Andor is the latest Star Wars series. The first three episodes came out this week and the show looks incredible so far. As I understand it, each three-episode arch will get a new director. I’m hoping that’s a good thing. The last two series, Obi-Wan and The Book of Boba Fett were extremely uneven. The Boba Fett series in particular had some great writing and some bad writing, mixed in with uneven acting, directing and tone. Because it was such a missed opportunity, I’ve been thinking about how it could have been better.
What were the biggest issues with The Book of Boba Fett? The first is that fans wanted to see Boba Fett kicking butt, but the show is set in the Mandalorian time-period, five years after Return of the Jedi when an older, wiser and sarlaac-pit scarred Boba Fett is attempting to build a crime syndicate. Boba seems ridiculously out-numbered. His crew is in the single-digits until late in the series when he recruits a town of reinforcements. The scale always seems off. Lastly, the look and tone don’t match the plot. Any story about a crime syndicate begs for dark, late-night encounters but this series takes place almost exclusively during the day. Instead of scenes filled with the strain and emotion of hard choices, most scenes play out as ho-hum comic book panels where the characters don’t make things happen, they just bounce to the next page.
Fix Number One: Three Stories
One thing the series does well is to tell two stories: the story of the crime syndicate and the story of Boba Fett’s recovery and rehabilitation among the Tuskan Raiders, which we see in flashbacks when he’s resting in his bacta tank. The Sand People segment is both well-written and touching and shows us the reasons that Boba Fett has become kinder, gentler scum. Or has he?
My fix: weave three stories instead of two. Obviously, you can cut the inexplicable Mando-only episodes out of the middle of the series to save run-time. The third story, which we’d also see in flashbacks while in the bacta tank would be of a bounty hunter mission from Boba’s past. Presumably it’s a mission that goes terribly wrong. He’d display the cunning badass persona he’s famous for, as well as total ruthlessness. This would contrast with the Sand People storyline of redemption. The question going into the final series climax would be this: Can a man like Boba Fett really change or will the pressure of his predicament push him back to his ruthless ways?
Fix Number Two: The Crime Syndicate Story
The “present day” story is a mess. Characters are introduced but never developed and Boba never seems to have an adequate crew or plan. I’d restructure it as a series of problems and solutions. Each time, his reward is more allies. First, he negotiates with the Hutt Twins, then he manages to win over the Trandoshans. The whole time it’s clear his chief rival is Shaiz but we also learn the Pykes are coming. A storm is brewing and he’s out-manned. His next hurdle is winning over the Wookiee bounty hunter Krrsantan. It’s a big win, but when he tries to recruit Cobb Vanth’s town we see that the Pykes have recruited Cad Bane. Checkmate. Only as a showdown becomes inevitable does Boba Fett turn to his ace-in-the-hole, the Mandalorian. There’s a big fight of course, with different factions facing off, but Boba eventually triumphs. Shaiz is defeated and at his mercy. The question is whether Boba will delivery vigilante vengeance or true justice. Has he really changed?
Fix Number Three: Less Phantom Menace, more Rogue One
As I mentioned earlier, the bright, comic book look and tone of this series doesn’t match up with the expectations of a show about an infamous bounty hunter forming a crime syndicate. Read that description again and tell me if you see sunshiny days and smirking faces. With the introduction of the bounty hunter mission storyline, which could take place in dark city streets somewhere, the tone of the series immediately gets better. Add in some Mos Espa night scenes where bad things happen. Throw in a lightning storm. The day scenes work better as slow-burning suspense if we know that each night there will be a reckoning.
Overall, Boba Fett was both fun to watch and full of problems. Star Wars fans can be a tough crowd, but that doesn’t excuse lazy writing and uneven craftmanship. The Book of Boba Fett was a missed opportunity, but based on the first three episodes, Andor looks like a smash hit.