Last week’s episode of The Book of Boba Fett was one of the very best episodes of Star Wars TV we’ve ever seen.
This week’s may have just topped it.
Though there are some questions to be raised about how this show is going to wrap things up with just one episode remaining, that doesn’t take away from the pure joy and thrills of watching this episode, as from start to finish it was a Star Wars fan’s dream come true. Dave Filoni directed and co-wrote this episode with Jon Favreau, and, well, it quickly becomes apparent why he was the obvious choice to handle this one.
There are tons of spoilers ahead, and if you haven’t watched the episode you’ll want to go in spoiler-free – trust me. But here’s my review for The Book of Boba Fett Chapter 6: “From the Desert Comes a Stranger.”
Some members of the Pyke Syndicate are stealing from a remote town on Tatooine when Cobb Vanth arrives to intervene. He says they can leave with what they have, but that this territory belongs to Mos Pelgo. The Pykes try to shoot him, but Vanth is faster and kills three of the four members. He lets the other leave, but takes their bounty as payment.
Din Djarin arrives on a remote forest world, where he meets R2-D2 and sees a number of droids building Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Academy. He wants to see Grogu, so the droids build him a bench to wait on. Meanwhile, Luke trains Grogu in the ways of the Force. He tells Grogu about Yoda and asks if the child wanted to remember his people; with Luke helping him do so, we see a flashback to Order 66 as Grogu watches Jedi gunned down by clone troopers. As Djarin waits for them to arrive, he is surprised by another arrival: Ahsoka Tano. She tells him that she’s a friend of the Skywalker family and that R2 brought him to her. From afar the two watch Luke and Grogu train, while Ahsoka asks if Djarin wants to see Grogu for the kid’s sake, or for his own. Ahsoka says that it’s been hard for Grogu to leave Djarin and that seeing him again would only make it harder, so Djarin reluctantly gives Ahsoka the gift to Grogu and leaves.
Luke continues to train Grogu, repeating some of the same training that Yoda had Luke do years earlier, showing Grogu the ways of the Force. And as he has him work with a training droid, Grogu begins growing his abilities, leaping to avoid the droid’s blasts. Luke and Ahsoka watch this, and Luke confesses that it feels like he’s just helping Grogu remember rather than teaching him, to which Ahsoka tells him that sometimes the student teaches the master. She tells Luke that he reminds her of his father, and Luke asks what he should do with Grogu. She tells him to trust his instincts, and she leaves.
Djarin arrives back on Tatooine and meets up with Boba Fett, Fennec Shand, and their crew at the Palace. Fennec is giving a rundown of the situation, and though they now have muscle with Djarin and Black Krrsantan, they need troops. Djarin says he might be able to help with that, and he visits Mos Pelgo – now named Freetown – to try to enlist Cobb Vanth’s help. Though the people don’t want to get involved, Vanth says he’ll do what he can. After Djarin leaves Vanth calls for a meeting with the citizens, but before that can take place he notices a lone stranger approaching. He orders everyone inside, but his deputy remains outside despite his orders. The figure gets closer, and his identity is revealed: Cad Bane. He tells Vanth to stay out of it and that the syndicate will pay him more than Boba Fett. Tensions rise and a standoff ensures. Bane wins the draw, shooting Vanth in the shoulder and then peppering the deputy with bullets, killing him. Bane leaves as the people rush to tend to Vanth. Later, two Pykes visit Garsa Fwip’s casino, leaving a camtono behind as they exit – and it explodes, destroying the place.
Back at Luke’s Temple, now constructed, he offers Grogu a choice. He can have the beskar chainmail left by the Mandalorian, or he can have Yoda’s lightsaber. Luke tells him that choosing the chainmail means he’ll return to the Mandalorian, while choosing the lightsaber means he’ll pursue the Jedi path and may never see Djarin again. Grogu wrestles with the decision as the episode ends.
WHAT. AN. EPISODE.
I mean, that episode was a total dream come true for Star Wars fans. Think about all that happened here. Cobb Vanth showed up, the return of a fan-favorite from The Mandalorian season two (who first appeared in the Aftermath books), something many were hoping would happen. Then we see R2-D2 and we actually get to see Luke’s Temple being built! And then we see Luke Skywalker, in the era after Return of the Jedi, training Grogu (a child who looks like Yoda) in the ways of the Force. Then we see a flashback to Order 66, including seeing 501st clone troopers in action. Then we get Ahsoka Tano in live-action once more, hanging around Luke Skywalker’s Academy. And then we get a scene of Luke and Ahsoka talking, something fans have always dreamed about. And then we see Yoda’s lightsaber once more. And oh yeah, as if that wasn’t enough, Cad Bane makes his live-action debut! And all of this happens around the context of a Mandalorian wielding the darksaber, and Boba Fett’s return.
Imagine going back a few years and telling someone we’d be getting that in an episode of Star Wars TV, directed by Dave Filoni. It’s simply incredible.
Let’s break it down a bit. First, Cobb Vanth! I was really hoping he’d appear in this show, and he finally made an appearance. He’s still the Marshal of Freetown, but having to be a bit more careful without his armor. After taking down the Krayt Dragon the people are understandably hesitant to get involved with another fight, which doesn’t really pertain to them. But Vanth seems to think that it does pertain to them, though we don’t get the full picture as to why he thinks that. A guess I have is that he hadn’t told the rest of the citizens yet about his encounter with the Pykes in Mos Pelgo territory, and that he knows far more than they do that the Pykes won’t just let them alone. This is interrupted by Cad Bane, but it doesn’t appear that Vanth was killed (and I’m thinking that Bane let him live intentionally, as his main quarrel was with the deputy while Vanth was being reasonable). I think this foreshadows Vanth and the fighters of Freetown arriving to help turn the tide of the fight in the finale, and I’m all for as much Cobb Vanth as possible.
But I mentioned Cad Bane, and so let’s jump there next. It’s been long rumored and hoped that he’d be in this series, and sure enough he does make his live-action debut (still voiced by the incredible Corey Burton). I loved how the title for this week’s episode was such a misdirect, as when I read “From the Desert Comes a Stranger” I figured it was about Cobb Vanth coming to aid Boba Fett’s cause. From the first scene of the episode, as we see Vanth’s quick-draw to beat four Pykes, we knew he was going to get involved. But then as the episode drew to the end, another stranger comes wandering in from the desert. As soon as the silhouette on the horizon appeared, it was obvious who this was, and I was ecstatic (and fearful for Vanth all at the same time). This is the stranger coming in from the desert, and this stranger manages to beat even Cobb Vanth in a duel. There’s some brilliant staging on to set all of this up, and it is handled so well: if you don’t know Cad Bane, then you’re able to follow just by knowing this menacing-looking dude beats Vanth in a duel; but if you do know Cad Bane, it becomes incredibly rich and rewarding. Bane first appeared in The Clone Wars, and was then brought back last year in The Bad Batch. And he’s got a history with Boba Fett, too. An unfinished arc of The Clone Wars was actually going to even show Bane training the young Boba, but with an ulterior motive: to train him only to duel him, thus proving Bane was a better bounty hunter than Jango Fett. But in that duel, Boba was to get the upper hand, presumably killing Bane while getting his own helmet dented. That arc never got made, but there are hints that the duel may have taken place – except with Bane surviving. So all of this seems to be setting up the inevitable duel between Fett and Bane next week. And with Bane seemingly aligned with the Pykes, it also helps some other details fall into place. The stage seems set for the final fight.
But Bane wasn’t the only character from the Clone Wars to show up, as Ahsoka Tano made a very surprising appearance. I never expected her to show up in this series (unlike with Cobb Vanth and Cad Bane), and the context around which she did was absolutely thrilling. She’s hanging around with Luke Skywalker and R2-D2! That’s epic. And we get a couple of very touching scenes with Ahsoka: the first one with her talking with Din Djarin, and the second with her talking with Luke. In the former, she helps Djarin see that he’s wanting to see Grogu for himself more than for the kid. And in the latter, she helps Luke process what he’s supposed to do moving forward. And her line about Luke being like his father was perfect, and everything I’ve dreamed about. Fans have long wondered about their first ever meeting, but I think it was a brilliant choice – especially given the context – to introduce them here as old friends, essentially. They know each other and have talked before. And while that means our first time seeing them interact isn’t actually their first time interacting, it leads to all sorts of other questions about prior conversations. I do think we’ll get to see some of those, as I think this episode helped us understand that the Ahsoka series might also see an appearance from Luke.
And speaking of Luke… that was amazing! They really nailed the look and voice even more than they did in The Mandalorian season two, and they captured the spirit of the character so well. Seeing him train Grogu was so poetic, as his role is now reversed from his training with Yoda, and here he is passing on the wisdom that Yoda taught him to a Force-sensitive youngling of Yoda’s species. A key moment comes when, early on, Grogu is distracted by a frog. Luke, however, proceeds to lift all of the frogs, showing Grogu just how much more he can do with the Force if he gives himself to it. Ahsoka said in The Mandalorian that Grogu learned to hide from those who were a threat to him by not using the Force, and I think we’re seeing Luke help him pull out of that. Luke tells him that the galaxy is full of dangers – and we know Grogu knows that, given the Order 66 flashback – but that Luke can teach him to protect himself. One such way is with the training droid, and after a bit of prompting, Grogu seems to be quickly remembering what he has learned.
But Grogu is faced with a choice – which is a theme in this episode. Ahsoka chose not to train Grogu, but when Djarin asks why she let Luke do so, she says it’s because it was his choice. And Luke seems to be doubting that choice, as he’s conflicted over what to do with the child. So what does Luke do? He lets Grogu choose, essentially having him choose between being a Jedi padawan with Luke Skywalker or a Mandalorian foundling with Din Djarin. Some may look at this as Luke just repeating the same mistakes as the prior Jedi Order, but I don’t think so. There’s at least two reasons for that. First, of all people Ahsoka would be one to warn Luke from doing so, but here she’s the one directing him to trust his instincts. Ahsoka saw the failures of the Jedi first-hand, and in a deeper and more personal way than most. Having her present, and as an advisor to Luke on this, suggests that she doesn’t necessarily see it that way. But second, Luke doesn’t seem to be telling Grogu which one is the right choice. By the time of The Last Jedi, Luke will have learned that the Force does not belong to the Jedi alone, and perhaps some of those seeds are sown through Grogu? What if he chooses to forsake the Jedi path, but through that Luke sees him connect with the Force nonetheless? Because I think it’s very likely that Grogu is going to choose to return to Din Djarin. From the additional seat in the N1 starfighter to the overall arc of this inter-connected story, I think Grogu’s going to choose Din, and that we’ll learn that Grogu’s true family and his true people is with Djarin. But I’m not necessarily convinced that Luke won’t still give him the lightaber, as I could just as easily see this being a bit of a test: will Grogu be drawn to power (the lightsaber) or family (the beskar gift)? The former led Anakin Skywalker to the dark side; the latter led him back to the light. I wouldn’t be shocked if Luke would be more concerned if Grogu chose the lightsaber. But maybe I’m just reading too much into this; for sure, I’m expecting Grogu to chose to return to Din Djarin. And I wonder if that might even happen in next week’s episode! Because if not, then it’s harder to see how this episode really fits into the larger story of the season.
And that would be my only complaint about this episode, and it’s not really about this episode at all. The Book of Boba Fett has taken a radically different direction the last two weeks: a week ago, he never showed up and was only mentioned once. This week, he showed up in one scene but didn’t speak. Honestly, with one episode left, the pacing of this season seems like a mess right now. But at the same time, I think we’re getting a much clearer picture of what’s going on: these shows are going to be extremely inter-connected and, rather than telling several related stories, are going to be telling one overall story. If we allow THAT to be what guides our expectations and analysis, then all of the sudden The Book of Boba Fett begins to make a lot more sense. This is not just a spin-off story from The Mandalorian; this is the continuation of The Mandalorian. And it’s totally common for TV shows to spend some episodes focusing on different characters – just look at The Clone Wars and Rebels, for instance. The problem is that we were not expecting that coming in, which was an issue of marketing (which reminds me of Solo, where people didn’t know what to expect). In this overall story of The Mandalorian and the connected universe, we took four episodes to really dive into Boba Fett’s backstory and learn how he got to this point and how he grew and changed, and then we returned to the main overall story. Put that way, this makes a lot of sense. If we expect this to be its own standalone series, however, it looks like a jumbled mess that doesn’t know what it wants to be.
But at the end of the day, I’ll gladly take that if it winds up giving us Star Wars episodes like the last two weeks, because they’re two of the best hours of Star Wars we’ve seen in a long time. This episode was absolutely fantastic, and as long as we come to adjust our expectations about what to expect in The Book of Boba Fett and these other connected shows, we’ll be able to be truly ecstatic by an episode that was truly as good as Star Wars gets.