A Vision in Focus
An early-episode snooze in Fett’s Bacta tank whisks us back into our protagonist’s past right from the get go this week. Except it isn’t quite business as usual. A few years have passed between the death of his new family and the period in which we find ourselves in at the top of The Gathering Storm. During his time living alone, our protagonist doesn’t appear to have reverted back to his former ways. Bounty hunting still looks to be very much the profession of his past. What has changed in the years following the murder of his adopted family are his motives. A desire to reclaim the Firespray gunship that remains parked in the bowels of Jabber’s former palace, not to mention a wish to usurp Bib Fortuna as crime lord have become his life goals.
The several-year fast forward has taken us from the pre-Mandalorian days to the mid-Mandalorian era of the Star Wars timeline. Fett’s Bacta dreams are now in parallel with its sister show’s seventh chapter, The Gunslinger. For those who’d appreciate a quick memory jog, The Gunslinger was the one in which protagonist Din Djarin offers to help wannabe bounty hunter, Toro Calican, capture Fett’s future partner in crime, Fennec Shand. As the chapter nears its conclusion, Calican shoots Fennec in the gut, attempts to kidnap Jedi infant Grogu, then finds himself mortally wounded by Djarin. As the episode wraps, the silhouette of a mysterious figure is shown approaching Shand’s motionless body.
That mysterious figure, of course, is Boba Fett himself, which is where The Gathering Storm begins its tale. Upon discovering her body, Fett rushes Shand to a Mos Eisley mod-parlour, the very place in which last week’s Blade Runner cosplayer kids kit their out their bodies with various cybernetic titbits. Once again, we’re introduced to another startingly earth-like comparison, as the mod-parlour resembles that of a tattoo studio. Similarly to last week’s The Streets of Mos Espa, the inclusion of the mod-parlour functions as another means of interlinking the two seemingly dissimilar timeframes together. More than ever, both stories are beginning to bleed into one, turning what’s felt like a considerably uneven show into a more balanced project, now that the bridges are beginning to show.
A sizeable majority the episode dedicates its runtime to this period, following Fett and a recently revived Shand as they attempt to infiltrate Jabba’s/Fortuna’s palace. It’s become standard procedure for me to complain about the lack of this show’s dedication toward the “present day” plotline in this series, and for good reason too. Whereas the same criticism can be aimed at this episode just as much as the previous ones, I’m willing to let this one off the hook for reasons that will become more clear toward the end of this essay.
What gives this episode the benefit of the doubt, is that it seems to be doing an awful lot of stage setting. We learn plenty about our leads, garnering information on Fett and Shand which allow us to return to the crime syndicate plot with knowledge preparing us for the series’ endgame. It’s here in which a much clearer vision for the show and its lead character becomes as visible as it’s ever been. Considering we’re at the midpoint of the first series, this is feels like an appropriate time to change gears from past to present.
The Shadows of Ghosts
The Gathering Storm finally begins to dish up the reasons as to why Fett chose to dethrone Fortuna and take control of the Tatooine underworld. His days fermenting in the belly of a Sarlacc, not to mention baking in the Tatooine suns has ripened Fett into a wiser man. He’s since grown tired of working for idiots like Jabba and Fortuna, all of whom wield an appalling record for getting folks like Fett and Shand killed. For the first time, he tells us what we’ve already suspected; the Tuskens adoption of him is what inspired him to abandon his days of bounty hunting. He believes he’s smarter than the fools who employee him. Instead of risking death to satisfy the desires of fools, he wants to usurp them.
Shand’s perspective is a little at odds with his point of view, capping off their debut conversation by claiming people like them don’t get to decide when they hang up their hunting boots. Shand is an interesting addition to the show’s line-up, chiefly due to her faithfulness toward Fett. We’ve known for a while that he saved her, which has been our only hint at why she’s become a loyal partner of his. Surely this can’t be the only reason though?
The Gathering Storm is the story where we begin to obtain more of an understanding toward her reasons for sticking by Fett’s side. We know she’s got a bounty on her head. This was established back in The Gunslinger. She doesn’t appear to be following Fett out of blind loyalty, but because it offers her chance to finally outrun the fate she’s been evading. The pair appear to be in remarkably similar circumstances Afterall. Two former bounty hunters, both wanted across the galaxy, and both presumed to have met their ends during prior conflicts. As Fett says, there’s an advantage to people thinking they’re both dead. Perhaps it makes sense for the pair to remain in the shadows of one another. Remaining as ghosts is a pretty useful way of keeping off your enemies radars.
Fett’s reasons for letting her hang around is for a motive that will become more clear in due course. She spends a sizeable portion of this story proving her capability, proving to him that brains and muscle are a two for one offer when it comes to her presence. Amidst the action, bloodshed and evasion peppered throughout The Gathering Storm, a partnership is born. Shand finds a likeminded partner in Fett, concluding that her chances of remaining off her enemies’ kill list is to buddy up with another dead man.
Shand has been a character I’ve not been too interested in up until this point. She’s mainly been utilised to help Fett fight battles he’s unable to win on his own, as well as reacting to his various quips and comments. She’s felt very much like a one note assistant, something that does her character a disservice. Here, on the other hand, the indication of a more interesting and multifaceted character starts take shape. I don’t think she’s become a noteworthy character in her own right just yet, but potential is beginning to formulate. I hope they develop this character further as the strand of Star Wars spinoffs during this era drip feed into the pop culture domain. I also hope they ripen her rapport with Fett as the years pass, particularly as they spiral further down the rabbit hole of Tatooine’s criminal underworld. Will they remain allies? Will she change her stance as circumstances adjust? Or will her past finally catch up with her? It’s an open book at this point in time, yet I’m intrigued to see where this goes.
Tiptoeing to Glory
The simplicity and focus of Fett breaking into Jabba’s palace is entertaining and simplistic in a manner reminiscent to its sister show, The Mandalorian. Fett and Shand produce a modelled map of the terrain, they locate where all the guards are, pinpoint the location of the prize, then get to work retrieving their goal by sneaking about the complex.
Creeping past and fleeing guards is punctuated by a rather comedic scene in which the duo get into a tussle with a bunch of droid chefs. Amongst the droids, a daft and delightful looking rat catcher gets caught up in the mix. He’s a right cute little scamp, which why it’s just as well he doesn’t meet a similar fate to his fellow kitchen counterparts (provided his self-inflicted shutdown wasn’t a permanent affair). Robert Rodriguez takes a break again this week, much like he did during the second chapter, leaving Kevin Tancharoen to take over for a bit. Scenes such as this one do certainly channel Rodriguez’s comedic tendencies, however, so you’d certainly be forgiven for thinking he was behind the camera for this one.
By the end of their covert mission into the bowels of Jabba’s palace, Fett retrieves his ship, takes to the skies, and guns down the gang of Nikto bikers he was lead to believe murdered his Tusken siblings. Shortly thereafter, he takes a visit to the presumed corpse of the Sarlacc who attempt to digest him many years prior. Much to Fett and Shand’s – but not the audiences’ – surprise, the Sarlacc is still very much alive and kicking. We cap off the segment with a tense and terrifying wrangle with the jaws of this wretched beast, a confrontation that’s only escaped thanks to one of the Firespray’s seismic bombs. Once again, we get yet another gripping journey into the character’s past. Favreau successfully sets up a story, fills it with plenty of brawls to keep it exciting, ties it all up in a neat little bow. The streak of decent, well-rounded storytelling in Fett’s former years continues for a fourth week running.
Softy in Numbers
I’ve argued in preceding articles that Fett’s time with the Tuskens has transformed him as a character, taking him from a heartless killer to a man who’s more compassionate. Shand herself seemedto have picked up on this shift in attitude, accusing of going “soft” since his time in the Tribe. Fett disagrees. Apparently, he hasn’t gone soft. He’s just learned the power that comes with surrounding yourself with a community. It’s an interesting shift in perception, one which perhaps makes a lot more sense when you consider this particular character. We’ve seen him murder and mutilate during The Mandalorian, a show set after his time with the Tusken brothers. We even see him take lives this week, such as when he obliterates the biker clan whom he believes murdered his Tusken kinfolk. The reasons I’ve considered him soft in previous episodes, relates to his decision to resort to second chances over straight up bloodshed. Of course, he’s never simply let people off scot free, he’s always attempted to employ them straight after. This feeds into the strength in numbers philosophy he claims to have developed from his time with teh Tuskens. He’s not showing mercy, he’s building an army.
Following on from his revelation, we’re immediately reminded of the moment in which Fett guns down an unarmed Fortuna and takes the throne from him. The message we’re getting here is loud and clear. Fett hasn’t turned into a sweetheart, he’s just changed his tactic. Getting new father figures doesn’t mean he’s gone good, it means he’s learned the value of having people to back him up. The Gamorreans, the divisive cyborg kids, even Krrsantan; all of them are his soldiers, hired to have his back when needed.
The Book of Boba Fett has been subtly hinting us toward the believe that the orphaning of Fett were what motivated him to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a bounty hunter. That character motive still applies, based on what we know of course. Likewise, his willingness to assimilate into the Tusken tribe is still likely down to the absence of a family model in his life. The brief shots of him chasing after his father’s departing craft set the stage aren’t unreliable narrations as such, as this episode does nothing to challenge the meaning behind such sequences. What they did do, however, was they encouraged us make an assumption on the reasons behind Fett’s willingness to show mercy. The emphasis on his dead father in conjunction with his developing relationship with the Tatooine tribe encouraged us to believe that he’d become a kinder man once his parental vacuum had been filled. The fact he’s not killed a single foe between chapters one through four further cements the suggestion of a less callous soul. Fett’s revelation to Shand instructs us to throw any assumptions of kindness out the window. He rejects the implied narrative, insisting he’s not a kind-hearted soul, but a man with new ideas on how to survive a world designed to terminate the weakest.
Whether or not this new development changes how events play out before the end of the series has yet to be proven. If he continues to spare enemies as his story edges further toward the climax, then his claims of not going soft could turn out to be hot air. Considering he calmly blasted his Nikto foes to oblivion after retrieving his ship implies mercy isn’t on the agenda when crossed by another. If the Pyke syndicate and Mayor Shaiz ruffle his feathers enough, I wouldn’t put it past him to send a fair few of these guys to an early grave.
Nowhere to Hide
Funnily enough, that pesky Bacta tank I’ve habitually complained about during the previous previous three essays ends up serving a purpose this time around. It’s used as a means of signally an official end to the flashback sequences, drawing a line under the time jumps in a way that the more traditional methods of material recollection would struggle to achieve. As Fett awakens, he’s informed by his dressing droid that the healing process is complete. Unless he’s unfortunate enough to be partially digested by one of the Sarlacc’s mates, no more memory baths are required. This leaves us in uncharted territory. The show must now face up to the one plot thread it’s been dragging its heels to explore up until this point.
With a permanent return to the present, immediately after Fett’s revelation regarding his method of recruiting over shooting, the show is preparing its next phase. Now that the groundwork has been laid, it’s time for the endgame. All that remains is for us to find out is whether or not Fett’s attempts at building an army is a tactic that will help him claim control of the land he’s decided to claim. With the streets of Mos Epsa quickly descending into chaos, not to mention the callous Pyke Syndicate fast closing in on his territory, it’s time for our man to put his money where his mouth is.
The same goes for Jon Favreau for that matter. He’s spent the best part of a month building up the reinvented Fett. He’s invested a great deal in portraying a new version of the character, while holding back on giving us much in terms of moving the Mos Espa story forward. Laying groundwork has been his absolute priority. Now that the deed is done and the stage is set, it’s time for him to send his players into battle.
The Gathering Storm is a real romp of a story. It’s streamlined and focused in a manner that feels all too familiar to The Mandalorian. It’s a story that manages to wrap an awful lot up in its 47-minutes. We learn about the inception of Shand and Fett’s partnership, Shand’s inner motives, the retrieval of the Firespray, the drive behind Fett’s reluctance to kill, and the closure of a subplot that’s function as the emotional backbone of this series up until this point.
This is very much a story that feels as though it’s moving everything into place. Character revelations invite us to rethink about what we thought we knew, while looming threats from years gone by a brought into sharp focus. There’s an energy and ambition to this script that’s been lacking up until this point. While the present day story is still moving at a snail’s pace, it looks to be teetering on the edge of erupting into something more grandiose and electrifying.
All of this packed into an episode caked with action, daftness, clarification and – as contradictory as it may sound – simplicity, makes for a smashing slice of television.
In case you can’t tell already, I’m a big fan of this one.