his relationship to Boba Fett, Boba’s victory, which could and should be a huge although complex moment, falls flat because Boba Fett has not been the main character on The Book of Boba Fett for the past two episodes. Instead, the episodes focused on Din Djarin (Mando) and Grogu, the unconventional but star-crossed buddies from The Mandalorian. And also, we’re still on freaking Tatooine.
In 2017’s (weirdly) polarizing film The Last Jedi, writer/director Rian Johnson challenged everything we expected from a Star Wars movie. Johnson united its hero, Rey, with the villain, Kylo Ren, creating a gray area in a world that was always presented as black and white. In The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker rejects all of the ideals that once made him a hero. “It’s time for the Jedi to end,” he says. In the film, Rey also discovers, through Kylo Ren, that her parents were nobodies who abandoned her. Regardless of whether or not you liked The Last Jedi, Johnson’s idea that the politics within the galaxy far far away are more complex than surface-level good and evil and that a hero could come from nothing was a necessary reversal that provided more room for exploration within the Star Wars universe.
Season one of The Mandalorian was a similar relief back when it premiered in late 2019, which feels like several decades ago now. Finally, someone – creator Jon Favreau and executive producer Dave Filoni – understood the Star Wars universe beyond the Skywalker saga. This was a show about a guy doing his job who comes across an adorable green baby with mysterious powers. But in the second season, The Mandalorian reverted back to the narrative of the original trilogy, weaving in characters like Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) from The Clone Wars (who will get her own live-action series), a digitally de-aged Luke Skywalker, and Boba Fett, the bounty hunter who had long been assumed dead, swallowed by the sarlacc pit in 1983’s Return of the Jedi. While still good, The Mandalorian quickly became a show everyone thought it wasn’t, struggling to balance between being its own standalone space buddy adventure and being the link that holds an entire decades-old franchise and all of its spin-offs together.
The first several episodes of The Book of Boba Fett concentrated on Boba Fett, as you’d expect from a series called The Book of Boba Fett, although the show featured zero books. The first several episodes follow the iconic bounty hunter’s journey from getting out of the sarlacc pit, being a captive of Tusken Raiders, becoming friends with the Tusken Raiders, and taking over Bib Fortuna’s position as crime lord and Jabba’s Palace. The series was fine, but not nearly as magnetic as the first season of The Mandalorian. Just as things were beginning to get interesting on The Book of Boba Fett, episode five instead follows the adventures of Mando. Episode six then focuses on Grogu’s Jedi training with a digitally de-aged Luke Skywalker, with an appearance from Rosario Dawson’s Ahsoka Tano.
While I’ll never complain about seeing the miracle that is Baby Grogu or the miracle that is Timothy Olyphant as a space desert sheriff, the integration of storylines from multiple series comes across as desperate corporate overlords reminding audiences that other Star Wars shows exist on their streaming platform. While it does make sense that characters such as Mando and Boba would continue to interact with each other, it also can’t help but feel like a condescending reminder that The Mandalorian exists, that Ahsoka exists, and that Luke Skywalker (ever heard of him?) exists. At a certain point, it feels more like content than rich storytelling, when it could so easily be the latter.
Disney Plus’ Marvel Cinematic Universe shows Loki and WandaVision were so strong because while they were part of a massive, bloated, and corporate universe, the shows had their own stories and individuality that separated them from the rest. Loki and WandaVision – and even the weaker shows The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Hawkeye – had their own signature style and independent stories that made each feel essential and unique. The Book of Boba Fett is stylistically the same as The Mandalorian, its only identifier being different theme music.
If everything looks the same and ties together so much that two episodes of The Book of Boba Fett were episodes of The Mandalorian – then why are they separate shows? A departure from The Mandalorian that focuses on Boba Fett makes more sense than a departure from The Book of Boba Fett that focuses on Mando. The sluggish integration of the stories from two different television shows slows both shows – which are, to be clear, still quite good – down. This also makes the future of the Disney Star Wars shows less promising. Will every Star Wars show eventually become one interchangeable storyline? It’s a little early to judge too much since there have only been two live-action shows so far, but it feels like the shows are repeating the same cycle as the prequel and sequel trilogies which had their highs but were ultimately disappointments because of convoluted integrations of characters we already knew. The Star Wars shows started as standalone shows that would explore unearthed parts of an infinite universe filled with colorful characters from hundreds of planets. Ultimately, the Disney Star Wars live-action series have mistaken the Skywalker saga, a story that concluded itself almost 40 years ago, for being Star Wars. Will season one of Obi-Wan Kenobi, coming May 25, feature a bearded Ewan McGregor feeding purple milk to a 30-something Baby Grogu? I, for one, would like to see that as much as I don’t want to see it.