Up to this point with The Book of Boba Fett, I was enjoying the show and the slower pace it was taking. This was in spite of the fact that the show really hasn’t given the lead character a solid purpose or mission, outside of nominally taking over Jabba the Hutt’s crime syndicate. Unfortunately, the third episode in the series, “The Streets of Mos Espa”, finally gave Boba a motivation to pursue his current course of action but it was done with one of the laziest storytelling devices possible.
Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the episode.
I’ll get to my main criticism of the episode in a moment when I focus on the flashback portion. The modern-day section of the episode was enjoyable, up to a point. Boba Fett is asked by a water merchant to deal with a street gang that is stealing from him. Rather than violently reprimand the group of cybernetically-enhanced youngsters, Boba decides to hire them as part of his operation, while also admonishing the water merchant to cut their prices. It was nice seeing Stephen Root in a cameo appearance. Root is one of those actors that is hardly ever the lead in a show or movie but he’s one of those character actors that always finds work.
The young swoop bike gang, lead by the cocky Drash (Sophie Thatcher), are definitely endearing in their own right. The chase sequence where the swoop gang go after the Mayor’s Majordomo was quite fun, particularly given the chase takes place in the crowded streets of Mos Espa. We learn that Mayor Mok Shaiz has departed from Tatooine but the reason isn’t revealed until after the Twins make a reappearance. Before we get to that, though, we have an excellent fight scene with Black Krrsantan.
We’ve only seen Wookies in a fight in Revenge of the Sith but that was against the Separatist Droid army. We get to see in The Book of Boba Fett what one Wookie is truly capable of, particularly when taking on organic creatures. Krrsantan is a terror, easily manhandling multiple people, including Boba Fett, who despite is age is still a formidable bounty hunter. The assassination attempt was clearly orchestrated by the Twins in an attempt to remove Boba Fett from the palace. Of course, Boba and his troupe manage to subdue the Wookie, but for a brief moment there was a great deal of potential peril.
The Twins reveal that the Mayor sold Jabba’s claim on the underworld of Tatooine to a different gang, the Pyke Syndicate (first featured in the previous episode, “The Tribes of Tatooine”). The Twins state they are relinquishing their claim on Jabba’s territory in light of this new development, which Boba and Fennec are quick to realize is a complete lie. Hutts as a general rule don’t like getting their own hands dirty. It’s entirely likely that the Twins are going to step back and wait for the war between Boba Fett and the Pyke Syndicate to finish and then swoop in to take down the victor.
Which brings me to my largest criticism of the episode and the reason my opinion has soured on the show. During the flashback sequence, we see Boba Fett leave the Tusken encampment to head off to civilization to collect the tribute arranged with the Pyke Syndicate in the last episode. I mentioned in my review of the last episode that Boba was introduced in The Mandalorian on his own, meaning something was going to happen to the Tusken who had taken him in during the course of this series. And the decision on the part of the writers was to go with the least interesting option.
There’s a tired trope in storytelling known as the “White Man’s Burden”, where a normally White character is introduced to non-White characters in an effort to save them and change their circumstances. Examples of these kinds of stories are Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers, and The Blind Side. Temuera Morrison is obviously not a white man but the trope employed by the writers fits the narrative of the first two episodes to a tee (Boba joining the Tuskens, teaching them to use more advanced technology than they normally do, banding together to regain control of their ancestral lands). The writers’ decision to slaughter the Tusken camp, with the implication being that the Pyke Syndicate hired the gang that Boba trounced in the second episode to avoid having to pay the tribute they agreed to sets up the new central conflict of the show: Boba Fett vs the Pyke Syndicate.
“Fridging” the Tuskens, who had previously never been shown in a positive light in the Star Wars universe, was not the right move. There were other options available to the writers, such as the Tuskens casting Boba Fett out due to Pyke Syndicate retaliating, would have worked just as well and given the same bitter ending to that portion of Boba’s journey. Instead, the writers of The Book of Boba Fett decided to kill off the Tuskens in favor of giving Boba “motivation” to pursue his goal of controlling the criminal element of Tatooine. It’s a lazy storytelling option that I had hoped the writers were wise enough to avoid but they weren’t.
This hasn’t completely dimmed my hopes for the series but “The Streets of Mos Espa” left a bad taste in my mouth (which is why it took a few days to compose this review). My hope is that the series rebounds from this misstep but it isn’t a high hope.