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Spoilers for The Mandalorian Season 2 finale.
Luke Skywalker is back, thanks to movie magic (and CGI). Just when Mando’s mission to save Baby Yoda (now known as Grogu) from an Imperial ship looked to be doomed, Skywalker arrived on his X-Wing and proceeded to take out scores of Dark Trooper droids. Luke’s arrival, of course, meant the departure of Grogu, as The Child went off to train with the most famous Jedi in the galaxy.
It’s unclear what that means for Grogu’s fate: Was he with Luke when Skywalker began training Kylo Ren? Was he killed by Kylo? Did he decide to abandon his Jedi training and explore the galaxy with his adoptive dad Mando instead? (We’re betting on some version of that last scenario considering how adorable Baby Yoda is and, thus, integral to the show, which is set to return next December.)
One thing that stood out about Luke’s cameo was how similar the scene was to the final moments of Rogue One, when Luke’s father, Darth Vader, slaughtered a bunch of Rebel soldiers in an effort to re-secure the stolen Death Star plans. Here are the callbacks in the episode.
A major character makes a surprise appearance at the end
Perhaps the most thrilling moment of Rogue One came in its final minutes when, after following characters we’d never met before for the entire film, we suddenly were flooded with cameos by some of the most iconic figures in the Star Wars universe. First comes Darth Vader in one of his most epic fight scenes in the series. He cuts through dozens of Rebellion soldiers trying to deliver the plans for the Death Star to Leia’s ship. And then of course there is Leia, who receives the plans and opines about hope.
The Mandalorian has had plenty of cameos to be sure, including Boba Fett from the original trilogy and Ahsoka Tano from Clone Wars, both of whom are getting their own live-action series. But none of the main characters from the saga have appeared—no Leia, no Han and, until this point, no Luke. Like Rogue One, The Mandalorian was building toward this climactic moment in which the side story connected with the main Skywalker saga.
They use the same de-aging technology on Luke and Leia
Im not saying they looked good. After the first viewing it was much more noticeable but Luke definitely did not look better than Leia and Tarkin in Rogue One pic.twitter.com/uEyMQhoWam
— Kylo Freakin’ Ren ➐ (@KyloFreakinRen) December 18, 2020
Despite Internet protestations that Sebastian Stan, a dead ringer for Mark Hamill, ought to play a young Luke, Lucasfilm decided to use the same de-aging technology on Hamill that they once used to generate a young Carrie Fisher at the end of Rogue One. Similar tech was used for that movie’s Grand Moff Tarkin character, originally played by the late Peter Cushing.
Luke’s hallway battle looks a lot like Rogue One’s Darth Vader scene
Darth Vader (Rogue One)/Luke Skywalker (The Mandalorian)#TheMandalorian pic.twitter.com/wXEtwUe9nj
— Luis Perez (@TyrantLuis) December 18, 2020
Luke’s infiltration of the Empire ship is a clear callback to that Darth Vader scene in Rogue One. Both begin with a group, guns pointed at a door, awaiting whatever force is going to enter and wreak havoc. In the case of Rogue One, it’s a group of Rebellion soldiers staring into the mist waiting for Darth Vader to emerge, illuminated by his red lightsaber. In The Mandalorian, it’s a group of Dark Troopers waiting for Luke to arrive on an elevator. The elevator’s beeping even parallels the rhythmic thrum of the ship alarms in Rogue One.
When Luke does emerge, he uses many of the same moves as his dad did, deflecting blaster shots with his lightsaber and tossing bodies around in the air. Somewhat disturbingly, he even borrows Darth Vader’s chocking trick. We can take some comfort in the fact that instead of squeezing his hands in the air to suffocate a human, he uses his power to crush a droid, though Solo’s L3 would argue that droids have rights too.
But the most obvious analog comes with the final shot of Luke’s fight scene, where he, like Vader, emerges from the mist, lit only by his saber. It’s the first time we see Mark Hamill’s (de-aged) face.
Themes of fatherhood persist
Just about every character in the Star Wars universe has serious daddy issues. Luke, who believed himself an orphan, discovers his father is the galaxy’s foremost villain, but is eventually able to turn him to the Light Side; Jyn Erso saves the galaxy by connecting with her father and realizing he was a good guy all along; Rey finds out her grandfather was an even more evil figure than Darth Vader, one who can’t be turned, but takes on Leia and Luke as surrogate parents instead.
Parents, meanwhile, stew in their parenting mistakes: Leia mourns the loss of her son, Kylo Ren, to the Dark Side after Ren kills his father, Han Solo. Obi-Wan, a father figure to Anakin, struggles with the choices that led Anakin to turn evil. The list goes on.
The Mandalorian (thankfully) puts a new spin on the well-trod saga of an orphan in search of a father figure. Mando, orphaned himself as a child, takes on the abandoned Grogu first as his protector, but later as his father. At the beginning of the series, characters called Grogu “The Child,” but by midway through season 2, they’re referring to the toddling alien as “Mando’s kid” and “his child,” acknowledging the connection the two of them have made.
Unlike past stories that largely told the sagas of parenthood from the point of view of the abandoned child (Luke, Jyn, Rey), The Mandalorian spun its tale primarily from the perspective of the adoptive father—one who, as far as we can tell, didn’t screw up that badly. (There aren’t any signals when Grogu leaves with Luke that he’s destined to turn to the Dark Side like Anakin or Kylo.)
That makes Grogu and Mando’s farewell all the more heart-wrenching. It’s an inversion of the Rogue One scene in which Leia’s ship takes off just as Darth Vader is about to board. It’s a relief when those blood relatives, a father and daughter standing on opposite sides of the battle of good and evil, separate. It’s devastating when Grogu and Mando, not blood related, not even the same species, but aligned in their love for one another, part ways.