I’m still miffed about Han Solo’s last name.
In an early scene, Solo revealed that Han’s surname is no family affair; it’s just something he was handed by a terminally bored Imperial flunky who got uncreatively playful with our favorite Star Wars scoundrel’s lack of a traveling companion. I groaned about it in the moment, and ever since. That’s the vibe you’re signing up for when you sit down to watch The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+.
Something’s happened to Star Wars stories in recent years. Solo and The Rise of Skywalker had it most of all on the movie side, but the worst offenders have been our now-two Disney+ live action series, Boba and its predecessor, The Mandalorian. I’m talking about the prevalence of winks and nods.
It’s a thought that crystalized for me when The Book of Boba Fett paid a visit to Tatooine’s Tosche Station. You remember that one, right? It’s the place a young Luke Skywalker whined about not being able to visit in the first Star Wars movie. The iconic line actually ties to a deleted scene from A New Hope where Luke did go there and meet up with some locals, including “friends” Camie and Fixer (they’re both kinda just dicks to Luke).
The Book of Boba Fett heads to Tosche Station in its second episode, and technically for the first time in a filmed Star Wars. A story contrivance is what brings our pal Boba there as he seeks out Tatooine’s version of the Hell’s Angels. But that’s not what initially draws our attention in the minutes before the bounty hunter arrives.
First, we see the interior of Tosche Station: It’s a small cantina space occupied mostly by a large group of rowdy Nikto bikers who are causing trouble for the rest of the patrons. The camera takes it all in, focusing particular attention on a human man and woman who are sitting near the bikers. Very soon, the man will make a comment that enrages the gang just moments before Boba strides in and breaks things up.
Here’s the thing, though: The man and woman are as significant from a fan service perspective as the setting itself. Deep-diving Star Wars lovers whose ears perked up at “Tosche Station” also likely recognized the fashion choices of the two humans. It’s new actors playing the roles, but these are clearly Camie (Mandy Kowalski) and Fixer (Skyler Bible), Luke’s not-quite-friends from the old deleted scene. Still looking as glum and unpleasant as ever.
Even if you don’t know who they are, The Book of Boba Fett communicates their significance. Not directly, mind you; the camera just lingers with them for a few beats too long. The impression is we’re being introduced to characters who will have some important role to play eventually. That’s not it, though. The Book of Boba Fett never really tells us who those two are, and this is the only scene in which they appear.
It’s enough to send any curious fan scurrying for Google with questions about “Tosche Station” and Boba Easter eggs. What seems at first like some major new character introductions is ultimately revealed to be a big, obvious wink-and-nod from Star Wars, a moment that screams “please pay attention and love us, here’s something old!“
More than any other Star Wars story in recent memory, The Book of Boba Fett is awash with moments like this. Our friends at IGN made the convincing argument that the franchise “has a Tatooine problem,” in the sense that Luke’s symbolic “first step into a larger world” in A New Hope never really delivered on the promise of taking us far beyond the bounds of the desert planet. Sure, we’ve seen plenty more of the Star Wars universe since then; but simultaneously, repeated returns have made Tatooine feel like an anchor to which the entire series is tethered.
I agree with that perspective, but I also think the issues here run deeper than a fictional planet. There’s real world context that has direct bearing on the current state of the franchise, and it feels to me like that informed some of the creative choices on Boba Fett more than anything else.
I’m talking about the prevalence of winks and nods.
Star Wars fandom hit something that felt like a breaking point in 2017 as The Last Jedi arrived. Director Rian Johnson’s divisive take opened up the galaxy far, far away to more people. The Star Wars fantasy until that point had nearly always tied directly to Luke and the Skywalker family. But here was this brazen movie suggesting that Rey’s parents were inconsequential galactic citizens, and that Force sensitivity can come for anyone.
I loved the pivot, personally. Not because of any issue with the older stories. But Johnson’s more inclusive view of Star Wars was seemingly aimed at shaking up the foundations and redefining what a Star Wars story for the modern world can look like. Not everyone agreed. The same kind of vicious backlash that targeted 2017’s Justice League movie — the pre-Snyder Cut version that was patched together by Joss Whedon — seemingly arrived in Star Wars fandom just a few months later.
This “Dark Side” of Star Wars fandom had lots of opinions, and they were largely of the conservative (small C) variety: Force-users are special; Luke is a “chosen one” type of figure, a special among specials; the Skywalker lineage is central to Star Wars, and any heroics should be connected to that. There’s little room in this view of Star Wars for progressive (small P) ideas that push the fiction in new directions; just decades of ideas to build on and, in the case of the de-canonized Legends, adapt.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with feeling any kind of way about what Star Wars should look like, to be clear! But the small-yet-highly vocal contingent of trolls that embraced these ideas became very aggressive about defending their perceived turf. The most infamous example, of course, was the online bullying that prompted The Last Jedi actor Kelly Marie Tran to quit social media entirely. But Tran was hardly alone. Thousands upon thousands of words have been written about the toxic fandom of Star Wars and how tiresome it’s all become.
All of that context instantly wells up in my brain when I think about the current state of Star Wars stories. The Book of Boba Fett takes a distinctly fan service-first approach, mostly to its detriment. That kind of thing can be fun, in moderation; I was as thrilled as anyone to see a live-action version of Cad Bane terrorizing Tatooine. And it’s hard not to love Grogu née “Baby Yoda,” the Mandalorian breakout character who clearly has a bigger role to play in what’s ahead.
Yet for any singular “Hell yes!” moments, The Book of Boba Fett‘s commitment to fan service feels downright suffocating. The terrifying-yet-exceedingly dull computer-reanimated Young Luke Skywalker moment springs to mind the fastest, but it’s hardly alone. Cameos by the Tosche pair, Max Rebo, and BD-1 (among others) feel obvious in the way they’re spotlighted and shoehorned into the story. Plot threads involving Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), and the Darksaber — all pulled from the post-Disney canon — aren’t much better.
“The Book of Boba Fett” is a poorly chosen title for the story that unfolded over the course of seven episodes. Many have observed, rightly, that the season’s final stretch was basically a continuation of The Mandalorian Season 2. More than that, though, did anyone come out of these seven episodes with a deeper understanding of Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and what drives him?
It’s not Morrison’s performance; he did his best. But the season all but abandons his story part of the way through, focusing instead on the criminal underworld of Tatooine before taking a wider swing toward Clone Wars, Rebels, and a diverse assortment of other touchstones from Star Wars’ past.
There’s a version of this show where all the setup of the early episodes feeds into a personally driven story about Boba Fett and his evolving view of the universe. We can see shades of it at different moments, little hints that there’s a compelling three-dimensional character somewhere behind what’s written. Fleshing out Boba, who has been popular for decades despite only appearing in the Original Trilogy for a handful of minutes, would have been a great result for this series.
That’s not what we got, though. Instead, the writers duct-taped together a Frankenstein’s monster of a Star Wars story. Here’s some Boba! Here’s some Clone Wars and Rebels! You want Legends? A video game reference? Riffs on long-lost deleted scenes? It’s all here! There’s too much of a throughline to call this an anthology series, but not enough of one to justify the title’s focus on Boba Fett.
The Book of Boba Fett left me feeling suffocated. Every episode is adrift and all-but-superficially untethered from the previous one. Each is marked by moments where you can feel the writers winking their hardest from behind the camera. I know Disney’s capable of taking chances; 2021’s experimental anime anthology Star Wars: Visions did that perfectly. But as Boba highlighted for me clearly, these mainline stories continue to drink deeply and detrimentally from the fan service well, seemingly unaware of, or untroubled by, its implicit endorsement of toxic fandom.