HEAT VISION

'Mandalorian': Why That Season Finale Cameo Was So Important for 'Star Wars' Fans

The Mandalorian and Grogu
Disney+/2020 Lucasfilm Ltd.
A familiar face returns for the season finale.

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for chapter 16 of The Mandalorian.]

Vindication. That is likely what was felt by so many fans (and likely one actor) watching the season two finale of The Mandalorian.

Finally, at long last, the version of Luke Skywalker so many were expecting and clamoring for when it was announced Mark Hamill was returning to the franchise — first in 2015's The Force Awakens — was delivered. How elating.

One of the biggest sticking points (yes, there were a slew of them) for so many fans when it came to the final three films in the "Skywalker Saga" was how Luke was handled, specifically by writer-director Rian Johnson in The Last Jedi. In fact, one of the most vocal opponents was none other than Hamill himself, who expressed his displeasure to Johnson about Luke's hard right turn from when audiences last saw him on the big screen in Return of the Jedi.

"I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you’ve made for this character," Hamill told Johnson during the production of Last Jedi, the actor previously recounted. Hamill later apologized for airing dirty laundry, but it was clear from the fans' reaction he had nothing to be sorry for, as they were in his corner 100 percent. Johnson said at the time, "The goal is never to divide or make people upset, but I do think the conversations that are happening were going to have to happen at some point if [Star Wars] is going to grow, move forward and stay vital."

So, it appeared that was that. Hamill would have a small cameo as a Force Ghost in last year's Rise of the Skywalker, which was quaint, but still not what the character, nor, frankly, fans deserved as a sendoff. Fast forward nearly a year to the day from when Rise had its Hollywood premiere (Dec. 16, 2019). Series creator Jon Favreau and episode director Peyton Reed deliver chapter 16 of The Mandalorian. Luke Skywalker returns — he truly returns.

Hamill, naturally, returns as a de-aged Luke (the events of the Disney+ series occur shortly after Return of the Jedi) and kicks butt on a level never quite seen before in a live-action film. The moment is undeniably reminiscent of Darth Vader slashing through Rebel soldiers during the finale of 2016's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Of course, Luke, a Jedi Knight, was taking apart robots, not people.

But even more important than the action (which was exceptional) was the character's nature. Luke was Luke once more. He arrived just in time to save the day. And from there, he was setting out to train a new student in the ways of the Force. It was a confident and patient Luke, not a bitter, cynical one.

And yes, of course, there were many fans who saw the storyline from the final three films as an accurate depiction of the character's disillusionment with his path in life. But for those who were disappointed (or downright angry) about that disillusionment (including Hamill), the rush of seeing the character return in such a fashion in The Mandalorian struck like a proton torpedo. Hamill punctuated the day when he tweeted: "Seen anything good on TV lately?"

On Saturday, Hamill added, "The fact that we were able to keep my involvement a secret for over a year with no leaks is nothing less than a miracle. A real triumph for spoiler-haters everywhere! #LooseLipsSinkStarships #STFU."

Dec. 19, 1 p.m.: Updated with a tweet from Hamill.

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