To call certain aspects of the Disney era of Star Wars a little controversial would be akin to claiming Darth Vader was “just okay” with the Force, or that the Skywalkers have “a couple of family issues to work through.” Most fans have strong opinions, one way or the other, on topics ranging from Ben Solo’s (Adam Driver) fate to Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) parentage to, uh, blue milk.
But on Disney+, fan attitudes shift. The Mandalorian is largely beloved, if not for Pedro Pascal’s armored, badass, single-dad bounty hunter, then for the utterly adorable Force-sensitive being he adopts. The Mandalorian has made a consistent string of good storytelling decisions, from bringing in familiar faces from the animated shows—hello, Bo-Katan (Katee Sackhoff)!—to interweaving familiar faces from the classic trilogy—hello, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)!
And last season, “The Tragedy” gave us a reason to celebrate as it made yet another excellent move: showing that Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) had not, in fact, died on Tatooine after being shot in the stomach by a gung-ho young bounty hunter. First, the obvious: Bringing back Fennec meant bringing Ming-Na Wen back to Star Wars, which was definitely the correct decision. But even beyond returning Wen to a galaxy far, far away, reviving Fennec holds promise for the story that inventing a brand-new character to be Boba’s right-hand woman just wouldn’t have. Ahead of The Book of Boba Fett, here’s why we’re thanking “The Maker,” as C-3PO says, that Fennec’s still around.
It’s Like Poetry. It Rhymes.
If you’ve only ever seen the movies, you’d be surprised to know that the assassin Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) hunt down for attempting to kill Padme (Natalie Portman) had quite a bit of significance to the Fetts’ story—and not just because she nearly sold out Jango (Temuera Morrison). In the Extended Universe material (which isn’t technically canon anymore, but still), her name was Zam Wessell, and she and Jango went way, way back.
Zam and Jango were business partners and good friends and had been for years: A young Boba Fett was fond of her as a maternal figure. Not that it was shown on-screen in Attack of the Clones, but killing her broke Jango’s heart, and he truly mourned her loss after he shot her with a poison dart to keep her from revealing that he was behind the attempt on Padme’s life.
What does this have to do with Fennec and Boba? Well, his father found a partner in a female assassin with a face-covering helmet, and now, since he saved Fennec, Boba also has a partner in a female assassin with a face-covering helmet. The major difference is that rather than having to kill his right-hand woman, Boba saved his. If it’s true that Star Wars is like poetry, the rhymes there are clear. Let’s just hope Fennec doesn’t wind up with a poison dart in her neck… she’s already almost died once!
Her Connection with Boba is Fascinating
Boba and Fennec have a unique relationship, and the promise of it being explored further in The Book of Boba Fett is exciting. Again, their stories rhyme; both are immensely familiar with the galaxy’s “seedy underbelly” and worked for the Empire, both made miscalculations that almost had fatal consequences (Boba at the Sarlacc pit, Fennec with Toro Calican), and both operate by a code, of sorts.
On Boba’s side, giving him a companion and partner promises interesting opportunities to show his humanity. In most of live-action Star Wars canon, Boba’s been something of an iconic enigma—we know he’s a skilled fighter, but with Attack of the Clones excepted, we rarely got glimpses of who he really was. (There is Extended Universe material dedicated to this, but it’s not strictly canon anymore.) We know he was close to Jango and had a few other people he cared about, but not many. And that’s it.
But saving someone’s life is an innately human act; Fennec, then, serves as a chance to delve a little deeper into the man beneath the armor. Why did he go to such great lengths, replacing her abdomen with cybernetics, to save her? The explanation he gave in “The Tragedy” was that fate steps in to rescue the wretched, but we think there’s more to it than that. And why has he accepted her as his partner in crime? Was it because she was well connected? Did they know each other before the incident on Tatooine (was he the person she was going to meet, had she not been shot)? Does he know about her history with Omega, an unaltered female clone?
And for Fennec, her revival at Boba’s hands promises a thought-provoking character arc. She doesn’t seem to dislike being by Boba’s side, but how does she feel about having been saved? Is she grateful to Boba? Is she a little resentful, as she now may owe him a life debt? A bit of both? And what made her decide to remain with him? (It’s hard to imagine Boba insisting she serve him, so we’re guessing it’s less indentured servitude and more a mutually beneficial partnership). How does all of this play into her “take the best deal for yourself and survive” philosophy? And, lastly, what does it do to an elite assassin’s psyche to have been shot and left for dead in the desert?
She’s Just Plain Cool
Not every character can steal a scene by sitting and drinking spotchka, but not every character is Fennec Shand. The post-credits scene of Mando’s second season technically belongs to Boba, as he now sits on the throne of his former employer. But as she lounges on the side of his throne like she owns the place, gives one of the most badass smirks in Star Wars history and holds a very, very big gun, there’s no denying that Fennec is planet Hoth levels of cool.
As if that wasn’t enough, she also has an awesome catchphrase—“I don’t miss”—and she gets one of the funniest lines in The Mandalorian’s second season, when you think about it. (“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” she tells an expressionless, completely helmeted Din Djarin as he realizes she’s alive). By itself, the shot of her jumping backward off a cliff while shooting at Stormtroopers was reason to revive her. She’s skilled enough of a fighter to have almost killed Mando not once, but twice—and her reputation preceded her, as he instantly knew who she was when Toro Calican mentioned her.
But there’s more to her than big guns, smirks, drinks and not missing her targets. We also see she, like Boba, has a code: She frees Bib Fortuna’s Twi’lek prisoner before the shooting at Jabba’s Palace starts, and she’s stuck by Boba (as far as we know) exclusively because he saved her life. So, she’s cool, sure, but she’s also honorable—by elite assassin standards, at least. We’re looking forward to seeing how that plays into Boba’s vow to “rule with respect.” And really, whether she’s sparing innocents or crushing Stormtroopers with a huge boulder, we’re just glad Fennec Shand is back.
The Book of Boba Fett, Series Premiere, December 29, Disney+