If you gave up on The Book of Boba Fett after the first few episodes, I don’t blame you. “Fan service” gets a bad rap, especially when it comes to Star Wars, because giving Star Wars fans what they want (or what they think they want) can be at odds with making something actually interesting and new. Those early episodes of The Book of Boba Fett are a fan-service cautionary tale: a show about a beloved character for the sake of it, a prequel to events that don’t require that much explanation, plodding and perfunctory and lacking a certain something to set it apart. Even the show’s star has indicated in interviews that he thinks the creators don’t understand Boba Fett’s main appeal.
The good news is, if you’re a Mandalorian fan that had tuned out of The Book of Boba Fett, you can and should tune back in for Episode 6, “From the Desert Comes a Stranger.” As a bonus: You do not need to have watched any of the preceding episodes of the show to enjoy it. The episode, which dropped on Disney+ on Wednesday, is directed and co-written by Dave Filoni, who knows from fan service—after all, he’s the one who slipped a whole episode about another beloved character, Ahsoka Tano, into Season 2 of The Mandalorian. But unlike the rest of The Book of Boba Fett, “From the Desert Comes a Stranger” doesn’t feel like it’s going through the motions, finding excuses to put certain characters onscreen. It actually has a story to tell, and it’s having fun telling it.
Boba Fett wasn’t even in last week’s episode, and he’s barely in this one. Episode 5, “Return of the Mandalorian,” caught up with Din Djarin after the events of The Mandalorian’s Season 2 finale. “From the Desert Comes a Stranger” eventually unites him with Boba Fett, but not until after he runs a totally unrelated errand. In the process, the episode also folds several other familiar faces from various parts of the Star Wars galaxy. You have to feel a little bad for Temuera Morrison—overshadowed on his own show!—but the change of pace is so welcome that you can’t help but wonder if he would’ve been better off as a supporting character from the get-go.
Still, it’s not so much who’s onscreen as how the story unfolds that makes “From the Desert Comes a Stranger” so refreshing. I can’t say much more without spoiling it, but there are finally some real, immediate, emotional stakes in play. There’s a cool villain to root against, not just a nameless, faceless syndicate. It’s not trying too hard to be gritty and not afraid to be goofy. And yes, I’ll admit, it’s a thrill when two characters, who diehard fans have long wanted to see share a scene together, finally meet. It turns out that a little bit of fan service, when done right, doesn’t hurt anyone.