The Mandalorian brings us a Star Wars return reveal that actually worked
The second season premiere pulled off what The Rise of Skywalker couldn’t
If there's one thing we've learned in the past year, it's that Star Wars really doesn't want characters who died during Return of the Jedi to stay dead.
The Mandalorian's season two premiere, which (spoiler alert!) takes us back to Tatooine to meet a marshal wearing familiar armor, essentially serves as one long setup for a massive ending reveal: Boba Fett is seemingly still alive. The episode's final scene appears to show the legendary bounty hunter, who apparently died in Return of the Jedi by tumbling into the sarlacc pit, out of his armor and played by Temuera Morrison. That's the actor who played Jango Fett, who Boba is a clone of.
This reveal comes less than a year after Star Wars brought back Emperor Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker in a way that felt awkward and far too sudden. For that reason, some might instinctively reject the idea of reviving yet another legacy Star Wars character, one whose apparent death came in the very same film as Palpatine's. On the one hand, Star Wars probably should get out of this habit of reversing notable deaths. But on the other hand, Boba Fett's return doesn't yet show signs of being as misguided.
For one, the revival of Boba Fett was actually set up fairly well within the Star Wars canon. Think back to when Star Wars: The Last Jedi came out in 2017, and the idea of Palpatine still being a presence within the new Star Wars trilogy was hardly on anyone's mind. The sequel films seemed to have so completely moved on from Palpatine, even replacing him with a similar antagonist in Supreme Leader Snoke, that for the man himself to randomly appear with only two hours left in the trilogy was jarring. The movies put in practically zero work to create a runway for him.
In contrast, there have been breadcrumbs pointing to a Boba Fett return for years, and fans have been preparing for it going back to even before The Force Awakens. The speculation started in full force with the Star Wars: Aftermath book series, which actually introduced Timothy Olyphant's Mandalorian character, Cobb Vanth, back in 2015 and showed him wearing armor implied to be Boba Fett's. The books provided minor hints that Boba may have survived, too; the sarlacc was described as being injured and cut open by Jawas, potentially indicating Boba could have gotten out.
The Mandalorian itself also subtly set up Boba's return, and in retrospect, it's likely that was the entire reason there was an episode set on Tatooine last season. By ending that episode, "The Gunslinger," with an unidentified character walking up to assassin Fennec Shand, not far away from where Boba apparently died, the show obviously wanted us to speculate that his return was imminent. Then, rather than simply having Boba Fett pop up in season two's cold open, The Mandalorian devotes much of its season premiere to gradually teasing his appearance. It was a slow burn, so that by the time the moment finally comes, it's something we've been anticipating and not a sudden sharp turn left.
Compare this to The Rise of Skywalker, which, after virtually zero setup for a potential Palpatine return, just starts with a laughably abrupt opening crawl declaring that he's apparently back. Sure, there were some extremely oblique possible hints in the books that led some fans to wonder if Palpatine could be revived, but even those hints ended up not really fitting well with the way Palpatine came back.
Boba Fett's original death scene was also not as definitive as Palpatine's. Yes, Boba certainly seemed dead when he fell into the sarlacc, which was said to slowly digest its victims over a thousand years. But if the sarlacc is supposed to digest its victims slowly, putting them through gradual misery rather than instantly killing them, Boba having made it out not long after isn't totally inconceivable. With Palpatine, we essentially witnessed the man explode on camera. The Rise of Skywalker novelization had to come up with an explanation about how Palpatine moved his consciousness into a clone body, but it just felt like a strained way of bringing back a character who clearly should not still be alive.
More importantly, Boba Fett's original death wasn't very satisfying in the first place, whereas Palpatine's was. Let's be honest: if Return of the Jedi came out in 2020, Boba Fett's demise would be among the top complaints by YouTubers who love to nitpick Star Wars. Here we have the most famous bounty hunter in the galaxy meeting his end when ... a confused Han Solo accidentally knocks into him? That's how the guy goes out? Darth Vader sacrificing himself to kill Palpatine and save his son was one of the original Star Wars trilogy's central moments, one that was undermined by the reveal that Palpatine wasn't really defeated for good.
Finally, bringing Boba back also creates compelling story opportunities. With Din Djarin, we have a character strictly devoted to Mandalorian customs, and who, when the series was announced, was seen as essentially off-brand Boba Fett. Then there's the actual Boba Fett, who based on The Clone Wars TV series apparently isn't a "real" Mandalorian at all and simply wears the armor. How could one resist putting these two together and witnessing the explosive confrontation? Besides, Boba Fett didn't ultimately do that much in the original trilogy, so there's plenty more places to go with the character.
Assuming this isn't all a fake-out and Morrison isn't actually playing a different clone, Boba Fett seems to have been established as a main villain throughout The Mandalorian's second season, so it's still possible the show will ultimately stumble from here on out. But unlike with The Rise of Skywalker, The Mandalorian seems to be off on the right track. Now, just please don't revive Jabba the Hutt, too.