From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.
“THE MANDALORIAN” SEASON 2 FINALE
A familiar starfighter streaks across the docks in the Imperial Cruiser.
The grizzled Rebel trooper Cara Dune sneers, “One X-Wing? Great. We’re saved.”
But the viewer knows better. This is “Star Wars,” or more precisely “The Mandalorian,” the latest and best thing to happen to “Star Wars” in a very long time. “Star Wars” began 43 years ago as a story about one guy, his spaceship and a leap of faith against a moon-sized Goliath.
A lot more “Star Wars” stories have been told since then. Some good. One great. Most terrible. A few unforgivably horrible. Of course, that depends on a certain point of view.
Mine is that “Star Wars” should be and needs to be simple. Good guys and bad guys. Wizards with laser swords and a religion that allows for forgiveness and redemption of even its most fallen knights.
Modern “Star Wars” isn’t much for that. The sequel trilogy to the original films delighted in turning heroes into losers.
Han Solo and Leia had a kid. The kid broke bad. So, naturally, Leia went back to her military career and Han went into exotic animal trading.
And then there’s Luke Skywalker, the hero of the original trilogy who grows from callow farm boy to galactic redeemer. What of him? Well, Luke felt bad about Han and Leia’s son going Dollar Store Darth Vader under his care, so he split and set up on a mountain to drink green milk from the teat of a space camel.
So, now, comes the season finale of “The Mandalorian.” The series takes place between the events of “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens.” This was an imaginary space once thought to be rife with potential. Sci-fi author Timothy Zahn wrote three terrific books in the 1990s that people thought might well have served as sequels to the original trilogy.
But that was before “The Last Jedi,” when Luke tossed his old lightsaber over his shoulder and turned his back on the Jedi-wannabe woman whose quest is to save the galaxy — the kind of thing Luke cared about — for life as a mope.
Dare we dream that the lone X-Wing carries the Luke of yore, the hero who redeemed his fallen father, who saved the galaxy?
The stakes are dire as that X-Wing lands.
The Mandalorian, once a gruff, no-nonsense bounty hunter, is trying to place Grogu, the Force-sensitive child who looks like Yoda, with the Jedi. He makes friends with a collection of sketchy people who fight hard and end up doing good, sometimes in spite of their own intentions. Even Boba Fett shows up to do a solid by Grogu and the Mandalorian.
They’re tough fighters, all of them. But they’re outmatched by some kind of super-robot stormtroopers. The Mandalorian took one out. It nearly killed him. Now there’s a squadron and they’re all coming for our heroes.
A cloaked figure streaks down the hallways of the Imperial ship. Grogu’s ears stiffen. His eyes widen. He reaches for a black-and-white monitor that shows the cloaked figure slicing through the droid troopers with ease.
Then we see the cloaked figure. Not in full form, at least not at first. His boots and the green glow of his lightsaber. The shine of his silver belt buckle. And the moves, the violent, deadly ballet of the Jedi. The 8-year-old in me screams, “It’s him! It’s him! It’s Luke Skywalker and he’s going to save the day!”
And he does. He trashes the robot troopers like squeezing aluminum beer cans.
This is the Luke Skywalker fans from a certain point of view always wanted to see: Strong, confident, fast and skilled. We got a taste of it during the battle on Jabba the Hutt’s skiff. We saw some of it in the duel with his father, Darth Vader, on the Death Star II.
But this was the Luke we dreamed about when we played with action figures on the shag carpets of our childhood homes. He was the hero.
The scene lasts only a few minutes, but it does for Luke Skywalker what the 2 minutes of “Rogue One” did for Darth Vader: It reminds us of how strong these characters were, how certain of purpose, how cool.
The cast of “Mandalorian” have proven themselves to be well-hardened warriors. But this Skywalker — this Jedi — is something different, something greater altogether. And we see it in the way these hard-core fighters react. They’re good. But nobody is that good. A Jedi, the Jedi, is the best.
Is the CGI recreation of Mark Hamill perfect? Of course not.
But this is all pretend. The Grogu puppet still looks like a puppet whenever somebody is handing him to someone else.
Those of us from a certain point of view got almost exactly what we wanted. Luke takes young Grogu after an emotional goodbye with the Mandalorian. Roll credits.
Wipe away the tears.
Close your eyes.
Enjoy the moment.
But don’t think.
Thinking leads to remembering that the dark pit of a thing, “The Last Jedi,” still exists. That the Luke Skywalker we just saw trash the Empire’s biggest baddies is on his way to one day pondering the murder of his own nephew, getting all his little Padawans killed and living off green milk on a rock planet.
That still happens. That’s canon.
The creators of “The Mandalorian” gave us a respite from that with this glimpse of Luke we thought would be lost forever. It doesn’t remove the stain on those characters put there by the hack writing of talented people who choked when they got their chance at “Star Wars.”
But it helps.
Enjoy the Luke Skywalker cameo. Love it. Rewatch it often.
Just don’t think about how it fits into the “Star Wars” story as a whole.
Because then it will really piss you off.
From a certain point of view.
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