The latest episode of The Mandalorian, Chapter 20: “The Foundling”, included some key moments for several of the characters – including Grogu.
In season two of The Mandalorian, we learned from Ahsoka Tano that Grogu was actually raised in the Jedi Temple but was taken during the Purge, after which his time was darkness until he was found by Din Djarin. In The Book of Boba Fett, we got a brief glimpse of a flashback to Order 66 from Grogu’s perspective as Luke trained him, but that’s it. Now we have seen the fuller picture of that flashback, including who it was that ultimately rescued the kid.
Four Jedi fought against the 501st clones in defense of Grogu (including one that, from the back, looks a lot like Cin Drallig), and they sacrificed their lives so that Grogu could escape. They get him into an elevator, which opens to reveal… Jedi Master Kelleran Beq! The Jedi wields two lightsabers while holding off the clones before making an escape with Grogu on a speeder bike. They are pursued by members of the Coruscant Guard in gunships, but Beq loses them just long enough to meet up with a group of Naboo security guards. They hold off the clones so that Beq and Grogu can escape aboard the Naboo cruiser, jumping into hypserspace.
But who is Kelleran Beq? And why is his appearance here so significant?
Who is Kelleran Beq?
Let’s start with that first question. We’ve actually seen him before, though in a format that most Star Wars fans probably have never seen. He stars in a Star Wars Youtube series called Jedi Temple Challenge, which ran for ten episodes during the summer of 2020 on the Star Wars Kids Youtube channel. The series was designed as a game show set in the Star Wars universe, with groups of kids competing in the Jedi Trials, overseen by Kelleran Beq and his trusty droid, AD-3. Though the series is not technically canon, it seems that the character of Kelleran Beq has always been considered to be canon while the specific events of these Trials are not.
From an in-universe perspective, it actually makes a lot of sense for him to be the one to rescue Grogu. With the Clone Wars raging the Jedi were spread thin throughout the galaxy, and by the time of the Purge Jedi High Council Members Mace Windu, Kit Fisto, Saesee Tiin, and Agen Kolar had already been killed by Darth Sidious. With their forces thin and those remaining in the Temple preoccupied with the attack led by Anakin Skywalker, it’s likely that the younglings would be overlooked and told simply to hide. But for Kelleran Beq, whose role was to oversee the Trials for those younglings, of course he would be trying to save the kids. That’s a very natural development story-wise.
Beq is considered to be remarkably skilled with a lightsaber, such that he earned the nickname of the “sabered hand” from others. This episode shows those skills in action, as he wields two lightsabers at the same time in fighting off the clones.
Why is Kelleran’s appearance so significant?
But the significance of Kelleran Beq doesn’t mainly lie in the fact that he was the ‘host’ of the Jedi Temple Challenge show, but that he is played by Ahmed Best.
Best provided the motion-capture performance and voice for Jar-Jar Binks in the prequel trilogy, having a prominent role in The Phantom Menace and also appearing in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. He later would voice the character in some episodes of the animated series The Clone Wars as well. His work on the prequel trilogy was highly influential in the movie industry in the area of motion-capture and CGI. With Best as Binks in The Phantom Menace, released in 1999, and Andy Serkis as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, with The Two Towers releasing in 2002, the way movies were made were changing. Best’s role in that often is overlooked in favor of Serkis (whose work is equally excellent), but the character was more important than many realized. That’s true from a production standpoint, obviously, but it’s also true from a story standpoint as well, as Jar-Jar is a far better and more important character than he gets credit for.
Yet there is, unfortunately, a segment of the Star Wars fandom that thinks the way to love the franchise is by hating it and making sure people know they hate it, and when that prequels released they unleashed that hatred on Best. The amount of criticism, hate, and negative feedback that Best got was incredibly hard for him to handle. In 2018 he shared that he had considered suicide in the past as he struggled to handle the criticism.
In recent years, though, Star Wars fans have given another reminder that light is stronger than the dark, giving Best an incredibly warm welcome at Star Wars Celebration and showing him increasing love and support. Part of that is simply the fact that the fans who grew up with the prequels are now old enough to be the ones contributing to the discourse. And part of that is the fanbase realizing the need to love and support the actors who put so much work into making these stories that we love. Best then returned to the franchise in the role of Kelleran Beq in 2020, and now he’s in a pretty pivotal Star Wars story once more.
It’s a heartwarming story, and his appearance in The Mandalorian is so great to see.