The Book of Boba Fett episode 2: it’s already time to rein in the flashbacks

Boba Fett in The Book of Boba Fett
(Image credit: ©2021 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.)
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About this episode

- Episode 2 (of 7), ‘Chapter 2: The Tribes of Tatooine’
- Written by Jon Favreau
- Directed by Steph Green
★★★

Spoilers for The Book of Boba Fett follow.

Two weeks into its run, The Book of Boba Fett is already having an identity crisis – and it has little to do with the not-a-bounty hunter’s efforts to reinvent himself as Tatooine’s number one crime boss.

With less than a third of ’The Tribes of Tatooine’ devoted to Boba’s present, an obsession with exploring the character’s backstory in minute detail is starting to unbalance the series. If you were feeling charitable, you could argue the extensive flashback sequence is a deliberate nod to The Godfather Part II – the crime saga is a major influence on The Mandalorian spin-off series, after all – but that would mean ignoring a fundamental difference. 

Because, unlike this episode, Francis Ford Coppola’s gangster classic never lost sight of the fact that the story of the younger Vito Corleone was the support act rather than the main event. And that's a shame, because the episode’s ‘present day’-set opening act is electrifyingly brilliant and everything we’d hoped for from the latest Star Wars Disney Plus show.

Fennec Shand in The Book of Boba Fett

A rare sighting of Fennec Shand in The Book of Boba Fett episode 2. (Image credit: ©2021 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.)

It kicks off more or less where episode 1 left off last week, with Fett’s enforcer, aka Fennec Shand, escorting a highly trained ‘Order of the Night Wind’ assassin (still alive, as ordered) back to Jabba’s Palace, which is surely due a ‘Boba’s Palace’ rebrand in the near future.

Her return kickstarts a 14-minute detective story that takes Fett on a tour of key Mos Espa locations as he tries to work out who ordered the attempt on his life. Intimidation techniques, such as interrogation by knife point and that refreshingly familiar slide into a (now vacant) Rancor pit, prove remarkably effective, and suggest that – despite Fett’s claims to the contrary – he intends to rule by fear as much as respect.

With and without the famous Mandalorian helmet, Temuera Morrison proves that Fett doesn’t need fancy gadgets to be top dog. His performance in the episode’s first act is a tour de force, as he effortlessly conveys a character in total control of his situation – whether he’s meeting the mayor of Mos Espa, the returning Madam Garsa, or The Twins – a pair of Hutts who believe that cousin Jabba’s criminal empire is rightfully theirs. Fett may claim he’s left his bounty hunting days behind him, but it seems that others will take more convincing…

The brief cameo from The Twins is possibly the standout moment of the episode, although the inclusion of Black Krrsantan might also foreshadow the Wookiee bounty hunter as a potential adversary in Obi-Wan Kenobi's upcoming TV show, too. Arriving in town carried by an army of servants, The Twins make a hell of an entrance, but it’s the subtle, background touches that stand out most – the female Twin demurely waving a fan, the sight of a man buckling under the Hutts’ combined weight, or the threateningly low-key “sleep lightly, bounty hunter” whispered on their departure.

Unfortunately, just as the episode should be on its way to a top-tier crescendo, Boba’s submerged in his bacta tank once again, and we’re back with the Sand People on the Dune Sea. It’s a flashback that continues until the end credits, and – in an episode 14 minutes longer than its predecessor – it proves to be something of a momentum-sapping slog. 

It’s also a symptom of modern Star Wars’ frustrating need to fill as many gaps in canon as it can. George Lucas’s famous galaxy wasn’t always that way, of course, and the episode’s earlier references to the “Death Pits of Duur” and a “gumpta on Mustafar” hark back to the days when bounty hunters on Ord Mantell, or completing the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs, didn’t need an explanation. These are the sort of casual, unexplained remarks that fire a fan’s imagination as much as finding out how Fett went from Sarlacc snack to hanging out with Mando and Baby Yoda.

But, by prioritizing backstory over all else, ‘The Tribes of Tatooine’ falls into the trap that’s befallen so many prequels into the past: obsessing over a story whose conclusion is already in the public domain.

THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT RECAPS

Max Rebo in The Book of Boba Fett

(Image credit: ©2021 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.)

Go back to the start of a bounty hunter's second coming with The Book of Boba Fett episode 1.

That said, this episode does an important job reinventing the Tusken Raiders, a species that hasn’t always been treated kindly by the franchise – in Episode IV: A New Hope, they were simply weird creatures to be avoided. Then, Episode II: Attack of the Clones turned them into “vicious, mindless monsters” waiting to be slaughtered by Anakin Skywalker early on his journey to the Dark Side.

‘The Tribes of Tatooine’ continues a redemption arc started in The Mandalorian episode ‘The Gunslinger’, though, by providing a welcome glimpse of the misunderstood Sand People and their culture. At times, this Tusken Raider storyline feels like a clunky mix between Dances with Wolves, Dune, and a slapstick driving school for Sand People.

But respect for their ways ultimately proves to be paramount, most notably in Fett’s powerful, politically relevant remarks about indigenous people and their claim on ancestral lands. Besides, the beautiful scene where Fett fashions his gaffi stick from the log he finds on a lizard-induced vision quest almost justifies the leisurely pace of what comes before – almost, but not quite.

Our verdict

Boba Fett meets Madam Garsa in The Book of Boba Fett

Madam Garsa proves a useful source of intel for Mos Espa's new daimyo. (Image credit: ©2021 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.)

Effectively a very long-winded origin story for Boba Fett’s Tusken Raider robes and gaffi stick, ‘The Tribes of Tatooine’ gets bogged down in its obsession with the lead character’s past. It’s fantastic as a nostalgia-fest, of course – the numerous Star Wars Easter Eggs never disappoint – but this shouldn’t come at the expense of pushing the title character’s story forward.

Another priority for the series should be finding something meaningful for Fennec Shand to do. Right now, Boba Fett’s right-hand woman is struggling to justify her position at second on the bill and, given she's shone in the brief scenes she's been a part of, providing Shand with more screen time is something that we'll hopefully see in future episodes.

Two episodes in, The Book of Boba Fett has already done enough to show that the criminal underworld of Mos Espa is where the more compelling stories are to be found – even when they’re competing with a fun, Western-tinged train heist. Now it’s time the series turned its attentions to pushing ahead with its gangster action, and maybe establishing a Big Bad – possibly someone even bigger than The Twins.

Force facts

Boba Fett and Fennec Shand in The Book of Boba Fett

Yet another shot of Boba Fett and Fennec Shand on the mean streets of Mos Espa. (Image credit: ©2021 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.)
  • In a neat update to what we saw in front of episodes of The Mandalorian, Fennec Shand and Boba Fett’s helmets have been added to Disney Plus’s Star Wars introductory animated logo.
  • Boba’s would-be assassin obviously hadn’t heard that Jabba’s Rancor was killed by Luke Skywalker around five years earlier, leaving the famous pit unoccupied.
  • Having played Dokk Strassi in Chapter 1, executive producer Robert Rodriguez takes his second alien role of the season as Mayor Mok Shaiz.
  • Mok Shaiz is an Ithorian. Numerous Ithorians have appeared in previous Star Wars stories, going back to Momaw Nadon, one of the patrons of the Cantina in A New Hope – he was originally known as “Hammerhead” in the Kenner action figure line. Their throats are unable to handle speaking Galactic Basic Standard (aka English), so they use electronic voice synthesizers to translate.
  • The droid working in Madam Garsa’s Sanctuary looks a lot like R-3X, famous for appearing in the Star Tours ride at Disney’s theme parks, where he was voiced by Pee-Wee star Paul Reubens. R-3X also appeared in an episode of Star Wars Rebels.
  • Boba Fett says that Garsa is “sweating like a gumpta on Mustafar”. Mustafar is the volcanic planet where Obi-Wan Kenobi left Darth Vader for dead, but we think this is the first ever reference to a gumpta. As with Han Solo’s reference to Luke Skywalker looking “strong enough to pull the ears off a gundark”, the creature will presumably be added to canon later.
  • Jabba’s cousins, The Twins, aren’t the first of the late crime lord’s relatives to show up in Star Wars – Jabba’s uncle Ziro and son Rotta showed up in The Clone Wars.
  • The Hutt race hail from a swampy Outer Rim world called Nal Hutta. Along with its satellite Nar Shaddaa – nicknamed the “smuggler’s moon” – it’s well known for being a wretched hive of scum and villainy.
  • The Wookiee who accompanies the Hutt Twins is Black Krrsantan, known to his friends as Santy or 'BK'. The Tribes of Tatooine’ marks his first screen appearance.
  • The Banthas used as the Tusken Riders’ steeds go all the way back to A New Hope. Back then, they were played by elephants in costume.
  • Original Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt used the braying of mules to create the characteristic voices of the Sand People.
  • The human couple who run into the criminal gang in the Tatooine bar also go back to the original Star Wars movie – though this is technically their first appearance in canon. Fixer (real name Laze Lonozner) and his wife, Camie, were childhood friends of Luke Skywalker (then nicknamed Wormie), who appeared in a famous deleted scene from A New Hope – currently available to watch as an extra on Disney Plus. This ‘Tosche Station’ sequence features Fixer, Camie, Luke and his future Rebel pilot sidekick Biggs Darklighter discussing the Empire’s arrival in orbit over Tatooine. Fixer and Camie are played by Skyler Bible and stunt performer Mandy Kowalski here, but were originally played by Anthony Forest and Koo Stark.
  • The gang’s jackets and Speeder Bikes feature the insignia we saw scrawled on the side of a moisture farm in episode 1.
  • It’s worth noting that Sand People on Speeder Bikes don’t ride in single file to hide their numbers, as they would on Banthas.
  • The criminals operating the train Boba and the Sand People take down are Pykes. The Pyke Syndicate made several appearances in The Clone Wars (from season 5 onwards), and made their live-action debut in Solo: A Star Wars Story, where they used slaves to operate the Spice Mines on Kessel.
  • In the Star Wars universe, Spice – the Pykes’ illicit cargo – is used to manufacture recreational drugs.
  • Boba Fett’s lizard-induced flashback features his younger self, played by Daniel Logan, watching his father Jango leave Kamino in his Firespray ship. The scene doesn’t feature in Attack of the Clones.
  • Boba Fett crafting his own gaffi stick has clear parallels with a Jedi building their own lightsaber.
  • The episode’s director of photography is Dean Cundey, whose impressive resumé includes Jurassic Park, The Thing, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and all three Back to the Future movies.
  • Director Steph Green’s filmography includes episodes of The Americans, Preacher, Luke Cage, The Man in the High Castle and Watchmen.

New episodes of The Book of Boba Fett debut on Disney Plus every Wednesday.

Richard Edwards

Richard is a freelance journalist specialising in movies and TV, primarily of the sci-fi and fantasy variety. An early encounter with a certain galaxy far, far away started a lifelong love affair with outer space, and these days Richard's happiest geeking out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and other long-running pop culture franchises. In a previous life he was editor of legendary sci-fi magazine SFX, where he got to interview many of the biggest names in the business – though he'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Goldblum who (somewhat bizarrely) thought Richard's name was Winter.