The Mandalorian Vs. Boba Fett, Round 7: Leadership Edition

The final episode of "The Book of Boba Fett" is upon us, and it has been a ride. That also means it's also the final entry in our weekly outing to determine once-and-for-all who the better bounty hunter is between Boba Fett, our tried and true original trilogy champ, and our favorite new shiny chrome space dad Mando. We've looked at some basic bounty hunter skills, who is a cooler party guest, and which series is primed for better spin-offs. We've seen the softer side of each with a deep dive into how cuddly they are, which is the more distinctive space gent, and which series has the better storytelling so far. It's been a long journey and one full of surprises, but this week we're looking to determine which is truly superior with as much scientific acumen as we can muster. 

While I dug into their respective series overall last week, this week is the time to take a final look into their bigger picture leadership skills. These are the sorts of skills that take territory, protect borders, and keep the people safe on a larger institutional level. I'll dig into who is the better diplomat, practicing that old communicative, political soft-shoe that gets things delicately done. I'll explore who is the better politician, able to hold the reigns of Tatooine politics and political structures in check. Finally, I'll look at who is the better general, able to rally the troops and score war-time victories. Let's dig in.

Din Djarin Does Diligent Diplomacy Daily

We don't see Boba Fett engage in political diplomacy all that often, to be fair. Early in the series, Boba Fett pays a visit to Mayor Mok Shaiz following Episode 1's unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Fett. He interrogates the Ithorian, who denies sending the assassins. Boba Fett takes tribute and leaves without real answers as to the source of the attempt, a failure in diplomacy that bites him later when he discovers the Mayor had promised Jabba's territory to the Pyke Syndicate. Later in "Episode 4: The Gathering Storm," Boba Fett convenes a meeting of the area's other crime bosses to convince them to sit out future conflicts between Fett and the Syndicate, and if you've seen the finale you know how that turns out — he trusts their word, relies on it, and they betray him and join the Pykes. Boba Fett is a terrible diplomat and, turns out, he's surprisingly easy to lie to for a bounty hunter.

Admittedly, Mando enters this round with a bit of an advantage given his continued ability to make friends wherever he goes. While he doesn't enter a lot of formally political-diplomatic discussions, we see him time and time again successfully rely on convincing complete strangers to do stuff for him. Almost every single time they come through is due to his success in building relationships or currying favors. For example, in Chapter 7 of "The Book of Boba Fett," we see the aftermath of his attempt from the previous episode to get Cobb Vanth to rally the locals for a makeshift militia. First Cobb Vanth agrees to risk his skin to help Mando despite explicitly owing him nothing. When Cobb Vanth falls to Cad Bane, Mando's diplomacy was still so successful that the locals arrived en masse to rally against the Syndicate. Between Fett's continued failures and Mando's uncanny ability to elicit loyalty from all people at all times, Mando walks away as the clear winner here and it saves the day. Point for Mando.

Boba Fett Was Born For Politicking

Here's a challenge that starts with Mando at a disadvantage. Mando, more Space Ronin than Space Samurai, spends much of his own series traipsing around the galaxy to protect the diminutive Grogu from Imperial goons, stopping now and then to take the occasional bounty. He doesn't attempt to settle into a concrete political territory and he certainly doesn't try and rule one. Interestingly, Mando carries the Darksaber that symbolizes a claim to power over Mandalore but he has no visible interest in that power. Instead, he effectively gets kicked out of Mandalorian society (at least among the fundamentalist variant he was raised in) after the Armorer learns he removed his helmet (it gets sweaty in there, come on!). Mando doesn't really care about politics, he just does his own thing in an honorable way like any good Ronin would do.

By contrast, what Boba Fett lacks as a diplomat he gains in having the mettle to be a good political figure in local Tatooine history. Ostensibly, Fett returns to Jabba's old turf to establish himself as Daimyo and rule his little square of the Tatooine underworld. The trick, however, is he never does that. He opts to reject the Spice trade, and in Episode 7, Fett risks his own skin rather than abandon Freetown to the Pykes and their wrath and criminal machinations. His series ends with Freetown defended and the residents clearly showing respect to Fett as their honored leader who runs and protects the town with nobility. All this calls to question his actual plan (so ... I guess he just wants to be a proper neo-feudal ruler and not a crime boss or bounty hunter?), but he's a damned good political leader while Mando has no evident intention to even try. Boba Fett gets the point here, easily.

Mando and Boba Fett Are Equal Caliber Generals In General

This particular outing is a complex one for a number of reasons. Throughout the series we see Boba Fett be a number of things — captive, survivor, avenger, boss, leader, co-star of his own show — but it's only in Episode 7 that we see him giving wide scale orders in multifaceted combat. His initial plan is to 1) rely on the other crime bosses' neutrality, 2) send his minimal forces to patrol, and 3) rely on Mando's reinforcements (that Fett couldn't retrieve himself). 

The first two of these plans fail miserably, and Fett's failed diplomacy adds to the Pyke forces. Cad Bane easily penetrates his scout perimeter, while the Pyke forces initially overcome his edgy cyborg youth brigade, new Wookie friend, and Gamorreans, without a sweat. After Mando's reinforcements arrive Fett finally gains the edge through 1) Fennec proactively saving the cyborg crew and taking on the Mayor and the Pyke planetary leadership and 2) Boba Fett remembering he has a Rancor, both of which would have been helpful earlier. Boba Fett wins, but his own plans largely relied on forces he didn't control and he mostly failed until Fennec Shand and Mando came through. 

In his own series, Mando does see a lot of combat with a group of allies who band together to achieve his goals (like in "Chapter 7: The Reckoning" and "Chapter 16: The Rescue"). Often, the allies look to him for some leadership, but Mando's combat typically feels like more of a "Band of Brothers" coterie of badass equals rather than a General giving orders and making group tactical decisions. His wartime leadership prowess really comes through in his organization of villagers to fight raiders in "Chapter 4: Sanctuary" and in his organization of locals and Tusken Raiders against a massive Krayt dragon in "Chapter 9: The Marshal." In both cases, Mando shows fine combat leadership (shared with allies like Cara Dune and Cobb Vanth) and is successful, but it's a role he rarely takes on. Both have successes as generals, but both have a history of sharing credit with allies (without whom they may have failed), so this one's a tie.

There Can Only Be One, And That One Is Mando

At this point we're at a great place to run down the various factors I considered in contrasting Mando versus the iconic bounty hunter-turned-leader Boba Fett. Our first battle saw the consideration of their bounty hunting, monster fighting, and friendship in a battle that ended up a hard-fought 2:2 tie between the armor-clad gentlemen. Round 2 traced the finer, more fun aspects of the two as they explore armor and clothing fashion and try the drugs of Tatooine, a 2-to-1 victory for Boba Fett that brings the total to 4:3 count in Fett's favor. In the third round, I explored the series' respective worldbuilding potential via looking at their all-important spin-off fodder. Both series scored major victories in this round, with a full 2:2 tie pushing the total to 6-to-5 for Boba Fett. At this point, there was a lot of story left to go, but it looked like Boba Fett could take the crown (which in this case I guess would be a Mandalorian helmet). I dug into the softer side of both bounty hunters in the fourth round in a Cuddle Edition that Mando won in a tightly fought 2:1, tying the overall total up at 7-to-7.

Here's where it gets interesting: with a tie on the board, we get a pair of Mandalorian-centric episodes in 5 and 6 that barely focus on anything other than Mando. It was a good time to take overall stock and start looking at the big picture, so in Round 5 I looked at the characters' iconic attributes like ships, weapons, and main themes in a comparison that pulled Mando ahead 2:1 this round, bringing the pair to a 9:8 total now in Mando's favor. In Round 6 I went wider still and looked at the hunters' shows more broadly in a Storytelling Edition that netted Mando clear points for having better genre consistency and narrative focus, while the pair tied in character development. In an interesting development, this put the total at 12:9 with Mando clearly ahead and one final round to go. Can Boba Fett pull ahead?

As it turns out, no. In contrasting the two characters once more at a larger level, a hard-fought Round 7 can't bring it back for Fett. The pair have equal footing as generals while Mando's diplomatic skill balances against Boba Fett's political prowess. This pushes our final total to 14:11 in a confident but narrow victory for Din "The Mandalorian" Djarin over Boba "I Survived The Sarlacc And All I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt" Fett. It was a tough competition with a dramatic turnaround for Mando, who ultimately takes the prize as the galaxy's Best Bounty Hunter. Commence victory lap with cute green baby in tow.