If the internet serves as an effective barometer of anything these days (what with the proliferation of both fake news and ‘cultural impressions’ spurred by bots), Walt Disney’s The Book Of Boba Fett was received with a fair share of controversy. Despite being thrilled with the return of the galaxy’s deadliest bounty hunter, Star Wars fandom was split (to a degree) with this version: some found it a respectable next chapter in a long-loved character we truly knew very little about while others thought the writers ‘lightened up’ the severity of what could’ve been a truly adult property. Though I’ve long pointed out that fans can be extremely fickle, I certainly understand and appreciate the differences of opinion: I agreed that the end result of its seven-episode run winded up watering down Fett’s signature cool factor, I still argued that the show’s production values rivalled anything else I’d seen on TV and perhaps the creative crew could modestly correct its pervasive kid-friendly tone should future adventures arrive.
I could go on – perhaps I will as I’ve been toying with a longer critical examination of that property – but I really only bring this up to dissect the precariousness of the Walt Disney Company and Lucasfilm as it relates to yesterday’s stream of Chapter IV in the Obi-Wan Kenobi mini-series. (Are we still calling them that?)
As I’ve demonstrated in previous reviews of this program, I think it’s clear that – once again – fandom has opinions of its plausibility based upon the various interpretations of Star Wars lore. (My position is that nothing forbidding the further adventures of Ben Kenobi was definitively established, but I’d have honest reservations about the fallen Jedi Knight galivanting about the galaxy when he’s supposed to be both in hiding and guarding a young Luke Skywalker from afar.) I don’t feel the need to rehash these issues in a point/counterpoint fashion, but I do respect the differences of opinion. Art means something to each of us, and anyone feeling this narrative arc disrespects the tenets of the character should rightfully tune it out. I’ll watch … so you don’t have to.
Chapter IV picked up right after the events of Chapter III: a gravely injured Kenobi is sped off to the planet Jabiim and placed in a bacta tank to recover. When he awakens, he’s understandably distraught to find out Princess Leia has been captured by the Inquisitors and taken to Nur where they keep an operational stronghold. Kenobi and Tala enlist a few allies to mount a sneak invasion of the fortress to recover the child before it’s too late.
Curiously, this installment sees a very quick return of Kenobi to fighting form, almost so quickly that one questions why he was portrayed as so vastly weak in Chapter III. An argument could be logically proposed that the heightened sense of li’l Leia’s jeopardy served as a catalyst for the aging warrior to summon whatever fuel he had left in his unpracticed tank and do right by the Organa family … and that’s all I can really suggest. I was a complete 180 – not sure if the writers noticed – but I’m willing to chalk it up to such motivation. Otherwise? Well, I got nothing otherwise.
It's clear that a wealth of resources have been expended on making these new locations ‘feel’ comfortable within the wider universe of that galaxy far, far away. These locations – ship interiors, the Nur superstation – all look fabulous; and despite whatever reservations O.G. fans might have with the story I do hope they’ll be pleased with the aesthetics. The showrunners even manage to dust off a few items from the Original Trilogy era – Imperial comlinks, The Empire Strikes Back T-47 airspeeders, A New Hope’s pesky mouse droids, etc. – and put them to good fan service in this installment. For the record, I’m never opposed to ‘fan service’ so long as it makes sense. Maybe these were planned inclusions to push back against any plotline complaints? Only the wisest among us will truly know.
Also, Tala (played by the fabulous Indira Varma) took some major steps forward in her role as a secret agent for what appears to be the early rumblings of the Rebel Alliance. Joined with Obi-Wan, she uses her clout as an Imperial officer to get them onto Nur, only to have to sacrifice that secret identity in order to complete their dangerous mission. In some ways, this felt like the subplot to a great World War II film – the Allied officer having to ‘fake his way’ behind enemy lines – and Varma proved as an actress she was amply up for the challenge. Here’s hoping she survives this series, and audiences get to see more of her in the future.
However, the installment also had a few thunderous clunks along its devious way. As I said above, Kenobi’s sudden Jedi powers resurgence came quickly, and I was expecting a bit more nuance. Tala subdues an Imperial officer and stows his unconscious body behind a very small piece of infrastructure in a cavernously large room … and, yet, no one noticed this? Are Imperials really this incompetent? (I guess the shooting accuracy of any Stormtrooper might answer that question.) In order to escort Kenobi across a spacecraft hangar staffed with what looks to be dozens of soldiers, she merely throws an old cloak around him (and li’l Leia) and, again, no one notices?
I’d also be remiss in my duties if I failed to point out how poorly the script also delivered what arguably could be the show’s greatest development.
In a kinda/sorta shocking reveal, audiences learned that the Empire didn’t only dispatch those Force users with the execution of Order 66 but also they’ve been – ahem – storing their bodies in some kind of deep freeze mortuary in Nur’s lower levels. Having been a viewer of several other Star Wars properties, I have my own opinions on why they’ve done this, but that’s what’s called an ‘informed supposition.’ Viewers entirely new to this expanded universe may be at a total loss as to why Emperor Palpatine and his evil minions might be keeping them? Are they preserving genetic material for some dark purpose? Does Darth Vader and the Emperor even know that the Inquisitors are doing this? Is this little more than a trophy collection of twisted Imperial headhunters?
The theories practically write themselves.
Yes, yes, yes! I get that it’s only a television show, and we’re supposed to have fun with it … but there’s a little something called suspension of disbelief, too, and I wasn’t entirely comfortable with some of these little bits or with some of their handling. Did they break the episode? Of course not! Did they serve as greater narrative distractions than they did organic developments? Yes, they did. Could there have possibly been better solutions? Well, that’s not my job – as a critic, I’m only paid (poorly, too) to react to what’s provided – and here’s hoping everyone behind the scenes tries a bit harder next week.
The Force remains with this one. We’ll see how strongly it is once we reach the finish.