'The Mandalorian' Explained: Timothy Olyphant is Almost Boba Fett

Cobb Vanth has instantly become the most fascinating character in the expanded universe, but who the hell is he?

Return Of The Jedi Screenshot
Lucasfilm

The Mandalorian Explained is our ongoing series that is keeping an eye on Lucasfilm’s ongoing series about the Galaxy’s most dangerous single dad.


Oh, it’s happening. Boba Fett, galactic bounty hunter of mystery, is returning to the Star Wars universe. Word initially came down from on high that Temuera Morrison, who played Boba’s clone father Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones, would fill his spurs in the second season of The Mandalorian, but now we’re hearing that Boba Fett’s resurrection¬†may be a little more complicated than a flick of a rocket switch propelling him out of the Sarlacc pit.

According to /Film, Timothy Olyphant has been spotted strutting around set wearing Boba Fett’s costume. Does this mean our theory that Olyphant is playing Fett double Jodo Kast was correct? Sadly, no. We were merely half-right. Apparently, Olyphant is playing another Boba Fett wannabe: Cobb Vanth.

Huh. So, how does that work? There are multiple folks galivanting about pretending to be the most snackable henchman in the galaxy? Cobb Vanth is merely the latest character concocted to return respect to a toy done so dirty by George Lucas.

We can’t quit Boba Fett. The (supposed) badass bounty hunter made his first appearance in The Empire Strikes Back alongside the equally nifty looking action figures of Bossk, IG-88, Dengar, 4-Lom, and Zuckuss. He eeked a little more screentime than the rest, collecting his Han Solo carbonite package from a genuinely effective villain (Darth Vader), and finagled his way into the sequel where he was quickly dispatched through a murderous accident.

In the three years between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, kids spent a lot of time playing with their Kenner toy replicas of Boba Fett. During these sessions, we constructed a powerful imaginary backstory for the character. His Mandalorian armor was simply too cool. He had to rank up there with the baddest of the bad, the raddest of the rad.

It turns out, not so much. The chump talked a big talk, but he couldn’t last thirty minutes into Return of the Jedi. Fett’s precious bounty Han Solo, blind from his recent carbonite defrosting, mistakingly bumps into Fett’s rocket pack, which sends him flailing into the side of Jabba’s sail barge and tumbling into the Great Pit of Carkoon where he’ll be digested over the course of a thousand years.

Go watch this sequence from Return of the Jedi again. Don’t worry; I’ll wait. Ok. You’re back? Good.

How many times does Boba Fett scream before he dies? Not once, not twice, but thrice. There’s the initial bump, “Ah!” Then there’s the long scream as he’s shot across the desert (including a comical slide-whistle sound effect to accentuate the absurdity) and a final wail as he rolls into the Sarlacc. Finally, we are given a close-up of the beast as it offers up a hearty belch. Yummy, yum, yum, yum. Fett is tentacle-licking good.

The indignity of Boba Fett’s death stings. Many Star Wars fans could not accept it. No way, our favorite doll went out like a clown. He had to survive. He had to.

Enter cats like Jodo Kast and Cobb Vanth. These Expanded Universe (EU) characters were born out of their writers’ need to bring respect back to the Mandalorian armor. If Boba Fett couldn’t deliver nobility to his action figure armor, then these proper badasses would.

Kast had a good run in the roleplaying games and comics. He gave us something pretty to look at until Lucasfilm finally allowed their licensing department to bring the real Boba Fett into the EU. Initially, in the comics, Fett’s return was explained as a narrow escape from the Sarlacc, using the same jetpack that brought his doom for his rescue.

All that delicious EU is defunct. When Disney plotted the cinematic return of Star Wars via The Force Awakens, Lucasfilm wiped their EU slate clean. Goodbye, Jodo Kast. Hello, Cobb Vanth.

Author Chuck Wendig was hired to fill in a few of the gaps between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens with his trilogy of Aftermath novels. In addition to detailing the further adventures of Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia Organa, and Wedge Antilles, the books offered a variety of new characters, including several interlude chapters featuring Cobb Vanth.

Vanth’s story takes place on Tatooine (as we can’t escape Boba Fett, we also can’t escape this wretched hive of scum and villainy). As was the case when Boba Fett first made his appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, not much is known about Vanth’s history. He’s a gruff guy with a strong moral code that might not align with yours.

We’re told Vanth spent a good portion of his life as a slave, and his back features a gnarly star-shaped branding. After Jabba the Hutt had the life strangled out of him by Leia, a power-vacuum formed across the desert planet. Many mini-bosses rose to snatch his power, including the Red Key Raiders led by Lorgan Movellan.

Vanth encounters one of Movellan’s goons attempting to purchase a chest of Mandalorian armor from a group of Jawas. Vanth acts as a mediator between the crook and the dealers, securing the purchase, but decides he needs the armor for his purposes. The Raider attempts to draw on Vanth, but the former slave snatches the blaster and returns fire.

While the Mandalorian armor is never directly named as once belonging to Boba Fett, it is strongly implied through a detailed description. Vanth uses the suit to establish himself as sheriff of Tatooine’s Freetown, formerly known as Mos Pelgo. Using his skills as a shrewd negotiator, he convinces a local band of Tusken Raiders to act as bodyguards against the Red Key Raiders.

Knowing that Timothy Olyphant will play Cobb Vanth in the second season of The Mandalorian suggests a few extra plot elements. We can now infer that the spur-jangling stride seen at the end of the first season’s Chapter Five was not Boba Fett, but Vanth wearing Fett’s suit. Temuera Morrison may indeed be returning, but it’s looking more and more unlikely that he’ll be playing Boba Fett, and more likely that he’ll be playing clone trooper Captain Rex as he pertains to the Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) storyline also involving Darth Maul (Ray Park) and Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff).

Is it possible that we’ll see a Boba Fett vs. Cobb Vanth showdown? Sure. If Fett somehow survived his Sarlacc snack attack, he would be pretty darn peeved to discover someone else playing hero in his costume. But do we want that?

Boba Fett had his chance. We need to accept that he was never meant to be much of a threat. He was a nuisance at best.

The Mandalorian and The Clone Wars animated series have gone a long way in validating our childhood obsessions with the Boba Fett action figure. These televised adventures have granted us characters who are actually worthy of the uniform. Let’s embrace them. Let’s give up Boba Fett, and leave him to rest at the bottom of the Sarlacc’s belly.

Trekkie, Not Trekker. Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects, co-host of the In The Mouth of Dorkness Podcast.