‘Modern Families’ – The Book of Boba Fett Chapter Two: The Tribes of Tatooine

That’s Politics!

Following on from last week’s scrap with a gang of mysterious ninjas – this week outed as members of the Night Wind assassins – Boba finds himself crossing paths with Mos Espa’s Mayor, Mok Shaiz. Hints of Shaiz’s potential hostility loomed large last episode, when his irritating Majordomo popped by to deliver a series of flowery threats aimed toward Fett. Though Mayor Shaiz assures he didn’t hire the Night Wind to attack Fett, it’s difficult to decipher truth from Fett at this stage. Being a crime lord makes trust the word of another a challenging ordeal. As the Mayor himself says, running a family is more complicated than Bounty Hunting.

Just as well, because we receive word from Fett himself, that he’s officially retired from Bounty Hunting. Either that, or he’s in denial about his favoured profession. Either way, he claims he’s not one of them. It’s starting to look ever more likely that his days of slaying for shillings died along with the Empire. This goes hand in hand with what was hinted at last week. All that talk of leading with respect, giving second chances. This is without doubt a totally new iteration of the character. The enigmatic guard who stood by Vader’s side almost a decade prior to the events of The Tribes of Tatooine is a changed man.

Creator Jon Favreau certainly seems intent on transforming the unscrupulous extra into a virtuous protagonist. While politicians lie and hire killers to usurp Fett as Tatooine’s latest commander in crime, Fett seems intent on establishing himself as a man who’s not all that suited to the job he’s employed himself to carry out. When he waltzed into Bib Fotuna’s palace during the post-credit scenes of The Mandalorian series two, he donned the body language of a gangster with a plan. The “present” day segments The Book of Boba Fett looks to be painting exhibits a slightly different picture from the one we were presented with 12-months prior. He has no idea who to trust, gets his backside handed to him at every opportunity, and endures backhanded compliments from an overly educated steward with more degrees than manners. He’s not a crime lord, he’s a man out of his depth.

As expected, the decision to revamp Fett as an honourable soldier looking to restore order to a crooked planet has upset a great deal of fans. He may have been a blank slate to build character upon, but he’s still a character who no one expected to be introduced as a protagonist. Even within his own show, framing him as an antihero would have seemed more logical. A bad man in a bad land, that’s what the fans were expecting. I don’t actually think this is a necessary requirement. In fact, I applaud Favreau for attempting something a little different from the expectation. While it does feel a little jarring to see a version of Fett that renounces his defining profession whilst visibly stumbling outside of his comfort zone, it’s a refreshing attempt at reinvention. The question is, can this show justify this renovated incarnation of the iconic character? It’s a question we’re not going to answer this episode, that’s for certain.

Debauchery with the Hutts

In a visual sense of the word, the Hutt Twins are a remarkable edition to The Tribes of Tatooine. What I mean by this, is they are disgusting and horrifying in a way that makes me shudder like a rodent being used as a sweat cloth. Without meaning to sound rude toward a fictional species, these are repulsive creatures that ooze with menace. So many little details that send a chill through the bones. The thudding of the drums as their profiles writhe into shot, the cluster of servants straining under their buckling litter, and the way in which the pair tangle into one another like a cluster of molluscs perched beneath a damp rock. They are horrible in a way that breathes new life into the repellent Hutt species.

Their narrative purpose doesn’t quite have the same impact as their visual sway. They rock up, demand Fett hand Tattooine back to their family, dangle a Wookie in front of his face, then decide to swan off into the sunset when Fett stands his ground.  Their purpose here is to do a dash of foreboding for future episodes. Similar to the exhanges between Boba and Mayor Shaiz, they are here to foreshadow, not actually deliver anything in terms of plot progression.

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with having prolonged sequences dedicated to setting up future stories. Where the issue does lie is in the fact that pretty much the entire present day portion of this episode is dedicated to establishing plot lines that haven’t come to pass yet. Over a quarter of this episode is set within this time frame, yet for the entirety of its 14-minutes, barely anything of any merit happens. Fett is informed the Mayor tried to assassinate him, the Mayor tells him he didn’t, the Hutt twins threaten him, then he goes to bed. If anything, the present day chunk of this story feels like an awkward bolt-on, one perhaps best suited for an episode that focuses primarily on moving this plotline forward.

Don’t get me wrong, The Tribes of Tatooine definitely does have a story to tell – one with a beginning, middle and end – it’s just that story doesn’t take place here. Even the title doesn’t hold any meaning in the context of the present day story. It’s an episode primarily fixated upon telling a tale set during the flashback portion of the story.

As was the case in the previous episode, the division between the past and present narratives still aren’t marrying up with one another. Each shift in time is punctuated by a clunky Bacta tank dream sequence. 14 and a half minutes into The Tribes of Tatooine, Fett returns to his palace, climbs inside his trust tank, and whisks himself off to the world of yesteryear, where the remainder of the episode plays out.

It’s as though Favreau isn’t quite into the whole Tatooine crime syndicate plot. He picks it up, dishes out some intrigue, then swans off to an era he seems more keen to explore. If the post-Jedi, pre-Mandalorian era is where he wants to focus most of his energies right now, that’s fine, but perhaps he should have opened this episode there, then resumed with the whole Mok Shaiz/Hutt Twin narrative in the following episode. I don’t dislike the present day stuff, I just feel that plotline needs more time to unfold into something more tangible and self-sustaining.

Rescuing the Wretched

Considering the lack of narrative flow with the Mok Shaiz/Hutt Twin plot line, the Tusken Raider flashback story is firing on all cylinders in The Tribes of Tatooine. This is where the heart of this story lies. We return to more or less where we left things last time around. Fett has started bonding with his Tusken captors. So much so, it’s perhaps unfair to call them his captors anymore. He’s integrated so much, he’s even been taught how to wield a gaderffii by one of his fellow camp mates.

Following on from last week’s tussle with the many-limbed Barve, the Tusken’s have adopted Fett as one of their own. After years of living as an orphan, thanks to those pesky Jedi decapitating his father, our protagonist has finally found a family unit of sorts. For all the talk of this character making no sense in the context of what we already know, I think this is logical road to take the character down. Considering he went on to become a Bounty Hunter because of the events that left him fatherless, it makes sense to have a family unit be the one thing that helps him renounce his old ways.

The real meat of this episode is laid bare when a train piloted by the merciless Pyke Syndicate begin to terrorise Fett’s fellow Tusken tribe. After several fatalities, our protagonist takes it upon himself to pinch a bunch of bikes from a Nikto Sand Riders, which he intends to use in a bid to bring down the Syndicate’s locomotive. It’s a thrilling series of a events that give the flashback portion of this story a feeling of completeness. One that was lacking during the first quarter of the episode.

Perhaps my one reservation with this particular plot, is we’re only seeing how Fett wins over the hearts of the Tusken tribe, not how the tribe wins over his own heart. I’m guessing we’re supposed to take his connection at face value, what with him being an orphan who’s had his identity stripped from him following his escape from the Sarlacc. He connects because they are the people who take him in. Still, there’s something missing here, something crucial that we need to properly understand why this particular tribe has softened him.

Be as that may, this is a great subplot. It adds a depth to the character that feels more interesting than destructive. I understand that a lot of people don’t like the decisions made with the character in this series. Nevertheless, watching Fett find a new sense of belonging and identity with this tribe is a joy to watch. There’s also a feeling of anxiety and subsequent sense of delight as we watch Fett and the gang take control of the Pyke occupied train. If they can apply this level of completeness to the secondary plot line, then we might be onto something.

Final Verdict

The Tribes of Tatooine is a lot of fun. It’s thoroughly enjoyable seeing Fett warm to the Tusken tribe. It’s a pleasure watching the whole Pyke plotline unfold and move toward a satisfactory conclusion. The action sequences are a blast, plus the montage sequences in which Fett trains his new family to operate the Sand Riders’ bikes helps to establish the relation developing between our protagonist and his new family. There’s a humanity to all of this that I can certainly get behind, elevating the episode in terms of its quality.

What’s less impressive is the incomplete present day sequences fastened onto the front end of this story. It doesn’t feel as though it belongs in this story. Once again, the heavy-footed transition between past and present plot lines knocks the overall rating down a couple of notches. As admirable as it is to see Favreau toy around with narrative structure, it’s not quite working as intended.

Aside from a few problems at the start, The Tribes of Tatooine works. Though some are dissatisfied with the decision to give Fett a moral compass, the method in which they’ve gone about implementing it makes sense. It feels fitting to give him a family unit, particularly when we consider the loss he experienced as a child. It’s the reason why one of the first shots we saw at the start of Stranger in a Strange Land was a young Boba holding the helmet (and head) of his later father. If you’re going to transition Fett from a heartless Bounty Hunter to a man donning principles, this is certainly one way to go about it. It may not be to everyone’s liking, and I recognise why that might be the case, yet this pre-Mandalorian, post-Jedi story arc is hitting all the right notes for me.

Published by Amber Poppitt

I'm a writer from the UK with dreams of someday becoming a professional screenwriter. I also happen to be a huge film/TV/novel enthusiast with an undying obsession toward Doctor Who.

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