Warning: Spoilers ahead for "The Book of Boba Fett" chapter 2
We were all pretty excited upon our first watch of the first installment of "The Book of Boba Fett" on Disney Plus, and while it was only 38 minutes long, deep down we were secretly hoping for maybe just a teeny-tiny bit more action. However, what it actually did, was set up a lot of the story and now our patience with an underwhelming premiere installment is being rewarded.
Chapter 2, entitled "The Tribes of Tatooine," will blow your socks off. For starters, this episode is a full 13 minutes longer, running at a total of 51 — almost a full hour. Only once before has "The Mandalorian" broken the 50-minute barrier and that was the second season premiere episode, "Chapter 9: The Marshal" where Din Djarin helps Cobb Vanth and the people of Mos Pelgo defeat the Krayt dragon. And not a single second is wasted in this week's episode. (It's interesting to note that the rumors suggesting the latest "Star Wars" Disney Plus show would start at Chapter 17 turned out to be false.)
We open with a thoroughly entertaining set piece where Boba (Temuera Morrison) interrogates the assassin Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) captured last week, ultimately throwing the prisoner into the Rancor pit made famous in "Episode VI: Return of the Jedi." The pit turns out to be empty in the first example this week of subtle, very well placed humor and just enough. Refreshingly, the fan service — the amount of which has varied in past episodes of "The Mandalorian" — is also well measured, it's nicely placed and doesn't devalue our viewing experience.
The pace is perfect and allows so much to be squeezed into a single episode, advancing the story, without feeling in any way rushed. There's an undeniable "The Godfather: Part II" feel to the way that flashbacks are bing used to explain the character's missing back story and that's probably intentional, the plot is about the rise of a crime boss after all. And while the flashback storyline takes precedence over present day events in this particular installment, this is just one installment; it's not the whole movie.
The world building continues at a rate of knots and we're treated to lengthier interaction with Madem Garsa Fwip (Jennifer Beals) plus the mayor of Mos Espa, an Ithorian named Mok Shaiz (voiced by Robert Rodriguez). He might look familiar because he's the same species as the memorable alien sometimes called "Hammerhead" from the Mos Eisley cantina in "Episode IV: A New Hope."
Then we're introduced to The Twins, a brother and sister pairing of Hutts, who believe the criminal empire on Tatooine that once belonged to their cousin, the long dead Jabba, is now theirs. While these two super-sized slugs are a new addition to the "Star Wars" universe, we also get our very first glimpse in live action of the mighty Black Krrsantan, a legendary Wookiee bounty hunter that has appeared in a number of Marvel's "Star Wars" comics. (It's entirely possible that this fabled soldier of fortune might appear again in the upcoming "Obi Wan Kenobi" live action TV show.)
Related: Best Star Wars gifts and deals
It's testament to the writers, director and the SFX designers that this show is producing some phenomenal performances from both aliens and humans alike and in particular Morrison, who is unquestionably making the role of the galaxy's most memorable mobster entirely his. Much like "Rogue One," the conclusion of this story is already known and consequently it must fit snuggly between other, existing volumes. This is, in essence, the nature of a prequel. The only real question is, will the writers put the work in to make this new addition to the overall opus worthy? And like that unexpected smash hit in the "Star Wars" franchise, this too is full of surprises and it's evidently a labor of love for all those involved.
Episode 2 has set a new, impressively high standard for "The Book of Boba Fett" and it would be a travesty if that benchmark weren't maintained. It's not deep per se, but it has so much depth — and there's a difference. For every twist there's a turn — and there are many.
One of the most interesting elements is the continued world building on Tatooine, a planet we already know well…and one that showrunner Jon Favreau continues to test our tolerance to. Not only do we see much more of Tusken culture, more on that shortly, but Mos Espa looks like a city that's at least as exciting as Mos Eisely, plus we're treated to our first official look at Tosche Station.
Immortalized in "Episode IV: A New Hope" when young Luke Skywalker gripes about having to clean the newly purchased R2-D2 and C-3PO to his uncle. "But I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters…" he whines. And not only are we gifted with this Easter egg, but the couple having a drink are two characters from the original "Star Wars" that were removed from the final film in the editing room and for good reason.
In the deleted scene, Biggs Darklighter, Laze Loneozner, and Camie Marstrap were to be the audience's introduction to Luke's group of friends on Tatooine. Now, decades later, we see Laze and Camie once again, albeit briefly, being harassed by Nikto bikers, who get drunk at the station after their raids ... before Boba comes in and tears up the place. He steals their speeder bikes and takes them back to the Tusken encampment and we're given another great example of the many twists and turns this episode has.
Upon delivery, our immediate thought is that the speeder bikes are a gift to the tribe. We assume the Tusken raiders are already accomplished riders. But there's more. It seems they not accomplished riders, OK, so they'll need to be taught how to improve on their skills. Ah, no ... they have no skills whatsoever and need to be taught from scratch. It's hard to do this scene justice by writing it out, but in less than a minute we've been bounced about like a pinball and the result is thoroughly entertaining and amusing.
Then there's the further insight to Tusken culture and it's such a long way away from the savages we saw in "Episode II - Attack of the Clones" that kidnapped Shmi Skywalker, for no adequately explored reason. Following the successful attack on the Pyke Syndicate-operated train that raced across the desert and carried Spice (used to manufacture recreational drugs), Boba returns to the encampment. In another set piece that keeps us guessing and features layer upon layer of sub-culture, we first believe Boba will simply be rewarded. Then perhaps there is a hint that he might be asked to take part in a spiritual journey to further strengthen his bond with the Tuskens. Perhaps he might even take some of that interesting-sounding Spice.
Nope. He's given a small gecko-like creature. Not sure quite sure what to expect, it scampers up his nose, surprising Boba as much as it does us. But this cute critter will be the one that takes him on his journey during which he must find his own…er, branch of wood from a mystical tree. Returning with said branch, we see that it's going to be crafted for him by a Tusken into his own unique Gaderffii, or gaffi stick, in a montage sequence or something. But no, Boba is to watch it being made. But still no, Boba is going to be taught how to make it and he will craft it himself.
At every natural break in the story, part of you thinks "that must be the end" but it isn't. And it just gets better. Once the Gaderffii is complete, the wood and metal shaped and polished, a ceremonial ritual takes place around a campfire where one Tusken rises and stands before Boba. Director Steph Green cleverly films this in such a way that we form semi-conscious assumption that a one-on-one dual to the death must take place for Boba to join to the tribe…or some similar Dead Man's Boots trope.
Instead they start dancing. Brilliant.
Green, who has episodes of "Preacher," "The Man in the High Castle" and "Watchmen" under her belt, has clearly been inspired by a few truly great movies, including the aforementioned "The Godfather: Part II" together with "Solo: A Star Wars Story" and maybe even a little "Dances With Wolves." There's even a subtle nod of respect to "Lawrence of Arabia" and cinematographer Freddie Young with a very similar camera angle showing the Tusken Raiders flocking to the fallen train, although this is perhaps more obvious with the conceptual artwork by Christian Alzmann than it is the final shot.
This is a phenomenal episode that's going to be hard to top next week. The dialogue is well written and placed only where it's needed. The action isn't excessive and the photography is very effective, allowing the viewer to fully immerse themselves with what's going on. The episode’s director of photography is Dean Cundey, who has worked on an impressive list of movies, including "Jurassic Park," "The Thing," "Apollo 13" and all three "Back to the Future" films.
No, we didn't get to see much of Shand this week, but that's perfectly fine, there's still plenty of time. Yes, there is a conversation currently circling that Boba shouldn't take his helmet off, something Judge Dredd has never, ever done in over 40 years in 2000AD. And while I can see that — and almost agree with it — I can't help but feel this instance is slightly different and I would prefer to see Morrison acting. Perhaps he could take it off slightly less. There you go, that'll work.
This second episode of "The Book of Boba Fett" is up there with the "Battlestar Galactica" episode "33" (S01, E01) or the "Star Trek: Discovery" episode "That Hope is You, Part 1" (S03, E01) or the "Lost in Space" episode "Eulogy" (S01, E06)...or every episode in Season 1 of "The Expanse"…so we are very excited to see what comes next.
Rating: A never before seen 9½ /10
Seasons 1 and 2 of "The Mandalorian" are available to stream on Disney+ and so are episodes 1 and 2 of "The Book of Boba Fett" along with every episode and every movie in the "Star Wars" universe.