Serial Consumer celebrates and interrogates Evan’s relationship to franchised media and his addiction to purchasing its licensed products.
I always bring up my feelings about The Rescue — the second-season finale of The Mandalorian — because it’s one of the few times I’ve really been disappointed by Star Wars, a feeling magnified by the overwhelming emotional experience everyone else was feeling. I guess I wanted to feel that way but couldn’t. That’s why I understand people’s disappointment with Star Wars: The Last Jedi (although I disagree with it) and why I was so relieved when the From The Desert Comes a Stranger episode of The Book of Boba Fett gave us more fake-Luke, albeit with the quieter context I craved from the character’s return.
The Foundling, the fourth episode of The Mandalorian‘s third season, features a similar scenario — a familiar Jedi saving Grogu, only this time the surprise character is a canonical deep cut that will only mean anything to a small segment of the fans who recognize him. Given my own diseased outlook on Star Wars, I found this moment more moving and meaningful than our first glimpse of Luke Skywalker during The Rescue. I cried like a big ol’ weenie in the middle of a fast-food joint where I watched the episode.
The hero in question is Kelleran Beq (Ahmed Best), a character created for the YouTube game show Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge (JTC) (which nobody watched, of course … besides me … a few times). Kelleran was a Jedi of questionable canonicity, marketed as a vehicle for Best’s return to the franchise several decades after he played Jar Jar Binks in the Prequel Trilogy. A few years prior to JTC, Best came out about his mental-health struggles in the wake of Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, caused by the overwhelmingly cruel cultural response and typecasting that followed. At one point, Best experienced suicidal thoughts.
As the Disney era of Lucasfilm has grown to embrace the Prequels, inviting Best to host JTC felt like a way to acknowledge his contribution as a character with whom plenty of kids fell in love and bring him back to the franchise. This goes beyond that. Having Kelleran show up as the Jedi who saves Grogu from Order 66 is just a fundamentally sweet thing for episode co-writers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni to do. It’s just a nice thing. I am so happy for Best.
For what it’s worth, it’s also rooted in the previously established canon! According to his backstory on JTC, Kelleran was one of the lead teachers for the Jedi Temple’s Younglings during the Old Republic. He was known as a skilled duelist, too. Is this all fluffy rationalization for why the Jedi Master would host a game show? Yes. Is it skillfully repurposed as a reason for him to play such an important role in Grogu’s story? Hell, yes — in classic Star Wars fashion!
I joke that I’m a Prequel baby, but my Star Wars upbringing was actually the Expanded Universe of the 1990s, which was built on cross-media pollination. Although Disney has attempted variations of it — Qi’ra from Solo: A Star Wars Story is currently a major player in the comics — this feels like the first time we’re seeing something akin to the old video-game characters like Kyle Katarn showing up in the New Jedi Order books or lore from RPG guidebooks becoming sacred writ in cartoons. It’s just cool as fuck when this kind of broad canon is allowed to develop, and no other franchise has ever done it better.
You know what’s also cool as fuck? The rest of the episode, which is mostly about Grogu and Bo-Katan settling into their newfound family of Mandalorian fundamentalists. We get a lot of really sweet father-son bonding material between Mando and Grogu, and a lot of Bo-Katan trying to figure out what she can bring to the group. There’s an extended fight sequence between a group of Mandalorians and a dragon that totally fucking rocks and definitely sets up some Beast Riders of Onderon-style shenanigans in the future when the Mandalorian covert has to take on Moff Gideon and his Imperial remnants, however that plays out.
Look at me. I wrote six paragraphs about the return of Ahmed Best and one about the rest of the episode. Don’t mistake me. I fucking love this show. It’s soothing.
I think the only thing that would soothe me more is if Kelleran takes Grogu to Naboo to hide, which seems to be what they’re implying. If you’ve got Best back to play a Jedi, surely the flashback plot will result in the duo hiding away on Naboo, hidden by the most advanced civilization on the planet. That’s right — the Gungans. If we get a few scenes of Grogu hanging out with Jar Jar and a Jedi played by the guy who plays Jar Jar, well … youse bet meesa berry berry smiling.
As luck would have it, the Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters Omnibus went on sale for $40, so I snagged that. I’m hoping they collect its sequel series, Crimson Reign and Hidden Empire, in a single large volume later down the line. I’m pretty behind on those stories but have enjoyed the issues on Marvel Unlimited so far.
What I’d Buy
Obviously, I would love a Kelleran action figure. I love the details on his robes, which I’d love them to replicate even though a theoretical 6” figure would just use the traditional Jedi body mold. Hopefully, he’s packaged with two lightsabers. That’s a day-one purchase for me.
It would also be neat to get a giant dragon for my Mando figures to ride, but I think 6”-scale vehicles and monsters are a thing of the past.
Would I buy a new Bo-Katan with a silver pauldron? Probably not. But I could be convinced.