Luke Skywalker’s appearance in The Mandalorian was something that many Star Wars fans had been hoping and dreaming of seeing for a long, long time. It was an amazing display of Luke’s abilities in his prime, slicing through the formidable Dark Troopers like they were nothing in order to get to the Child.
I loved it.
But I also loved The Last Jedi. In the time following the season finale, there have been some fans who have turned to The Mandalorian as justification that The Last Jedi was wrong (and, though a few have done the opposite, I haven’t seen nearly as many). But the beauty of this is that this is a story in progress; there’s still a couple of decades separating these events, and I think they blend together perfectly.
Though I had been thinking many of these thoughts, it was really two threads on Twitter that put it so perfectly that made me want to try to articulate things in an article. They say it better than I ever could, but I’m going to give it a try here. The first was from Alden Diaz, and it’s very much worth a read:
The second is from Bryan Young, and it’s also worth considering:
The Last Jedi never shies away from a powerful Luke Skywalker; in fact, it leans into it all the more. The whole story leading up to that point has been that if Luke arrives, he’ll turn the tide in the battle against the First Order. When Rey finds Luke, he asks, “You think what? I’m going to walk out with a laser sword and face down with the whole first Order?” He certainly could, but he won’t. When Luke does walk out and confront the whole First Order, all the walkers fire upon him and he walks out unscathed. And what’s the reaction of Ben solo – the one who would have seen Luke the most at his height of ‘power’? It’s fear. Ben doesn’t stop and say, “Wait a second… that’s not possible! He must not be here!” Ben, the one who of all people would know Luke’s strength, believes it’s possible. And those actions by Luke, to confront the whole First Order and save the Resistance, are maybe the strongest and most powerful example of what it means to be a Jedi there has ever been.
And so yes, I recognize that fans wanted to see something like what we got in The Mandalorian, but it wouldn’t have made sense in the timeline. But the beauty of it is that now we’ve gotten it while also getting a look at Luke much later in life. By that time, the hardships of life have broken through to Luke and caused him to reflect on what a Jedi actually is.
Part of the sheer genius of George Lucas has often gone subtly unnoticed: the Jedi in the prequels were wrong. And part of the way they were wrong was by getting involved in the War at all. So when Luke, in The Last Jedi, says, “Now that they’re extinct, the Jedi are romanticized, deified. But if you strip away the myth and look at their deeds? The legacy of the Jedi is failure. Hypocrisy. Hubris.” That line is so incredibly important for helping us understand and reconcile the different Lukes we’ve seen at different stages in the timeline. Because Luke has come to see the ways the Jedi failed, and has also come to see the ways in which he repeated those failures.
But at this point in the timeline in The Mandalorian, Luke thinks he can rebuild the Jedi – just like Yoda and Obi-Wan wanted – without repeating those failures. He even admits as much to Rey in The Last Jedi when he says that it was a Jedi responsible for the training and creation of Darth Vader, and then just a few sentences later says that he thought he could stop the rising darkness in Ben. In other words: he thought Obi-Wan failed Anakin, but thought that he could actually stop the darkness in Ben. There’s the same old hubris. Luke probably sees himself as the triumphant, unstoppable hero. The legend. The myth. The hero. The last of the Jedi. The one who saved Vader.
He’s always had a bit of this in him, thinking that he can save the day, and often he did. But think too about how these are tied in with visions. Luke rushes off to confront Vader even though Yoda warns him against it, because of a vision of his friends suffering. That’s the same thing Anakin did – wrongly. But Luke thinks that he can stop the suffering that comes in this vision. So years later, when he has a vision of Ben Solo causing such destruction and heartbreak to everyone Luke loves, of course his first gut instinct is going to be to stop it. That’s the way he’s always done it. He always has thought that he can get ahead of it and stop the suffering from his visions. So too did Anakin. It’s not right, but it perfectly fits with the character. And it’s why, as Bryan Young pointed out, the question all of us should have been asking (and some of us were asking), in The Force Awakens wasn’t “Who’s Rey?” but “why didn’t Luke come save Han?” That’s a noticeable break from his character. And yet here in The Mandalorian, Luke has a vision or connection through the Force with Grogu, and he comes to rescue him.
How? By picking up a laser sword and confronting a whole enemy army. This is the man becoming a legend.
Very importantly, I don’t think Luke was wrong for doing this. Certainly not! His arrival probably saved many lives, and he only eliminated droids in doing so. And him taking Grogu to train is a perfectly reasonable and very well-intentioned decision. That’s all Luke has known to do as a Jedi Master.
But perhaps the inclusion of Ahsoka Tano earlier in the season should help us discern a bit more about this, because at this point she’s a much more experienced Jedi than Luke. She saw the failures of the Jedi up close and experienced them personally. She saw her master and friend turn to the dark side. And she senses similar things in Grogu, refusing to train him. Now, of course, timeline-wise, this makes sense and is the right decision for the Star Wars canon. But in-universe, I think it also makes sense. Ahsoka saw the failures of the Jedi and doesn’t want to risk repeating them; Luke knows of the failures of the Jedi and thinks he won’t repeat them. There’s a reason Ahsoka refuses to train Grogu, and Luke rushes in heroically to save the day so that he can train Grogu. That doesn’t make either of them wrong, but it does mean that they’re at different points in their journeys. And ironically, it doesn’t make either of them right, either. You can debate whether Ahsoka was right or wrong for not wanting to train the Child, and whether Luke was right or wrong for taking him to train him. But, if I can just break it down in an overly simplified way, Ahsoka is taking the path of wisdom in discerning from the errors of the past, while Luke is taking the path of strength in trying to forge a new future.
What Luke needs is to grow not just as a warrior but as a Master. He needs to learn from the failures of the past, and in turn allow others to learn from his failures. But he projects strength and an aura of invincibility. Maybe that’s why Ben’s fall hit him especially hard, after all – Luke thought he could stop it. So what is needed as Luke grows is a synthesis of that strength and wisdom – and nowhere has that ever been displayed better than through his heroic actions on Crait.
This story of Star Wars – and of Luke Skywalker – is a progressing story that evolves and grows, as it must. In The Last Jedi, Luke admits: “I became a legend.” The Mandalorian is showing us the continuation of this legend being built. And it’s truly awesome to see! But as the years go on and Luke learns important lessons – many of them the hard way – the legend grows and he becomes more powerful than we could possibly imagine.
Luke Skywalker winds up as the greatest Jedi who ever lived and with a greater display of mastery than we have ever seen. That’s not possible without the legend being built in the original trilogy and The Mandalorian. Rather than stand in contradiction with each other, The Mandalorian and The Last Jedi complement each other by showing us this Jedi Master at different stages in his life. I really hope we get to see more of Luke growing into the legend, and it will give us in turn a deeper appreciation for the Master he becomes.