Star Wars, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (Part IV)
Welcome, nerds! We’re rounding past the halfway point today here in our ongoing journey through Star Wars, Episode VI: That Time The Sith Definitely Probably Were Destroyed. In our last entry, Yoda (who was exhausted enough by all of this that he died) and Obi-Wan (who has been dead for actual years but is still somehow exhausted) were compelled to admit to Luke that, yes, Anakin Skywalker was actually right about one thing for the first time in a long time: Darth Vader is, indeed, Luke’s dad. Well, that’s a real downer! Jumping back to Episode 4 briefly, keep in mind that Luke was initially fed this made-up back story for Anakin by his Uncle Owen:
…you know your family history is grim when “he was a guy who drove a freighter full of space drugs, then died tragically young” is the cover-up lie you’ve been told about what your dad’s life really involved. Then, recall that Luke was told that no, no: his dad wasn’t a drug runner, he was actually an amazing superhero?
…and now, Luke has learned that Obi-Wan’s description of Anakin…may have glossed over some unpleasantness, such as the genocide and child murder and whatnot. Sorry Luke, but Obi-Wan’s been downplaying Anakin’s faults and getting all heart-eyed about his strengths since long before you were born. Even with everything Anakin’s put him through, it’s probably pretty ingrained. Then, as a bonus, Luke also found out that oh hey: he’s not an only child! He has a twin sister! And it’s Leia! Luke has been on one hell of a ride through his genealogy in the last few bits of the saga.
After seeing Yoda off to the great beyond, and getting in some bonding time with his Obi-Wan, Luke had headed back to reconvene with the Rebellion, where they are — to no one’s surprise — hatching a Plan Against All Odds to blow up the second Death Star. Said plan requires them to land on the forest moon of Endor to deactivate the shield around Death Star II, and Han and company are leading the way.
As the group made their way onto Endor, Luke and Vader had a Force Moment, and the stage was set for another miserable father-son encounter. Let’s hope everyone keeps what limbs they have left this time! With that, we’ve got a Drama Queen to check in with; follow me.
Recurring Theme: Anakin Skywalker, The Hero With No Friends
We open on the rebels’ stolen Imperial shuttle nearing Endor, and Vader is staring at them out a giant window (of COURSE), looking like a creeper. His helmet is insanely shiny, and so I am going to just assume that once he realized Luke was coming, he went and got himself all gussied up so that he can sell Luke on the Dark Side and then they can be BESTIES and run the universe together!!! This guy: he is so lonely. (WHOSE FAULT IS THAT, ANAKIN.) He breathes to himself, then dramatically sashays off-camera.
The rebels start walking around in the woods on Endor’s surface (AND CAPTAIN REX IS THERE WITH THE SKYTWINS AND YES I WILL BE YELLING ABOUT THIS MORE LATER.) The trio observe some stormtroopers from afar, and Han assures Leia and Luke that he and Chewie will take care of this. Luke is like “could you please not do it in your noisy, dramatic way though?” and LOL LOOK WHO’S TALKING, SKYWALKER. OK.
Luke Skywalker, Backseat Driver
Naturally Han’s cover is blown quickly, and a melee ensues, with troopers jumping onto speeder bikes and explosions and whatnot:
Leia spots two troopers making a getaway and makes to chase after them. She points them out to Luke, and Luke hilariously, VERY whinily, is like “I KNOW!” God. Luke, just get on the damn speeder bike.
The twins take off in pursuit of the troopers, and it’s all very whoosh-whoosh-wheeeeeee!, podrace-style. To my great amusement, Leia is in the driver’s seat, and Luke immediately starts bossing her incessantly. “Leia, go here! Leia, jam their comms! Leia, turn this way!” Are we positive Luke isn’t Obi-Wan’s son? FFS. I know that the Jedi have all these Special Skills that let them see things before they happen (SOMETIMES) and all, but Leia is Force-sensitive and also EXACTLY as related to Anakin “Best Star Pilot in the Galaxy According to Totally Unbiased Source” Skywalker as you are, Luke. She’s also cheated death possibly more times than you have by now. I’m surprised she didn’t aggressively tilt the speeder and throw him off.
Fortunately Luke ends up snagging a speeder bike of his own (mid air!), and while Leia continues to follow one of their initial targets, Luke takes on disposing of a couple others that have shown up. They all zip around for a while, and there’s a few more requisite explosions:
Leia ends up losing sight of her target, and her speeder, collapsing in a dramatic heap on the ground.
Finally, on his end, Luke ends up having to bail out, and takes care of the last trooper by busting out this little beauty:
Recurring Theme: The Treachery of Silliness
Luke returns to the rest of the rebels, and that’s when everyone realizes that Leia is still out there somewhere. Oh no! We’ll have to rescue her!
Luke and Han set off, taking the droids and Chewie with them. As they head out Threepio chides Artoo for having said “it was pretty here”, which, LOL. Artoo said this? Awww? Awww! This is delightful.
We then cut to Leia, who’s still passed out in the grass somewhere. But she’s not alone! She’s joined by a furry little teddy bear!
Yes, that’s right folks: it’s Ewok Time. Long before the many, many (many) Discourses that have followed in the years since, the Star Wars fandom got a little taste of the pointless bullshit we’d all be arguing with each other over for the next several decades with the arrival of the Ewoks. Are they cute? Creepy? For kids? Too silly? Just-right silly? Annoying? Problematic? A shameless ploy to create merchandise? Totally Star Wars? Totally Un-Star Wars? Do the Ewoks remind you of your childhood, or did they ruin your childhood? Is their existence proof that George Lucas was losing his touch, or merely proof that George Lucas recognized that humans often like seeing small, furry creatures? Please keep in mind that here in this fandom, no neutral, nuanced, or non-opinions will be permitted about the Ridiculous Space Wizard Shows. We really know how to have a good time, don’t we though? Sigh.
I myself am a child of the 1980s, and while this movie came out just a bit before I was born, I do still very much remember Ewok Stuff from the era: bedsheets, toys, and the like. My husband is a couple years older than me and had a toy Ewok he was very attached to. For whatever it’s worth, in this household we lean Pro-Ewok, with the exception of Ewoks on Ice, which is an actual thing that existed in the 80s, the commercial for which still haunts my dreams:
ANYWAYS: the Ewok we are first introduced to is Wicket, a cute little guy portrayed by the then-11-year-old Warwick Davis, who has appeared in lots of Star Wars content since then, and is a mainstay of Star Wars events like Celebration, where he’s a delightful host. Here, Wicket regards Leia warily until she wins him over with food, because who doesn’t like snacks?
Just then, he pauses, sensing something. Leia looks perplexed until a blaster bolt comes flying at them. Uh oh!
The two of them manage to outsmart their assailants with Teamwork!, and Leia and Wicket head off, with Wicket leading the way. Aww!
Recurring Theme: Meeting in Sheev’s Office
While his daughter goes off to party with some forest bears, Anakin is taking a ridiculous elevator ride up to his boss’ office on Death Star II. And I? Am loving the decor here. What an aesthetic.
I genuinely cannot get enough of the Sidious-Vader dynamic in this movie, because they both preeeeetty much seem to be barely concealing that they kind of hate each other. I would pay ALL OF THE MONEY to see Anakin’s Ghost react in any kind of way to this goblin still being alive in whatever capacity in Episode 9. They have been on SUCH A JOURNEY together, you guys. Sure, it was a terrible, murder-soaked journey of misery and slavery and brainwashing and exploitation, but it was still a journey. If any two people are gonna be at the final showdown of this dumbass saga, it BETTER be these two idiots.
So Vader’s there, and he approaches the Emperor’s throne, and I love that Sidious is not even looking at him at first, because he’s apparently too important to do anything up to and including going through the effort of swiveling his chair towards the person who just entered his office.
Sidious? Is pissed, and I am living for it. Still without looking at Vader, he seethes that he told him to remain on the command ship, and GOD I hope Obi-Wan’s ghost was drinking a beer and laughing hysterically at this. What’s that, Sids? Anakin didn’t listen to you, possibly because he was emotionally fixated on something else? Tragic. If only there’d been some way to see that coming.
Vader is like “OK but some rebels landed on Endor???” and at this, Sidious pivots his chair around and, totally bored and annoyed, is like “yes, I know”. I don’t WANT to feel bad for Space Satan, but also I can’t help but feel SOME exhaustion on behalf of anyone who’s spent this long dealing with Anakin. Even if he has no one to blame but himself.
Vader tells Sidious that his son is with the group of rebels on Endor, and Sheev is like “huh, interesting, I didn’t notice it getting more annoying and Skywalker-y around here…are you sure your feelings are clear on this?” and I AM SORRY, but this is hysterical. Sheev is worried that ANAKIN is emotionally compromised on something and it’s confusing him? NO WAY THAT NEVER HAPPENS.
So then Sheev is like “OK fine, you should go to the moon and wait for him”, and Vader is confused (LOL): Luke will come to him? I know, Anakin — weird, right? When was the last time anyone voluntarily sought out YOUR company? (I laugh so I don’t cry.)
Then, because everyone in Star Wars is full of shit, Sidious claims that he has foreseen that this will happen, and that Luke’s compassion for Vader will “be his undoing”. Um, literally 10 seconds ago you said you didn’t sense that Luke was on Endor, but now you also know that he’s going to come to Vader on his own and how all of this is gonna go down? Sure, dude. What was that thing about saving people from dying again, while we’re at it? Sometimes I genuinely wonder exactly how much of the crap that comes out of Sidious’ mouth is even remotely based in reality, and how much of it is just him having a grand old time making shit up and delighting in Anakin nearly always taking him at his word for like the last 40 years.
Vader is like “k, will do”, and Sidious, evidently done talking to him, pivots his chair back towards the window. LOL.
Recurring Theme: Mistaken Identity
BONUS Recurring Theme: The Backstory Made It Funnier
Han, Luke, Chewie and the droids are still looking for Leia, but all they manage to find is her wrecked speeder and the helmet she left behind. Han? Is feeling ways about this because he liiiiiiiiiiikes her:
Chewie smells something nearby, and finds a dead animal on a stick. Before Luke can stop him, he reaches for it, and Springs the Trap:
Artoo uses his built-in Pizza Cutter to free them from the net they find themselves ensnared in, but it’s too late: the Ewoks are onto them! DUN DUN DUUUUUN!
The Ewoks arrive and start confiscating the gang’s weapons, and just generally seeming pretty put out about these interlopers, when Threepio pops his head up and everyone is like HOLY SHIT:
Yes, apparently Threepio bears some striking resemblance to some sort of Ewok Deity, and he has a brief exchange with them in their native tongue.
Han? IS FUCKING HILARIOUS HERE. He’s like “wtf is going on”, and when Threepio tells him the gist, Han is like “OK, so, if you’re a god, could you maybe GET US OUT OF THIS?” and that is when one of THE weirdest, funniest things ever gets thrown out there: Threepio states that it “wouldn’t be proper” for him to go along with this case of mistaken identity, you see, because his programming prohibits him from impersonating a deity. THREEPIO WAS BUILT BY NINE YEAR OLD ANAKIN SKYWALKER: WHY WAS THIS IN HIS PROGRAMMING. I know, I know, I know: backstory that didn’t exist, etc, WHATEVER. THIS IS OBJECTIVELY BIZARRE AND I LOVE IT. Why…why was Anakin concerned about this? Did Tatooine have a rash of rogue droids trying to pretend to be Space God? Was this just a standard part of whatever open source OS Anakin used when he built Threepio? Whatever the reason, I am laughing.
As a bonus, Han is just SO INCREDIBLY EXASPERATED by all of this, and Luke? Is SO ENTERTAINED. Me too, Luke. ME TOO.
Recurring Theme: Force Moment
It’s evening now, and things aren’t quite smoothed over with the Ewoks. While Threepio is carried on a throne of sorts, everyone else — including Artoo — is looking like they’re about to be a centerpiece in the evening’s celebrations.
Han continues to look somehow deeply annoyed that this, of all the ways, is how he’s going to die. Leia appears and appeals to the Ewoks: these are my friends! She implores Threepio to have them set free. He tries, but alas: the Ewoks aren’t buying it.
Luke then has an idea: he tells Threepio to tell them that if the Ewoks don’t release them, he’ll “become angry and use [his] magic”. Threepio protests: what magic?! Luke is like JUST DO IT. Threepio complies, and when it doesn’t seem like it’s going over as hoped, Luke summons his old buddy The Force and hijinks ensue:
Everyone gets set free, and Han and Leia kiss like the adorable dorks that they are, and Luke third-wheels his way into a group hug:
Recurring Theme: I Love This Part
Later that evening, everyone is gathered ’round to hear Threepio regale them with stories from the Star Wars Original Trilogy. Hey, Threepio’s stepping on my turf here! In fairness, he is a DELIGHTFUL storyteller, and it’s all the more amusing because he includes sound effects. I’m only sad he didn’t get to keep his pre-Fall of the Republic memories. Think of all the stories he could have shared about Obi-Wan hitting on the entire damn galaxy.
As an aside, whether you are pro-Ewok or not, I am sorry, but baby Ewoks are fucking cute:
Anyways, like me everyone is delighted by Threepio’s stories, and they declare them all officially part of the tribe. Hoorah!
Recurring Theme: Anakin-Related Trauma
Luke suddenly starts to look wary, and wanders out of the hut they’d all assembled in. Leia takes note, and follows him outside.
Once she finds him, he asks her if she remembers her birth mother. Oh good: Lord knows it had been a little while since Anakin managed to ruin someone’s day without even being there. Leia responds that she only remembers impressions, but that “she was very beautiful, kind but sad”. Yeah well, you try mustering up a smile when your idiot husband ruined the galaxy, your life’s work is in shambles, the Dark Side is maybe causing you to lose the will to live AND you have to look at Obi-Wan being sadder than he ever has been in his life. Luke laments that he never knew his mother, possibly because he wasn’t paying as close attention as Leia was as a newborn, or also because George hadn’t figured out how this was all gonna work yet.
Leia is perplexed by this line of questioning and asks Luke to tell her what’s really bothering him, and Luke, forebodingly, says that Vader is here. He tells Leia that Vader can sense him, and that’s why he has to leave — to face him, and to keep the others safe from him. What’s more, Vader…is his father. He looks like he’s going to be sick or cry, and Leia looks appalled. Way to make your kids proud, Anakin.
He tells Leia that if he doesn’t return, she’s the only hope for the Alliance, and she counters that she can’t fill Luke’s shoes: he has a power she doesn’t understand, and could never have! Psshaw, says Luke: in time, she’ll learn how to use that same power, unless JJ Abrams decides she won’t. You see, the Force is strong in Luke’s family: his father has it, he has it, and his sister has it.
Yes: Leia is his sister, and what’s more? She doesn’t seem super shocked about it! She feels like she already knew! Space Magic! Etc! But that doesn’t mean she understands why he has to face Vader, and to elaborate on this they launch into a soaptacular dialogue about how Luke should Leave This Place, and Run Far Away, and how Leia’s Always Been Strong, and honestly I am positive that Anakin would be LOVING the dramatics here. Those are his babies and he’s really proud.
Luke caps this off by insisting that there’s still one partially-edible French fry buried in the flaming garbage heap that is Anakin Skywalker’s life, and by God, he is going to FIND that French fry, and bring it back to the light! He has to try!
Recurring Theme: Han Solo, Confused
Luke takes his leave, and that’s Han’s cue to show up and ask Leia what’s wrong. She tearfully tells him she wants to be alone, and Han, obliviously, gets pissed: oh, but she could tell LUKE about her problems, is that it? LOOK SOLO, the woman just found out she’s related to Anakin Skywalker, OK? You would cry too if it happened to you!
Leia collapses into Han’s arms and asks him to hold her. Han acquiesces, looking concerned.
Well then! Family pathos, tragic backstory reveals, corny Star Wars bullshit, ridiculous creatures, hijinks, Sidious being a fabulous gargoyle: we really covered a lot today, but that’s all for now! We’re heading into the home stretch of the original trilogy now, folks: join me for our next installment, when the Ewoks take on the Empire, Luke drops some Feels on Anakin, and the gang starts lining everything up to vanquish the Empire and the Sith forevermore, or like, I dunno, 25, 30 years, tops. We’ll just have to wait and see — thanks for reading, see you next time!