There are two kinds of enduring mystery in the Star Wars franchise. The first is the big-picture, galactic-level kind that should ideally never be revealed, such as the biological aspect of the Force (looking at you, midichlorians). Then there are the “what happened to” kind — character-based mysteries that deepen and enrich the galaxy far, far away when finally revealed.
So when the first episode of The Book of Boba Fett dropped on Disney+ Wednesday with two “what happened to” reveals, Star Wars fans were delighted. One we’d been kind of expecting; the other was the surprising return of beloved musical characters. Both were callbacks to Return of the Jedi, the events of which took place five years prior to the present day in Boba Fett. But in our universe, nearly four decades have elapsed — which makes these character mysteries the most enduring in Star Wars history. Let’s break them down.
The fact that Boba Fett escaped his apparent death in the Sarlacc pit is something we’ve known since Temuera Morrison’s beloved bounty hunter first reappeared a year ago in The Mandalorian Season 2, episode 1. What that show studiously avoided answering was how he survived. The avoidance made sense, since none of Boba’s newfound friends in The Mandalorian would have known anything about the Sarlacc incident. (And Boba, taciturn at the best of times, was hardly likely to volunteer a story about the time a blind Han Solo accidentally activated his jetpack and sent him hurtling to his doom).
There had to be a good story to the escape, however, since we learned in Return of the Jedi that the Sarlacc was not a creature to be trifled with. Effectively a hundred-meter-tall Venus flytrap nestled in the sands of Tatooine, the Sarlacc was said to digest its victims slowly over a thousand years — “a new definition of pain and suffering,” as the ever-helpful Threepio put it. If it were at all easy to flee, if anyone had ever done it before Boba, why would Jabba the Hutt go to the trouble of dropping his enemies there in the first place?
Here’s where the fact that Star Wars has a long-defunct set of comic books and novels, now known as Legends, comes in handy. In those no-longer-canon tales, Fett escaped the Sarlacc by means of his unique tools — a flamethrower in his wrist gauntlet and the very jetpack that betrayed him in the first place. Book of Boba Fett had its star escape using the first of these tools, after introducing an extra wrinkle: The body of a long-dead Stormtrooper, whose suit Boba used to supply himself with breathable air.
After burning his way through the guts of the Sarlacc, however, Boba appears to have simply clawed his way up through many meters of sand to the surface rather than using the jetpack. Which makes sense for the story in multiple ways. He was covered in digestive juices, after all; not all his equipment was going to be in working order. Requiring such superhuman sand-digging effort also establishes the character’s grit. A jetpack escape would feel unearned, and wouldn’t explain why those pesky Jawas were able to strip his armor from his catatonic body, leaving him a sunburned wreck to be picked up by Tusken Raiders.
Plus, in telling the definitive Sarlacc escape tale, Book of Boba Fett establishes that it will use a cinematic device rarely seen in any Star Wars movie or show so far: the flashback. We’re likely to get more of them as the Book unfolds, given that episode 1 didn’t establish how Boba escaped his Tusken captors, or why he feels the need to rule the Tatooine crime scene in Jabba’s stead. This too is classic Star Wars: the answer to a character mystery should lead us to new character mysteries.
The original Star Wars trilogy provided two Tatooine-based pop sensations. First came Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, the band whose Benny Goodman-inspired swing music provided the backdrop to the spaceport cantina where we first meet Han Solo and Chewbacca in A New Hope. Then in Return of the Jedi came the Max Rebo band, which performed a style of music officially and unfortunately known as “Jizz.” Before George Lucas tinkered with the music in the Special Editions of 1997, Max’s band played an experimental, quirky, synth-driven song called “Lapti Nek” for the denizens of Jabba’s palace. Lucas’ replacement was a rather hectic tune (with apparently bawdy lyrics) named “Jedi Rocks.”
Whichever version you prefer, Max Rebo was the clear breakout star of the Jabba’s palace scenes. An adorable blue elephantine creature who hammered away on a primitive form of keyboard, Max stole the show from his lead singer, the stick-legged Sy Snootles. According to Lucasfilm, Max signed what may be the worst music deal in the history of any galaxy; his band would perform for Jabba for life and get nothing more than free food in return.
But once Jabba was killed on that sail barge, what was next for Max Rebo’s band? The Book of Boba Fett offers something of an answer. Max is seen playing at another cantina in Jabba’s former empire. Sy Snootles and the rest of the band are nowhere to be seen.
But who’s that performing next to Max? A Bith musician who may very well be a member of the Modal Nodes, perhaps even band leader Figrin D’an himself. If so, he seems to have branched out from his traditional horn to some kind of space mandolin. The Modal Node connection is made clear by the fact that they appear to be performing a smooth acoustic version of the classic New Hope cantina music, featuring an astromech droid on drums (thankfully, it seems we’re long past the days when droids were routinely banned from Tatooine cantinas).
Could this be an indication that Tatooine’s two most famous musicians have united to form a new supergroup? How acrimonious was the breakup of their former bands? Did Sy Snootles go solo? Are they working on new material, or merely reworking the old cantina classics? This too is the strength of Star Wars: Even the unexpected reappearance of background characters leads us to intriguing new mysteries. Here’s hoping Book of Boba Fett answers them in later episodes.