The following article contains spoilers for this week’s episode of The Book of Boba Fett.
Y’know, if it had been a different episode, if it had been a different pair of episodes, I would have been excited.
The issue is…well, let’s call it Free Real Estate. This is when a story set within a pre-established universe is sidelined to prioritize references to another, unrelated part of the universe. The script, the runtime, the pages that could have been dedicated to telling the story that was promised instead goes to rehashing beats for nostalgia or setting up backdoor pilots. The creators saw that this story was taking place in the same universe as the characters they wished it was about and said, “It’s free real estate.“
Free Real Estate is the affliction faced by the two penultimate episodes of The Book of Boba Fett.
We barely get a glimpse of our ostensible leads in a stretch that takes over nearly a third of the show’s seven-episode run. We instead scoot about to focus on the two leads of The Mandalorian, the lead of the original trilogy, the lead of The Clone Wars, five major and side characters from The Mandalorian, and one major character from The Clone Wars. Many have dubbed these pair of episodes “The Mandalorian Season Three.” It’s hard to argue with that.
In Star Wars Rebels seasons two and three, there was a similar threat of Free Real Estate. Suddenly multiple mainstays from the previous animated series – The Clone Wars – were all here, taking up script and runtime. In some instances, their own leftover plotlines from the then-cancelled show took over the story from the other characters: Rex’s feud with the battle droids, Maul’s obsession with Obi-Wan, to name two. These plotlines required some form of knowledge of The Clone Wars.
However, these did not become Free Real Estate situations because, ultimately, these characters were there in service to the actual leads of Rebels. As a clone who took on a mentor role for Kanan’s padawan, Rex forced Kanan to reevaluate himself as a teacher and to confront his own trauma from Order 66. As an unwanted but very persistent mentor, Maul stirred up Ezra’s worst impulses, forcing the boy to confront and overcome the dark side of the Force. Rex was there to challenge Kanan’s arc. Maul was there to challenge Ezra’s.
Even in the moments where Rex or Maul were the focus, the episodes still provided something to the Rebels characters. “Twin Suns” may have been an emotional conclusion to the Maul and Obi-Wan rivalry of The Clone Wars, but it was also an episode about Ezra breaking free of Maul’s influence, setting him up for victory against Palpatine in the Rebels finale.
Cad Bane could potentially serve this sort of role for Boba Fett and Fennec Shand; an old mainstay character coming in to ruffle up the feathers of our new leads. It even makes sense; Bane has history with them both. In The Bad Batch, he was a veteran bounty hunter that Fennec bested while still a rookie, in a job that centered around Boba’s sister. In the unfinished story arcs of The Clone Wars, he had a mentor-rival relationship with Boba when Boba was a child, due to Jango’s legacy.
There is potential in Bane appearing, as an outlet to challenge and explore Boba and Fennec’s pasts and current growth. He could play the same role for them that Maul played for Ezra. He could have centralized the leads of The Book of Boba Fett. On his own, Cad Bane is not necessarily a symptom of Free Real Estate. But he is a victim of it.
The tenuous connection for these two Free Real Estate episodes in The Book of Boba Fett was Fennec’s line: “We need muscle.” However, during the first half of the season, we already watched Boba and Fennec building numbers and loyalty. We watched them bring the Gamorrean guards, biker gang, Krrsantan, the rancor, and Danny Trejo to their side. We watched them make alliances or treaties with the other powers on Tatooine. These episodes introduced new characters but still centered Boba and Fennec. The ways in which they made these allies showed us their personalities and values.
There’s still room for Peli, Din, and Vanth to show up as part of Boba and Fennec’s story. They either have pre-established connections with Boba (Din) or they are within the same sphere of influence on Tatooine (Peli, Vanth). Adjust Din’s time with Peli so that Fennec can spend more on-screen time with the two of them building an alliance. Bring Boba along to the meeting with Vanth; Boba’s already been insistent in this show about meeting people in person. Give Vanth personal reasons to like or dislike Boba before the showdown with Bane, who takes the time to speak ill of Boba to Vanth.
If Boba and Fennec had actually been centered in these episodes, Cad Bane would have lit up the scene. He would have been an excellent escalation of threat leading into the finale, a promise of making the stakes personal not just for the showdown but for a potential season two. If, that is, these episodes had shown any interest in making this personal for Boba and Fennec.
Instead, Cad Bane is the final face in a long line of characters unconnected to their arcs. He is the final, random cameo in a pair of episodes wholly uninvested in Boba and Fennec. Whatever promise he might have carried for an emotional payoff for the actual leads of The Book of Boba Fett is buried under the weight of an entirely different show.
Also, he needed a bigger hat.