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SYFY WIRE The Mandalorian

No kriff: The Mandalorian just put a Star Wars 'book only' character on screen to continue their story

By Brian Silliman
The Mandalorian - Tusken Raider on Bantha

It happened, and it was incredible. Star Wars just took a character created for a book and put them front and center in a live-action show. And Season 2 of The Mandalorian didn't just put the character on screen — it continued his story.

Though Snap Wexley technically came first in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it wasn’t entirely clear when he first showed up that he was the grown-up Temmin Wexley from Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars Aftermath. That was made clear (or retconned, who knows) afterward. There’s no doubt in this particular instance, however. Star Wars characters almost always show up on screen first, and then make their way into the many novels of Star Wars. Characters that are "book only" might make their way into a game or a comic (Rae Sloane), but they don’t get to the point where an actor is cast to play the part.

Star Wars animation has re-canonized characters such as Grand Admiral Thrawn and Rukh, but when it comes to the new canon (where every book and comic is a part of the ongoing saga), no one has continued their book story in live action. No one who has only ever been in a book, that is. Again, yes, technically Snap came first. He was never front and center, though, and further books and comics had to make it clear that Snap was Temmin and that Temmin was Snap. Snap’s droid program for Mr. Bones never showed up in the sequel trilogy, though, did it?

**SPOILER WARNING: From this point forward, there will be major spoilers for the Season 2 premiere of The Mandalorian. If you have not watched, then jetpack on out of here.**

It had been heavily rumored that Timothy Olyphant would be joining in the fun for this season of The Mandalorian, and the rumors (confirmed by everyone except Lucasfilm) were correct. Olyphant, a gifted veteran at playing western-styled characters (Deadwood, Justified), strutted in to a cantina on Tatooine, and even better? He was wearing Boba Fett’s helmet and armor. Readers of Star Wars books immediately knew who he was before he confirmed it himself in his first couple of lines. Subtitles helped too.

Olyphant plays Cobb Vanth, a character that writer Chuck Wendig created for an interlude chapter in Star Wars Aftermath. The interlude takes place on Tatooine and features Vanth scavenging some Mandalorian armor (which is a bit damaged from Sarlacc fluid) from Jawas. No one in the book says, “Hey, that’s Boba Fett’s armor ...,” but it is.

Vanth dons the armor, and he then goes to be a sheriff in the lawless Tatooine town of Mos Pelgo, where some miners are making a power grab. Further books in the Aftermath series checked in on him, but his story remained on the page.

Until now. The book was released in 2015, before The Force Awakens even came out — this is five years later, and here he is, played by Olyphant, no less. Many fans had guessed (and hoped) that Olyphant would be playing Vanth, and that this was how the show would get Boba’s armor into the series ...

Timothy Olyphant The Mandalorian

There’s no mistaking it when we see it, either. The trademark dent in the helmet is there, and it might as well have a tag on it that says, “If lost, please return to Boba Fett, thx.”

That’s not all, because Jango Fett actor (and live-action Clone actor) Temuera Morrison has long been rumored for the show too. Would he show up as a Clone, or as Boba? It turned out to be the latter, as in the episode’s final moment, Mando is watched racing away with the armor — given to him by Vanth as part of a deal they struck — by a mysterious figure in a cloak. He’s loaded with Gaderffii sticks and other assorted Tusken Raider weapons, and when he turns around ... it’s Morrison.

They don’t explicitly say it, but he's playing Boba. He survived the Sarlacc, and now he’s watching his stolen armor go zooming away with the main character of this show. He may have been a presence before this too, as he very well could have been the cloaked figure who walked up to the body of Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) in Season 1. 

Temuera Morrison/Boba Fett in The Mandalorian

Sure, Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire introduced Thrawn in 1991, and bringing him into animation was a huge deal when Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels came out. This is different. Thrawn was getting a new story in a new time period, and he was being brought back to canon in a completely different way. Vanth (and by extension Boba) is continuing his tale as a lawful sheriff scavenger right from where it left off. Also? Live action.

Vanth’s tale in the show of how he acquired the armor leaves out some details from the book (the character Adwin Charu isn’t mentioned here), but for the most part, it scans. If Vanth’s flashback happens right before the tale in the book, it mostly works, with Mos Pelgo getting its first mention too. Ever want to see Mos Pelgo in live action? Good news for you, there is.

Every time that we checked in with Cobb Vanth, readers wondered if Boba had survived, and if Vanth’s story would circle back to him. That didn’t happen on the page, but now it looks primed for the screen. Boba won’t be going after Vanth now (we don’t think), he’ll be going after Din Djarin instead.

It’s a fitting way to bring Boba Fett back to life and into this story, doing so in a way that honors the tale already begun in a book. Star Wars claims time and again that everything is canon, and this is evidenced when a game like Battlefront II includes a random character mention of Governor Adelhard, an antagonist in an iPhone game that isn’t being made anymore.

That stuff is fun, but this is next-level connectivity. You don’t have to be a book reader to enjoy the story of Cobb Vanth on the show, as the episode wisely gives you everything you need. Reading everything is not required in any way to understand or comprehend what is going on. 

If you are a book reader, it very much enhances the experience. But if you consume every bit of Star Wars canon there is, be it book, comic, or game? This is a payoff that's been five years in the making. With Boba’s appearance, it’s gonna keep paying off.

It also shows that if Lucasfilm is up for doing something like this, then other page-centric characters could make similar jumps. Doctor Aphra could happen. Singir Rath Velus could happen. Peekpa the Ewok Slicer (song pending) could happen. When Cobb Vanth happens, then everyone is on the table. That’s a very exciting prospect indeed. 

For the latest on everything going on in the galaxy far, far away, join our heroes over on Jabba the Pod, available wherever you get your podcasts.