Maybe, instead of being called The Book of Boba Fett, this show should be called The Book of Boba Flashbacks?
Because we have another one that take up the majority of this episode's runtime. Admittedly, it was a bit more exciting than the first. I also got the impression that these forays into the past might actually be leading somewhere--that is, they might end up having something important to say about Boba Fett the character, since he is more or less a blank slate. After all, his biggest claim to fame is providing the genetic material used during the Clone Wars and falling into a monster's gut. On the other hand, I can't help thinking that the same thing could be accomplished by a simple five-minute conversation with Fennec Shand during the present timeline, with Boba catching her up as to how he got out of the sarlacc pit and what happened afterwards, and then we could get on with the "Boba as crime lord" show. Which would also be a fine way to say something important about our titular character.
But we are still only two episodes into a seven-episode season, so I certainly hope the flashbacks have a cogent point. Otherwise I've just wasted a whole lot of my time.
At least the first ten minutes or so of this episode takes place in the present. We open on Jabba's palace, which is a tall, thick stone building like a huge lighthouse, and Fennec Shand dragging the person she captured in the last episode back to face Boba. This guy belongs to the Order of the Night Wind, hired assassins, and refuses to talk at first, until he's dumped into a pit underneath the floor that once held the rancor. Then he babbles like a scared kid. saying the Mayor of Mos Espa sent him.
Boba and Fennec then visit the Mayor, and Boba, as usual, ignores the little sycophant trying to stop him and bulls his way into the Mayor's chamber. The Mayor is an ugly creature with bulging eyes and a U-shaped head (puppet or CGI, I wonder?) who denies sending the Night Wind after Boba and suggests he go back to the Sanctuary to find out what he needs to know, which he does. It's there he discovers that Jabba the Hutt's cousins, the Twins, are in town, trying to lay claim to Jabba's territory. Boba goes out to meet them and he and the Twins have a bit of a showdown, with each claiming Jabba's territory for their own. Boba tells the Twins if they want Jabba's throne, they'll have to kill him to get it. The sister is eager to do just that, but the brother (who uses a poor little [CGI] mouse to wipe the sweat off his flabby wrinkled face) preaches restraint, saying conflict is "bad for business." The Hutts are borne away on their litter, but both Boba and Fennec know this won't be the end of it.
Next we zoom in on Boba's bacta tank, and the flashbacks start again, picking up where the story left off last episode. We are getting glimpses of the everyday life and culture of the Tuskens, which is actually pretty interesting. Boba is trying to learn how to wield the gaffi stick and gets dumped on his rear a few times--his instructor is quite accomplished with it (and also a total badass, as we see later in the episode). They are interrupted by the sound of the alarm--a smuggling train is looming in the distance, engine and several long silver cars whipping across the sand, with guards inside the cars shooting at the Tuskens through the windows. (Which doesn't make sense to me--this tribe is doing nothing to them, and indiscriminate killing of any Tuskens they pass by on their route would seem to be a sure-fire recipe for trouble.) Several of the Tuskens and their Banthas are killed (and can't these Banthas be taught to kneel in the sand upon command, as their sheer size makes them juicy targets?). Boba hustles the children behind a dune to protect them, and that night he participates in a mass funeral (the tribe burns their dead). This affects him deeply, as we see after the funeral when he stalkes across the sand and sees the same landspeeder gang from last episode zooming past. This sparks an idea, and he goes to the tribe's leader and tells him that he is going to stop the train; he will take a rifle and a stick and be back by morning. He follows the gang's tracks to a tavern where they've stopped to drink and bully the patrons, and goes inside and takes out the whole bunch. Then he goes out back, lashes the five landspeeders together, and brings them all back to the tribe, where he tells them he will teach them how to ride and "this is how we will stop the train."
Boba spends some time teaching various tribesmembers how to operate the speeders, which involves a rather amusing montage where the Tuskens slam the speeders into reverse, get dumped on their butts and run over more than once. (They must be tough little boogers.) They must train for quite a few days, as they seem to be fairly proficient when the train appears again. Boba is also continuing his lessons with the gaffi stick, and has improved enough to win the respect of his instructor when the alarm sounds again. The group goes to meet the train, and we have a pretty exciting chase/boarding sequence. Boba and the Tuskens use the landspeeders to draw alongside the train cars, then throw grappling hooks onto the roofs to board (or, in the badass instructor's case, he just rams his landspeeder into one of the cars and leaps inside, where he proceeds to mow down nearly all the guards). Boba takes his group from car to car, working his way to the engine while fighting with the guards emerging from roof hatches. He finally reaches the engine compartment. The conductor, a six-legged spider-like droid, having failed in its attempt to manipulate all the levers and weapons at its disposal to keep the invaders out, takes one look at Boba and abandons ship, leaping out the window to scuttle away across the sand. This leaves Boba having to use his gaffi stick on the lever that is apparently the emergency brake. He groans and strains and finally manages to pull it back, and the engine's nose plows down into the sand until the train grinds to a halt. The other tribe members race across the sand to meet it and begin unloading it.
Outside, Boba faces the surviving guards and talks to their leader. "These sands are no longer free for you to pass. These people lay ancestral claim to the Dune Sea, and if you are to pass, a toll is to be paid to them. Any death dealt from the passing freighters will be returned ten-fold." The leader protests, but there isn't much he can do--he must return to Anchorhead to present Boba's terms to the smuggling syndicate.
(And the question still nags at me--why is Boba still there? This Anchorhead is a day's walk away, and now Boba knows the secret of the "black melons" and can hydrate himself until he reaches it. Unless I misunderstood the first episode, Anchorhead is where the Slave-1 is docked. After being freed from the Tuskens' captivity, why would he stick around? Either he's more damaged from the Sarlacc than he's letting on--which could very well be the case, as years later he's still having to spend considerable flashbacky time in a bacta tank to keep going--or he's so psychologically shaken up from his semi-digested experience that he doesn't feel capable of resuming his old life. Either way, it's evident that he thinks he's gaining something important by living with the Tuskens.)
That night, the tribe celebrates. The leader tells Boba (via the sign language he has now picked up) that their tribe has survived by hiding. "You shouldn't have to hide," Boba says. "You are warriors." The leader calls him a "good guide," and gives him a gift--a tiny lizard that jumps out of its basket and wriggles its way up Boba's nose and into his sinus cavity (ewwww). This lizard obviously secretes something hallucogenic, as Boba promptly falls into an LSD-like trip. He ends up staggering across the sand to a tree, while having flashbacks (within flashbacks!) of his childhood, and breaks a branch from the tree and brings it back the next morning (and the lizard wriggles out of his nose again). After this, he's taken inside the leader's tent and dressed in Tusken attire, a long black hooded robe and arm wraps. The next stop is the gaffi maker's tent, where he's shown how to shape the branch he brought back into his gaffi stick, with its carved head and metal-banded length. Once this is finished he joins the other tribesmembers in a dance around the fire (and I'm wondering if some of that isn't derived from Temuera Morrison's Maori dances), showing off his new weapon.
This episode was a definite step up from the first, thank goodness. Still needs more Fennec (her snark upon dumping the poor assassin into the rancor's pit was priceless), but this episode invested me in Boba as a character a bit more. There still needs to be a reason for the flashbacks, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, for now.