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[This story contains spoilers for The Mandalorian season two premiere, “Chapter Nine”].
Attack of the Clones actor Temuera Morrison is back in the Star Wars galaxy. If, as seems to be the case suggested by the end of the first episode of The Mandalorian’s second season, Boba Fett has survived apparent death at the maws of the Sarlaac, it’s a fair question to ask just how that happened. Clues might be found in the first time Fett returned, in the wild and wooly world of Star Wars licensed product of the 1990s.
As every Star Wars fan knows, Boba Fett met his fate in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, knocked into the mouth of the ever-hungry Sarlaac by a still-recovering Han Solo. It was, to be blunt, an ignominious end for the character many fans had taken to since his debut in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, where he’d been portrayed as a strong-but-silent bounty hunter who seemed steely capable and coldly deadly, only to be revealed as the kind of guy who falls victim to a bump on the back from a guy who can barely see. No surprise, then, that his end was undone sooner rather than later.
Fett was revealed to be alive as early as 1991’s Star Wars: Dark Empire, one of the first wave of post-movie stories to be published in the space between Return of the Jedi and the prequel trilogy of movies. Although the details of Fett’s survival were left purposefully vague in the six-issue Dark Horse Comics miniseries, it was just the first of a number of Boba Fett projects that would, eventually, build out far more of his mythology than anyone could have imagined.
One version of how Fett survived appeared in the 1996 prose anthology Star Wars: Tales of the Bounty Hunters, where it’s revealed that Fett used a thermal detonator to free himself, destroying his armor in the process; he was discovered, badly injured, by fellow bounty hunter Dengar, who eventually tends him back to health, at which point he resumes his life as a bounty hunter — one who, thankfully, doesn’t have any more mishaps with errant jetpacks.
If this kind of further development seems at odds with the events of Return of the Jedi, some solace is available in the fact that even Star Wars creator George Lucas reportedly believed that Fett would have escaped the Sarlaac. That was a claim made by author Jonathan Rinzler during a 2014 Reddit AMA session, with Rinzler writing, “If it comes from George then it’s true!”
As if one unlikely death-defying escape, wasn’t enough, Fett was given an entirely different Sarlaac avoidance story in 2002’s Star Wars Tales No. 12, where the story “The Revenge of Tag and Bink” showed the titular characters also falling into the Sarlaac’s mouth, where they met Fett; the three eventually climb out of the mouth together, and Fett runs off after making Tag and Bink promise never to reveal what actually happened; the two swear to tell people “that Boba Fett does not scream like a girl and was in no way thwarted by a blind guy swinging a stick during the Rebels’ escape.” (Writer Kevin Rubio clearly knew just how unfortunate Fett’s cinematic fate was.)
Neither of these returns will be the exact story behind the character’s Mandalorian return, of course; everything that wasn’t an official Lucasfilm product — which is to say, anything that wasn’t one of the movies or the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars series — was deemed non-canonical in early 2014, meaning that decades of books and comics were thrown into limbo.
However, that material, rechristened “Star Wars Legends” to make it easier to identify and differentiate from new publishing stories set firmly inside the movie and television continuity, has acted as inspiration for canonical stories and characters in the years since then, most notably in the appearance of Grand Admiral Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels, after years of his being a significant character in Timothy Zahn’s no-longer canonical novels. With that in mind, don’t be too surprised if there’s a thermal detonating reason for Fett to have escaped the seeming maws of doom being delivered by Temuera Morrison before too long…
New episodes The Mandalorian debut Fridays on Disney+.
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