I guess I am doing episode by episode reviews of The Book of Boba Fett now, so here is my somewhat delayed take on episode 4, “The Gathering Storm”. Reviews of previous episodes may be found here.
Warning: Spoilers behind the cut!
“The Gathering Storm”, the latest episode of The Book of Boba Fett starts off with Boba lying in his bacta tank once again. And we all know what that means by now. It’s flashback time.
And since Boba’s flashbacks still happen in remarkably chronological order, we now get what happened after the Tusken tribe that adopted Boba was slaughtered in the previous episode’s flashback. I’d have assumed that Boba Fett would take on the Nikto biker gang that killed the Tuskens next, but instead we find him spying on Jabba’s former palace, clearly planning to break in. However, there are too many guards and so Boba takes off with his trusty bantha companion into the desert again.
We next see Boba eating that time-honoured Tatooine desert specialty critter on a stick and even feeding some to his trusty bantha (banthas are carnivores?!), when he notes flares going off in the distance. Boba and the bantha (that sounds like a 1960s band) investigate and find Fennec with a gut shot, left for dead, a scene we already saw from a slightly different angle in season one of The Mandalorian.
Boba takes Fennec to a mod parlour on the outskirts of Mos Eisley and pays the modder to fix her and save her life. The Book of Boba Fett takes another detour into Cyberpunk territory here, down to some kind of techno music playing in the mod parlour. I also find it fascinating that there apparently is a sizeable cyber-mod teen subculture on Tatooine – sizeable enough that there are mod parlours catering to them – and that we’ve never seen the slightest hint of this before.
A bit later, Fennec wakes up in the desert, not dead and with a cyborg midriff. She’s even more surprised to find herself in the company of Boba Fett, who’s not dead either, though he’s supposed to be. Boba knows Fennec’s reputation – well, he used to be a bounty hunter and Fennec has a bounty on her head – and makes her an offer. If she helps him recover his ship from Jabba’s palace, he’ll let her go.
So Boba and Fennec scout out Jabba’s palace, while Boba cuddles his trusty bantha, gets licked in the face and then sets the bantha free to make baby banthas. Yes, really, this happens and the look on Fennec’s face is priceless when she watches it. Now Boba’s interactions with the Rancor last episode do show that he clearly has a soft spot for mega-fauna, but the galaxy’s most notorious bounty hunter cuddling a bantha is still a bizarre sight, as Emmet Asher-Perrin points out in their review at Tor.com.
Figuring out how many guards there are inside the hangar bay of Jabba’s former palace is not easy, because the gate always opens only for a few moments. However, Fennec has a drone they send in to map the interior of the hangar bay and the adjacent area. Now Boba and Fennec have a map of the layout of the hangar bay plus the positions of the guards and their patrol schedule, they sneak into the palace to steal the ship that is no longer named Slave-1, since Disney has only just realised that slavery is a bad thing.
Their path into the hangar bay leads through the kitchen, where we see two droid chefs – EV-9D9, whom we saw back in Return of the Jedi, and an unnamed slicing and dicing droid with six arms and a knife or cleaver at the end of each of them. The two droids hear sounds and initially assume that rats of gotten into the kitchen, so they summon the rat catcher. But they quickly realise that these “rats” are human sized, which leads to a hilarious fight scene. Boba knocks out EV-9D9 fairly easily with his gaffi stick, but the multi meat cleaver droid gives him trouble, until Fennec just severs a cable and disables it. However, there’s still the rat catcher, a strange robotic bunny/cat hybrid, which Boba chases around the kitchen, since the droid does the wise thing and deactivates itself. We briefly see it in a present day scene, suggesting that it survived. After the bulbs of fennel briefly glimpsed in Aunt Beru’s kitchen in A New Hope, we can also now add red cabbage and leek to the tally of vegetables that inexplicably seem to grow somewhere on Tatooine or at least are imported in reasonably fresh condition.
One of the things that makes the Star Wars universe so great is the beautiful absurdity and weirdness found in every single corner of it. And the kitchen fight involving a a knife-twirling food preparation droid and a robotic bunny/cat hybrid fighting a cyborg imperial ex-assassin and a bantha cuddling Mandalorian who’s lost his armour and his ship is just one example of the wonderful weirdness of this universe, as Nick Wanserski points out in his review at the AV-Club.
Once they’ve dealt with the kitchen droids and make their way into the hangar proper, Boba and Fennec take out two Gamoreans (the same Gamoreans that follow Boba along everywhere, though these Gamoreans wear shirts?), but then Weequay reinforcements arrive. Fennec puts her sniper skills to good use, while Boba dashes abaord Slave-1 (until it officially gets another name, I will continue to call it that) to get the old girl off the ground. Of course, Slave-1 is too big for Jabba’s hangar bay and scrapes the walls, before Fennec takes out the counterweight of the gate with a well-aimed shot, allowing them to escape. Boba promised Fennec that she could leave, once they’d gotten Slave-1 back, but Fennec decides to stick around, curious what Boba will do next.
What Boba Fett does next is finally wreak vengeance on the Nikto biker gang who had wiped out his Tusken friends. The scene is less spectacular than I had expected. Given the Billy Jack parallels, I expected a prolonged martial arts battle, but instead Boba just guns down the Niktos with Slave-1. I also wonder why he didn’t at least leave one Nikto alive to question, since both Boba and Fennec agree that it’s rather unlikely for a Nikto biker gang to take out a whole tribe of Tuskens.
After wreaking righteous vengeance on the Niktos, Boba wants to get his armour back, starting at the place where he last saw it, namely the sarlacc pit. Boba clearly doesn’t remember that the Jawas stole his armour, so he decides to fly Slave-1 close enough to the sarlacc’s mouth to allow him to shine a light inside and see if there’s any beskar armour lying around there. This manoeuvre almost goes wrong, when the sarlacc wakes up and decides to gobble up Slave-1 and only Fennec deploying a sonic grenade saves them – and coincidentally also kills the sarlacc.
However, it’s only after Boba has bodily descended into the sarlacc pit that he is satisfied that is armour truly isn’t there. He also rinses off the sarlacc’s stomach acid with water, which confused not only Tor.com‘s Emmet Asher-Perrin, but me as well, because that is not how you neutralise acid.
Later that night, Boba outlines his plans for the future by the campfire (come to think of it, there are a lot of campfire scenes in this episode and in The Book of Boba Fett in general). Of course, we already know what those plans are. He wants to kill Bib Fortuna, because Bib supposedly betrayed him. Nick Wanserski is as confused about this as I am, because while Bib Fortuna may be unpleasant, slimy and a jerk, it’s not his fault that Boba ended up in the Sarlacc pit. And then, once Bib Fortuna is out of the way, Boba Fett wants to become a crime lord.
Fennec correctly points out that Boba Fett is a bounty hunter, so why is he suddenly looking at a midlife career change? Boba Fett replies that he’s sick of working for bad bosses, who couldn’t care less about his welfare and will only get him killed. After all, Boba Fett almost got killed, while working for Jabba, and his Dad got killed while working for Darth Sidious. Boba believes that he can do better and also invites Fennec to be his partner. Fennec initially declines. She’s perfectly willing to do jobs for Boba, but she’s an independent contractor. Boba then offers her something none of her other employers have ever offered her. Loyalty and a share in his ill-gotten gains. He also tells Fennec that his time with the Tuskens – which apparently was years, though it only seems like a few months – taught him the importance of having a tribe.
Those aims seem straightforward enough, but they still don’t make a whole lot of sense. For starters, as Tor.com‘s Emmett Asher-Perrin wonders, why Boba needs the Tuskens to teach him the importance of community and having a tribe, when he’s a Mandalorian, i.e. a member of a people with a strong sense of community. Even if Jango was an outcast due to collaborating with the very Empire that would eventually wipe out Mandalore, one would expect him to have taught young Boba about “the way”.
io9‘s James Whitbrook is confused whether Boba wants to set up a criminal empire or a labour union for bounty hunters. And if it’s the latter, how does Boba’s outfit differ from e.g. Greef Karga’s bounty hunter guild seen in The Mandalorian?
At the Guardian, Chris Edwards wonders what’s the matter with Boba Fett, since he barely seems like the mysterious villain we met in the original trilogy some forty years ago. Instead, we get labour leader Boba who befriends Tuskens, cuddles banthas, suddenly hates the very Empire he used to work for and wants to become a crime lord to implement better working conditions for bounty hunters. It’s not even that kinder, gentler Boba is a bad character, but he’s not the character we know and there is little explanation given for the change beyond his sojourn among the Tuskens.
We don’t get any answers, because at this point Boba wakes up – naturally for once – and is informed by a helpful droid attendant that his wounds are now healed and he will need no more bacta treatments. So I guess this was the last flashback, which is a good thing, especially since this flashback took up some 75 percent of the episode.
Back in the present, the newly healed Boba decides to head to Mos Espa to show his face in town. He winds up in Garza Fwip’s bar, where Black Krrsatan is getting drunk and decides to beat up a group of Tradoshan gamblers. Apparently, there is an ancestral feud between the Tradoshans and the Wookies, but Black Krrsatan’s behaviour still feels oddly personal. Garza Fwip tries to talk down Black Krrsatan by pointing out that he has nothing to prove, because everybody knows that he is the arena champion, but that times have changed and that since the demise of the Empire gladiator fights and gratuitous violence are no longer acceptable. Also, if Black Krrsatan will kind set down the Tradoshan gambler, all his drinks – and Black Krrsatan is clearly badly drunk – will be on the house. Black Krrsatan does set down the Tradoshan, though not without ripping his arm off. Then he leaves and Boba goes after him to offer him a job.
Black Krrsatan clearly accepts, because the next time we see him, he is standing guard at a banquet that Boba and Fennec are giving for the local crime bosses, Jabba’s old lieutenants, who have divided Mos Espa amongst themselves. Boba points out that he does not want to muscle in on their territory, but that it would be in everybody’s best interest, if they were to band together to fight the Pyke Syndicate who are gearing up for war. One of the crime bosses, a Tradoshan, points out that they are making good profit selling the Pyke Syndicate’s spice. But Boba insists that the Pykes want to take over “our planet” (nice that Boba considers Tatooine his home now, but it’s not his planet). And since the crime bosses don’t want to help, Boba proposes a compromise: He’ll handle the Pykes himself and the other crime bosses will just stay out of it and promise not to side with the Pykes. Two of the three crime bosses think this is an acceptable proposal, only one guy, a member of a species I don’t recognise, wonders why he and his people shouldn’t just kill Boba and take his territory. At this point, a Rancor claw extends through the floor grating, which quickly shuts up the crime boss.
The episode ends with the crime bosses and their entourage departing. Fennec wants to know whether Boba thinks they can be trusted. Boba replies that he trusts that they will act in their own best interest.
And that’s it. We’re past the halfway point of this seven episode series and the plot has barely moved forward in this episode at all, because “The Gathering Storm” should have been called “The Endless Flashback”, since three quarters of it are flashback. At least, this flashback is more entertaining than the previous ones, if only because it has plenty of Fennec Shand and I’m here more for Fennec than for Boba Fett. However, as Daily Dot reviewer Gavia Baker-Whitelaw points out, this episode doesn’t tell us anything knew, since we already knew that Boba rescued Fennec and had her injuries healed/repaired and that she’s loyal to him as a result.
Don’t get me wrong, this episode was a lot of fun, but I still have no idea what Disney is trying to do with this show. And at past the halfway point, we should have some idea where it’s going or even what the purpose of the whole thing is.