Star Wars has a Jedi problem.
In the original trilogy, the Jedi are seen as former heralds of justice, tragically extinct. In the prequel trilogy and Clone Wars animated series, they are rigid and dogmatic, sowing more discord than peace. In the sequel trilogy, there is the promise of a democratization of the Force, a reclamation of its power that goes beyond stringent Jedi teachings. Now, the Disney Plus series are doubling down on that last version of the Jedi – as they should.
Several key teachings of the Jedi Order lead to its own demise: a dogmatic stance against sentimental attachment, an obsession with binaries, and an unflinching allegiance to the status quo. With the events that take place in the The Book of Boba Fett finale, the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series, and the Ahsoka Tano show in production, there's a chance for Star Wars media to take a more clear stance on the Jedi and the Force – a stance laid out by The Last Jedi.
Warning: Spoilers for The Book of Boba Fett finale below
Grogu and sentiment
In The Book of Boba Fett episode 6, Luke Skywalker gives Grogu an ultimatum: choose the lightsaber, and thus the Jedi Order; or choose the Mandalorian chainmail, and thus Din Djarin, his adoptive father. As he tees up this choice, Luke speaks of emotional connections as if they are vices, telling Grogu that choosing the armor will be "giving in to attachment to those that you love, and forsaking the way of the Jedi." For many Star Wars fans, this scene caused some serious cognitive dissonance, as we distinctly remember the Luke who bested Emperor Palpatine because of a sentimental attachment to his father.
Our own Molly Edwards suggests Luke's ultimatum could lead to a blending of the ways of Jedi and Mandalorian, but by The Book of Boba Fett finale it's clear that Grogu has returned to Din lightsaber-less. While Grogu does use the Force to protect Din, he is no longer being trained, so it's unclear if the two can forge a new path similar to the one taken up by the Jedi who created the Darksaber Din wields. If, as Molly suggests, The Mandalorian season 3 sees both Din and Luke "shrug off [their] restrictive dogmas," then we'll be on the right path to establishing a more democratic and much less rigid understanding of the Force.
Importantly, one has to wonder if Grogu's decision to go down the path of sentimental attachment causes Luke to question how he feels about the Jedi Order and ultimately leads to his disillusionment. Even if Grogu manages to plant a seed of doubt in Luke's head, we know that he still spends some time attempting to adhere to Clone Wars-era Jedi values, as he opens up his own Jedi Temple and brings in a class of Padawans, leading to disaster when Ben Solo turns to the Dark side and becomes Kylo Ren.
And therein lies the other problem with how the Jedi have historically interpreted their own religion. Luke, sensing darkness in Ben, has a moment of doubt and briefly considers killing the youngling. Why? Because over time the Jedi – whose originators believed in a balance of light and dark – became obsessed with preserving the light side and shunning any vestiges of darkness. It's that obsession that caused Luke to briefly fear and ultimately ostracize a young Ben, pushing him down the path of becoming Kylo Ren. That same fear and ostracization happened to his grandfather, Anakin Skywalker, at the hands of the Jedi council and his own master, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Obi-Wan and absolutes
Not only does Obi-Wan make decisions in Star Wars: The Clone Wars that cause irrevocable emotional damage to Anakin (all at the behest of the Council, I might add), but by the time Revenge of the Sith rolls around, it's clear that the Jedi Master has no understanding of nuance. "Only a Sith deals in absolutes," he tells Anakin, while himself and the rest of the Jedi Order deal in absolutes.
And as Siddhant Adlakha points out in a Polygon piece on The Last Jedi, the Obi-Wan Kenobi of Return of the Jedi is so deeply entrenched in binary Jedi beliefs that he tells Luke he cannot defeat the empire without killing Darth Vader, thus forsaking his personal attachment to his father. But what's even more problematic than a Jedi dealing in absolutes is that the Clone Wars-era Jedi are all operating under different notions of what is the true light side of the Force. Obi-Wan tells Luke he must physically defeat Vader to bring balance to the Force, while Yoda tells Luke in The Empire Strikes Back that the Force is used for defense, never for attacking. The absolutes they're following are all different.
In the Clone Wars, the Jedi Order has not only completely lost sight of the original teachings of the Prime Jedi, but its practitioners have become little more than foot soldiers for a morally questionable government. The prophecy states that Anakin Skywalker would bring balance to the Force, restoring the Jedi Order to its original state. But the Jedi Council's repeated wrongs against Anakin and Obi-Wan's refusal to go against them push Anakin further and further away. From his point of view, the Jedi are evil, and you can understand why.
Ahsoka and the status quo
In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ahsoka willingly leaves the Jedi Order after being framed for a murder in the Jedi Temple, stripped of her padawan braid, and forced to stand trial. Although she's found not guilty and invited back into the Order, she refuses, having grown disillusioned by the Order's behavior and how quickly they turned on someone in their ranks. Ahsoka continues to practice using the Force, however, and wields dual white lightsabers as she imparts justice throughout the galaxy. Clone Wars showrunner and Mandalorian producer/director Dave Filoni has said that Ahsoka Tano's white lightsabers indicate she is neither Jedi nor Sith. With white also symbolizing purity, one can surmise that Ahsoka represents true balance in the Force, that her understanding of its power and refusal to align with any school of thought is the most undiluted truth.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a mural on the wall of Acht-To (where the Jedi Order was first founded) shows us the Prime Jedi, the creator of the Order. Much like the Taoist symbol of yin-yang, the mural depicts the Prime Jedi as perfectly in balance between light and dark sides of the Force. When Luke writes about balance in an in-universe book called 'Secrets of the Jedi', he attaches a picture of the Prime Jedi mural near it, implying that this is the purest sense of connection with the Force: true balance, not an adoption of light or dark beliefs.
With the upcoming Ahsoka Tano series, Star Wars has the opportunity to highlight how Ahsoka represents the Prime Jedi's version of a Force user. The series can weave together dangling threads, showing how Ahsoka can play a major role in Luke achieving enlightenment. Her brief appearance in The Book of Boba Fett places her in a position of Master to Luke's padawan – he clearly looks to her for insight and advice, but she is no longer a member of the Order. Instead, she can shine a light on the inadequacies of the Jedi while showing Luke how one can exist as a Force user outside of such stringent binaries. Ahsoka is the key to Star Wars shifting its stance on the Jedi – if the series focuses on the Force from her perspective, we'll get a more democratized, accessible version of it that's unshackled from the constraints of the Jedi or the Sith.
Fixing the Jedi
There is room for the Jedi's role to shift and adjust with the times – in fact there's even canon pointing to this possibility. In Charles Soule's comic Star Wars #20, a flashback sequence to the Jedi of yore states that "the Order tends to be what it needs to be for any particular time. Sometimes, we're warriors, fighting the forces of evil. Sometimes, we are teachers, bringing the light of knowledge to the galaxy. Sometimes, we govern. Sometimes, we do the opposite – drawing inward, studying the Force and its mysteries. Sometimes, we explore. Sometimes, we do all of those things.”
The stage is set for Star Wars to turn a corner with the Jedi, moving them away from dogmatic beliefs and antiquated ideals and towards a more democratic understanding of the Force that can truly exhibit balance. In The Book of Boba Fett, Grogu chooses sentimentality and continues to wield the Force to protect his father figure. An Ahsoka series can shed more light on her personal beliefs after shunning the Jedi Order and continuing to practice some of its teachings. The Obi-Wan Kenobi show, with both Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen returning, has the potential to truly flesh out how the Jedi Order went so wrong, which can only help shape the Force in future Star Wars media.
The Jedi Order as a concept is a beautiful thing: its practitioners can find true balance and enlightenment in the world, imparting wisdom and protection to those who need it most. That enlightenment can and should be available to all members of the Star Wars universe, without forcing them into these Jedi or Sith binaries. The more we see of characters like Ahsoka and Grogu, and the more we see how flawed characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi are, the better off the future of the Jedi and the Force will be.
Let's see how the Force is handled in the upcoming Star Wars movies.