This Star Wars article contains spoilers.
Nobody puts Baby Yoda in the corner. Well, other than Luke Skywalker. In Chapter 6 of The Book of Boba Fett, “From the Desert Comes a Stranger,” Luke gives Grogu a choice so impossible that several million Star Wars fans cried out in terror, and, as of now, have not been suddenly silenced. By forbidding Grogu his love of his foster-father, Din Djarin, Master Skywalker seems to be repeating the mistakes that led to his father’s own downfall.
Of course, it didn’t have to be this way, and we know a much older Luke in The Last Jedi will realize that the ways of the Jedi have to be malleable in order for the light to triumph over the dark. So, this leads to a big question: Is Luke’s objectively terrible training of Grogu in Boba Fett meant to demonstrate that Luke is locked into one particularly depressing path where he’s doomed to fail as a Jedi Master? Or, is there more nuance here that the Star Wars franchise has yet to reveal?
First, in the context of what we see, we have to establish that Luke is basically incompetent as a teacher. He forces Grogu to relive his trauma, shoots little laser bolts at him without really explaining to him what’s going on, and, at the end of the episode, basically tells Baby Yoda to stop caring so much about family and love. Luke is failing hard here as a babysitter, let alone a Jedi Master. In his search for Jedi knowledge, it seems like Luke has fallen back on the same kind of extreme non-attachment nonsense that brought about the fall of the Jedi Order in the first place.
Oddly, from an emotional standpoint, we feel worse for Grogu being separated from Mando than we did when Anakin was separated from his mom in The Phantom Menace. But by the time The Phantom Menace was released, we knew Anakin’s story was written, meaning, Qui-Gon Jinn and Yoda giving him a hard time about missing his mother felt tragic in a kind of mythological way — we know all of this is leading to little Ani becoming Darth Vader. When Luke is throwing the same kind of crap at Grogu, it just feels cruel, especially when you consider how important family and friends were to Luke in the Original Trilogy.
But because we know Luke’s endpoint in The Last Jedi, his character feels robbed of any agency in these Baby Yoda stories within The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. If The Book of Boba Fett had depicted Luke being a great teacher, and Baby Yoda having a good time becoming a Jedi, then, on some level, the larger storytelling arc of Star Wars would have been contradicted. We would be saying, “Luke is a fantastic Jedi Master, his failure in the Sequel era doesn’t make sense.” In other words, maybe we shouldn’t hate the player, but rather the game: It’s not Luke’s fault he’s a crappy mentor on The Book of Boba Fett, the larger Star Wars canon just forces him to be this way, mostly because of what we know has to happen next.
Now, if you’re in the corner of Star Wars fandom that dislikes The Last Jedi for toxic reasons, then you might be foaming at the mouth now and saying, “YES YES, THIS IS PROOF WHY The Last Jedi IS BAD!” If you were to take that reaction down one notch, a slightly more reasonable argument would be: “Well, in the old Legends novels, Luke taught that love and attachment were good, and he even got married and started a family.”
But tilting at the windmills of things that aren’t happening in the actual canonical story of Star Wars doesn’t actually get to the bottom of why this particular episode of Boba Fett might strike such a strange chord with Luke fans. Superficially, seeing weird stoic bad-teacher Luke almost feels like a betrayal from the heroic, lightsaber swinging Luke of The Mandalorian season 2 finale. However, if you flip that the other way, you could convince yourself that Boba Fett is simply demonstrating that bitter Last Jedi Luke and heroic Mando Luke are the same person. All we’re seeing in this story is just more of that complicated and fractured person, who yes, learns that failure is the greatest teacher, but also has to fail more often than he doesn’t to gain that wisdom. And yet, that analysis still doesn’t seem quite right.
Sure, we know from a plot perspective that Luke can’t be a great Jedi Master, because, in the broad strokes, we know Baby Yoda can’t grow up to be a powerful Jedi long term, because otherwise, Luke’s utter failure to train any new Jedi Knights by the time of The Force Awakens wouldn’t make much sense. Somehow, in these next two decades, Luke will continue to screw up with training Jedi, leading to the ultimate mistake where he decides it’s a good idea to maybe murder his nephew in a tent. This fact leads us to the true reason why so many fans are probably uncomfortable (not outraged!) that Luke was shitty to Baby Yoda.
We don’t know why. His past canon adventures have yet to give us any reason to believe that Luke would adopt this particular Jedi tradition of non-attachment when deciding to train the next generation of knights. It only works retroactively. “Oh, Luke followed the stupid, old-fashioned non-attachment rule. I see…that’s why Ben Solo hated his guts…that’s why Baby Yoda is gonna quit being a Jedi.” Right now, Luke’s pushy prequel-era Vulcan-esque no-emotional connection rule scans only as dot-connecting to help link Classic Luke with Sequel Luke. But, at the moment, it’s only dot-connecting and not storytelling because we don’t see why Luke’s changed his perspective.
Luke rejected all sorts of terrible Jedi dogma in the Original Trilogy, and as a result, saved the day more than once. Why would he suddenly become orthodox? This gets even more baffling when you consider that Luke was training his own sister to be a Jedi a few years before Boba Fett. In The Rise of Skywalker, Luke tells Rey that Leia stopped wanting to be a Jedi because she had a terrible vision about her child in the future. But if we were to connect the dots from the way Luke talks about attachment in Boba Fett, we might be forced to conclude that he may have encouraged Leia to divorce Han and maybe not have a baby in the first place. (Side note: If the Jedi discourage romance and marriage, how do they expect to get more Jedi? Their system to foster the next generation of Jedi seems limited to stumbling upon runaways, orphans, or coerced kidnappings. As a cult, this feels very inefficient!)
The point is that, in The Last Jedi, Luke’s bitterness and self-hatred were explicable. We learned about the things he did and the things that happened, and that helped explain why he’d made the choices he had in the present. However, in The Book of Boba Fett, we’re given nothing to even hint at why Luke has reverted to a style of Jedi teachings which, again, during the Original Trilogy, he’d already rejected. Had Luke practiced what he’s preaching to Grogu, he would have never gone back to rescue Han and Leia, and would have never taken another chance on his father. This, more than anything, is why Luke’s passive-aggressive stoicism feels so out of place here.
The way he treats Grogu seems completely out of character. Nothing has happened, at least nothing we’re aware of, that would suggest that Luke would actually read the old Jedi texts and say, “Yep, let’s just do it the way these idiots did it!” The entire story of Luke Skywalker is that he rejected the orthodoxy of the Jedi, and became a new, better version of a Jedi because of it. Arguably, Luke’s story in the Sequel Trilogy was that after Ben Solo turned to the dark side, Luke forgot what he believed in the Original Trilogy about how love can bring people back to the light. Thanks to Rey, he was reminded that there’s still good in everyone.
However, in The Book of Boba Fett, none of that has happened yet. Depicting Luke as frustrated or confused is one thing. But showing us that he’s stopped asking questions about dogma and orthodoxy is something else. The Force is clearly out of balance, but this time, it has nothing to do with the Sith. For once, the guy who famously thought outside of the box, is oddly, inexplicably trapped inside of one. Future Star Wars stories might explain why Luke thought this was the right way to train Jedi, but for now, we’re left with a mystery that is as frustrating as it is confusing.