And no, I’m not talking about the time he drank green milk he had just squeezed from an alien’s sizable teat, dribbling it down his salt-and-pepper beard. Or the time he showed a Sarlacc’s pit-worth more depth of grief for the death of the strange magic hermit he had only recently met in the desert than the death of his aunt and uncle, who were essentially his adoptive parents. Or the time he made out with his own twin sister, admittedly unbeknownst to him at the time. Or… Actually it may be easier for me just to get on with telling you which weird Luke Skywalker scene I am talking about, since it has suddenly dawned on me how many there actually are.
This would usually be the moment where I would cry out about spoilers for The Mandalorian season two, in particular its finale. However, if you have not yet heard about this scene — exhaustively — from either social or tradition media then either you have just awoken from a serious months-long comatose condition, immediately stumbled upon this obscure website in the corner of the internet, and somehow fallen upon the first and currently only pop culture article amongst the mass of science and political articles and decided to actually read it, or you have the most profound expertise in spoiler dodging I have ever even heard about, for which I sincerely applaud your maxed out agility skill tree. That being said, I highly doubt, and sincerely hope, the former circumstances have not transpired, and believe that the latter situation simply would not occur had you this level of mental acuity for spoilers that would likely border on precognition.
Now that you have been appropriately warned of incoming spoilers with the verbosity of a first year university student trying their darnedest to fill that word quota, can we finally talk about how weird that Luke Skywalker scene is at the end of The Mandalorian season two? Because it was weird, right?
If you aren’t sure what The Mandalorian is then firstly I would question why you would have even clicked on the link to this article and read this far down it without yawning yourself to death. That being said, I will entertain the notion that you are an inquisitive soul who just needed to read something that wasn’t about American politics for five whole minutes. Well, you’re in luck. The Mandalorian is a Star Wars live action TV series which airs exclusively on the Disney+ streaming service and, so far, is in its second season. Framed like a Western in space, we follow our quiet yet highly skilled bounty hunter protagonist as he stumbles upon something that makes him turn against his bounty hunter oath, which results in him being on the run from other bounty hunters. Along his journey he meets new friends, new enemies, and finds himself embroiled in events much larger than he ever could have imagined, all whilst we witness small glimpses of his rather tragic backstory. And no, I am not talking about Cowboy Bebop. Or Firefly.
By the end of season two, Din Djarin (the titular Mandalorian and protagonist played by Pedro Pascal) has taken Grogu (colloquially known as “Baby Yoda” and I’m fine with that, just for the record) to the planet Tython and sat him on the Seeing Stone in the ruins of an old Jedi temple, as described by Ahsoka Tano (played by Rosario Dawson) in a previous episode. Upon the Seeing Stone, Grogu had, assumedly, called out to an existing Jedi Master for help in his training.
I am just going to pause here to reflect upon the sheer avoirdupois of lore I have accidentally just infodumped in this one paragraph describing a tiny scene from one episode. Within this one short paragraph I have inadvertently referenced three separate Star Wars TV series and a plethora of old Extended Universe — now called “Legends” — lore spanning books, comics, and video games. It is now I finally understand when people say to me, “I just don’t have the time to like Star Wars”.
Since this scene aired there have been theories abound regarding which extant Jedi may be the one to come and train Grogu. From the fan favourite and currently missing Ezra Bridger from the Star Wars Rebels animated series, to a surprise survival of Mace Windu who may well struggle to lend a hand in training Grogu, considering Darth Sidious cut them both off in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. However, when the actual scene finally emitted its hotly anticipated photons into our desperately wanting retinas, the answer was one many had dared not even hope for, for fear of being bitterly disappointed.
Disappointed we were not.
From the moment we saw the lone X-Wing gently glide towards the Arquitens-class light command cruiser, which housed not just our heroes but also the foreboding pounding of the mechanical Dark Troopers on the blast door which was keeping our favourite Mandalorians and green baby safe, we knew that Jon Favreau has more guts than a dying Tauntaun on Hoth.
A hooded figure, dressed in black robes with face obscured, swept elegantly through the hallways of the Imperial cruiser, accompanied by a light yet somewhat ominous non-diegetic musical score. The Terminator-like Dark Troopers halt their assault on the last remaining blast door and turn to face their new foe. Bo-Katan (played by Katee Sackhoff), even under her helmet, looked like she had seen a ghost on the security camera monitor she stared intently into. Perhaps she had for a moment, from her dealings with some rather infamous Jedi in the Clone Wars.
We begin to see the hooded figure make short, effortless work of the Dark Troopers — one of which nearly killed our Beskar-armoured protagonist mere minutes earlier — with a lightsaber. A green lightsaber held in gloved hand, nonetheless.
My bumps were thoroughly goosed.
In a scene reminiscent of 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Darth Vader corridor massacre, the apparent Jedi cuts, slices, slashes, and gratuitously crushes all of the deadly droid dominators in his path, leaving nothing behind but the smouldering wreckages of Moff Gideon’s hopes and dreams.
And that’s when we see it.
At the sight of this mysterious — yet completely beknownst to literally everyone watching — character’s chin, I exclaimed out loud to no one, “That’s definitely Sebastian Stan”. I thought in that moment that Jon Favreau had called upon his extensive guttage and recast the galactic legend Luke Skywalker for a new age of Star Wars storytelling. Sebastian Stan is the fan favourite to replace Mark Hamill as the farm-boy-turned-Jedi-Master if need be for more Luke Skywalker in this time period. I was immediately proven wrong.
As the gallant Jedi removed his hood audiences were greeted with a face we had not seen anew in almost four decades. The Luke Skywalker, in all his Return of the Jedi grandeur. Flawlessly, and meticulously, recreated using cutting-edge de-aging technology, and grafted onto actor Max Lloyd-Jones who looks remarkably like Mark Hamill did in 1983.
And then it spoke.
For a time I have been worrying, deeply, by the fact that I do not seem as affected by the uncanny valley as other people seem to be; the revulsion and rejection by our brains at images that are almost human but just, in some way, wrong. I applauded the technical genius of Grand Moff Tarken and Princess Leia in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, whilst the people around me seemed to be doing their best not to vomit all over the cinema floor. I can now assure you that I worry no more.
The face was flawless, when still, and the voice was that of Mark Hamill himself, but when the lips moved my brain set on fire. It was just… Wrong. And I want to point out here that it is expertly utilised and the finest example of de-aging and digital grafting I have ever witnessed, and I was applauding the technical prowess of the team behind this marvellous creation in my head, the same head which was also still on fire.
But this is not all that is weird in this scene. In fact, almost everything is weird in this scene if we look at it more objectively.
When speaking the very few words we actually see Luke say, the mouth moves rather well, much more realistically than Grand Moff Tarken’s did. However, the voice itself sounded… Distant. I’m sure this is a product of mixing Mark Hamill’s 2019 voice to sound like his 1983 voice — which it did, spectacularly — but the voice felt juxtaposed to the extremely high production value of the rest of the show. The main issue, I would say, with the whole façade is that the rest of Luke’s face barely moves at all when he speaks. When we speak, our whole face moves and transmits non-verbal information. This was missing from the Luke face, apart from some slight eyebrow wiggle. It’s as if his face had been freshly Botoxed. It was as if the actor was speaking from behind a mask. It lacked a realness, not to its look but to its presence. This, coupled with the distant voice, makes Luke feel more like a ventriloquist dummy than a real person (which is actually an apt metaphor for the actual process being used here). In this scene, this weird scene, Luke was a marionette of a memory.
And lastly, the dialogue itself was weird. He never once actually introduced himself as Luke Skywalker. He barely spoke at all, in fact. And Din Djarin, the Mandalorian, hands over his foster child to this complete stranger who hasn’t even introduced himself.
It’s just… Weird. Right?
But please do not mistake my criticism for anger, or even hatred. I am not trying to inflict any suffering upon the reader at all. In fact, I love this scene. I love this scene even though I find it weird and awkward. And I am fascinated by my love for this weird, awkward scene. This is exactly how Luke Skywalker would be at this point in the Star Wars timeline. He is peak Luke Skywalker right in this moment. He’s extremely powerful, with a Master’s understanding of that power and how to use it, but he is also unnervingly calm and centred, as a Jedi should be. But most of all, he has tapped into that innate Skywalker arrogance he has inherited in spades from his father. He doesn’t even introduce himself to Grogu’s foster father. Either he doesn’t feel he needs any introduction because he thinks he is just that famous, or he simply doesn’t feel it even necessary for Din Djarin to know his name. At this point in time Luke Skywalker is, for all he knowns anyway, the most powerful being in the galaxy.
When I look back on this scene, in my mind it feels like there was much more to it than there actually was upon re-watching it for this article. I was surprised by the brevity of the entire scene. I think the appearance of, let’s call him, the real Luke Skywalker has completely clouded and overwritten my memory with nostalgic overtones. After seeing this Luke Skywalker in the three original movies, most notably in Return of the Jedi, this scene feels packed with original material, all the way down to how grubby R2-D2 looked. This scene, on the face of it, was a simple Margherita pizza that my nostalgic memory slathered in decades-worth of Star Wars chilli beef and BBQ sauce, resulting in a weird but enjoyable spicy slice of Star Wars content that I look back on with childlike glee.
In closing, I want to reiterate that although the de-aging and digital grafting technology needs a little more work to make it less uncanny and more emotive when speaking, I do think this was flawless when Luke wasn’t speaking. Star Wars is famous for pushing the boundaries of visual and digital effects, and this is no exception. And I would welcome more scenes which utilise this technology. However, it needs to be said that this is extremely expensive, so I am not expecting to see Luke become a regular in this or any other series, for the moment. I do believe that to see Luke more, they (being Jon Favreau, Lucasfilm, and Disney) should look to recast with someone like Sebastian Stan. The fans really won’t mind if it means we get to see more of this Luke Skywalker. And I, personally, would love to see more of this Luke Skywalker.