As we have followed the story of The Book of Boba Fett so far, one of the criticisms the show has received is about how Star Wars has ruined the character of Boba Fett. The criticism goes that the version of the character in this show is vastly different than the one in the original trilogy, and the conclusion therefore is reached that these showrunners don’t know what they’re doing with the character. They’re ruining him.
Now, these criticisms originate from a place of truth: namely, that there is a difference between this Boba Fett and the Boba Fett we’ve seen earlier. The disagreement comes with whether this has ruined the character or not, and I’m firmly in the camp that says it’s only adding to it, not detracting from it.
In the fictional biography of Fett, he was raised as a child on Kamino, born as an unaltered clone of his father Jango Fett. Jango was the galaxy’s most notorious bounty hunter, and he was hired by Darth Tyranus (aka Count Dooku) to be the template for the secret clone army of the Republic. Fett lived on Kamino with his son, whom he was grooming to take his place as the galaxy’s greatest bounty hunter. Jango’s life was cut short when he was killed by Mace Windu during the Battle of Geonosis, which served as the first battle of the Clone Wars. Boba, who witnessed this event, determined to hunt down Windu and kill him, working with bounty hunters and establishing a reputation for himself. He wasn’t a bloodthirsty murderer, but he was motivated by revenge, and he soon did become the most notorious bounty hunter in the galaxy. He was ruthlessly committed to his craft and wasn’t afraid to kill to make it happen. He frequently worked for Jabba the Hutt, and also worked for the Sith Lord Darth Vader on multiple occasions – including hunting down the pilot who destroyed the Death Star (Luke Skywalker) and hunting down the Millennium Falcon after the Battle of Hoth. He succeeded at both, as he was the one to inform Vader of Skywalker’s name and was also the one to lead Vader to Cloud City. Fett then delivered Han Solo to Jabba, albeit not before fending off rival factions over the prize.
Fett stuck around Jabba’s Palace for a while, and saw Luke Skywalker’s rescue attempt of Han Solo seemingly fail. But as the heroes mounted a counter-attack above the sarlacc pit, Boba sprang into action – and was sent flying when Solo inadvertently hit his jetpack, causing it to malfunction. Fett fell into the mouth of the beast, but he wasn’t done yet; he managed to fight his way out of the sarlacc, badly scarred and exhausted, but alive. His armor was taken by Jawas, and he was taken by Tusken Raiders as their prisoner. Over time, however, he became welcomed as part of the tribe and embraced his new identity with his newfound family. But they were murdered, and Fett felt responsibility for it. He then set out to reclaim his ship and armor, and together with Fennec Shand (who he rescued from certain death in the desert), he got revenge on the Tuskens’ killers and the sarlacc pit. He tracked down his armor, helped Din Djarin rescue Grogu, and murdered Bib Fortuna to set up rulership in Jabba’s place on Tatooine.
Why do I spend time on all of that? Because there’s a few monumental events in Boba’s life that take place in-between his characterization in the original trilogy and this show! When we last saw him in the original trilogy, he was falling into the sarlacc pit, where those who fell in were fated for “a new definition of pain and suffering.” Imagine knowing that this beast slowly digests you over a thousand years, and sitting in its stomach, and then not changing after narrowly escaping such a harrowing experience. Imagine being embraced by Tusken Raiders, those assumed to be savage beasts, and finding a tribe to belong to – and still not changing. Imagine seeing this newfound family killed, and seeing an opportunity to rule in such a way that helps people, and not changing. My point is that a span of years where these things take place will inevitably change a person. It’s not misunderstanding the character to have him change after these experiences; it’s a misunderstanding of human nature to expect him not to.
Boba Fett never really found true belonging with his father, which is hinted at in other places but also in this show, as we see him continually remembering watching his dad leave and being left alone. As a bounty hunter, Boba was a loner his entire life; he didn’t want to get too close to others, and he didn’t let them in. This is why, when Fennec articulates a sentiment that many fans have shared and says “living with the Tuskens has made you soft,” Boba responds, “No. It’s made me strong. You can only get so far without a tribe.” That may well be most important line in the whole show, because it makes obvious the fact that Boba has learned and grown. He’s realized the importance of belonging, and this shows in all of the relationships he has in the show. Think about it: Fennec Shand was rescued by Boba in the desert; the Gamorreans were spared execution by Boba; the Mods were exonerated by Boba in wake of high water prices and offered a job instead; the Rancor was befriended by Boba and not enslaved; Black Krrsantan was freed and later hired by Boba. He’s doing things differently than crime lords typically do, and it’s because his time with the Tuskens changed him.
But Boba is also not returning to bounty hunting, and this also has to do with what he learned and experienced during the previous years. As he tells Fennec, “I’m tired of working for idiots who are going to get me killed. The Tuskens took me in. Made me part of their tribe. I was ready to leave hunting behind.” So he explicitly states that it was the time with the Tuskens that changed him here as well, and he basically raises the point with Fennec that their jobs working for others led to them both being left for dead in the Tatooine desert. He’s tired of that. “How many times have you been hired to do a job that was avoidable? If they only took the time to think,” Boba later tells her. “How much money could have been made? How many lives could have been saved? … I’m tired of our kind dying because of the idiocy of others. We’re smarter than them. It’s time we took our shot.” Again, do we expect someone who went through everything Boba just did to not re-think his life a bit? And what employee doesn’t think they could do some things better and doesn’t have ideas for change if they ran the show?
In other words, Boba’s development seems entirely plausible and consistent when you factor in what his character has been through. Which leads me to think that the issue some have might not be that it’s not faithful to the character but rather that this character has changed. A lot of the criticism actually boils down to a reluctance to see familiar characters go through evolution, change, and development. And the reason I’m so confident in this is because it’s not the first, nor the most prominent, example we’ve seen of this.
Enter Luke Skywalker.
When The Last Jedi released, there was a segment of fans online who disliked the movie, and though they cited many things they thought were wrong, much of it basically came down to how Luke was handled. How could the beacon of hope in the original trilogy become one who had lost all hope by the sequel trilogy? Well, as more details were filled in, it became clear how: Luke felt that he had failed his masters and his family after the rebellion of Ben Solo ruined Luke’s efforts to create a new Jedi Order. Luke knew the failures of the Jedi of old and, having now seen his own failures on top of that, thought that the most heroic and best thing he could do for the galaxy was let the Jedi Order die out, since they didn’t own the light side of the Force. But by the end of the film, he embraces the legend of Luke Skywalker and the good of the Jedi Order. Luke Skywalker actually grows, learns, and changes in the film! I’ve written extensively on this before (such as here), but that’s actually the reason I think the film is so great and so powerful.
Whether or not you agree with my opinion on that, I think it is clear that characters changing is at the root of a lot of criticism. One of the things I’m convinced Star Wars fans lose sight of is that a good story is about more than just exciting action sequences, but involves a compelling plot – and that almost always involves change and growth. Rarely does a good story begin and end with the main character at the exact same spot, without any change or any development. (Go ahead and try and think of an example where that doesn’t happen.) There’s a certain segment of Star Wars fans who just want the exciting action, and that’s why something like the Darth Vader hallway scene in Rogue One is so beloved. And don’t get me wrong: that scene is epic, and it’s not wrong to want those exciting action moments! But they are all the stronger in the context of a compelling story.
Star Wars needs more and more storytellers who are unafraid to take risks and see the main character go through much growth and development, people like Rian Johnson and Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau. This is what makes these moments rise above just an exciting collection of clips that can be posted to Youtube and instead a memorable story that will endure. In the long run, Luke Skywalker is a far better and more compelling character because of The Last Jedi, and I’m convinced Boba Fett will be a far better and more compelling character because of The Book of Boba Fett. And it’s precisely because these characters change.