- Episode 4 (of 7), ‘Chapter 4: The Gathering Storm’
- Written by Jon Favreau
- Directed by Kevin Tancharoen
Beware the bacta tank!
For an inanimate object, Boba Fett’s soggy fortress of solitude has become a remarkably influential player in Disney Plus’ latest Star Wars offering. As a signpost to the former bounty hunter’s frequent trips to flashback-land, it has the power to shape the direction of an entire episode.
And its appearance at the start of ‘The Gathering Storm’ proves to be something of a portent of doom, as this is definitely The Book of Boba Fett’s weakest chapter so far.
By the time we’re transported back to Boba's crime-boss present – a very long half-hour later– we’ve barely learned anything that we didn’t know before.
Instead, the rescues of both Fennec Shand and Boba’s famous ship take center stage in this Sandcrawler-paced episode. Ultimately, it feels like unnecessary filler, as the few additions to the vast Star Wars mythology – the most intriguing being a nod to Bib Fortuna’s double crossing ways – could easily have been explained away in a comic, a book or even some well-placed lines of dialogue.
The one significant positive is a beefed up role for Fennec Shand, who’s been a disappointingly minor player up in the show up to now. As the flashback timeline intersects with her appearance in The Mandalorian season 1, however, we gradually come to understand the nature of her relationship with her fellow bounty hunter – and how he saved her after being “left for dead on the sands of Tatooine”.
When it comes to understanding how a mercenary went from paying off a debt to becoming her rescuer’s most loyal disciple, this is undeniably essential information. But the evolution of the duo’s relationship feels simultaneously rushed and ponderous, as the key character beats are reduced to rapid-fire hits struggling for oxygen among some excessive, tedious padding.
Their mission to recover the renamed Firespray gunship – a story that didn’t need to stretch beyond Boba remembering where he had parked it – is a subsequently strangely muted affair. Its tour of Jabba’s Palace, in particular, is as pedestrian as the Millennium Falcon flythrough available on Disney Plus.
Anyone who’s seen The Mandalorian season 2 episode 6 will know their endeavor is successful anyway, so the sequence is constantly battling the spectre of pointlessness. And their trip to the Sarlacc is similarly disappointing aside from a brilliant jump scare, with this overblown encounter amounting to little more than Fett settling a score – and the not-really-a-revelation that his armor is hidden elsewhere.
If ‘The Gathering Storm’ is a good week for Fennec Shand, it’s a terrible one for the titular antihero. The show is now at serious risk of entering a death spiral where everything new we learn about the iconic (ex) bounty hunter dilutes his carefully crafted mystique. Admittedly, Fett was as close to a blank slate as it’s possible for a 40-something character to be. But, the more The Book of Boba Fett gets under the helmet, the less interesting he becomes.
These days, the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy seems as concerned about the welfare and employment rights of his fellow mercenaries as securing his status as top-dog on Tatooine. We can’t help but be reminded of Grocer’s fledgling hitman union in Grosse Pointe Blank.
And, while Fett’s previous moves towards ruling by respect could be justified as pure and logical pragmatism, he’s now shifting so far towards the light that he no longer feels like the Boba Fett we thought we knew – and definitely loved.
But Fett’s inconsistent character evolution is just one manifestation of the episode’s frustrating tonal inconsistencies. The rare hints at the gangster aspects of the show – notably where Fett uses his newly recovered Firespray to brutally gun down the gang that massacred his Tusken friends – sit uneasily next to the slapstick of Jabba’s Palace, where comedy droids are routinely dispatched by a pair of highly trained assassins.
And if you didn’t like the Vespa-riding mods last week – or even got yourself hooked on zip-gate – chances are you’re going to hate the tattoo shop/dance music aesthetic of the cybernetics parlor where Fett pays the proprietor to repair Fennec. While there’s no doubt Star Wars has to evolve if it’s going to stay relevant, this feels like someone trying too hard to appeal to the kids, and missing the mark spectacularly. The original Star Wars captured millions of imaginations with its believable otherworldliness – the riffs on the real world here, however, make the story feel less plausible. And, to give it a video game sensibility, a bit too Cyberpunk 2077-esque.
Boba eventually waking from his bacta slumber feels like a blessed release, but it soon becomes clear that the episode isn’t going to live up to its portentous title – indeed, this ‘Gathering Storm’ may have even less to offer than the one the old lady warned Anakin about in The Phantom Menace.
After last week’s instalment suggested that pieces were falling into place for some major gangster showdown – hopefully with someone or something more substantial than the Pykes – Tatooine’s criminal community appears to have gone into a collective state of hibernation. Madam Garsa trying to talk down Black Krrsantan from full-on Wookiee beserker mode makes you want to see more of the Sanctuary’s Twi’lek boss, but Fett and Shand’s working lunch with the heads of the various families stuggles to match the drama of an average episode of Come Dine With Me. Not even the threat of Boba’s pet Rancor can liven things up.
Now that the title character is “completely healed”, The Book of Boba Fett has hopefully lost the excuse to devote much of its remaining running time to flashbacks. There’s only so much they can tell us about his impending discovery that a marshal in Mos Pelgo is wearing his famous suit. Well, we hope anyway.
Ultimately, ‘The Gathering Storm’ is an episode you could quite happily skip, safe in the knowledge that next week’s “Previously on The Book of Boba Fett” recap will tell you everything you need to know. And, for a franchise as beloved as Star Wars, statements don’t come much more damning than that.
The Book of Boba Fett has been a constant push-and-pull between flashbacks and driving its story forward. ‘The Gathering Storm’, however, proves to be a no-win scenario on both counts, an episode that fails to build on either existing Star Wars lore or the show’s promising allusions to The Godfather.
At some point in the series’ development, the writing team clearly decided that filling gaps in Fett’s sparse mythology was the priority, and they’ve neglected the opportunity to put the man and his amazing armor into exciting scenarios. This is the episode where that choice feels like a massive error of judgment, bringing the absence of a McGuffin as powerful as Baby Yoda into sharp relief. Too many more episodes like this and fans are going to want to put The Book of Boba Fett down for good and metaphorically read something far more interesting.
- The misleading ‘The Gathering Storm’ title is one of the most over-used in popular culture, with episodes of Dallas, Falcon Crest and even Mob Wives all making use of it in the past. It’s perhaps most famous, however, for the critically acclaimed TV movie in which Albert Finney played Winston Churchill in the run up to World War 2.
- The reference to Bib Fortuna double crossing Boba Fett adds dramatic weight to the cold-blooded execution of Jabba’s former majordomo in The Mandalorian season 2 finale. Fett is presumably referring to an incident in Marvel’s War of the Bounty Hunters comic. In the series (which kicked off in November 2021), Jabba put a bounty on Fett after the bounty hunter temporarily lost possession of the carbonite-encased Han Solo while transporting him to Tatooine – so it’s understandable if Boba holds something of grudge against his former employers. Marvel’s Disney-era stories are generally assumed to be canonical, so this is likely to be part of the official chronology.
- The Book of Boba Fett continues its mission to showcase every alien species who popped up on Tatooine in Return of the Jedi, with a brief shot of some Weequay outside the doors to Jabba’s Palace.
- Tatooine is famous for its twin suns but this episode also gives us a view of its three moons: Ghomrassen, Guermessa and Chenini.
- The desert battle that attracts Boba Fett’s attention and leads him to Fennec Shand took place in The Mandalorian season 1 episode ‘The Gunslinger’. Fennec was left for dead after her fight with Mando and rookie bounty hunter Toro Calican, until a mysterious figure – later revealed to be Fett – found her body. The clinking sound of Boba’s trademark spurs – which also features as a motif in The Book of Boba Fett’s theme music – alerted observant fans to his possible escape from the Sarlacc.
- The engineer/surgeon who fixes Fennec Shand is played by musician Stephen ‘Thundercat’ Bruner.
- Fennec Shand hails from the Mid Rim of that galaxy far, far away. As the name suggests, it can be found somewhere between the Core Worlds (home to Coruscant) and the Outer Rim (home of Tatooine).
- Boba Fett clearly knows Fennec Shand and – while she doesn’t recognise Fett’s face – she’s aware of his reputation. This raises some interesting questions about their respective histories together. Fennec has already appeared in The Bad Batch, where she crossed paths with Omega, the female, Kamino-born Clone who’s essentially Boba’s sister. So there’s every chance we’ll see the two bounty hunters bump into each other in the Clone Wars follow-up.
- Fennec was active during the Clone Wars, so would presumably have seen unmasked Clone Troopers before. If so, it would surely have occurred to her that Fett looked just like his genetic brothers?
- Boba Fett’s iconic ship was originally named Slave I but – for obvious historical reasons – it’s now been rebranded as a “Firespray class gunship”. The shift began on Star Wars merchandise last year, but this is the first time the Firespray name has been used on screen.
- Boba Fett’s ship made its first appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, when Boba Fett successfully tracked Han Solo and Princess Leia to Cloud City. Attack of the Clones revealed that the ship previously belonged to his ‘dad’, Jango Fett.
- The sous-chef in Jabba’s kitchens looks and sounds a lot like EV-9D9, the droid who allocated jobs to C-3PO and R2-D2 in Return of the Jedi.
- The head chef, meanwhile, is a COO cook droid – a similar model appeared on the freighter that transported Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala to Naboo in Attack of the Clones.
- While the rabbit-like LEP service droid is making its live-action debut, the model made numerous appearances in The Clone Wars. The droid’s designation is a nod to lepus, the Latin name for rabbits.
- The episode also marks the first live-action appearance of a PLNK droid, the 4-legged cousin of the familiar GNK droid. They’ve previously cropped up in The Clone Wars and Rebels, and were named after designer Kilian Plunkett.
- The Sarlacc always had tentacles, but the beak made its controversial debut in the 1997 Special Edition release of Return of the Jedi.
- The bomb Fennec Shand dispatches to kill the Sarlacc is a seismic charge. The ordnance was memorably used by Boba’s dad, Jango, to fight off Obi-Wan Kenobi in Attack of the Clones.
- Fennec Shand and Boba Fett tuck into a meal of scurrier, a rodent-like species native to Tatooine.
- Fennec’s remark that the Mos Espa mayor’s majordomo is “singing like a Yuzzum” is one Star Wars simile we have direct reference for – Joh Yowza, the furry co-vocalist in the Max Rebo Band in Return of the Jedi, is famously representative of the species. Yuzzums are native to the Forest Moon of Endor, home of the Ewoks.
- When Boba refers to his youthful biker hench people as ‘Mods’, he’s not just alluding to their cybernetic modifications. It’s also an in-joke about their colorful speeders, whose design is apparently modelled after the Vespas beloved of real-life ‘mods’ in the UK in the ’60s.
- Black Krrsantan pulling off an unfortunate Trandoshan’s arm continues a Tatooie tradition started by Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope when he chopped off Pondo Baba’s limb in the Cantina.
- Madam Garsa refers to Black Krrsantan’s past as a successful gladiator – before he became a bounty hunter, he was trained by the Xonti brothers, who ran a successful fight business during the Imperial era.
- Fennec Shand assures Boba Fett “you can buy muscle if you know where to look,” there’s a brief snippet of The Mandalorian theme. Could Din Djarin be making a trip to Tatooine next week?
- Director Kevin Tancharoen’s previous credits include episodes of Halstrom, Iron Fist, Inhumans, Legends of Tomorrow, Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash and Agents of SHIELD.
New episodes of The Book of Boba Fett debut on Disney Plus every Wednesday.
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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.