The Apostle Boba

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The highly anticipated arrival of The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+ is going to complete a legendary story arc that has been fascinating science fiction fans for decades. Boba Fett is one of the Star Wars universe’s most iconic figures, though his life has always been shrouded in mystery. Now viewers finally get the chance to learn how he survived the gullet of a man-eating sandpit monster. Most importantly, though, we’ll learn if this emissary of a dark empire has lessons to share on how to shape our own lives.

The Book of Boba Fett is the brainchild of Jon Favreau, the executive producer of the wildly successful Star Wars show The Mandalorian, and acclaimed director Robert Rodriguez who plotted some of the key moments in The Mandalorian season two. The new series, which is a Mandalorian spinoff set in the same timeline, stars Temuera Morrison. Morrison played Boba’s father, Jango Fett, in Attack of the Clones. Since Boba is supposed to be a genetic clone, it’s a logical extension. Boba has always been valued for his dark and brooding character, however he went missing during a fatal encounter in chapter six of the Star Wars saga.

Devotees who spent the intervening 37 years hoping for his return had their wishes fulfilled when he burst back on to the small screen during The Mandalorian’s second season alongside the new characters Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and mercenary Fennec Shand (Ming Na Wen). Now the series teased in The Mandalorian‘s season finale is almost here and Book now promises to flesh out not only Boba’s back story but the motivations behind the man who has found himself at the head of a crime syndicate run out of Jabba’s palace.

The title, The Book of Boba Fett, begs for biblical comparison. This might feel like a strange leap from The Book of Isaiah, The Book of Ezekiel, or any of the other prophets, but the emblematic status of this bounty hunter means he is likewise set to lead viewers towards a certain way of seeing the world. If I were looking for a scriptural parallel, though, I would be starting in the New Testament. As an anti-hero, Boba Fett has most in common with the apostle Paul. Consider these highlights:

A dehumanising beginning

The apostle Paul——was trained up as a “Hebrew of Hebrews” and became a staunch member of the Pharisaic tradition. As such, he distanced himself from normal life by caring more for the legal observance of religion than he did a heart-transforming faith. Boba Fett, by comparison, was raised by his father to become a bounty hunter, equally distanced from human feeling. As a child in Attack of the Clones, we see him expertly wielding the heavy weapons of the ship Slave 1 in an attempt to destroy Jedi Knight Obi Wan Kenobi.

A life shaped by violence

A formative event in Paul’s life is witnessing the execution of one of the early followers of Jesus Christ, the disciple Stephen. Then named Saul, Scripture reports he took care of the witnesses’ cloaks while they “dragged [Stephen] out of the city and began to stone him” (Acts 7:58). This detail is then closely connected with Saul’s approval and his subsequent “murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” on behalf of the Roman empire (Acts 9:1). Likewise, Boba is profoundly shaped by the death of his father. In the Attack of the Clones’ climactic battle, Jango is beheaded by Jedi Master Mace Windu. The grisly scene that follows shows a young Boba cradling his father’s helmet, and subsequent episodes of The Clone Wars show him as a young man pursuing a vendetta against the Jedi.

A career in suffering

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Both Saul and Boba became something like violent henchmen. Saul’s murderous attitude led him to shape his life around the persecution of Jesus’ followers in the early church. The Book of Acts reports that he went from town to town arresting believers and throwing them into prison. Similarly, The Book of Boba Fett will detail its namesake’s life as a bounty hunter, pursuing the innocent and the guilty alike so that they can face dubious justice. His most famous arrest, of course, is detailed in The Empire Strikes Back where he apprehended Han Solo and handed him over to Jabba the Hutt for similar persecution.

A moment of extreme crisis

Saul—soon to be Paul—faces his most life-changing moment on the road to Damascus, where he is cast down by a bright light that is the result of him being in the presence of the risen Jesus. Blind and stumbling, his following days are characterised by a total transformation that affects his soul most deeply of all—all because of his conversion on Damascus Road. A proud and intimidating Boba Fett finds himself similarly upended in the rescue of Han Solo, tumbling into the pit-like mouth of the mighty Sarlacc. His subsequent suffering is part of the back story belonging to the much older, much wiser hero in The Book of Boba.

Certainly, citing the similarities between Paul and Boba’s lives could be considered just an exercise in frivolity, were it not for the insight it provides into how we prefer to see our personal histories. Hollywood is lousy with origins stories, from Wolverine to Batman, Planet of the Apes to Joker. Philosophically, though, they come in two types: the transformation and the justification. In the transformation we see the main character make a 180-degree turn. The hero, like in Aquaman, decides that their life can no longer be pursued one way but must be given over to another purpose entirely. The justification type, though, sees no major change in the lead character. Instead, we learn through looking back why they are the way they are. What changes, then, is not the character but our opinion of him. In The Mandalorian the eponymous star enters as a heartless bounty hunter; by the end of the first season we accept that it is a brutal background that has made him so.

You can decide for yourself which you think best describes The Book of Boba’s story arc once the show has concluded. One thing that’s beyond doubt is which arc society prefers. In the transformation the hero repents. In the justification there is no need because we repent of the way we see him. In the story of the apostle Paul, the Bible introduces us to a man who is deeply flawed and, when he is confronted by Jesus over his persecution of early Christians, sees the need to make a life-changing decision. Given its producers are the same as The Mandalorian, it’s most likely that even the prospect of a thousand years being digested in the stomach of Sarlacc won’t require The Book of Boba Fett’s hero to become a new man. At best he will be a polished version of the same ruthless character that first fascinated filmgoers. And this is how we like it.

In the justification origins story there is no change because there is no perceived need to change. The hero doesn’t repent of their actions because if we understood him correctly, we would realise that those actions are entirely acceptable, or at least explainable. In the Academy Award winning film Joker we entered the cinema thinking we would witness one of the comic world’s most heinous villains’ descent into evil. Instead, we emerged with sympathy for a victim of mental illness and ill treatment. Paul was confronted by Jesus; Boba wasn’t confronted by anyone. Paul was overcome with regret; Boba has overcome. Paul is an apostle sent to a world to call it to repentance; Boba is the emissary of a “self-reliance” message. It may sound as though I won’t be waiting for The Book of Boba Fett with bated breath, but that’s not the case. I’m a science fiction tragic. I will be watching one minute after the series goes live. But what I won’t be doing is making the spiritually fatal mistake of thinking that an attitude that works for a hero in a galaxy far, far away, will work for anyone in mine.

Mark Hadley is a media and cultural critic who lives with his family in Sydney. Please note that discussion of a media product in Signs of the Times does not imply an endorsement or recommendation.

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