Editorial: The Tragedy of Jar Jar Binks (Aftermath: Empire’s End SPOILERS)
Yes, weesa going there…
Star Wars fans are tearing into the last installment in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy, Empire’s End. There’s no doubt many questions fans will hope to find answers or hints to. Is any character standing out to be Snoke? Is Luke going to finally show up? Are there any hints at Rey’s origins? You’ll have to dig into the pages to find out, but I think what many fans will be surprised at is the answer to a question few Star Wars fans have asked: What was the fate of Jar Jar Binks?
When we last saw Jar Jar, he was in the solemn funeral procession for Padme. If you have Prequel Trilogy amnesia, you’ll remember Jar Jar hails from Naboo and is a member of the Gungan species. The Gungans are an amphibious culture that mostly dwell in deep underwater cities. After the events of The Phantom Menace, Jar Jar was made a representative in the Republic. Aside from a few appearances in The Clone Wars, fans did not hear from Jar Jar Binks again.
What’s clear is that Jar Jar probably won’t go down in Republic history as a distinguished political figure, at least for anything good. Jar Jar, shortly before the Clone War broke out, was responsible for calling a vote that gave Sheev Palpatine complete authority over the Republic, just a stone’s throw from being Emperor. Jar Jar’s story never continued after the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire. I guess we all assumed he left Coruscant in disgrace and went back to Naboo, at least that’s what I thought.
Before I continue, let’s just talk about the 500-pound elephant in the room. Many fans HATE Jar Jar Binks. I know hate is a strong word, that’s why I’m using it. The prequels are far down my list of favorite Star Wars films, but I don’t dislike them or feel like George Lucas destroyed my inner child. I’ll be honest with you, and although the prequels have grown on me over the years, I still did not like Jar Jar Binks. I wouldn’t say hate, but his stupidity was not comic relief…it was just annoying. If there is a character in Star Wars I could not have cared less about, it’s Jar Jar Binks.
After reading the interlude in Empire’s End, my entire view of Jar Jar changed. When myself and two others on the staff began reading Empire’s End and writing our reviews, one thing Jelena (Lady Musashi) immediately pointed out was Chuck Wendig’s success in giving Jar Jar a proper ending. I never saw Jar Jar as a tragic character and often forgot he was manipulated into giving Palpatine the governing powers that lead to oppression. “HE DID IT!”, Jelena exclaimed in an email. I had not yet read the interlude, so when I got there I was taken aback that Wendig chose to include such a polarizing Star Wars character.
When we meet Jar Jar, he is back on Naboo, in the capital city of Theed. Naboo has welcomed refugees from around the galaxy, specifically the children. A boy who is curious about becoming an entertainer himself encounters Jar Jar, who is something of an entertainer for the children refugees. The boy has been disfigured and has little hope that he will be adopted. Jar Jar befriends the boy immediately. We find that Jar Jar keeps scheduled performances and is referred to as only “the clown”. From the brief descriptions, it sounds like the performances include an ensemble of his greatest hits from The Phantom Menace; falling, spitting up water, etcetera. “The clown” is Jar Jar’s only designation, and it’s simply stated that no one on Naboo, especially Gungans, acknowledge his existence. After everything the Gungan has been through, he is relegated to amuse children as some sort of court jester or birthday clown. One could say that’s an honorable profession; entertaining refugee children who are coming from the most war torn regions of the galaxy, and I think that it is. It’s the loss of belonging that haunts this interlude. Neither Gungan nor human allow Jar Jar an identity beyond the fool.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Wendig wrote Jar Jar’s fate as being entertainment for children, while suffering the disdain from adults. It’s the adults of Naboo that have shunned Jar Jar –all the children think he’s great, which I’m sure sounds familiar to those of you who’ve watched The Phantom Menace with children. We have to remember George Lucas intended for Jar Jar to be comic relief. It wasn’t until years later, when I watched the prequels with my son when he was very young that I got Jar Jar’s appeal. I think it’s very clever of Wendig to mirror the disregard fans have for Jar Jar with this interlude, while reminding us that kids love him.
Jar Jar lives in a galaxy where no one wants him. It’s almost as if Wendig channeled the collective disdain Star Wars fans feel and injected it into the galaxy far, far away. Whether fans like it or not, Jar Jar is canon, but many fans would just prefer to pretend he does not exist, much like the hypocrites on Naboo. Wendig took a huge risk writing this interlude and giving Jar Jar an end, but it certainly paid off (in my opinion). I’m a big fan of connective tissue in saga storytelling; and although Jar Jar isn’t a Jedi or holds the key to Snoke’s origins, I was pleased that Wendig brought another prequel character far forward in the timeline from when we last saw him. I would love to see the notes the Story Group sent Wendig on this interlude.
Jar Jar is a tragic character. There…I said it. I can no longer look at him with just annoyance. The Gungan was swept up into events that would change the galaxy forever the moment he offered two Jedi help. He helped his people win a battle for their home, as well as the rest of the Naboo. When we meet him in Empire’s End, the galaxy seems to have forgotten the good Jar Jar did, especially those on his own planet. There are many who lay in the wake of Palpatine’s manipulations, and unfortunately for Jar Jar, no one can see what really happened to him. No one sees the good in him, just an albatross reminder of how quickly Palpatine had the galaxy under the thumb of the Empire.
Everything Jar Jar did was with genuinely good intentions. Remember that next time you watch the prequels or read a Jar Jar rant online. He may have been annoying, but he was always one of the good guys. Did this interlude redeem Jar Jar? That’s kind of a hard question for me. I don’t think I’ll be flooding Marvel’s inbox with requests for a Jar Jar comic series or any other arena in the SW canon. I really hope this is the last we hear about Jar Jar, and I don’t mean that in a mean way. Despite it’s depressing nature, it’s very honest and real, and it adds a new depth to a seemingly superficial character. Redemption is not what I would chose to describe this interlude…I’d say it’s more of a reckoning. Jar Jar’s reckoning.
May the Force be with you, Jar Jar.
What do you think? Head on over to the Cantina and let me know!