Can THE MANDALORIAN Redeem Boba Fett?
Let’s get this out of the way: Boba Fett sucks.
I get that he’s got cool armour. I get that he’s got a cool ship. I get that he’s got a cool jetpack. Trust me: I get it. But as far as Boba Fett’s appeal is concerned, that’s literally all there is. The man speaks 27 words of dialogue - words! - in all his live-action adult screentime, just one more than deceased X-wing pilot Jek Porkins. The only onscreen character development ever done on this guy takes place when he was a child, in ATTACK OF THE CLONES and THE CLONE WARS.
Boba Fett is coming back, though, in the next season of THE MANDALORIAN - a show that might as well star Boba Fett already, given that its lead character is largely defined by a near-identical set of armour occasionally inhabited by Pedro Pascal. But while I’m tempted to roll my eyes at the thudding inevitability of this development, I’m actually somewhat optimistic about the possibilities. Whether or not those possibilities are exploited properly remains to be seen, but there’s potential in the old boy yet.
For one thing: bringing back Temuera Morrison Fett is a fantastic decision, and the only one you could really make for the character. Morrison is a great actor, quietly churning out committed performances year after year, and it’s always a pleasure to see him onscreen. Casting him offers a chance to redeem his previous final moments in STAR WARS, which involved his head popping off Jango Fett's body only to float around on a variety of CGI clone bodies. It also rights one of the few wrongs of THE CLONE WARS: for all Dee Bradley Baker’s great character work as the titular clones, his faux New Zealand accent is utterly abominable (and no amount of desperate in-universe explanation from American fans is going to change that).
As for Boba himself, he still sucks, but that only increases the potential for character development. It's all uphill from here - at least, a guy can dream. What is it like growing up genetically identical to a literal army of clones which can’t possibly be viewed positively by people around the galaxy? How did growing up without a father shape his views on the galaxy, and especially on the Jedi order responsible for his father’s death? Did he survive the Pit of Carkoon? If so, how; and if not, what shape will Morrison’s appearance take? Will we see him escape it in realtime? Will he be the Mandalorian equivalent of a Force ghost? Will he play a former clone soldier, dishonestly proclaiming himself to be the real Boba Fett in order to book talk show appearances?
Fett also presents an interesting situation to the show's main character Din Djarin, whose name we should really bother to learn if we're ever going to see him as more than just a suit of armour. Like his father Jango, Boba enjoys no official status within Mandalorian culture; he's got the armour, and (appropriately enough) that's about it. While that's enough to make his name as a bounty hunter, it would surely read as sacrilegious in some way to Djarin and his clanmates. Maybe there's some conflict to be mined from that.
Adding to the intrigue is SlashFilm’s reporting that new cast member Timothy Olyphant has reportedly filmed scenes in Fett’s armour. Provided that their sources are correct, that’s an interesting tidbit for sure. SlashFilm speculates that Olyphant is playing Cobb Vanth, a self-styled lawman from Chuck Wendig’s AFTERMATH novel (which is canon, and set near enough THE MANDALORIAN in the timeline) who purchased a set of Mandalorian armour from Jawas after the events of RETURN OF THE JEDI and set about protecting his Tatooine town in it. The assumption is that it’s Fett’s armour, suggesting either that he escaped from the Pit of Carkoon, or that Jawas are more resourceful scavengers than we thought.
Obviously those are a number of jumps to make. There’s no guarantee Olyphant is indeed playing Vanth, or that the show’s writers would rather pluck a character from a novel than just create their own (though the return of THE CLONE WARS' Bo-Katan suggests some willingness to do so). The character certainly sounds like the type you’d cast Olyphant to play. There’s potential drama in Boba Fett returning to reclaim his armour, too - since the acquisition, upgrading, and statistical min-maxing of armour seems to be the principal motivation of Mandalorians in this show. And Tatooine has already come into play (in the show’s single most distressingly capacious ejaculation of fan service), including a character whose identity we don’t know, but who certainly wore boots and a cape. Maybe it’s Fett. Maybe it’s Vanth. Maybe it’s a pair of disembodied legs. I know what I want.
I've gone on record many times as being disappointed with THE MANDALORIAN's first season. I really want to like it, and I like a lot of things about it, but I'm just starving for anything resembling tangible drama over here. My hope is that, instead of giving in totally to Boba fetishism, the show digs a little deeper into the character, and gives Temuera Morrison some meaty material to work with. I know executive producer (and writer/director) Dave Filoni can do it. He's done it before - here's hoping he can do it again.
THE MANDALORIAN Season 2 is still set for an October 2020 release date, because when you create your sets live on a computer, controlled sets and social distancing is a whole lot easier.