Somewhere along the line, Star Wars became about Jedi. The first three movies established this whole galaxy where these super powered monks don’t exist anymore and everything is broken down and interesting. Oh sure, in the first Star Wars we meet an ex-Jedi (Ben clearly says, “I was once a Jedi Knight”), but technically the movie is Jedi-free and became, at the time, the most successful movie of all time and got an Oscar nomination for Best Picture*. In the first Star Wars, sure, Luke is whiny, but he’s still compelling. In the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back**, Luke is at a crossroads and is at his most interesting. And in Return of the Jedi, Luke is mostly stoic and at his least interesting. It’s here that it was decided, going forward, let’s just focus on characters who are stoic.
*I’ve made an argument before that a debate can be made in the first Star Wars if the Force even exists or not. Compared to all the other movies, it’s, at the very least, very subtle. It’s here that the Force was actually a pretty interesting concept. It truly was a religion that could have detractors who made good points. Once stuff starts flying across the room in the next movie, it’s a little more difficult to call it baloney.
**Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back isn’t boring. But at this point he’s also an ex-Jedi and spends the first five minutes we meet him putting on an all-out comedy routine.
My point is, for the life of me I don’t understand why Star Wars spends so much time on superpowered characters who have very little emotion when this is a galaxy filled with interesting characters. In the first Star Wars, Ben Kenobi is interesting because he spends his time with people who aren’t Jedi. In Star Trek, Spock is a compelling character because of his interactions with Kirk and McCoy. An entire series of Spock just hanging out with Vulcans would get old pretty quickly. Yet, that’s the direction Star Wars steered into. In fact, it’s gotten to be so much of that, that when we watched the Original Trilogy with someone a few months ago who hadn’t seen it, she was shocked at how little of all that there was. She expected the whole thing to be about boring (my word, not hers) Jedi Knights and their lore. Instead, the first Star Wars is about some knuckleheads just trying to do their best and mostly failing until they finally don’t.
That’s what’s been so enjoyable about The Mandalorian and Andor. Yeah, sure, The Mandalorian has a main character with Force powers, but Grogu isn’t a Jedi. Oh, to be clear, he took one look at the Jedi lifestyle and said, “thanks, but no thanks,” and peaced out pretty quickly. (Or, maybe two years later. That’s up for debate, but don’t try to figure it out, it’s a fool’s errand.) If Grogu had met the Luke from Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back, yeah maybe that works out. But the boring drip from Return of the Jedi? No thanks.
No episode exemplifies this quite as well as this week’s episode of The Mandalorian does, even though we don’t get all that much of Mando himself this time. (As an aside, how often now do we thing Pedro Pascal is really in the suit? I know the official line is, “sometimes,” but I’m going to guess this season, “hardly ever.”) You know who an interesting character is? Doctor Pershing. And we spend a lot of time with Doctor Pershing, just going about his life on Coruscant – our first look at what life is there post-fall of the Empire – trying to acclimate himself to life under the New Republic. And guess what, it still kind of sucks. The wealthy dignitaries don’t seem to notice much of a difference and try not to “get involved,” while unnecessary bureaucracy still rules the day.
See, this is fascinating. After Return of the Jedi, it’s easy to think, well, with the Empire gone, everyone will live their life now in peace. But as we see now, for most people, it’s “the same shit,” just with a nicer tone. Dr. Pershing is truly trying to be a good person, and for his troubles he basically gets lobotomized. Look, on its own, this is just a great hour of Star Wars. And, yes, I realize this is probably some first step into trying to redeem The Rise of Skywalker, which is a little annoying. I swear, if I hear one more time about how if I only, “read three full-length novels and make my way through the Viewmaster reels (deeper cut just for you), you know, The Rise of Skywalker makes perfect sense,” I will break my The Rise of Skywalker Blu-ray I don’t even own in half. I will buy one and destroy it just so there is hopefully one less person on thos planet who had to suffer through that like I did. Anyway.
Having said all that, if the path to redeeming The Rise of Skywalker (it will never happen) gives us more episodes of Star Wars like this, I’ll still take that over more adventures of Jedi. As it’s been from the beginning, just normal everyday non-Jedi powered people, trying to make thier way through this crazy, broken galaxy, is what makes Star Wars interesting in the first place.
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