Bounty hunters of The Book of Boba Fett, unite — you have nothing to lose but your forward momentum!
After last week’s episode left The Book of Boba Fett’s flashbacks behind in order to focus on the inevitable conflict between Boba’s burgeoning forces and the armies of the Pyke Syndicate, “The Gathering Storm” once again slammed the brakes on what little momentum the series had in order to dive back into the past. But at least the series finally gave Ming-Na Wen more to do than stand around and be Boba’s personal hype-woman, delving into how and why Boba went through the trouble of saving her from death in The Mandalorian season 1. And finally, more than halfway through the series, we finally get some explanation why Boba wants to be a crime lord in the first place.
The answer, at first, seems to be vengeance. Coming across the flare-lit conflict that nearly did in Fennec back in The Mandalorian season 1, Boba takes her body and gets her cybernetically patched up. It’s a sign of his own change, and the lessons he learned after becoming closer to the Tuskens over the course of the first three episode’s flashback sequences, but he’s not exactly unscrupulous about it: Boba’s mad, and he needs help to be able to actually engage with that frustration. He needs an ally like Fennec, who is only moderately grateful that she’s still alive, to help him sneak into the Fortuna-operated Jabba’s palace and retrieve his old ship, giving him the tools to exorcise some old demons.
One shootout — and a surprisingly goofy galley droid chase — later, those demons become clear. The first is the Kintan Striders, the biker gang that wiped out the Tuskens, who Boba and Fennec can now happily mow down after re-acquiring The Ship That Will Not Be Named. The second is the sarlacc itself, as the duo returns to the place of Boba’s near-demise in an attempt to reclaim his armour, only to end up having to kill the creature and scour its remains when it tries to eat him all over again. But with both problems dealt with, Fennec needles Boba over a meal among the literal ruins of his old life — the scattered remnants of Jabba’s sail barge — about what he wants to do now that these initial impulses have been acted upon. He’s had his vengeance, and has to realise that now that his old armour is gone, a new man is left underneath its vanished mask.
It serves as something of a catalyst at least for both of them, even if Fennec is much more sceptical about the conclusion Boba comes to than he is: Why are both of them wasting time taking jobs and being pushed around by people who don’t know any better than they do? Why do hunters, craving independence by not coming together among their own, seek out contracts and fealty with bosses that will only get them killed (even if, in Boba and Fennec’s case, they both got better?). “You can only get so far, without a tribe,” Boba warns his new companion, giving The Book of Boba Fett an answer to its most lingering question: Boba wants to be less of a crime lord, and something more akin to Star Wars’ idea of a labour advocate. There’s strength in numbers, even for former bounty hunters.
Back in the present — hilariously framed by Boba getting out of his bacta tank and being told that he’s completely healed now, as if what it really took to recover from the sarlacc was being dipped in Backstory Juice until he was all full up — Boba seems to be taking his discussion with Fennec to heart. He immediately reaches out to Black Krrsantan after letting the wookiee go last week, hoping to put aside their “so you were hired by the Hutts to kill me” grudge and work together. He arranges a dinner with the other local crime lords in an attempt to unite their strengths against the Pykes. He’s more moderately successful with the first — Boba’s pitch for individual hunters finding loyalty and community with each other works much better than the one where he has to convince criminals already successfully profiting off the old ways offered by the Pyke’s resurgence.
But it’s interesting that Boba’s intimidation can only get him so far. All he can do to convince the other lords is to at least — or at least he hopes — stay out of his way to deal with the Pykes, and remain neutral rather than turning against him. It goes to show that, for all its claims coming into the series that this was a show about Boba Fett becoming a hardened criminal empire mastermind, he’s still distinctly uncomfortable in the role. Boba may repeatedly tell us he’s done being a lone operator, taking jobs for idiots stuck in the old ways, but so far in the show it’s the arena he’s proved most effective: He got his vengeance for the Tuskens that way, he made an ally of Fennec and now perhaps Krrsantan that way. He got his ship back that way!
Perhaps, though, there’s something liberating in Boba deciding that’s no longer the way he wants to get things done, even if it’s worked for him in the past. There’s no more room for The Book of Boba Fett to focus on past grudges or reflections now. Its backstory is about as filled out as it can be, and even if the reasons it found to position the reborn Boba as a crime-lord-come-freelance-activist aren’t entirely convincing, they’re reason enough to set an interesting contrast between the former bounty hunter and his would-be foes. Can Boba’s hope for hunters to come together in their own interests overcome the old ways of the Pykes? Can he find healing and purpose in having a simple foe to face, over navigating the messy politics of Jabba’s old world? Does that familiar strain of Mandalorian music at the climax hint at a potential team up? Can, as Fennec deadpans at the end of the episode, money really be exchanged for goods and services?
We’ll find out next week. If only because, hopefully, The Book of Boba Fett has nowhere else to go at this point.
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