“Where life had no value, death, sometimes, had its price. That is why the bounty killers appeared.”
A present-tense version of For a Few Dollars More’s opening epigraph could easily have been the moral that opened “The Box,” and not just because bounty hunters new and old appeared before Count Dooku on Serenno last night. Because “The Box” was as taut, flinty, and gleefully amoral as the best work of Spaghetti Western maestro Sergio Leone.
Actually, I think you could see “The Box” as a commentary on the Leone oeuvre as much as Sam Raimi’s 1995 meta Western The Quick and the Dead, a film which shares more than a passing similarity to this episode. Both feature a contest of skill among deadly hired guns; both take place in an existential void (The Quick and the Dead in a Western town that purposefully seems like a Hollywood museum backlot, “The Box” in, well, a giant box that would be at home in Cube); both feature cocky criminal masterminds pulling all the strings; and both feature a dozen or so hired-gun contestants who are vividly—and economically—characterized by little more than their respective appearances. You could see Rako Hardeen (a.k.a Obi-Wan Kenobi) as Russell Crowe’s preacher in The Quick and the Dead, a good guy forced to be bad. Moralo Eval is very much Gene Hackman’s sadistic gamesman. Personally, I see the Selkath as Leonardo DiCaprio.
But while Raimi’s film decides to fetishize individual motifs of the Leone canon—pocket watches, clock towers, baroque weaponry, tight squint-eyed close-ups—“The Box” perceives the philosophy underneath: death can come suddenly, unexpectedly, and, if you’re not too careful, on account of your fellow man. Better then to make yourself as indifferent to life and death struggle as the harsh, godless landscapes around you. (Is that not the cold flipside of the Jedi Code, a mantra about freeing yourself from attachments?) And, if you’ve done that, why, as Cad Bane suggested, would you need a mask when your own face can serve that function ever so capably? Even Bane would tip his wide-brimmed hat to writer Brent Friedman for penning a story that works on this many levels.
But existentialism can wait. It was time for a bounty hunter competition. The Lady Luck (or a SoroSuub luxury yacht cousin) arrived on Count Dooku’s homeworld, Serenno, looking mighty battered. And its passengers—Moralo Eval, Cad Bane, and “Rako Hardeen”—didn’t look much better. Maybe that’s why Dooku felt he needed basically another round of job interviews to make sure he really did have the best of the best. So, in addition to our trio, Dooku brought in ten more contenders. Let’s run down this Rogues Gallery, shall we?
NEXT: We run down the bounty hunters set to enter the box. This group has crazier hats than Lady Gaga.