After Over 40 Years, Boba Fett Is Finally A Star Wars Lead

Though he now insists he's #NotABountyHunter, Boba Fett has been knocking about the galaxy — and, yes, bounty hunting — since 1978 when he first appeared in a different color scheme and in animated form in the notorious "Star Wars Holiday Special" (now in 4K). As of today, Fett is officially the star of his own Disney+ series, "The Book of Boba Fett," the first episode of which is now available to stream.

It's been a long road to this series. Don Francks provided the voice of Boba Fett in the "Holiday Special," where Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) secretly employed his services and called him "the best bounty hunter in the galaxy." However, it was Jeremy Bulloch who wore Fett's costume when he made his 1980 live-action debut on the bridge of an Imperial Super Star Destroyer in "The Empire Strikes Back." 

That costume, the coolest suit of armor this side of Vader, was enough to build up a cult of personality around Fett, even though he had very few speaking lines. Jason Wingreen lent his vocal talents to the live-action Fett, though George Lucas later replaced his voice with that of Temuera Morrison for the 2004 DVD release of the original "Star Wars" trilogy.

Bulloch passed away last December, the same month that Fett made his full live-action return to the "Star Wars" universe in "The Mandalorian" season 2. Now, a year later, we're getting a Fett who is 100% Morrison and 100% the star of his own show.

Was it worth the wait? How does Fett fare as a leading man (not to be confused with a Mando)? Let's discuss that ... with spoilers.

Survivor of the Sarlacc

"The Book of Boba Fett" plays into Fett's history, what little we know about him from the "Star Wars" movies and TV shows, while also fleshing him out and making him into a real, three-dimensional character. He's not just a "bad samurai" (as screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan once called him) who gets by on his mystique any more. After two short flashbacks to the "Star Wars" prequels, with their watery planets and beheaded fathers, the first episode of "The Book of Boba Fett" picks up right where "Return of the Jedi" left off, immediately answering the question of how Fett survived the Sarlacc pit.

In one of the cooler "Star Wars" moments in recent years, the show takes us inside the Sarlacc's digestive system and lets us see Fett and a Stormtrooper squishing around in its gastric juices. This is a scene that fans have imagined for decades, and it was absolutely worth the wait.

What I appreciated more than anything about the episode's cold open is how it uses pure visual storytelling to put us in Fett's boots. Writer Jon Favreau and director Robert Rodriguez stage the first few minutes mostly dialogue-free, almost like a silent movie, except they have composer Ludwig Göransson's new music themes to buoy them.

As we suspected, Jawas were involved in Fett's exit from the Sarlacc, though their involvement didn't play out exactly as one might have predicted based on old "Star Wars" comics. After Fett flamethrowers his way out of the Sarlacc and claws his way back up to the surface of Tatooine, the Jawas roll up in their Sandcrawler, strip him of his armor, and leave him to fend for himself wearing nothing but his space long johns.

The Man Behind the Mask

No sooner does Fett get "left for dead on the sands of Tatooine" by the Jawas than a band of Tusken Raiders picks him up, putting him in slave chains. Seeing him humiliated and taken prisoner so soon after his daring Sarlacc escape serves as a reminder of his graceless curtain call in "Return of the Jedi." At one point, he subdues their alien guard dog and flees into the desert at night, but just when you think he's about to prove himself in single combat, he goes down like a chump again. This Fett is not invincible, and "The Book of Boba Fett" has a sense of humor about that.

With Morrison putting a flesh-and-blood face to the bounty hunter's name, the show leans into the character's vulnerable human side, showing how he's capable of being a bad-ass but also needs healing sessions. In the present, he sleeps in a horizontal bacta tank and has droids to dress him. Yet as he sits on the throne of Jabba the Hutt”s old palace, accepting compliments and coin tributes from former employers, the mayor of Mos Espa's major-domo isn't as forthcoming with respect as he should be.

"I'm the crime lord," Fett observes. "He's supposed to pay me!"

In some ways, Fett seems ill-suited to be a crime lord, but fortunately, he's got the master assassin, Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), there to advise him. Though they don't yet have a protocol droid to translate for them, they are surrounded by other familiar droids and aliens, one of whom advises Fett: "On Tatooine, you must project strength if you are to be accepted as a daimyo."

"This Is the Way"

In the "Star Wars Holiday Special," Boba Fett pretended to be on the side of the Rebels, at first. It was only Chewbacca who could tell he didn't smell right and who "suspected all along there was something bad about Boba."

As a series protagonist, Morrison's Boba Fett has a more magnanimous presence, as if he — the non-Mandalorian in Mandalorian armor — still seeks to embody the Way of the Mandalore in his own way. He prefers to rule with respect instead of fear and he prefers to walk on his own two feet instead of being carried around like royalty. He's also merciful enough to spare some Gamorrean Guards who were loyal to Jabba and Bib Fortuna. Fennec thinks this is a mistake, but as we see later when they're ambushed, the Gamorreans actually come back to help them in a tight spot.

Keeping in mind that Fett casually gunned down Bib during the post-credits scene of the "The Mandalorian" season 2 finale, it's possible we'll see the "anti" side of him as an anti-hero emerge more as the first season of his show continues. For now, the look and tone of "The Book of Boba Fett" make it seem like this new series will very much be an extension of "The Mandalorian," right on down to the pieces of concept art shown over the closing credits.

Fett's time among the Tusken Raiders earns him their respect and finally earns him a much-needed sip of water. In the same way, he'll need to keep proving himself and earning the respect of those fans who have always regarded him as a glorified background character. In the first episode of "The Book of Boba Fett," at least, he's off to a pretty good start.

New episodes of "The Book of Boba Fett" release every Wednesday on Disney+.