The Mandalorian‘s big season two twist on Disney+ forced us to confront a question: Can the unstoppable force for good and the flawed heroic figurehead coexist within the character of Luke Skywalker?
**Spoilers for The Mandalorian season 2.**
Love it or hate it, Luke Skywalker’s portrayal in The Last Jedi is a complex character choice that still has fans discussing it three years later. A longtime symbol of light, hope, and heroism, TLJ finds Luke as a failed teacher, a broken hero, a brother and uncle too afraid to face his sister and nephew.
His experience has disillusioned him with his place in the galaxy, his failures compounded in a way reminiscent of many disillusioned heroes forced to mentor the next generation (2017’s Logan, 2018’s Into the Spider-Verse).
Despite the fact that he does eventually rise to the occasion and play the part of the heroic Jedi that the Resistance needs, many fans felt disappointed in the character as a continuation of the brave, compassionate farm boy who defied both Jedi and Sith to save his father from the Dark Side.
The Rise of Skywalker attempts to reinforce Luke Skywalker’s character with tongue-in-cheek references to how “a Jedi’s weapon deserves more respect [than to just be thrown away]” and how “he was wrong [about isolation being a good way to solve problems].” However, many fans were unswayed, and those who were disappointed in the Sequel trilogy’s portrayal of Luke Skywalker feared that they would never again see their beloved Jedi Knight.
And then came The Mandalorian’s season 2 finale on Disney+, “The Rescue.”
In a TV series that has, for the most part, avoided delving too deep into the Skywalker Saga, the presence of Luke Skywalker as a Jedi Ex Machina surprised fans of all sorts, new and old, lovers and haters of the sequels alike.
However, does this discredit the complexity introduced by The Last Jedi?
At first, Luke’s presence may seem like straightforward fanservice, a way to rope back in the audience that was disappointed by the sequels and get both casual and hardcore fans excited about their original hero.
But in many ways, his appearance in “The Rescue” adds even more complexity to his character.
Realizing that Luke Skywalker was indeed once the incredible, nigh-unstoppable Jedi Knight makes his eventual failure an even harder fall from grace. It’s the difference between a false hero failing to live up to expectations they never truly met and a true hero desperately cracking under the weight of the world (or galaxy) on their shoulders.
Also, the fact that this is The Mandalorian does lend it some favors as, while the audience may know more than the title character, the show is still firmly placed in the perspective of Din Djarin, who knows very little of the Jedi apart from what he has seen in person. Luke’s ability to protect Grogu from the Empire’s formidable forces, where the Mandalorian and a squad of four elite bounty hunters could not, leads him to accept the Jedi as a savior and teacher and therefore surrender custody of Grogu.
Even then, the idea that Grogu may be at Luke Skywalker’s Jedi academy when Ben Solo falls to the Dark Side further cements his failure as a teacher who was trusted with the next generation of Jedi.
Who could ever forgive themselves for failing to protect Grogu, the most precious Star Wars character in the franchise’s history? How could you look Pedro Pascal in the eye after that?
While there is a good deal of triumph in Luke’s heroic reprise of his father’s infamous hallway massacre, it also highlights his dark side, especially when he uses a Force crush against a Dark Trooper that resembles his Father’s Force choke and his nephew’s Force stasis. It reminds us that behind Luke’s great power and goodness, there is a dark side to him, especially when it comes to those that would threaten the future of the Jedi.
Still, there is the fact that many fans, for better or worse, prefer this Luke thanks to the hopeful power fantasy he provides: This is the Luke Skywalker at the height of his power, the last Jedi Knight, who is credited with the defeat of the Emperor and Darth Vader. This is the Luke Skywalker who is the New Hope of the Jedi and the galaxy. This is the Luke Skywalker who is worthy of being called a myth. And that’s certainly valid; the problem comes where many of those fans see this as a rebuttal of Luke’s characterization in Last Jedi rather than an important piece of that arc.
It’s difficult to judge how the fandom’s reading of him will change, especially with the implication that Grogu (and, by extension, Luke) has not departed from the story of The Mandalorian, leaving room to show Luke’s struggles with teaching and effectively raising a new generation of Jedi. If nothing else, it has shown that there is indeed a path forward with the character, with this appearance opening the door to future cameos and further exploration of his complex brand of hero.
For the moment, The Mandalorian has cemented Luke Skywalker as the new hope that the galaxy needed. And in a galaxy that can often make us feel powerless and disillusioned, there are plenty of worse things to indulge in than having a fantasy of being able to take on the darkness that threatens to engulf us all.
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