Boba Fett's return in The Mandalorian meant his iconic armor appeared on screen for 6.5 times the screentime of his Original Trilogy appearances.
Boba Fett's return to Star Wars in The Mandalorian's season 2 opening episode inevitably drew huge attention to Disney+'s flagship show. Fett is easily one of Star Wars' most iconic characters and his armor makes him one of the most recognizable figures in George Lucas' universe, despite the limited screentime he had in the original Star Wars trilogy. Interestingly, as a mark of the weight of the iconography associated with Fett's armor, its presence in "The Marshal" massively beat that screentime.
Fett's association with Star Wars is arguably more infamous for what doesn't happen on screen than for what does. Though the character officially debuted in the non-canon Star Wars: Holiday Special in 1978 and became the first bona-fide (and notorious) mail-in Kenner action figure, his actual arrival came in The Empire Strikes Back. If it wasn't for his compelling mythology (by its absence) and a great look, there's a very good chance Fett would be remembered as Star Wars' single biggest disappointment. Shackled by narrative irrelevance and seemingly killed off in a glorified pratfall, Fett's substance could not match his style. Nevertheless, he remains one of the highest selling Star Wars action figures ever.
That popularity is what made Fett's return to Star Wars live action - after the significant addition of his backstory thanks to the prequel trilogy and the further boost of a hugely popular Clone Wars run - is what made that final moment in The Mandalorian's season two premiere so big. But Boba Fett's importance to the episode began well before Temuera Morrison's cameo: it began with Timothy Olymphant's appearance wearing Fett's armor. And so key is the armor to Mando's personal journey on Tatooine that its total screentime throughout the episode comes in at 6.5 times the total screentime Boba Fett had in the Star Wars original trilogy.
In The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi combined, Boba Fett appears for just 2 minutes and 37 seconds of actual screentime. Considering the enduring legacy of the character and the clamor from fans for further appearances even after his apparent demise in the belly of the Sarlacc, that in itself should be shocking. But as already qualified, Fett's impact is despite what his part in the original trilogy narrative amounts to, not because of it. And The Mandalorian's decision to use Boba Fett's armor rather than Fett himself as the jump-in point for the high-billed return was an inspired reflection of that curious phenomenon. The Mandalorian's season 2 opening episode features a comparatively huge amount of screentime for Fett's armor - both when it is worn by Cobb Vanth and not - which amounts to 1024 seconds or 17 minutes and 4 seconds of total screentime, including wide and distant shots.
The move was very smart in narrative terms. Not only did it lean knowingly into the mythology around Boba Fett as a brand, rather than a character but it also offered a bait and switch dynamic for the end of the episode's final twist. Temuera Morrison's appearance had been announced, but having Olyphant's Marshal impostor so significantly present in the episode made the double-tap revelation that Boba Fett himself was on Tatooine all the more effective. Add to that the fact that Fett not wearing his armor in the episode served as a reminder of the contradiction in him being called a Mandalorian and him not following the creed and the value in the Vanth misdirection is even more loaded. By the end of the episode, it almost feels like The Mandalorian is winking to the audience on all fronts, acknowledging the past, the brand legacy of Boba Fett and also ushering in an era where Boba Fett the character and not the armor matters most.