HEAT VISION

'The Mandalorian' Offers Path to Redemption for a Classic Character

The Mandalorian and Grogu
Disney+/2020 Lucasfilm Ltd.
A moment 'Star Wars' audiences have waited decades for arrived in Friday's episode.

[This story contains spoilers for The Mandalorian, "Chapter 14: The Tragedy."]

For 42 years his legend has grown. He’s been the subject of novels, comics, pop culture references, and animated episodes. He’s been quoted, cosplayed, and sworn by as one of Star Wars’ coolest characters. His presence even inspired the very show in which he’s now a featured player in. And he did all of this mostly by just standing around before getting unceremoniously sucked into a Sarlaac pit. Finally, after 42 years, Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) proves himself worthy of all those decades of admiration.

In The Mandalorian "Chapter 14 The Tragedy," directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by Jon Favreau, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Grogu arrive on the planet Tython on the site of an ancient Jedi temple. Once Grogu sits atop the stone at the temple, just Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) told him to in the previous episode, he enters a meditative trance, reaching out through the force to find a Jedi willing to train him. What seems simple and tranquil enough takes a turn when Din discovers he’s been tracked to Tython by none other than Boba Fett.

Ever since The Mandalorian began there’s been speculation about Fett making an appearance, and the tease in episode five of the first season, “The Gunslinger” only added fuel to that fire. When Fett finally showed his face, scars and all, at the end of the season two premiere, “The Marshal,” the expectation among fans was that Fett was being set up to be Mando’s adversary. Instead, something more interesting occurs. Fett, who has partnered with bounty hunter Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) who also appeared in “The Gunslinger” simply wants his armor back. The armor was given to Din by Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant) in exchange for his help taking down a krayt dragon. Fett explains although he is not Mandalorian and does not partake of the creed, the armor belonged to his father, Jango, who, of course saw his head removed from his body courtesy of Mace Windu’s (Samuel L. Jackson) lightsaber in Attack of the Clones (2002).

What’s interesting about Fett’s request is that it’s the first time we’ve seen the character on-screen, as an adult, display any kind of real humanity or agency. Daniel Logan fleshed out Fett’s early years and rise as a bounty hunter in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but the Boba Fett who first appeared in The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978) in animated form, before making his live-action debut in Empire Strikes Back (1980) where he was portrayed by Jeremy Bulloch, was really just a guy in a cool outfit who only ever said one cool thing, “he’s no good to me dead.” But in this episode, Morrison, an ever-brilliant actor who gave life to the Clone Troopers, gives layers to Fett. He’s not a bad guy. He’s a man trying to survive in a dangerous galaxy. And he’s a man, who still longs for his father all these years later. In many ways, he’s still the abandoned clone and broken child holding his father’s helmet that audiences saw at the end of Episode II.

While Fett does make for an amazing action hero in the episode, making use of his Tusken Raider weapons and his recovered Mandalorian armor, crushing Stormtroopers and proving to be far more badass and capable than he ever was in the movies, there’s also a lot of subtlety Morrison brings to the role. After spotting Gideon’s (Giancarlo Esposito) Imperial cruiser, and saying “they’re back! The Empire” in a fun nod to his debut in Empire Strikes Back he says that what he’s seeing isn’t a spice dream. The line suggests that in the years since the Empire’s seeming collapse and his escape from the Sarlaac that the defeated and disgraced Fett found himself battling a drug addiction and fighting ghosts of his past that only he could see.

Morrison plays Fett a bit like a punchy boxer who everyone thought was down for the count but proves he’s good enough to keep on fighting. There’s a sense of honor to Fett, not only in his connection with Din, and the revelation that Jango was a foundling and served in the Mandalorian civil war, but in the fact that he chooses to ally himself with Din to save Grogu. That’s something few could have guessed would happen at the start of the season in which it seemed more likely Fett would find himself employed by Gideon than working against him. The Mandalorian is offering redemption for Boba Fett, both as a character and as a pop culture icon, and the character is proving to be far more interesting as an ally than he ever was a simple antagonist.

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