Fun as it was to watch, much has been said about The Mandalorian’s meandering plots, especially in its second season. And in many ways, The Book of Boba Fett was itself like one extended Mandalorian side story. A DLC, if you will. Technically the show was about the titular bounty hunter, and yet, he was constantly upstaged by more interesting characters throughout the short season. Then two episodes before the finale, Boba reintroduces the Mandalorian Din Djarin himself, along with a host of characters from the latter’s show. At that point any lingering interest in Boba dwindled away.
Boba Fett’s finale, “Chapter 7: In the Name of Honor” was a battle royale of sorts among the various competing political interests of Tatooine: gangsters and fish people who wanted spice versus a motley crew of heroes assembled by Boba fighting for freedom. And all of that was fine, but not particularly dynamic because we only had six episodes to figure out who these people were and if we should care about them, which was not nearly enough time for any real investment. During what should have been high-stakes and emotional battle sequences in the finale, my heart was pounding… over when Mando and Grogu would be reunited. That’s not exactly what you might want from a show about a totally different character during action set pieces.
There were a few moments among Boba’s crew though that kinda worked on an emotional level, mainly regarding Krrsantan and the way he both fought for Boba and was taken care of by his allies. But what really sparkled was the ongoing story of Hot Space Daddy and His Tiny Puppet Son. In just three episodes, the majority of which didn’t even feature the duo (and certainly not together), a crescendo of anticipation built up around a miniature chain mail shirt. We knew, of course, that even though mean ol’ Luke Skywalker forced Grogu to unnecessarily choose between a lightsaber and the Jedi versus a protective gift from his father, Grogu would choose Mando. And rightfully so. (Of note, of course, Mando does have the Darksaber… Grogu could get his lil hands on that eventually.) But that brief reunion with all the “I missed you, too” packed more of a punch than anything else in the entire Boba series.
The Book of Boba Fett was a mess from the start narratively, but it wasn’t terrible. Did it need to exist? Eh. There were the ‘member berries and nods for diehard fans to enjoy (minus AI Luke, which was a disaster of the uncanny). As a side-story, sure, it was fine. But if its aspirations were higher, it certainly did not meet them. There wasn’t enough to make us care deeply about anything happening on Tatooine; reintroducing characters from another series—including Fett and Fennec Shand themselves, along with Cobb Vanth—is what ultimately worked the best, but still never really came together. There was an interesting world here, certainly—we just didn’t get much of a chance to explore it or know its inhabitants better.
As for Grogu, I was admittedly a little concerned about the way he was included in “Chapter 6: From the Desert Comes a Stranger.” Grogu, formerly Baby Yoda, is the true star of these series. The expressiveness of his puppetry is astonishing, and his weird little face has inspired devotion from everyone who encounters him in the show or in the real world. At the same time, a little Grogu goes a long way, especially when he’s not with Mando. In “Chapter 6,” not only did we see him physically on the move more than we ever had before—including some very ill-conceived CG—was nothing learned from Yoda’s CG flips in the prequels?—but he became the lead during his Jedi training with Luke. God bless his little heart, that’s too much Grogu. He is a spice, he is a flake of gold, a sparkle of diamond. More Grogu works in concert with Mando, but not always alone—a fact that (given his popularity) we could unfortunately see Disney+ continuing to misjudge in future seasons.
But in “Chapter 7,” we got the perfect amount of Grogu. He’s still a baby that needs protecting (and feeding), and though he is learning how to use his powers better to protect his Chad Dad who just runs head-first into problems, he still has to nap afterwards with, say, a new rancor friend. (Grogu’s powers are still really all over the place; there’s no good sense of what he actually can and can’t do moment to moment, or what he learned from Luke. Oh well!) And Mando’s protectiveness and his understanding that Grogu is a childling is heartwarming; he hands him that little ball (!) to keep him occupied during yet another horrific battle (I hope he’s working on that PTSD), and tells him “no” to using the thruster to zip through space… but ultimately gives in to Grogu’s firm little taps of impatience. It’s adorable, it’s grounded, it means something.
When ultimately considering The Mandalorian and Boba Fett, I try to think of how the series might be received if they weren’t tied to Star Wars. Honestly, they come off really well. Excellent production values, fun stories, an unprecedented use of animatronics and puppetry outside of a Henson production, exceptional costuming and fun new worlds. But like Marvel’s Disney+ series, the connection to the larger universe often hamstrings the stories, or at the very least saddles them with impossible expectations of how they should go and where it all fits within canon, with constant murmuring from a fanbase who seems to just want to re-experience the original movies again and again.
For all of Boba’s narrative faults though, as little more than a pastiche of various Star Wars properties, the relationship between Grogu and Mando proves how these shows can work and even shine when focused on new characters and new situations. The Mandalorian might have been a tour around familiar Star Wars worlds, and Boba a collection of greatest hits in terms of lore, but the thing that continues to stand out is how much an orphaned bounty hunter came to care for and love a tiny alien child as his own. That previous focus on character connection rather than trade policy or factions made us invested in their story. They created their own clan, after all, to make something new, something good. Something worth fighting for.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
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