A Thrilling Let Down
Throughout much of In the Name of Honor, I found myself pondering over things I often don’t think about while watching something for the first time. Why did Fett choose to use the bombed-out remains of the Sanctuary as his place to do battle with the spice-dealing Pykes? Would it not make more sense to utilise the gargantuan palace he attained from the late Bib Fortuna? Is there any particular reason as to why none of Fett’s comrades split up when they are ambushed by the pit droids? How exactly did R2D2 know where to fly Grogu after he rejected Luke’s offer of Yoda’s lightsaber?
I’m not normally one to be pedantic when it comes to fiction. I’m usually the first to roll my eyes whenever an acquaintance decides to go all CinemaSins after leaving a theatre. If my brain starts picking details apart in this sort of manner, it usually means I’m not as invested as I should be. The less interested I am, the less forgiving I seem to be.
The problem here is we are being offered a climax to a story that Jon Favreau gave up on weeks ago. The show runner’s pitch at the end of The Mandalorian’s second series was the promise to perform a trick he never had perched up his sleeve in the first place. Boba Fett’s journey into the criminal underworld of Tatooine ended up being a handful of scenes in which Fett squared up to someone, occasionally tussled with them, then invited them to join his gang. Instead of fleshing out a thrilling tale in this time and place, the show was more interested in character defining flashbacks and Din Djarin cameos. After six weeks of showing us just how interesting everything else other than the central premise of this show is, it’s little wonder I can’t be bothered to get caught up in the big finale.
As a standalone set piece, In the Name of Honor is a terrific achievement. The action is beautifully structured, the scenes move with a kinetic glee on par with even the most costly of big budget cinematic blockbusters, and the droid/Rancor scraps showcase the very best of Robert Rodriguez’s directing talents. For the flashy visuals and dynamic combat, I’d happily watch this episode on repeat. It’s a glorious looking piece of television, that I’m certainly not going to deny.
When you examine the substance of the thing, however, one can’t help but see this episode as final confirmation that The Book of Boba Fett is seriously lacking a vision. Favreau has kicked this narrative can down the road for nearly two whole months. Now he’s trying to move us all on by doing some snazzy keepie-uppie’s with said can before booting it into the nearest bin.
What’s perhaps most frustrating about all of this, is the fact that there was plenty of potential to fashion a dramatic climax from all of this. The first half of this series dedicated itself to establishing a family unit that Fett found and lost at the hands of the cowardly Pykes. Seeing as this episode was him essentially squaring up to those very same villains, meant we had the opportunity for him to face off against those who took everything from him. Pitting Fett against the Pykes and forcing him to make a decision between revenge or mercy could have served as a moment that demonstrated the growth and change this character has been through since the birth of this show. It was the perfect moment for him to be tested as a character, his outcome framing the way in which we understand the character going forward. Except none of this happens. Fett doesn’t even get the opportunity to confront his adopted family’s murderous. Instead, Fennec Shand swoops in and does the job for him.
By the time the story comes to a close, it’s hard to know what any of this was really all for. What did Fett learn throughout the duration of this story? We know he found a sense of community whilst trapped out in the Tatooine Badlands, but other than discovering the advantages of working in a pack, what fundamental shifts in the character’s psychology occurred between the events of The Rescue and In the Name of Honor? Fett opened this story as a man seemingly with a plan. By the end, he’s in exactly in the same place as he was seven stories prior, only now he’s a little unsure whether he’s picked the right job becoming a crime syndicate. That’s it? He’s gone from someone with a vision to someone with a slightly less certain vision?
Even the promise of a menacing new villain in the form of Caad Bane is wasted here. Porting a popular big bad from the prequel era is a pretty big deal. His introduction during the previous episode was pretty glorious too. Looming into shot and mercilessly slaughtering a key player with such ease established Bane as a foe with much potential. So to have him stabbed and killed off with such ease at the back end of this episode added yet another layer of disappointment to a conclusion that’s already lacking a bite.
Much like Caad Bane’s callous slaughtering of Cobb Vanth, In the Name of Honor guns down any hope that The Book of Boba Fett was building toward something profound and game changing. The image of Fett gunning down Bib Fortuna and claiming his throne was certainly an appealing post-credit sequence. Unfortunately, seven episodes after that alluring tease, the truth is, we’re left with a show that has no idea what the purpose of it’s existence is for.
The moment during The Mandalorian’s 16th Chapter, in which Din Djarin says farewell to a departing Grogu, is a moment layered with emotion. It’s a surrogate father saying goodbye to a child he’s developed a paternal instinct toward over the course of 16 stories. It’s also the moment in which the show we’ve come to understand departs from its understood status quo. The tale of Din and Grogu travelling across the stars in a bid to find the “young” child’s own kind has been central to the series since day one. To prevent the show from growing stale, The Rescue functioned as a remedy to the risk of formulaic storytelling. As the galaxy’s most adorable Jedi waddled into the arms of Luke Skywalker, The Mandalorian hinted at a show changed by the narrative collapse of its second series finale. Not only were we saying goodbye to Grogu, but we were saying goodbye to that show as we’d come to understand it. A heart breaking yet necessary farewell, if we wish for the show to remain fresh and ever changing.
Which is why the events of In the Name of Honor appear, at least on the surface, to be an unhelpful undoing of the emotional gut punch we received 12 months prior to its release. Having Grogu and Din reunite and set off into the stars together looks to be an attempt to restructure The Mandalorian’s impending third series as more of the same. Sure, the search for a Jedi arc is done and dusted, but what about the payoff of wrapping up Grogu and Din’s story? Why have him swan off with Luke if you’re just going to undo that beat before Chapter 17 even has time to air? If Favreau had no intention of doing anything significant with Grogu going to Luke’s new academy, why bother having him leave in the first place?
Though there remains a part of me happy that the duo are reunited yet again, there’s a lot about this return to the status quo that I can’t get on board with. I think the crux of that discomfort lies with how much it undoes the emotional punch of The Rescue’s final moments. Having Grogu say goodbye to Din was a tear jerking moment. To have all of that reversed so quickly makes the whole moment feel like a cheap attempt to generate emotion. There were no consequences or significant character and story shifts caused by such an event. It was just there to close the show with a sad ending.
Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong by the time series three of the show airs. Maybe there is some grand plan behind the sudden reuniting that can’t be viewed at this moment in time. For all we know, the Luke/Acadamy plot line may well be far from over. Who knows what Favreau and his team have in store. Still, at the time of writing this, before any new Star Wars content following The Book of Boba Fett’s release has become available, I’m left with a feeling of being emotionally robbed of a fair well that managed to successfully make me cry on the day of its airing.
Also, the fact the grand undoing (or reuniting, however you want to view it) was committed in a show outside of The Mandalorian feels like an even stranger move. While a sizeable portion of The Mandalorian’s viewers will no doubt watch The Book of Boba Fett, there will certainly be some who decide to skip this spin-off series. For those few who opt to skip the spin-off show are going to find themselves mighty puzzled when Chapter 17 opens with an apparent disregard to the preceding story’s events. Luke’s arrival and Grogu’s sudden departure to such folks will look to be like the hallucinogenic daydreams of an overly enthusiastic Star Wars fan.
Favreau does appear to be using parts of The Book of Boba Fett to shift parts of the parent show’s plot forward without having to do it during the events of the mother series. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing largely boils down to whether you’re happy with this series serving more as a stage setter than an actual story for Boba Fett himself. Content or discontent aside, opting to play out a plot beat as significant as Grogu rejecting the teachings of a Jedi master in favour of going on adventures with his adopted space dad seems like the sort of event you’d leave for the events of the show such a story was intended for.
A Lucasfilm Rest Stop
As negative as my final essay for The Book of Boba Fett may seem on the surface, I have, for the most part, thoroughly enjoyed this show. It’s a show that appears to be lacking a central vision, not to mention a tendency to veer off track at every opportunity. Nevertheless, it’s managed to maintain a level of thrill and entertainment throughout that I just can’t bring myself to dislike. It’s an utter mess of a show, but a delightful mess at that.
But why has it been such a mess? Could there perhaps be an underlying reason for this show that stems beyond the vision set out during that Bib Fortuna murdering, post-credit sequence? I think the answer to this question is, yes. It may not serve as a valid reason to absolve this show of the narrative crimes it commits, but I think Favreau had underlying intentions for making this show beyond the fanciful notion of telling a story about Boba Fett running a crime syndicate.
I think the best way to look at The Book of Boba Fett is to see it as a sort of narrative rest stop for Lucasfilm. As we’ve come to realise in recent times, the plan here is to establish some kind of post-original trilogy mini universe; one in which various characters, storylines and shows develop and crossover with one another over the course of several years. Consider it an attempt to do an MCU style fictional universe, albeit one existing within an even larger franchise that stems many eras and centuries. Seeing as The Mandalorian has helped to lay down the foundations for much of this upcoming universe, what with it aiding the upcoming Ahsoka and Rangers of the New Republic tv shows, it seems likely that a lot of the characters we’ve been introduced to over the last couple of years are going to maintain a close relationship in the various stories set to unfold within the Disney+ line up of features.
Seeing how successful The Mandalorian has become since its 2019 release, I’m beginning to get the vibe that Favreau and his team are becoming somewhat hesitant to dedicate too much time within that respective show to propping up future storylines. Seeing as this particular show runner has experienced the first-hand perils of aggressive stage-setting during his time working on Iron Man 2 (2010), he doesn’t want to risk sabotaging something that seems to have struck a chord with many Star Wars fans. This is especially understandable when you recall just how notorious the devotees of this franchise are when it comes to turning on the authors they once adored. Instead of risking any damage to a show beloved by so many, why not just make a mini-series which can take all the criticism instead?
There’s a chance I’m completely and utterly off the mark with this one, but after rewatching all of The Book of Boba Fett, it seems that this is very much the purpose of this show. It’s setting everything up for upcoming shows in a manner that saves The Mandalorian series three from becoming the next Phantom Menace of the franchise. Establish a place of residence for Fett so Din and the gang can call in when he’s required, inaugurate a relationship between Ashoka and Luke, sort our Din’s shiny new ship, adapt Caad Bane into the non-animated segment of Star Wars, and have Grogu reject his Jedi teachings without having to do any of that within the shows where such plot points are intended to become more significant. That way, by the time we get to future mainline shows, Favreau and Filoni can get stuck into the action without exposition or foreshadowing bogging the plots down.
For the most part, The Book of Boba Fett doesn’t feel like a show containing its own identity or reason for existing. It’s a Lucasfilm Rest Stop; a place where the storytellers can get their house in order before getting involved with the meatier projects. None of this justifies the problems lying at the heart of a show sold to us as something more meaningful than it is, but it is at least some sort of explanation as to why things turned out the way they did.
In the Name of Honor is a costly recreation of a kid playing with his Star Wars toys. There’s Mandalorians flying through the streets of Tatooine on jetpacks, firing lasers at droids the size of houses. They’ve even got kaiju style fights between Rancors and robots thrown in for good measure. Director Robert Rodriguez returns to do what he does best; bringing to life those playtime scuffles between stormtroopers and Jedi we use to love so dearly back when we were wee little skippers. In terms of its action, the entertainment factor is off the charts. A dazzling 59-minutes of television that will hold your attention for a great deal of it.
If we examine the narrative, on the other hand, a less thrilling picture emerges. This is the moment that confirms our fears; that this show has no vision or willingness to pay off anything set up at the top of its existence. This is a show with no interest in its own premise. Instead, it’s much more fascinated with everything else surrounding it. Grogu, Ashoka, Din, Luke; they are the stars here, not the man whose name sits in the title. Fett is more of an afterthought, strung along and used as a punchbag to reduce the risk of his Mandalorian buddy taking a kicking in the mother show.
If you’re able to overlook the problems plaguing this series, there’s a lot of fun to have with it. This is especially the case with this episode. There are numerous moments in here that work a charm in isolation from the bigger picture. Favreau and Rodriguez know how to bedazzle when it comes to bringing kinetic action to life, something that’s undeniably the case when watching The Book of Boba Fett’s final outing. If the complete rejection of following through with its initial promise of being a show about Boba Fett is too hard to stomach, however, then it’s unlikely that you’re going to get along with this one.
For something so visually rousing, In the Name of Honor fails to deliver a satisfactory conclusion to a show that’s been struggling to cultivate its own identity for the entire seven weeks of its run. Depending on how you approach this story, your mileage in terms of accepting it for what it is may well vary.