Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Murky Heart of a Bounty Hunter

I've just finished watching through season two of Clone Wars again and the final three episode arc about kid Boba Fett trying to get his revenge on Mace Windu. The idea of Mandalorian armour bounty hunters being like characters from a Spaghetti Western began under George Lucas--Boba Fett's father, Jango, is named after the original Django, and you can see the Spaghetti Western influence continuing on Clone Wars. Unlike The Mandalorian, though, it's not just a matter of aesthetic--Boba Fett's story of vengeance is much more in line with those glorious Italian/Spanish westerns of the 60s than anything Disney has produced under the Star Wars banner.

Beginning with "Death Trap", we catch up with Boba (Daniel Logan) infiltrating a group of clone cadets aboard a cruiser. Mace Windu (Terrence C. Carson) is also aboard. A nicely subtle story of Boba's internal conflict throughout the three episodes begins here as we watch him to see if he is taking the encouragement from his fellow cadets to heart. They do all look just like him, after all, all of them, like him, being clones of his father, Jango.

He wants to kill Mace but naturally it's nice to be surrounded by kids his age who value him for his skill with a gun. And of course he can't bring himself to use the kill setting when he attacks the older clones who look exactly like his father. Under Disney, using the blaster's stun setting would just be default, here it's a reflection of the character's development.

In the last of the three episodes, Boba is apprehended and finally has words with Windu. And what a curious, brief conversation it is.

BOBA FETT: I see now I've done terrible things. But you start it when you murder my father! I'll never forgive you.

MACE WINDU: Hmm. Well, you're going to have to.

So much for tender understanding from Mace. Here's a kid in conflict, apparently at a point where he can go in either direction, and the best Mace can give him is a "get over it." I like how you can see in this moment the same Mace Windu who later says Palpatine is "Too dangerous to be left alive." In both cases, you can't really say for sure Mace did the wrong thing, but you also wonder if he'd been willing to see things from Boba's or Anakin's point of view, would things have turned out the same way? The fact that Boba is conflicted at all after watching Mace behead his father is pretty amazing but it seems Mace squanders the opportunity.

The other influence in Boba's life is Aurra Sing (Jamie King), the bounty hunter who appeared very briefly in The Phantom Menace. Clone Wars does a good job in expanding her into someone genuinely dangerous and unpredictable. Her dark eyes and King's acidic performance work really well as she feeds Boba her own cynicism and distrust.

I was also reminded of how cool Hondo (Jim Cummings) was before Rebels turned him into a joke. In this episode, he genuinely seems like someone who could be head of a gang. He cagily decides to inform Ahsoka (Ashley Eckstein) and Plo-koon (James Arnold Taylor) that Boba and Aurra are laying a trap but doesn't offer to assist either party--knowing full well the two Jedi already anticipate the trap, he's being politic. He's also wiser than Mace when dealing with Boba, making sure to tell the vengeful kid he thinks his father was an honourable man.

The episode ends with a surprising and cool action sequence when Ahsoka nearly takes down Slave-1 single handed.

I'm glad the old Clone Wars episodes are available on Disney+. But I wish we'd get more writing like this in Star Wars series in the future.

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