Don’t think too hard about that Luke Skywalker cameo in ‘The Mandalorian’ finale

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.

Daniel P. Finney lost the green lightsaber for his “Return of the Jedi” Luke Skywalker action figure and had to replace it with a translucent green cocktail sword. It still killed stormtroopers, but they weren’t confirmed kills because it was not an official Lucasfilm-licensed lightsaber.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Why watching Stormtroopers die is wonderful

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONLY: An under-appreciated joy of watching “The Mandalorian” is watching the wholesale slaughter of Stormtroopers. They are easily the worst army ever assembled in fiction. They are not good at anything, especially shooting people at point-blank range. They look good. If you lived in a universe where there were no “Star Wars” and a bunch of dudes showed up in white armor and helmets with laser guns, that would be terrifying. But thankfully we live in a world with “Star Wars.” The very first time we met these guys, all the way back in 1977, they were banging their heads against bulkheads and tripping over themselves chasing down four Rebels. In the ensuing 43 years, the Empire has failed to improve their training programs. Designers have given them cooler-looking armor over the years, which has boosted action figure diversity. This has not, in any way, improved the armor’s defensive capabilities. On a recent episode of “The Mandalorian,” Boba Fett smashed through Stormtrooper armor with a pointy metal shaft. It’s no wonder the Ewoks wiped them out on Endor with sticks and rocks. Disposable soldiers are a longtime trope in movies and television. In “Star Trek,” they’re called redshirts, because crew members of the original series whose names weren’t in the opening credits and wore a red shirt were likely to be shot, evaporated or turned into a salt block and crushed under the boot of a menacing evil alien scientist. Stormtroopers have perfected disposability to the point that their very appearance means most of them are going to die. Maybe one of them will get a Wilhelm scream, but mostly they just fall over and clatter to the ground like plastic cups knocked off a sheet of plywood at a raucous game of beer pong. The best part of watching Stormtroopers get slaughtered is that you don’t have to feel guilty about it. It’s bloodless revenge on the musclemen of a dictatorial authority and clear Nazi allegory. Plus, when the troopers are dead, you can recycle their armor to make great instruments for a “Stomp!” set. Stormtroopers! Long may they live … so that they will die for our pleasure.

Daniel P. Finney played Little League so no one would know what a nerd he was. The ploy failed.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

HOT SHEET: How I’m getting ready to start my career in local television news

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, Paragraph Stacker, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: I start my new job as an assignment editor for WOI-DT on Monday. The only thing I know about television is how to watch one. I decided to turn to the best possible source to prepare myself for joining broadcast media: movies. Here are five flicks I’m watching to get ready for my new TV job:

  1. “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”
  2. “Network”
  3. “Broadcast News”
  4. “The China Syndrome”
  5. “Good Night and Good Luck”

ITEM TWO: Today is new comics Wednesday. Let’s talk shop:

  1. Darth Vader: The Heart of the Sith Vol. 1— The story picks up in the hours after Vader cuts off Luke Skywalker’s hand and lets the young Jedi know who his daddy is. Vader vows revenge on the Rebellion and the people who made Luke such a wimp, but first he has some questions of his own he wants answered. First, how did Padme survive the force choke fallen Jedi Anakin Skywalker put on her, and who delivered baby Luke into this world? To find the answer, Vader traces Padme’s final days and crosses paths with Padme’s old pals from Naboo. Again, Marvel proves it knows how to handle “Star Wars” characters better than the people who make the movies. This is Vader as we all dreamed of seeing him: pissed off, cutting people in half with lightsabers and just too much of a force to be reckoned with — even for giant sea monsters. The first trade paperback of the latest Vader series is on sale now.
  • Star Wars: Bounty Hunters Vol. 1 — What Vader gives to “Star Wars” comics, Bounty Hunters takes away. That’s not quite fair. The story centers on a comics character resurrected from the original Marvel comics of the 1970s and 80s, which were often mediocre to terrible. There’s Boba Fett, the most overrated character in “Star Wars” lore, and Bossk, a reptilian bounty hunter who makes for a better action figure than character in a story. The story deals with a protection job gone wrong, some mafia clans and other jibber jabber that just doesn’t entice more reading. The art isn’t for me. I’m always hesitant to criticize art because even the worst comic book creators make things more beautiful than I could ever create. Still, this artwork feels like posed shots that belong in pin-up galleries or sold as paintings at conventions rather than pages of a comic. It lacks action and sense of motion. But I know Boba Fett and bounty hunters as a concept sell, so a lot of “Star Wars” fans might want to give this trade paperback a look.
  • Green Lantern Season Two Vol. 1 — Writer Grant Morrison and artist Liam Sharp team for some of the best Green Lantern stories in decades. Morrison is one of modern comics’ geniuses. His stories are trippy, fun and balance badassery with a hint of Silver Age fun. Sharp’s artwork is so tremendous one might be convinced this is why God invented pencils.
  • Batwoman/Catwoman No. 1 — Writer Tom King shaped the love story between Batman and Catwoman like no other creator before him. That story propelled through his entire 85-issue run on “Batman.” This issue begins a special year-long story about Batman and Catwoman set after the events of “City of Bane,” during which Catwoman nursed a broken Batman back to health in order to defeat Bane and an alternate version of his father, Thomas Wayne. I’m looking forward to this comic more than any other on the schedule. I usually wait for trade paperbacks for stories, but I’m buying this in single issues.

ITEM THREE: A recent study found that when people preface a statement with the phrase “with all due respect” the thing that followed was in no way respectful in 100% of cases.

ITEM FOUR: A joke from a Johnny Carson “Tonight Show” from the 1970s: “A new record is out that teaches people how to have better sex. It encourages couples to play the record in the act. There’s already been a tragedy. One couple put the record on at 78 instead of 33. Services are this week.”

ITEM FIVE: This is the best #2020 thing ever and of course it comes from a collaboration between Taylor Swift and Ryan Reynolds:

ITEM SIX: One of the few things I know about English soccer leagues is the concept of relegation. The poorest performing teams are sent down to a lower league and the better performing teams are brought up to play at the highest level. Such a thing would have been a mercy to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who posted 20 consecutive losing seasons from 1993 to 2012. It similarly would be a mercy to Chicago Bears fans to see the Bears sent down to the Big 12 or the Pac-12 for a couple of seasons. Let Ohio State or Alabama have a go at the pros. Their college programs are damn near that good anyway. Anything to ease the suffering of Bears fans who have to watch a team without an offense, a quarterback, a competent coach and general manager play pro football games against bonafide NFL winners such as the Green Bay Packers.

ITEM LAST: I was overwhelmed with the kind notes, messages and well-wishes after the announcement of my new job. I plan to continue to write for this blog. There will be no more politics talk and the profanity will be scaled back to PG-13 levels. As for what I’m going to be doing at WOI, well, I don’t know yet. I do know I won’t be on camera and that’s a blessing to everyone including me. I will be working with our team of reporters, anchors and producers. And I’ll be doing some reporting and writing for the WeAreIowa.com website. Frankly, it’s good to have something to look forward to each day besides more worry. Unemployment is a crushing mishmash of depression and anxiety. You’re depressed because your old shop sent you packing and even though they tell you it’s not personal, it sure as hell feels that way. It’s anxious because the money goes fast and when you start to wonder if you’re going to be living at the YMCA by this time next month, your guts churn. So at the risk of one more political comment, having been through what I’ve been through and knowing millions of Americans are still going through, I hope Congress and the new president figure out a stimulus bill as soon as possible to help everyone who wasn’t as lucky as I was to find a job in the middle of a pandemic.

Daniel P. Finney is getting down to this sick beat.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.