The Book Of Boba Fett Delivers Expected Surprises In 'From The Desert Comes A Stranger'

This will contain major spoilers for the sixth episode of "The Book of Boba Fett."

"Star Wars" wunderkind Dave Filoni returns to direct the sixth installment of "The Book of Boba Fett" called "From the Desert Comes a Stranger." It begins with Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant revisiting the role he originated in the second season of "The Mandalorian") driving the Pyke Syndicate from the Mos Pelgo territories. In this, he makes a powerful enemy.

After the credits, the story picks up with a resumption of the mission the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) undertook to see Grogu again and deliver his gift. This brings him to a remote world where Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has been training Grogu. But instead of seeing Grogu, Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) convinces the Mandalorian to leave his gift and help Grogu forgo any attachment that would make his training more difficult. Reluctantly, the Mandalorian agrees, leaving Luke to continue unlocking Grogu's memory of his time in the Jedi Temple and the night of the Empire's purge.

The Mandalorian returns to Tatooine and immediately offers to help gather an army of foot soldiers for Boba Fett in this quickly escalating war with the Pykes. Din Djarin goes to Cobb Vanth, asking the people of Mos Pelgo (now renamed Freetown) to join in the fight against the Pyke Syndicate.

Vanth agrees to consider it, but that's when a stranger walks in from the desert. Cad Bane (Corey Burton), a notorious bounty hunter from the era of the Clone Wars, walks in and shoots down Vanth and his deputy, warning the town that no one will get hurt as long as the Syndicate's spice flows uninterrupted.

As the people of Freetown gather to save Cobb Vanth from their wounds and make their choice about their next steps, Luke Skywalker gives Grogu his own choice: remain with the Jedi, or return to life with the Mandalorian.

The Direction and Film References

With Dave Filoni's latest installment of "Star Wars," he once again throws rocks at all of our favorite characters and makes them choose between differing paths in the most heart-breaking of ways. Although this episode is structurally unusual, completely unbalanced between the competing stories, it is emotionally balanced in a way that only someone who understands "Star Wars" so innately could pull off. Filoni knows where we want our attention, regardless of whose name is on the title of the show, and gives us what we need to build even more context for the overall story, even if it is very little.

Like George Lucas before him, Filoni relies on references and touch points from past films, including the "Star Wars" films as well. As far as previous "Star Wars" films, Filoni touches on "The Empire Strikes Back" with Luke's training, "Revenge of the Sith" with the Grogu's view of Order 66, and even presages "The Last Jedi" with the construction of Luke's Academy that the Knights of Ren would ultimately destroy.

But on this planet there are moments of peace and serenity and looking at the sun through the bamboo, evoking moments from Kurosawa films, particularly "Seven Samurai" and "Rashomon." There are so many shots here that would look right at home in Kurosawa's black and white cinematography.

But there is the element of Westerns that cannot be denied in this episode. The Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone in particular play a huge part in the latter half of the episode when Cad Bane returns. Mos Pelgo (or Freetown) is a classic town on the frontier with its own law. And a stranger walking in out of the desert with a threat and a gunfight is not out of the ordinary. Cad Bane is himself already a reference to these films, taking on the Lee Van Cleef role from "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly." If it weren't for all the "Star Wars" flourishes, it would be easy to see all of this stuff in a Western of its own.

The Cameos

This episode brings many former guest stars together into one episode as we head to the crescendo of next week's finale. Timothy Olyphant returns as Cobb Vanth, W. Earl Brown is back as his Weequay bartender, too. Mark Hamill returns as Luke Skywalker and Rosario Dawson comes back as Ahsoka Tano, and so on.

The most interesting new cameo might be JJ Dashnaw. He's a stunt coordinator on the show and has been working with Robert Rodriguez for quite a while, going back to his "Spy Kids" and "Sin City" days. He's also been playing the armored body double of Boba Fett. He plays the deputy who gets himself killed and almost gets Vanth killed alongside him.

Grogu's Training

In this episode, Luke Skywalker takes Grogu through the paces of his training, though he admits it's less like training Grogu and more like unlocking his memories after the trauma of Order 66. Luke refines the training process for Grogu based on the teachings he received. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi's training, Luke employs the training remote to get Grogu to move with the Force and, just as Yoda did in "Attack of the Clones," gets him to hop around from rock to rock.

He brings a powerful lesson to Grogu inspired by Luke's difficulty in raising the X-Wing out of the swamp, as well. In what I found to be an elegant bit of cinematic storytelling, Grogu tries to elevate a single frog-creature into his mouth for a snack. Luke stops him, and to illustrate the power of the Force he lifts all of the nearby frogs up from the swamp. Grogu looks on, wide-eyed, awed by the power he can wield.

Luke even puts him in a backpack and takes him through many of the paces that Yoda put him through in the swamps of Dagobah, jumping and running through the bamboo forest, talking to Grogu the whole way. It's a lovely touch that when Yoda or his teachings are mentioned, his themes comes through in the music. There's something inherently mystical and training-like about Yoda's theme and the score uses it to full effect here.

At the end, when Luke gives Grogu his choice, it is curious that he has obtained Yoda's lightsaber. In "Revenge of the Sith," the lightsaber was lost to Palpatine on Coruscant, making one wonder where Luke must have picked it up on his journey.

Ahsoka's Presence

One of the lingering questions of the narrative that has been hinted at by this episode is how much Ahsoka Tano must have talked to Luke about his history, about his parents, and about her own experience with them. There is one subtle nod to explain that they must have had many conversations about this because she tells him he is just like his father. Could this, in part, be a worry for Luke because of the futures he sees? Could those worries of similarity to his father contribute to the insecurity he feels?

One wonders why Ahsoka is there in the first place, but it seems apparent that she would want to see a new Jedi Order built, one that did not make the mistakes of the previous order, one that had done her so wrong. But where does this fit in her journey and where does it figure in to her quest to find Grand Admiral Thrawn?

The timeline for this continues to be squishy and will remain so. Notice that there are no solid indications as to whether or not this happens before or after Luke began training Leia and she foreswears the life of a Jedi to save her son.

What to Look Out For

Most of this episode's Easter eggs were overt, but it was great to see that the world around "The Mandalorian" and the "Book of Boba Fett" carries on, even when the leads aren't in the scene. Some of the best stuff in that regard comes in the appearance of the bones of the Krayt dragon. The Jawas have its skull mounted upon their sandcrawler. And inside the bar, its rib cage adds an extra bit of decoration because the people are proud of the work they've done.

The training remote Luke uses for Grogu is very much the same sort he used on the Millennium Falcon and that he used to train Leia and Leia used to train Rey.

As for the brief shots of Order 66, there is no indication as to which Jedi are being killed. The lead Jedi who falls looks an awful lot like Cin Drallig, but Drallig was killed on screen in "Revenge of the Sith" by Darth Vader in the security hologram. If you listen carefully in this sequence, too, you can hear Temuera Morrison once again voice the clones.

I would also say that it feels like Max Rebo survived yet another explosion. It did not seem as though he was playing with the band when the Pykes destroyed Garsa Fwip's Sanctuary with the camtono bomb, which felt like something out of Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas." Seems like Jennifer Beals' bar-running character is out of the show now, though, as is the entire Sanctuary.

The biggest reveal, tied into all of the "Star Wars" references of this episode might be the appearance of Cad Bane. Bane first appeared in "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and then again in "Star Wars: The Bad Batch." When he did not appear in "Star Wars Rebels" or any other storytelling after the early Empire, it was easy to think he might have died, but this proves he lived. Bane was ruthless and had no problem going toe-to-toe with Jedi. He even broke into the Jedi Temple on Coruscant once to steal a Holocron and got away with it. He even fought alongside Obi-Wan Kenobi, albeit with Kenobi in disguise, as he trained to assassinate Sheev Palpatine for Count Dooku. Bane is a major player in "Star Wars" and his appearance on behalf of the Pykes is not good news for Boba Fett and his cadre. He is voiced again here by Corey Burton, who provided his distinctive voice on "The Clone Wars."

The Verdict

This episode makes me wonder if this was always part of the plan for "The Mandalorian" and its third season. And maybe Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni realized that if they could expand Boba Fett's story point, they could get a lot more mileage out of it. Because this show is very clearly setting the scene for the next chapter of "The Mandalorian," but also the show starring Ahsoka as well. And, let's be honest: Boba Fett's story here isn't all that complicated and large. There are two or three episodes of content for Boba Fett's present timeline in this show total. The rest was spent in the past, focusing on things that we had known already but were given much greater detail, or on other pieces being set up on the game board.

This is building to a crescendo for the final episode, but I think the storytelling will be more consequential for everyone but Boba Fett. All of these characters will come into play to save Tatooine from the Pykes, but then what?

With Boba Fett sidelined again this week, will the show feel satisfying as a whole if it's not told from his perspective next week? And as we have learned more about him, how will this knowledge play into closing this chapter of his life and having him grow into something else? Do we care?

I have a sneaking suspicion that Luke Skywalker and Grogu will end up back on Tatooine helping to fight the Pykes and I wonder what that will mean for Boba. Will it mean anything? Or will it merely serve as a bridge for more storytelling later? Is that even a bad thing?

I'll decide when I see the rest of it next week.

"The Book of Boba Fett: Chapter 6 – From the Desert Comes a Stranger" is now playing on Disney+. The final episode of "The Book of Boba Fett" premieres next week.

You can find Bryan Young on Twitter.