Friday, July 19, 2024

Was the Luke Skywalker Moment Good or Bad?

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Put down your lightsabers for a second and listen to me. I was as hyped as anyone when I realized the Jedi savior from the season 2 finale of The Mandalorian was Luke Skywalker. The music, the lightsaber reveal, the incredible display of Force powers, the obvious parallels to Darth Vader’s hallway scene from Rogue One, it all made for the hypest of action scenes. I loved the emotions of the moment.

It has been a few weeks now. We have all had time to come down from the childhood nostalgia sugar high. The time has come to look deeper into Luke’s appearance, what it meant for the episode, what it means for the future of The Mandalorian, and ask some questions.

Namely, was this really a good thing?

luke skywalker fighting

The moment certainly made sense. Any doubts about Luke’s appearance have nothing to do with the logic of the moment and more to do with not knowing how he could realistically appear. If Grogu was going to reach out to a Jedi back at the Jedi Temple on Tython, well, Luke Skywalker is the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy. He might be the only one at this point, since Ahsoka is not technicallly a Jedi. He would probably be looking for students at this point in Star Wars canon.

Tython also gave us every reason to expect a Jedi to show up. Grogu reached out to someone. The Jedi he reached out to was a loose thread that needed to be addressed before the season ended. Whatever connection they created would obviously lead Luke to Moff Gideon’s cruiser. So I have no problem with the course of events leading to the scene.

Then, of course, his actual arrival was one of the best moments of not just The Mandalorian, but all of Star Wars. It is freaking magnificent. The music, the power, the obvious parallels to Vader, it all swells into an amazing piece of filmmaking. One thing Star Wars fans have wanted to see on screen for 43 years now is Luke Skywalker wreaking havoc as a fully-fledged Jedi Master. He was perfect. He was exactly the kind of force of nature we wanted to see for so long.

It is yet another way in which this scene paralleled the Vader scene. One showed an iconic villain at his peak. The other showed an iconic Jedi, and one of the most famous fictional heroes ever, at his most powerful.

Nothing speaks to just how much power Luke has at this point like seeing him effortlessly wipe out so many Dark Troopers in an episode where Mando could barely handle one. The Mandalorian did a great job creating the classic level up scenario, where you display something as a major threat by having a main character struggle, only to have someone else prove how strong they are by wiping that same threat out with ease.

The Dark Troopers were terrifying, and we had good reason to think the combined firepower of everyone on the command deck, all these capable warriors Mando had gathered, were doomed against these enemies. Then one Jedi obliterated them.

There is no doubting just how good a job The Mandalorian did with just the execution of Luke Skywalker’s appearance.

So, really, I guess it is hard to find a problem with the scene itself, or how it played out. Where the problems do arise are in the way it affected the episode beforehand, and especially what it means for The Mandalorian moving forward. There are definitely concerns here.

Purely within the episode itself, there is an argument that Luke saving the day somewhat cheapened the journeys of the characters he saved. They had sacrificed so much and I can see how saving them from having to sacrifice more felt like a copout. Personally, I think the moment fits Star Wars pretty well. Star Wars is not a series where characters tend to sacrifice themselves. Saviors are common because Star Wars is basically high fantasy in space.

Still, we were robbed of a last stand scene where Mando and his crew would face serious danger and nearly die before Luke’s arrival. The whole episode arguably built to this moment, where Mando would need to face the ultimate sacrifice in order to keep Grogu safe. Bo-Katan would need to find some way to survive after finally finding Gideon and the Darksaber. Everyone faced a harrowing moment they all knew was a possibility. It was somewhat disappointing to not see them fight the Dark Troopers at all.

Then, of course, Luke’s arrival interrupted the tensions in the room that could have been solved. Bo-Katan’s only reason for helping was to retrieve the Darksaber from Gideon, and Mando ruined that by defeating Gideon and inadvertently claiming the Darksaber instead. While this conflict was obviously meant to carry over into future seasons, having the conflict completely interrupted was a bit of a shame. It gave the episode a bit of an easy out after developing so much tension in the room.

Now, I do not think this was a huge sin, especially considering the Jedi loose thread the episode still needed to address. I also really want a larger plotline featuring Mando, the Darksaber, Bo-Katan, and Mandalore, so obviously those tensions should not have been completely resolved.

Of course, you could also argue that the problem is not that a Jedi showed up, but that Luke specifically showed up.

Even many hardcore Star Wars fans have a serious, valid problem with the way the Star Wars galaxy shrinks itself by constantly involving the same characters. Even the biggest haters of The Last Jedi often have a bigger problem with The Rise of Skywalker yet again bringing the story back to Palpatine and the Skywalkers. One of the more common criticisms of season 2 of The Mandalorian is that it was bringing back fan favorites from other stories and making the galaxy seem smaller for it.

I had no problem with the appearances of Boba Fett, Bo-Katan, or Ahsoka Tano. These are all characters on the fringe who, while famous from other Star Wars stories, could plausibly be found where they were. They are less known than your Obi-Wans and Lukes and could use a bit more attention.

Luke Skywalker, though…he is a different story. Now The Mandalorian is tied right back into the Skywalker saga in ways that could severely restrict everything moving forward. We all had the exact same thought when Luke took Grogu. What does this mean for Grogu? Was he there when Kylo Ren turned and destroyed Luke’s Jedi academy? If not, where was he during the rise of the First Order and the events of the sequels, when we are supposed to believe there are no more Jedi besides Luke?

I know the obvious argument is that the galaxy is big and that Grogu could be anywhere, but Star Wars keeps proving just how small its galaxy really is. And if Grogu was alive and well, would that not be a big deal to Luke after Kylo turns to the dark side? Did he just forget or ignore Grogu’s existence? Did he consider his existence at all before adopting the hermit life?

These are the kind of restraints Star Wars places on itself by tying its shows directly to the Skywalkers and the movies. As much as I enjoy The Clone Wars, it faced this same problem. It was always tied to the prequels in ways that limited it. That it did such a great job despite those limitations was remarkable, but the limitations still exist. Now The Mandalorian faces the same problem.

We can never watch The Mandalorian without wondering about Luke Skywalker now. He has a direct relationship with one of the two main characters. He is involved and invested in ways that will feel silly to dismiss, yet must be dismissed because what is the alternative? Making Luke Skywalker a regular character? We know that will not happen. Unless we get an even bigger surprise than deepfake Luke.

And now Grogu’s story is tied to Luke Skywalker in ways that transcend the plot of The Mandalorian, in the ways fans worried about with Bo-Katan and Ahsoka. There is a connection between Grogu and Luke that should always factor into the story.

What does this mean for The Mandalorian? What does this mean for its connection to the sequels? Should we expect Luke Skywalker to show up at opportune, dangerous moments? How will fans react if The Mandalorian does or does not cover the rise of the First Order and Luke’s Jedi school? I’m sure it will be okay overall, so long as the show maintains this quality, but a bit of the air has been sucked out of the room and away from the main characters.

You just cannot include a character that iconic without him dominating the space from now on.

This problem would not have existed with another Force user. They could have created a new one, pulled a character from other not-yet canon Star Wars stories, or even used Ahsoka again. Yes, it makes perfect sense for Luke to have shown up. It may have created more problems than it solved, though.

Where do I ultimately fall on this debate? Probably on the cautiously optimistic side of things. Filoni did such an admirable job navigating the Clone Wars that I have confidence he can manage the vast absence of lore between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It would be easy enough to have Luke give Grogu back to Mando for some reason and move on. Or time skip to a point where Grogu has enough training to go on. Who knows, we will see.

The positive impact of that one scene will likely end up meaning more than whatever future concerns exist. The reaction says it all. Luke’s appearance created a magic fans have not felt in years. Many have said they have not felt this way about Star Wars since the original trilogy. Sometimes that feeling means something more than neurotic analyses over series lore.

Don’t spread the word, we depend on those analyses, but sometimes they take a backseat to the emotions a scene inspires in its audience.

That does not make the criticisms any less valid, or the future concerns about The Mandalorian any less worrisome. The appearance of Luke Skywalker could end up being an albatross weighing the show down for the rest of its days. It will never stop trying to recreate the impact and feelings that Luke did in the season 2 finale. Even if you look at the scene as an absolute positive, Luke’s appearance may be an unattainable goal moving forward.

Still, it is hard to look at the joy Luke Skywalker created and judge the scene as a bad decision.

Images Courtesy of Disney

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