Warning: Spoilers for season 2 of The Mandalorian follow
If you haven’t watched Season 2 of The Mandalorian, especially the final episode, be forewarned that what follows will be a big spoiler. Okay, let’s continue. If you’re a Star Wars fan who’s been watching the show (and really surely you have), then you know by now that at the end of the season finale we saw Luke Skywalker return. This isn’t the sad, old disillusioned Luke of The Last Jedi, but the Luke just a few years after defeating Darth Vader on the Death Star II, helping his father return to the Light Side and seeing Emperor Palpatine removed from power (for now, but he doesn’t know that at this point).
This is Luke Skywalker at his prime; at the peak of his Jedi powers. This is a moment many of us have wanted for a long time. When I watched the sequence, I was hopeful. At first, I didn’t dare hope to see Luke. But then there was the lone X-Wing. The Jedi wielding a single lightsaber. The green lightsaber as it mowed through the Dark Troopers which just a few minutes before had been an implacable phalanx and now just fodder for the junk heap. The one hand gloved in leather. And then finally the reveal of his voice and face. And then R2D2 to cap it all off. I was giddy. I was near tears with joy.
Evidently I was not alone. I’ve seen a bunch of reaction videos online of men my age watching the same sequence and their shrieks and guffaws and whoops and tears. It seems all of the videos were taken by children excited and amused by their dads’ childlike reactions.
So why did we react so? Because it was a promise fulfilled. Before 2015, the last any of us middle-aged men had seen of Luke was at Anakin’s Viking funeral on the moon of Endor. Implicit in that moment was a bright future for Luke with the return of the Jedi to become guardians of peace in the galaxy under his leadership. Thirty years later, in The Last Jedi, we find we have skipped all of that, and now Luke sees himself as a failure and the Jedi are definitively ended. I’m one of the fans who liked Last Jedi, despite its flaws, but I can honestly say that it was a disappointment. In retrospect, after seeing The Mandalorian appearance of Luke, that disappointment is clearer.
Like many Star Wars fans in their 40s and 50s, we were pretty young when we met Luke Skywalker and he became for us and icon and a hero to emulate and follow. He wanted to be a hero, to fight evil, save the day, get the girl, wield amazing powers, to become greater than the ordinary life he led. He was Harry Potter long before Harry ever waved a wand.
The prequels were a bit of a disappointment. The animated series’ redeemed them a bit. The sequels whet our appetites again. But The Mandalorian brought back the magic. Its first season, even though it was new characters and situations, felt like real Star Wars. The second season built upon that, bringing back more and more of what we loved: Tatooine and Krayt dragons; the real Mandalorians from Clone Wars like Bo Katan; Ahsoka Tano (and an offscreen Grand Admiral Thrawn); Boba Fett in all his power and awesomeness fighting for the good guys this time; and finally Luke Skywalker.
The guys behind this new show (and several others on the drawing board) are Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau, who are Gen-X Star Wars fans too. It’s easy to tell that they not only love Star Wars, they get it. (In ways that JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson did not even though they are also Star Wars fans of the same generation). Filoni and Favreau understand what has been missing until now and what makes this mythos so powerful. They also remember being boys awed and impressed by the adventures of Luke and Han and Leia and Chewie. And they have delivered on their promise to give us Star Wars.
I haven’t been this excited to be a Star Wars fan in a long time, especially since my five kids are just as crazy about Star Wars as I am (maybe even more so) and I can re-live the excitement through them. (Not to mention how Melanie is getting into all this new Star Wars stuff too.) Is it any wonder all these Gen-X guys are sitting in front of their TVs weeping with joy? We have been transported to a place a long, long time ago that we never thought we’d see again.
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