We have but a handful of episodes of “The Book of Boba Fett,” Disney+’s not-really-“The Mandalorian” stop-gap until our favorite helmeted bounty hunter returns. And as such it seems that it is building towards an epic showdown on the sandy dunes of Tatooine. “The Book of Boba Fett” Episode 4, titled “The Gathering Storm,” does a good job of filling in the last remaining gaps of Boba Fett’s (Temuera Morrison) story, while also establishing what’s to come in the three episodes we have left.
Without further do, let’s jump on in!
Major spoilers for “The Book of Boba Fett,” obviously follow.
This episode begins with Boba Fett in the bacta tank. We’re flashing back to him on his trusty bantha, riding across the endless Tatooine desert. He comes upon Jabba’s Palace, currently in the hands of Bib Fortuna. He looks through the scope on his sniper rifle. There are too many guards. Whatever Boba Fett is plotting, it’ll have to wait. Also, we love Boba’s relationship with his bantha.
Off in the distance, Boba Fett notices a flare. And we, as an audience, hear the familiar sounds of “The Mandalorian.” Boba Fett goes towards the light. We’re fully in “The Mandalorian” territory; to be exact this is the end of “The Mandalorian,” season 1, episode 5 – “The Gunslinger.” Boba Fett cautiously approaches the body of Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen). He picks her up. He thinks he can save her.
He takes her to a “mod bar,” the kind of place that Boba Fett’s new biker gang buddies would go to get the droid parts that would make them so special. (It’s unclear if their new robotic supplements also supply them with their cockney English accent.) There are Vespa-y speeders outside, just like Boba’s current crew uses. Boba walks in. “She needs modification,” he growls. The doctor (?) is played by none other than musician Stephen Lee Bruner aka Thundercat, whose blissed out style of electronica was described by GQ as “Spago rock.” (Yes, for most of the episode I was thinking, “Was that Thundercat?” Only to have my suspicions confirmed by the closing credits. No wonder the music was so good in the mod bar.) Boba Fett offers him a lot of money. He replaces Fennec Shand’s midsection with a complex series of mechanics. When Dr. Thundercat is done, Boba asks, “Aren’t you going to cover her up?” To which he replies: “And cover all that beautiful machinery?”
Out on the desert, Fennec wakes up. She wonders where she is. Boba knows who she is. “I take it I’m worth more alive?” she asks. He tells her about his ordeal, which, WE KNOW DUDE. He wants Fennec to help him recover his ship. He calls it something else because its original name, Slave I, is not okay in 2021. (It’s understandable.) Afterwards, her debt will be paid. She agrees to help him.
“Ocean’s 11” But It’s Just Boba and Fennec and There’s No Casino
They travel back to Jabba’s Palace. Fennec has a little orb that’s a cross between a drone and that thing they used to map the derelict ship in “Prometheus,” except very “Star Wars”-y looking. It infiltrates the palace and scans the whole place. Boba sends away his bantha sidekick and tells her to go make little banthas. When Fennec says that this might be premature, Boba shoots back: “Either I get it or I die.” He tells Fennec that he wants to track down his armor. He also explains his change in philosophy. “I’m tired of working for idiots who are going to get me killed,” Boba Fett tells her.
They check the 3D hologram that the little orb has taken. There are way too many guards. They’re going to have to sneak in, timing their maneuvers between shifts. They sneak in, getting into the kitchen. There’s a chef droid, who is like the droid from “Return of the Jedi” who assigns R2-D2 and C-3PO to work on Jabba’s sail barge. (It sounds exactly like that droid.) There’s another droid in the kitchen who can only be described as a salad droid. All he does is chop. They hear Boba and Fennec and they “call the ratcatcher droid.” Once they see Fennec and Boba they get defensive; the salad droid rears back, brandishing all of its knives. Fennec cuts its head off.
Before they leave the kitchen, the “ratcatcher droid” comes in. It is adorable. Baby Yoda eat your heart out! He runs around, avoiding Boba Fett, and when Boba Fett finally catches him, the droid turns itself off. What a king. (Where is the ratcatcher droid merchandise?)
Finally, they make it to the hanger. The ship formerly known as the Slave I is there. And it’s a beauty, still one of the most iconic, singular starship designs in all of “Star Wars.” There’s a robustly staged shootout between Boba, Fennec, and Bib Fortuna’s guards. At one point Fennec blows up a four-legged gonk droid, which is pretty cool. But the entire time we were thinking about the ratcatcher droid. Would it wake up? What is it dreaming about? Would it be a great sidekick for Fennec and Boba? (The answer to that last question, at least, is an emphatic yes.)
They get stuck in the hanger, but eventually escape. “Next time we stick to the plan,” Fennec says. Boba gives her a cockeyed look. “Next time?” Instead of being released from her contract, Fennec agrees to go “along for the ride,” with Boba. He tells her he’s got some scores to settle.
Score #1: he tracks down the biker gang responsible for raiding the Tusken Raider village. He blows them all away. It’s a very cool image, the speeder bikes zipping along the sand dunes and the not-Slave I looming behind them, firing away, atomizing the marauders.
Score #2: he’s looking for that armor. He sees the sarlacc from a distance and positions his starship to look inside its gaping, toothy maw. He turns on a light to get a better look. Not only is this one of the most striking images of “The Book of Boba Fett” so far, but it is an expertly staged suspense piece. All of a sudden, the pit wakes up, and the beaky mouth that was first introduced in the 1997 special edition of “Return of the Jedi” during George Lucas’ endless futzing, returns here. If you, like me, were hoping that none of the special edition changes would actually stick, sadly that is not the case. It’s all here. Even, presumably, “Jedi Rocks.”
The sarlacc latches onto them with its creepy tentacles. Fennec stretches and finally releases one of those sonic charges that we saw during the very satisfying chase sequence in “Attack of the Clones.” The little charge ends up in that beak. It goes off. The sarlacc is no more. Boba climbs into the pit but can’t find his armor. Fennec worries about him since the acid is burning him.
Later, around the campfire, Boba elaborates on his new philosophy. “We’re smarter than them. It’s time we took our shot,” he tells her. (Somebody has seen “Hamilton!”) He offers her loyalty. “I pledge my life to protect yours,” he says, and it’s actually quite sweet. Fennec tells him that his time with the Tusken Raiders has made him soft. He says it actually has made him stronger; he’s learned that he’s nothing without a tribe.
The Plot Thickens
And we’re back in the bacta tank! There are brief flashbacks: Boba killing Bib Fortuna and assuming the throne. (The whole Mandalorian/Timothy Olyphant bit is skipped over entirely, which is fine although we were sort of hoping Space Olyphant would make a return.) Boba presses a button and the liquid in the tank goes away. A droid comes up to him and says, “Congratulations, you are completely healed.” Does that mean the flashbacks are over? It seems like it! Huzzah for forward narrative momentum!
Boba says that he and Fennec should cruise into town. Let’s assume it’s Friday night. She worries it might be a bad idea; he’s more worried about the optics of a power vacuum.
We’re back in The Sanctuary, the casino/cantina. Black Krrsantan (Carey Jones) is sitting at a table and you can tell he’s just in a bad mood. Lighting jumps between the spikes on his intergalactic brass knuckles. Soon enough he’s whooping everybody’s ass. He picks up a patron and is interrupted by Jennifer Beals’ Garsa Fwip. “I think you’ve made your point,” she says. She tells him that she remembers him as a gladiatorial heavyweight. He was so impressive and scary, but times have changed. It’s a more civilized time. He needs to be more thoughtful and modern and please, if you don’t maul this guy, she will forgive his bar tab. Krrsantan rips the guys arm off and then he pays her; he walks past Boba Fett, out of the bar. “It was worth a shot,” Boba deadpans. Garsa Fwip turns around and says, “Hit it, Max,” confirming that her band leader is in fact Max Rebo and that he did survive Jabba’s sail barge massacre. Whew.
Boba follows Black Krrsantan into the inky Tatooine night. “Looks like you could use a job,” Boba Fett says.
We then cut to the inside of Jabba’s – I mean Boba’s – Palace. Various crime lords are assembled. Black Krrsantan is keeping watch. Boba Fett tells them that he has no designs on their territory and doesn’t even want them to pay tribute. Instead, he is worried about the Pykes and how they are turning Tatooine into a hub for their spice trade. Before Boba Fett can continue, his new rancor interrupts. Boba feeds him some table scraps, just as he had done with his bantha pal earlier in the episode. He proposes that the houses team with him to take on the Pykes. They refuse. Boba’s Plan B is that they just don’t interfere. If they can be neutral, that’s almost as good. They agree.
Out on his balcony, Boba Fett and Fennec watch the speeders of the gang leaders. She asks if he trusts them. He says he trusts them to follow their best interests. She asks how much money they have; he says a lot. “We must prepare for war,” Boba Fett says. If they don’t have loyalty, they’ll have to buy some. As they look out over the rolling sand dunes of Tatooine, more familiar chords from “The Mandalorian” score play. The implication is there – they’re going to hire The Mandalorian to fight for them. And maybe (hopefully!) sexy space man Olyphant too.
Where are we headed? Will Boba Fett ride that rancor? How much did you love the ratcatcher droid? This installment, directed by “Star Wars” newcomer Kevin Tancharoen and shot by the legendary Dean Cundey, was a total blast, full of iconic imagery and much more kinetic action sequences (especially compared to last week’s pokey speeder chase). And if its main goal was to create a level of excitement about what’s to come, well, mission accomplished.