As one of, if not often the, primary protagonists of Star Wars, the saga at large has often existed in various forms to ask one single question, with a thousand answers: who is Luke Skywalker? Farm boy, pilot, Jedi, teacher, learner, master, legend, Luke has been so many things across his life, in so many stories, that it’s rare to see a role unsuited to him. His latest tale might have found one though.
Watching myself re-encounter Luke Skywalker this week as we see him training with Grogu in The Book of Boba Fett’s sixth chapter, “From the Desert Comes a Stranger,” was, much like his first “return” from the grave in The Mandalorian’s season two finale, a heady mix of conflicting emotions. Straying away from its titular protagonist again, The Book of Boba Fett focused in on a Luke we did not get to fully see on screen, this evolutionary step between the bright young Jedi Knight we left in Return of the Jedi, and the haunted Master that Rey and we meet in The Last Jedi. We find a young man in some ways cast in the shadow of his own teachers, as he himself becomes one to Grogu, and with it a pride of the legacy Luke carries as the future of what it means to be Jedi. This is not the swordbearing hero we saw in flashes of The Mandalorian, but, with echoes of Ben Kenobi and Yoda alike, a man trying to pass on the lessons he learned to a new generation. Almost identically even, running through wooded forests, leaping from rock to rock, providing the wonder of nature to allow his student to just see and breathe the living world around them.
All this feels natural and right. In a world where Luke does not have the structure of the Jedi Order to fall back on — even though, as we learn, he has made an acquaintance in Ahsoka Tano, someone who could very easily tell him the warts and all detailing of the Order as it was — how else would he teach if not as he was taught himself? In Star Wars’ ever-present story of cycles and generational understanding, is it not wise to reason that Luke will pass on everything he learned in such a similar manner? If The Last Jedi is to give us a Luke who is an altogether different teacher, one traumatized by the lessons he re-endured losing Ben Solo, then it is perhaps befitting that The Book of Boba Fett gives us a hopeful foil before that fall, a Luke who is coming to grips with being the guardian of the Jedi’s future.
And yet something didn’t sit right. By the end of “From the Desert Comes a Stranger,” when the stage is set for Book of Boba Fett’s finale, Luke’s teachings with Grogu millions of light years away from the sands of Tatooine come to a shuddering halt, as Luke turns to his young ward and offers a choice: take the lightsaber of Yoda himself, and become the great Jedi Luke can teach him to be, or take the gift of a beskar chainmail shirt, and with it the symbolic acceptance of Grogu’s connection to Din Djarin. The Luke that offers this ultimatum is not loving as he was teaching Grogu earlier, but in the moment cold. the reflection of a Jedi dogma that Luke has never abided to before.
It’s the reflection of a man who very suddenly does not feel like Luke Skywalker. To hear Luke, of all people, preach of the ills of attachment — of acknowledging the love people can have for each other — sent a chill down my spine. After all, this is Luke Skywalker. A Jedi, yes, but not anything like the dogmatic warrior monks we saw fall with the Old Republic. A man who defined himself, in his brightest moments, by his connection to his friends and loved ones. In Empire Strikes Back, when Yoda and Obi-Wan — representatives of that old Order and old way of doing things — warned Luke not to face Darth Vader at Cloud City, he went anyway, because the people he loved and cared for were in danger. In his greatest moment as a Jedi Knight in Return of the Jedi, Luke casts his weapon aside and refuses to strike his father down, because of not just his love for the man beneath Vader’s mask, but because he has spent all of Return of the Jedi believing, hoping, that if he holds on to his father and tells him that he is not alone, the good in him will shine through.
Time and time again in Star Wars, we are told that what makes Luke such a luminous force, the hero that he is, is his capacity to form these bonds of love and care with the people around him. From his fellow pilots in Rogue Squadron, to his sister and his best friend, to a father feared and loathed by the galaxy, Luke was the foil to Anakin’s own attachments providing the path to his undoing, the Skywalker whose love burned with the power of the Light in the Force. The Jedi who, decades later, confronted that attachment and the fear of it to great disaster, leading to the loss of Ben Solo to the Dark Side and the destruction of his Jedi Academy. The Jedi who, when we return to him in The Last Jedi, is a man who cares for others so incredibly much that the greatest punishment he could fashion for himself was spiritual and physical exile, cut off from the Force and the bonds he had forged. One who then re-learned to open himself back up to those connections for one final, beautiful sacrifice, sealing the legend of Luke Skywalker once and for all as a man who fought to the very end and beyond for the things he tied himself to.
To then see that man this week — in the middle of that evolution we’ve already seen play out — try to teach Grogu the failure of attachment, that to accept it is to not be Jedi, can never feel right to me. There may be a lesson again in Star Wars’ cyclical nature here, that just as Luke repeats the lessons that taught him to be a great Jedi, he repeats the same mistakes Ben and Yoda made in teaching him. Star Wars is in many ways the story of how hope and tragedy beget each other repeatedly along those cycles, the ever-present concern that each generation, no matter how it struggles, is in some ways doomed to fall back on the misjudgments of their elders. But Luke Skywalker is the product of those mistakes across generations, in ways literal and ideological. He is the child of the chosen one, born from a love hidden from the Jedi’s dogma. He is the Jedi that proved himself to be in his father’s footsteps with an act of unparalleled faith in the power of attachment. That is a lesson he never un-learns, even at his darkest moments.
The Book of Boba Fett may have wanted to create the feeling of a difficult choice for its small green foundling by having Luke place Grogu at this moral crossroad, and with it a window into the future struggles the Luke of its timeframe has yet to face. But in framing that choice as a rejection or acceptance of the very thing that defines Luke’s strengths, it only offered a shade of what Luke Skywalker has always been to Star Wars.
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