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‘From the Desert Comes a Stranger’ is great Star Wars, but seems to have forgotten what show it belongs to

Episode six of “The Book of Boba Fett,” titled “From the Desert Comes a Stranger,” is a great episode of “Star Wars.” It masterfully ties together material from the entire franchise’s 45 year history including all three trilogies, “The Clone Wars,” “Rebels” and “The Mandalorian” into an episode that somehow does not collapse under its own weight and actually manages to tell a meaningful story that should affect even the most cynical “Star Wars” fan. Unfortunately, “From the Desert Comes a Stranger” acts much more as a “Star Wars” special, rather than an episode of “The Book of Boba Fett.”

Comic book companies regularly publish issues known as ‘one-shots.’ These are single issues that tell a complete story. Sometimes, they tie into ongoing events and tell stories that wouldn’t fit into the overarching narrative, or act as preludes to company wide events or initiatives. Recent examples of this type of one-shot include DC Comics’s “Infinite Frontier #0” and “DC Universe: Rebirth #1” or Marvel’s “Incoming! #1” The closest equivalent to a one-shot that television has would be a special, such as the numerous Doctor Who holiday episodes. All of this talk about one-shots might seem like a strange diversion in an article ostensibly about an episode of “The Book of Boba Fett,” however “From the Desert Comes a Stranger” fits the structure of a one-shot perfectly, while coming across less successfully as an episode of its parent show.

The episode opens with everyone’s favorite Mandalorian surrogate father, Din Djarin, (Pedro Pascal) greeting the unsung hero of the franchise, R2-D2. He is looking for Grogu so that he can give him a gift. It might be worth pointing out that Pascal’s Mandalorian isn’t the main character of this series, but the audience just has to accept the detour from the show’s primary arc. And it really is an incredible detour. Almost immediately, Grogu and Luke Skywalker, who is played jointly by Graham Hamilton and Mark Hamill, make a surprise reappearance. Continuing the surprise appearances, Mando wakes up to discover that Ashoka is also at Luke’s fledgling Jedi Academy, hopefully filling Luke in on what his parents were like before they died/turned to the dark side. Ashoka successfully convinces Mando to leave without seeing Grogu, simultaneously breaking everybody’s hearts, before the episode swiftly rebuilds them by treating the audience to a Luke and Grogu training sequence. Next is the long awaited conversation between Luke and Ahsoka, before she goes off into her own spin-off, which is already confirmed to have returning characters from “Star Wars: Rebels.”

After a solid 20 minutes of pure, unadulterated fanservice that would be significantly better if it actually belonged in this show, “From the Desert,” briefly seems to be returning to Boba Fett’s plot when Mando attends a meeting at the crime lord’s palace to discuss their upcoming battle against the Pyke Syndicate. Mando offers to find Fett foot soldiers, returning to Mos Pelgo, now known as Freetown, under the command of Marshall Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant), who was briefly seen at the beginning of the episode. Vanth is reluctant to get his people involved in a new conflict, but is willing to try to get them to support Mando and Fett’s cause. That is, until a familiar cowboy hat appears in the distance. From the desert, and from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” comes bounty hunter Cad Bane. Bane’s appearance in live action is a big deal, to some on the same level as Ahsoka’s appearance in “The Mandalorian.” The bounty hunter’s alien appearance is brilliantly and unsettlingly translated into live action. Bane seemingly dispatches Vanth and his deputy before the episode ends with Luke asking Grogu to choose between Mando’s gift, and Yoda’s lightsaber.

Again, this is a great episode of  “Star Wars,” however it really cannot be considered an episode of “The Book of Boba Fett.” Fett himself appears for about 20 seconds, and has almost no impact on the story. Instead, this episode takes the structure of a one-shot by following Mando around the galaxy as he checks in with characters we love who happen to have upcoming spin-offs or stories related to them in production.

The sequences of Luke and Grogu training are amazing. The CGI used to recreate a young Skywalker looks vastly improved since “The Rescue,” seemingly promising more adventures from the early days of Luke’s Jedi Academy. The possibility of having stories bridging the gap between Luke at the end of “Return of the Jedi” and the start of the sequel trilogy is intriguing. Luke’s Jedi Order ultimately failed because of Luke’s unexpected orthodoxy when it comes to Jedi beliefs, and the version of Luke seen here is clearly struggling to come to terms with what his Order should be. Meanwhile Ahsoka seems poised to create a new kind of Order, one which might be a little more open to new ideas. The fact that Ahsoka and Luke interact is almost mind blowing, and their first encounter will hopefully be revealed in her upcoming solo series. Ahsoka’s parting comment to Luke, that he’s “so much like [his] father,” is the type of interaction Ahsoka fans have longed for since the character was introduced in 2008, although the comment itself feels a little out of place.

If “From the Desert Comes A Stranger” had been released on Disney + as a special, untethered to any existing “Star Wars” show, I would unambiguously be praising its laurels. As it is, the episode is still excellent “Star Wars,” but it is hard to ignore that the story has almost nothing to do with Boba Fett. “From the Desert” makes for an excellent tease for the future of “Star Wars,” setting up the franchise’s upcoming trails effectively but also managing to reinvigorate the past of a franchise that has always struggled to reconcile its different time periods. It’s just a shame Boba Fett doesn’t have more to do in his own series.

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