On the newest episode of Disney+’s The Mandalorian, a cool Jedi appeared to save the day in a short but awesome flashback. However, what really made this sequence so memorable and exciting was that finally, after over two decades, the man who played the widely reviled prequel CG character Jar Jar Binks finally got his chance to do something cool in Star Wars.
Before we go any further, a warning that below you’ll find spoilers for both The Mandalorian’s latest season and episode. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Last night, I settled in on my couch to watch the latest episode of The Mandalorian’s third season. What wild adventures would Baby Yoda and Space Daddy Mando get into this week, I wondered. And while I enjoyed the episode’s main plot—which featured a massive flying alien dino-thing and a lot of Mandalorian warriors—episode 20’s clear standout was a flashback sequence. Not just because it was cool and revealed more of Grogu’s past, which it did, but because it also starred Jar Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best as badass Jedi Master Kelleran Beq. However, don’t get it twisted and assume this was the first time Best has appeared as Master Beq in Star Wars. No, this is actually the second time Best has played this particular Jedi, though the first time was in a very different context: Best played Beq as the host of a Star Wars game show. Let me explain.
During the events of episode 20, Bo-Kotan, Mando, and some members of his cult/family go off after a large monster that has absconded with a child. In the meantime, Baby Yoda aka Grogu stays behind, too young to go on such a dangerous hunt. While he waits around for daddy to return, the leader of the group makes him some more armor and during this process, all the banging metal, liquid steel, and loud machinery triggers a memory in Grogu. Specifically, he seems to remember more of how he survived Palpatine’s genocidal Order 66. We’d seen a hint of this before, but last night it was finally time to learn what happened. And it turns out Jedi Master Kelleran himself saved Grogu, as seen in a very cool action scene involving dual lightsabers, speeder bikes, and even the Naboo Royal Guard.
While we have to wait to see what happens next, I can explain who Kelleran Beq is. The Jedi Master, played by Best, first appeared in the 2019 Disney+ game show Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge. He was the host of the whole thing and in canon, this wasn’t a game show but a way to test young Jedi. It’s kind of weird. Anyway, at the time it was cool to see Ahmed Best get to return to Star Wars as a Jedi. And while Beq doesn’t get to do much during the game show’s episodes, it was still a wonderful moment for Best after all the shit he went through playing Jar Jar Binks.
In 1999, in his first big film role ever, 25-year-old Ahmed Best played alien sidekick Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. And, as you probably know, the character didn’t do well with adult fans and critics at the time. (As a 9-year-old kid, I enjoyed Binks!) But many people didn’t just hate Binks, they loathed the character and would often harass and taunt Best over his role performing Jar Jar.
“I had death threats through the internet,” Best told Wired in 2017. “I had people come to me and say, ‘You destroyed my childhood.’ That’s difficult for a 25-year-old to hear.” In fact, Best eventually admitted on social media that at one point during the worst of it all he considered suicide.
And let’s be clear: You don’t have to like Jar Jar. But the bullshit Best got for the character was wrong and is a great reminder that real people make the things you love and hate. Thankfully, Best has moved on from Jar Jar, and has a wonderful family and a solid career. Still, I and many others wanted Best to come back to Star Wars in a big way. Sure, the hosting gig on his game show was neat. But I wanted more. Best deserved it.
So you can imagine how pumped I was last night when Grogu ended up being saved by Best’s Jedi character. It took 20 years of abuse and harassment. 20 years of suffering. He had to go through so much. He wanted to end it all, even. But finally, in 2023, Ahmed Best got to portray a badass Jedi Master, wielding two lightsabers and fighting off Clone Troopers without breaking a sweat. Not only that, he was saving Grogu, a new beloved character who, in a different timeline, could just as easily have ended up as the next Jar Jar. It almost feels like Best is, in a meta way, saving Grogu from a similar fate to what he suffered over two decades ago.
I assume we will see more of Best’s Jedi in a future episode of the show. There are still plenty of unanswered questions surrounding Grogu. But whatever. For now, I’m just happy that Ahmed Best finally got to escape the shadow of Jar Jar. Dude deserved this moment.