Towards the end of The Streets of Mos Espa, the third episode of The Book of Boba Fett, I suddenly asked out loud if Robert Rodriguez was the director of this episode. Between the vibrantly coloured swoop bikes, a gang of misfit youth and a cameo from a Danny Trejo, the stars were aligning. Turns out, I was right. But while the episode was much better than his first offering, Espa still didn’t reach the heights we saw last week. In fact, I’m left feeling quite critical about the show as a whole thanks to this episode.
This is the first episode that prioritized the present-day storyline. There’s a brief flashback scene in this episode, but it feels a little shoehorned in. I wonder if the flashback could have been forgone completely this week or extended. This episode was around 35 minutes before credits, so having some time in the front half with tribe member Fett would’ve been better. After a jaunt to Mos Eisley to talk business with the Pykes, Fett returns to camp only to discover that the camp had been decimated and all the Tuskens had been massacred. The show has done a commendable job then in making me care about the Tuskens and I was genuinely saddened to see them go, albeit not totally surprised. The music was also great in this scene, giving very Catholic/Christian tones with the choir, which echoes a lot of the religious symbolism we’ve seen so far. What was frustrating though, was the show decided to flashback to the swoop gang from episode one after Boba saw their sigil painted on the burned tent. The show should trust its audience to make the connection between the symbol and footage we’ve already seen, in case of harshly cutting back, assuming the audience can’t figure it out for themselves.
But this isn’t a spiritual show, at least not on the surface. This is a gangster tale and this episode set up quite a few things for the modern-day story. After a request from a “concerned citizen”, Fett encounters a rag-tag group of misfits who have augmented themselves with droid parts to be more dangerous. This group of young adults are fairly one-dimensional, but Fett has hired them to be part of his personal guard, getting them off the street. I was worried the group would be reminiscent of the infamous Iron Squadron from Rebels, but apart from just being there to look cool, they didn’t actually irk me, barring the fact that they claim to be poor, but have flashy bikes, expensive-looking clothes and augmented droid parts, making them essentially cyborgs. I like that they had English accents. Too many of the supporting cast in Fett and Mando are American comedians (such as the Mayor’s Majordomo) and I find the awkward American banter to be distracting. Going back to the plot, Boba also orders the water merchant to lower his prices and pays him less than what he said was owed. It’s certainly the noble thing to do, but word will likely get around that Fett didn’t get the results the merchant wanted and that he underpaid him as well.
This mindset, along with continuously defying Shand’s advice (eat the food, kill the messenger, get a litter, etc), seems to make Boba seem soft in the eyes of his peers and the citizens. That isn’t a bad thing narratively speaking, but it does seem like Disney has reigned in the ropes a bit when it comes to Fett and this gangster tale. We’ve seen a lot of winks, nods and references to the gangster genre thus far, from the audience being told Fett will need permission to whack the Hutts, to various merchants paying tribute to him and Fett wanting to rule with respect, not fear. But unlike Michael Corleone, Henry Hill or Ace Rothstein, who are all pretty dangerous men, Fett is trying very hard to be a noble leader while also being a crime boss. Don’t forget, this is the man who murdered Bib Fortuna without a moment’s pause in The Mandalorian after credit scene with the intent of ruling the underworld, but he now seems afraid to get his hands dirty as it would conflict with his noble code.
This ultimately makes Fett feel like he’s not doing much other than running around doing errands and getting attacked (twice now, thanks to this week’s ambush from Black Krrnstan). Having villainous or morally ambiguous leads isn’t bad though, as evident by timeless classics like The Godfather, Goodfellas and Casino, but we’re not getting that conflict right now with Boba being a fairly noble pacifist. Fett is doing everything in his power to not be Jango Fett, which is great narratively speaking, but trying to be a peaceful crime boss is like being a violent monk. As it stands, Fett seems to be alienating a lot of people, most especially Fennec Shand, to the point where I wonder if she’ll whack him by the time this show is done and assume the mantle of Crime Lord herself. She’d be much more qualified for the job, let’s be real. She understands the customs and knows how the criminal underworld operates.
But we did get some nice setup for the show to come, including the Pykes making a move on Mos Espa. The Twins decided that blood is bad for business and offered Fett a rancor as a gift (along with Danny Trejo, whose the rancor’s trainer). I’m not so sure what the angle is with the Hutts, I don’t think they would just decide that one botched assassination would result in them quitting the planet. I suspect they have another card to play down the line. The rancor was neat as well, as we learned that they impress upon the first human they see. This rancor was blindfolded, allowing Boba to be the first person he sees (or so we’ve been told). Fett also mentions he’s ridden creatures ten times that size, which is likely a call back to his animated debut in The Holiday Special.
Fett also went to see the Mayor, but the Mayor’s Majordomo pulled a fast one on him, resulting in a comically bizarre chase scene between him and Fett’s gang of misfits. The chase felt really, really slow for some reason. I’m not sure why, but it had no sense of speed, the bikes and speeder felt like they were doing parking lot speeds. The opening chase in Solo had a far greater sense of speed. But ended with the revelation that the Mayor is in league with the Pykes, a syndicate he spared during last week’s episode.
With a war with the Pykes looming, Black Krrnstan released from custody and the Tusken Raiders murdered in the past, a lot was set up for future episodes. I’m enjoying The Book of Boba Fett but also feeling quite critical of it at the same time. It’s not bad, it just feels a bit lost and misguided. Here’s hoping it finds some more solid footing as it progresses. As it stands, I’m left thinking to myself that I have no problem with Boba being a more noble and heroic character, but it’s hard for him to be the hero and a crime lord. He’s got to pick one and as it stands, he’s a pretty iffy crime lord.