When you’re Boba Fett (just pretend you are for a second, for fun), only two things matter: staying alive and getting paid lots of money for the work you do.
And why must these things be so very difficult? Bad enough getting chewed up by the Sarlacc, but would it kill the universe to let you pick up where you left off before the whole happy meal fiasco? Why can’t you just walk out of the desert with your dented Mandalorian helmet and most of your skin melted off and start all over again?
It’s probably because you pissed too many people off.
The problem with the end of the Bounty Hunter Wars Trilogy is despite how fun it is, all those little plot elements from the first two books? They don’t exactly braid together in a lovely plait. Instead you get that tangly crush that occurs when you leave all your jewelry in a sack instead of hanging it neatly. It’s really hard to decompress everyone’s motives once the chips fall and they’ve all had their say.
For our final major flashback, we find out that when Fett tried to deliver the renegade stormtrooper Trhin Voss’on’t, Xizor was waiting at Kub’ar Mub’at’s web to kill him. Fett avoids death by deliberately crashing into the web, where Xizor quickly stops by to say—Surprise! I don’t feel like killing you after all! He’d been thinking about it for the sake of tying up loose ends concerning his Bounty Hunter’s Guild plot, but Mub’at soon-to-be successor, Balancesheet, pointed out that Fett was too valuable to knock off. Fett lets it all go—provided Xizor pays him the bounty he’s owed. Xizor agrees because it’s good for future business. Fett leaves Mub’at to die at the hands (or rather, the many legs) of Balancesheet.
Nice bedtime story, huh? But then we flash forward and things start getting, if possible, even more labyrinthian.
Okay, so let’s see if I can unpack this:
Back in the post-Death-Star pre-Battle-of-Hoth galaxy, Xizor wanted to take control of Kuat Drive Yards because he had dreams of universe domination like all good megalomaniacs do. Kuat of Kuat knew this and decided that the best way to get rid of Xizor would be to fake some evidence suggesting that he was responsible for the raid on the Lars homestead that killed Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. Why he thought this particular evidence would be the best loaded gun, uh… reasons? Maybe he thought Luke would hunt him down. Or something.
Prince Xizor actually got Fett to break up the Bounty Hunter’s Guild because he had been systematically breaking down or gobbling up organizations in effort to make Black Sun more powerful so he could eventually challenge Palpatine for galactic control. Unfortunately, as we all know, he got dead before the events of Return of the Jedi. Bummer. So Kuat had all this fabricated evidence on Xizor that he needed to clean up, but he did a terrible job of it because no corporate CEO ever does his own dirty work. The evidence floated out in space with a dead criminal until Boba Fett found it, along with Neelah (the mind-wiped dancing girl from Jabba’s Palace who’s been traveling with him and Dengar for the past couple books). It turns out that Neelah is from one of the ruling families of the Kuat planet: her true name is Kateel of Kuhlvult. Her sister Kodir is the one who had her mind-wiped because she didn’t want Kateel to give away her own master plan—to take over Kuat Drive Yards from Kuat of Kuat. (Say Kuat again! It’s so much fun!)
Why were Neelah and the fake evidence on Xizor together in the same ship? Because the criminal who took Neelah off her sister’s hands and dealt with the evidence used to be Kuat’s security chief, one who Kodir bribed to take his position so she could get close to Kuat. Just so happens.
As for the fake Xizor evidence’s whereabouts in the present, Balancesheet magically knows that Bossk stole it from Fett when he was escaping from Slave I during the Voss’on’t job. Because he’s the info guy. Fett needs the evidence because he needs to give it to one of the Black Sun factions warring for Xizor’s place, or they’ll kill him. (You find that out at, like, the very end of the book.) Kuat was only trying to kill Fett earlier because he was worried about loose ends, thinking Fett still had the fake Xizor evidence and it would be buried with his death. Now Kuat is thinking of blowing up his whole shipyard and taking the company down with him because nothing is really working out for him lately—the Empire and the Alliance are fighting their final battle over Endor while a Rebel squad squats over his planet with plans to stop the Imperials from getting more ships from him if they need them.
As you can see, everyone is pretty upset.
Kuat does end his life, but not before Fett ruins his plans to blow up the shipyard and gets some answers out of him. He also gets the Xizor evidence from Bossk in an exchange where Bossk comes out ahead for the first time ever. So give Bossk a cookie (one that isn’t made of Wookiees)! Neelah stops her sister’s evil doings because she’s learned a trick or two from Fett, like how to beat up people and take their weapons from them. It’s totally boss. Dengar runs away before it all goes to hell, which is fortunate because Manaroo is there to catch him, and she made a special bet when he became partners with Fett—that he’d survive it. A bookie actually took that bet (because Outer Rim bookies are weird that way), and now they’re all debt-settled and ready to start a brand new life together.
The good news is that despite all these machinations, you can’t miss what’s really fun about this story—mainly, watching Fett get one over on people. Neelah has Dengar at blaster-point to get him to spill Fett’s history, only to find out that Fett had told him to do just that to keep them both out of his way while he navigated their flightpath. He pulls a blaster of Prince Xizor because he’s one of the few people who can. His ability to manipulate is matched by very few in the Star Wars universe. He’s cold, calculating, and merciless.
Or is he? He makes a point of telling everyone that everything he does is to win, to profit, to come out ahead. But he acts in the interests of others surprisingly often in this trilogy, specifically in Neelah’s interests. Kuat suspects a crush, but it’s likely even more simple than that—he connects with her. There’s a similarity to their personalities that resonates with him and he wants to help her. He even suggests that she be the one to take over Kuat Drive Yards at the end of everything. They don’t trust each other—they both know they’d be mad to—but all his grumbling about debt-paying shouldn’t fool anyone. Fett likes some people. He just knows it’s better that he keep it to himself and leave emotions off in most situations. Or to put it another way, Fett is a growly, ruthless version of Spock.
Oh. So that’s why I love him so much.
Emmet Asher-Perrin would go on about what a secret cuddly teddy bear Boba Fett clearly is, but so few people believe her. She has written essays for the newly released Doctor Who and Race and Queers Dig Time Lords. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.