“I’m a Jedi, like my father before me” – Luke, The Return of the Jedi
Who do we come away fearing the most after the original trilogy? It should’ve been the almost omniscient, lightning wielding, evil-cackling Emperor, but it’s not. Instead, it’s the former good guy in the black suit the Emperor keeps on a tight leash throughout Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Vader. Darth Vader was the one who you’d imagine entering your room at night walking slowly in with his metronomic breathing while brandishing his red lightsaber. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, the Vader that lived in our minds is way more frightening than the one on-screen. To be sure, the Vader in Empire that cuts his own son’s hand off as a warning shot then a second later tries to kill him when he turns down his father’s offer to join him was a true villainous moment. But outside of that, the Vader in A New Hope is evil, no doubt, but he is mainly bossed around by Grand Moff Tarkin and then later given marching orders by the Emperor in The Return of the Jedi.
But we know Vader is a baddy. Of course he is. He’s Darth Vader! And when Rogue One had the brilliant idea to include this scene, we got to see what Vader was capable of when he wasn’t doing Tarkin nor the Emperor’s bidding. In that scene (the most YouTube friendly Star Wars scene ever?), it was lightsaber-wielding time and he wasn’t going to let a bunch of peons of the rebellion get in his way. I don’t think it’s blasphemy at all to say that that scene is one of the 10 greatest Star Wars moments of all time.
And in the final chapter of season two of The Mandalorian, Luke had his parallel moment. Many of the things I just said about Luke’s daddy we could say about Luke. He’s the new hope in 4, a raw Jedi in 5, and then plays the hero in 6. But Luke is Vader’s son. The chosen one’s baby boy. Luke’s escape/rescue from Jabba’s lair is something but he also got by with a lot of help from his friends. But at the end of Mando chapter 16 of season 2, Luke finally got his Rogue One moment. And what a moment it was. Just like Vader comes onto the scene in a dark cloud, so does Luke. When Vader ignites his red saber, we know what’s about to go down. In Luke’s case, the green saber held by a hand in a black glove gives all the clues you need to know who is about to wreck shop against the death troopers. While Vader makes quick work of the rebel soldiers in Rogue One, Luke slashes, dodges, deflects, and force crushes (much more civilized than what his daddy’s pension for force chokes) the death troopers on his way to freedom in chapter 16. At the end of Luke’s battle, awaits victory. He has answered Grogu’s call through the force that Grogu made 2 chapters prior and is there to rescue him. The opposite of his father who after his massacre of actual human beings, was left watching the death star plans escape his grasp and remain safely in the hands of the rebellion. Good wins in both cases.
I don’t know if the Vader scene in Rogue One was meant to parallel Luke’s moment in chapter 16 so vividly, but to me it was clear and it was just a master class in storytelling while also, once again, pulling in the larger Star Wars world by giving a nod to Rogue One that the Mandalorian continues to do brilliantly. It was also a chance to give us really the only look of what Luke is capable of when it’s just him, his saber, the force, and his daddy’s bloodlines. Vader would be so proud. The unmasked version at the end of Return of the Jedi, of course.