Star Wars: Episode VI is called Return of the Jedi. But The Mandalorian season 2 trailer reminds us that the Jedi still haven’t returned.
“For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.” These iconic words spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope sparked an entire mythology upon which Star Wars storytelling has been based for the last forty years.
The original trilogy was based on the idea that the galaxy, under the tyranny of the Empire, needed this ancient order of peacekeepers who had a strong connection to the Force to return to bring peace to the galaxy once again. This was the story of Luke Skywalker becoming the first of a new generation of Jedi.
The prequel trilogy revealed how the order fell as a result of Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the Dark Side but ended with a promise of the Jedi’s return in the future. You could say that the return of the Jedi is at the center of the Star Wars narrative. Lucas even named the final film in the original trilogy Return of the Jedi.
And yet, we still haven’t seen a return of the Jedi.
The sequel trilogy took the Jedi story backward
Curiously, the sequel trilogy didn’t pick up the plot threads of the original trilogy and show us a revived Jedi Order or even the rebuilding of the Jedi Order. Instead, taking place three decades after Return of the Jedi, the sequel trilogy revealed that the Jedi, under Luke’s leadership, initially suffered a failure to launch and were quickly exterminated again.
As viewers, we tend to idolize the Jedi. They’re the good guys, and we want to see them return. But when you dive deep into the world the Jedi inhabited, we discover a much different picture. The opinions on the Jedi are a mix of disbelief that they ever even existed and distrust that they would be good for the galaxy.
Not everyone longs for the return of the Jedi
The trailer for the upcoming second season of The Mandalorian highlights this point. In the trailer, we hear the voice of the Armorer say, “The songs of eons past tell of battles between Mandalore the Great and an order of sorcerers called Jedi.” It is suggested that The Child, or Baby Yoda, belongs to this “race of enemy sorcerers.”
Set just five years after Return of the Jedi, The Mandalorian reveals that public opinion on the Jedi is less than favorable. We don’t know much yet about Luke’s efforts to rebuild the Jedi Order, but it seems clear that the hope for their return isn’t shared by everyone in the galaxy.
The Mandalorian believes them to be a fabled race of enemy sorcerers, which was the public narrative created by Palpatine in the prequel trilogy when he framed the Jedi as traitors against the Republic. By the time of the sequel trilogy, that narrative hasn’t changed. In The Force Awakens, when confronted with the story of Luke Skywalker’s exile as told by Han Solo, Rey responds by saying, “The Jedi were real?”
The Jedi have a reputation of betrayal
Those that knew about the new Jedi led by Luke Skywalker had reason to believe the return of the Jedi would be a danger to the galaxy because of Ben Solo’s fall to the Dark Side and rise to the rank of Supreme Leader of the First Order. This would have been compounded on top of the shocking public revelation that Darth Vader had actually been the Clone Wars Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, as told in Claudia Gray’s Leia-centric Star Wars novel Bloodline. All available evidence points to the Jedi turning against the galaxy and plunging it into darkness and oppression.
No return means the Skywalker Saga isn’t over
But as outside observers, we know that isn’t true. The Jedi were once known for the great good they provided to the galaxy. And as Lor San Tekka said in The Force Awakens, “Without the Jedi, there can be no balance in the Force.” The original trilogy ended with a promise of the return of the Jedi, but the sequel trilogy revealed the promise as unfulfilled. But the sequel trilogy once again ends with a promise of the return of the Jedi with Rey Skywalker picking up the mantle left behind by Luke.
This means that although Disney proclaimed The Rise of Skywalker as the end of the Skywalker Saga, from a storytelling perspective, the Skywalker Saga can’t be over. The entire saga is directionally moving toward the return of the Jedi, and because we haven’t seen this return yet, there’s actually a lot more story left to tell in the saga.
Public opinion about the Jedi as “enemy sorcerers” sets up the perfect conflict for a new story about Rey rebuilding the Jedi order in a galaxy that doesn’t want the Jedi back.
For more updates on The Mandalorian, keep up with Dork Side of the Force.