Of course, since The Mandalorian takes place five years after Return of the Jedi, you might be wondering: how is Boba Fett alive? After all, last we saw him, he was falling into the mighty sarlacc at the Great Pit of Carkoon, to be slowly digested over the course of a thousand years.
So how’d he survive? It turns out there have been a few signs.
The return of Boba Fett was well-established in legends material. Fett escaped, and then shortly thereafter was re-eaten by it (seriously… it’s pretty hilarious). While trapped in the sarlacc once more, Fett met a being named Susejo, who basically had become one with the sarlacc (or so he thought). Through this, the bounty hunter saw an opportunity and took it, fighting his way out of the beast. Then, he was rescued by Dengar, and Fett went on to have many more adventures.
So, yeah, legends wasn’t always all that good (Fett being re-eaten shortly after escaping is hilariously bad), but the main point here is that Fett did escape. That was very well-established in prior Star Wars storytelling, but what about in canon material?
There have been some hints over the years. Primarily, I want to point out three of them.
1. Mandalorian armor, damaged by acid, was discovered on Tatooine
The first came in the first Aftermath book, written by Chuck Wendig, and released in the leadup to The Force Awakens. Here, Adwin Charu and Cobb Vanth come across a sandcrawler – and the Jawas are said to have recovered many things from an apparent sail barge wreckage. They then discover a box containing Mandalorian armor:
“From the box, he withdraws a helmet. Pitted and pocked, as if with some kind of acid. But still – he raps his knuckles on it. The Mandalorians knew how to make armor, didn’t they? ‘Look at this,’ he says, holding it up. ‘Mandalorian battle armor. Whole box. Complete set, by the looks of it. Been through hell and back. I think my boss will appreciate this.'”
Vanth eventually winds up donning the armor and wearing it around, establishing himself as the sherrif of Freetown, a town on Tatooine. But what is especially significant is that the Jawas had artifacts from a sail barge wreckage, and also just so happened to have Mandalorian armor that had apparently been damaged by acid… hmm.
In the next book, Aftermath: Life Debt, Wendig writes another interlude about Vanth, this time told through the point of view of Malakili, the rancor keeper at Jabba’s Palace. When he encounters Vanth, we read this:
“There, a man in Mandalorian armor, the suit of it pocked and pitted and streaked with scars. Armor that looks eerily familiar, and Malakili’s innards clench at the sight of it. A carbine hangs at the man’s side.”
Again we get a reference to the suit being damaged, but here I want to point out that Malakili thought the armor looked eerily familiar… which, considering his background at Jabba’s Palace, is noteworthy.
And then in the third book, Aftermath: Empire’s End, the interlude about Vanth has someone asking him whether it’s even real Mandalorian armor at all:
“‘You don’t deserve that armor,’ Lorgan says, his voice a hiss like sand against sand. For good measure, he kicks out with a cobble-tread boot, kicking Vanth in the head so hard the so-called mayor of Freetown goes down like a sack of mox-spelt. ‘Is it even real Mandalorian armor? Looks like something hammered out on a swindler’s forge. Besides… wearing a strong man’s armor doesn’t change how weak you are. Take his helmet off.'”
This one is the most vague of them all, I readily admit, but is it possible this is a hint that the man who once wore this armor wasn’t actually a Mandalorian?
Between all of this, Star Wars fans have long understood this armor to be the armor once worn by Boba Fett. The evidence is so strong: on Tatooine, seemingly recovered by the same Jawas who scavenged Jabba’s Sail Barge wreckage, with the armor showing signs of acidic damage (like could be caused by being in the stomach of the sarlacc), that looked familiar to Malakili, etc. I feel very confident saying that this was the armor of Boba Fett.
But what we don’t know is what happened to the bounty hunter himself. While we have a reference to his armor, we’ve had no reference to him.
2. The sarlacc sustained serious damage
In the interlude in Aftermath: Life Debt, Wendig tells the story through the viewpoint of Malakili, who is mourning the death of his rancor. Here’s what we read:
“He thought maybe to tame the glorious monstrosity at the bottom of the Great Pit of Carkoon (and, failing that, to throw himself into its maw), but the mighty Sarlacc was injured. Burning wreckage from the sail barge had rained upon it. Already its body – considerably more massive than the mouth exposed from the sliding sands – had been partially unburied, its stoma-tubes slit open, its digesting innards pillaged by industrious Jawas. They pulled out weapons and armor, droids and tools. And skeletons, of course. The creature of Carkoon had a pure purpose, to wait and to eat, and now it was left to thrash and wail in the grip of pillagers. Malakili wept at another life without purpose.”
So the sarlacc has been injured. The explosion damaged it, and we are told that it has been partially unburied, had its stomach slit open, and had its innards plundered by Jawas. Yes, that’s a bit horrifying, but here’s my point: if the sarlacc had been injured in the explosion of the sail barge, that would have been shorty after Boba Fett was swallowed. Perhaps that could have provided an opportunity for someone like Fett to escape – especially since we’re told that the stomach was slit open.
All of which could easily be explained by Boba Fett escaping. Or the Jawas found him. Or something like that.
3. The mysterious figure on Tatooine
I wouldn’t necessarily say this is so much evidence as it is further reason for speculation, but if you remember back to the fifth episode of The Mandalorian (the one that took place on Tatooine), at the end a mysterious figure approaches the body of Fennec Shand. We are never told who this person is, but fans had plenty of ideas. The most common was that this figure was Boba Fett.
There were three primary reasons for this speculation. First of all, fans reasoned that the keeping this a mystery and building up the intrigue meant that this person was someone significant. That’s a good guess, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Secondly, with the episode taking place on Tatooine, it would make sense for Boba Fett to still be roaming around there. In fact, maybe there was a bigger reason for going to Tatooine beyond mere nostalgia… And thirdly, the sound effects that the figure’s armor made upon approach was identical to those made by Boba Fett in the original trilogy. With how much attention is paid in Star Wars to details and sound effects, this hardly seems coincidental.
So through all of this, Boba Fett has been one of the most prominent theories as to who this figure is, and entering season two it seemed to me to be the most probable one. Sure, it could be Cobb Vanth, but it doesn’t seem like the wisest thing to do to introduce audiences to a person wearing Boba Fett’s armor and then explain that it’s not actually Boba Fett. That’s no offense to the books (I read them all and enjoy most of them!), but they’re not reaching nearly as wide of an audience as the shows and films do. To me, it doesn’t seem like something they’d do to bring Vanth into the show instead of Fett.
So, between these three things, the stage has been set for years for a possible Boba Fett return – just like the stage was set for a possible Palpatine return. But in both cases, the signs were subtle enough that no one would think much about them if nothing wound up happening. But with these hints, it always seemed like Lucasfilm would do something with Boba Fett, and it sounds like they are indeed.
My guess is that Fett will be wearing his classic armor (though damaged and deformed) in The Mandalorian. And if that does indeed turn out to be the case, it doesn’t negate anything (though some people on the internet will still claim it does). It just means that Boba Fett likely took it back from Cobb Vanth sometime in-between. And since the Aftermath books take place within a year of Return of the Jedi, that means there’s still four more years after all of that before The Mandalorian. That’s plenty of time for Fett to get his armor back.