So, yeah, after a seven month hiatus I am already back a week later with a new blog post. Because I can not NOT talk about the latest episode of The Book of Boba Fett entitled From the Desert Comes a Stranger.
SPOILER WARNING: if you have not seen the episode yet, please be aware that this will be a spoilerific post.
I have been thoroughly enjoying the latest Star Wars live action series, The Book of Boba Fett, from the first episode. There has been some whining from some parts of the fandom that it is too focused on back story and some are not too thrilled with this incarnation of Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison). I guess they wanted him to be a bad-ass bounty hunter turned despot ruler of Jabba the Hutt’s territory. Instead, he is looking to build a team of loyal followers that stay with him out of respect instead of fear. They also don’t seem to like how the series has humanized the Tusken Raiders. (Is that the correct word since they’re not human? Well, you know what I mean.)
What I like most about this series is how, even more than The Mandalorian, it is totally surrendering to the Western genre roots of Star Wars. Tatooine is a stand-in for the American frontier and is as wild as it is in our myths of the period. You all know how much I love Westerns. This is in perfect keeping with Tatooine from A New Hope, which was strongly influenced by the film The Searchers. In this most recent episode, From the Desert Comes a Stranger, we even got a totally rad High Noon/spaghetti Western type of confrontation!
But something funny happens on the way to the gunfight, as Episode 5 was devoted almost entirely to Din Djarin, also known as Mando, the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and what happened to him after the final episode of that series’ second season.
(This also caused some complaining, because why do that in the middle of a series about another character, but you know it wouldn’t be Star Wars discourse if people weren’t complaining.)
Theories abound that this was done due to pandemic delays. I don’t care why they did it. I’m just loving it.
Of course, this is connected to the Boba Fett storyline. Boba Fett and his ally Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) are looking for muscle to push back against the Pykes, who (supposedly) murdered the Tusken Raiders and want to take over Tatooine for spice running. The Pykes are a formidable force, one of the most powerful crime syndicates in the galaxy.
Mando, grateful for the help Boba and Fennec gave him when rescuing his foster child Grogu from Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) immediately agrees. He tries to persuade Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant) the marshall of Mos Pelgo (redubbed “Freetown” by its inhabitants) to join in the fight against the Pykes. He and others in the town refuse.
In Episode 6, Mando takes a little side trip to see how Grogu is faring with his Jedi Master, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
When he arrives, he encounters Asohka Tano (Rosario Dawson), Anakin Skywalker’s former padawan who told Mando during Season 2 of The Mandalorian Grogu’s real name. She persuades Mando to leave without seeing Grogu because his attachment would be a problem for his development as a Jedi. Mando reluctantly agrees, but leaves a gift for Grogu—Mandalorian Beskar armor, which he declares is his right as a Mandalorian foundling.
We see Luke training Grogu in the ways of the Jedi. Again, complaints abound about the CGI effects that make Mark Hamill look like a young man. Lots of calls to recast the part, though you just know they would bitch if they did that, too.
I’m going with it. I just don’t care about the aesthetics; I care about the story.
We see Luke train Grogu in ways that hark back to Luke’s training in The Empire Strikes Back. We see the building of the Jedi Temple that is eventually destroyed. Most importantly, we see the seeds of Luke’s eventual failure to restore the Jedi order and the rise of Kylo Ren, as he almost ruthlessly tries to get Grogu to let go of his attachment to Mando.
Again, complaining, because how could Luke make the same mistakes as those before him?
First of all, we have to remember how little actual training Luke ever received as a Jedi. He is of course going to lean heavily on what Yoda and Obi-Wan taught him, even though he rebelled against them more than once, as when he went to Cloud City to help Han and Leia against Yoda’s entreaties. I know for a generation of young people, especially young men, Luke Skywalker was some kind of ideal, which is why so many had a negative reaction to the older Luke in The Last Jedi. But I much prefer a human Luke, who makes grievous human mistakes, even with the best of intentions.
I’ve talked before about what a terrible belief system the Jedi follow, which forces humans (humanoids) to forgo everything that makes them human. If one considers how the Jedi dogma had a lot to do with the downfall of Anakin Skywalker and the rise of the Empire, and that these mistakes were made repeatedly over several generations, this starts to make a whole lot of a sense.
The fact that the Jedi had to take very young children into training shows that this is indoctrination. I remember the first time I watched The Phantom Menace and how appalled I was when Shmi tells her son Anakin that “everyone has to choose their own path.” TO AN EIGHT YEAR OLD CHILD.
This is also a clue as to why Luke had so much trouble letting go of attachments, as he was already a teenager, which arguably is the only way he could have redeemed his father. At this point in his life, he is one of the only caretakers of the Jedi legacy left and has to see his role as preserving the dogma as much as possible.
Grogu is just a baby, and not only a baby, but one who has lived through a horrendous trauma (we got a disturbing flashback of him witnessing clones executing Order 66, the poor darling). Of course, he and Mando are going to have a strong connection, as Mando suffered a similar trauma as a child when Mandalore was destroyed during the Clone Wars.
The final scene of the episode shows Luke giving Grogu a choice between continuing his training as a Jedi or returning to Mando and becoming a Mandalorian. Again, this seems to me very manipulative, even cruel, to ask a child to make this kind of life-altering decision. And again, Luke is doing it with the best intentions, perhaps believing he is doing Grogu a favor allowing him a choice Yoda didn’t want him to make, between his attachments over becoming a Jedi.
What will Grogu choose? I think most expect him to choose becoming a Mandalorian and returning to his father. Certainly, simply from a Disney/Lucasfilm standpoint, that makes the most economic sense, since Grogu and his relationship with Mando are so popular with viewers. But from a storytelling perspective, it’s also the right choice, because it will be Luke’s first failure in his attempts to restore the Jedi order. There’s also a lot of story mileage possible with a Force-sensitive creature who is also a Mandalorian. (He would not be the first, as Tarre Vizsla, the creator of the Darksaber, was both a Jedi and a Mandalorian.)
I’m writing this a few days before the Boba Fett finale, so there could be other twists coming. We shall see. But what I loved most about this episode is that it has confirmed for me something I realized since my first viewing of The Rise of Skywalker: the most profound character arc of the three movie trilogies together is not Anakin’s, Luke’s, Leia’s, Ben’s or Rey’s: it’s the Jedi order. Luke’s errors here are an important step on the road to the redemption of the Jedi.
Looking past the three trilogies, I wonder if Grogu, who by the end of The Rise of Skywalker would still be fairly young by his species’ standards, might join with Rey, Finn, and perhaps the “broom boy” from the ending of The Last Jedi to reconfigure the order in a new and vital way.