The name Jar Jar Binks brings up mixed reactions amongst Star Wars fans. It’s hard to judge what any one person might think about the character, who was first introduced in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but the common wisdom is that fans who grew up with the original trilogy don’t like him while fans who grew up with the prequel trilogy do like him. One thing most fans agree on, though, is that they want to know what happened to Jar Jar after the events of the prequel trilogy.
Thanks to Aftermath: Empire’s End, the new novel by Chuck Wendig, Jar Jar’s fate is revealed.
In Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Jar Jar is a representative for the Gungan people in the Galactic Senate. Jar Jar, known for his clumsiness, is tricked into believing that Supreme Chancellor Palpatine should be given executive powers to raise an army to combat the threat of the Separatist Alliance. Jar Jar proposes these emergency powers, which Palpatine uses to launch the Clone Wars and ultimately transform the Galactic Republic into the Galactic Empire. The last time we saw him was in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, when he was attending Padmé Amidala’s funeral on Naboo.
Flash forward to the months after Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, when Aftermath: Empire’s End picks up. The novel includes interludes that show what other characters are doing across the galaxy. In one of them, we see Theed, the capital city of Naboo. Mapo, a young refugee displaced by the Galactic Civil War, finds a Gungan performing tricks and feats for children on the streets of Theed.
The children enjoy his antics, but the adults look on him with scorn. The Gungan introduces himself: His name is Jar Jar.
Jar Jar tells Mapo that he’s a street performer because he made “some uh-oh mistakens” in the past. Naboo judged Jar Jar for these mistakes, other Gungans won’t even talk to him, and he was banished from his home. We can assume that Jar Jar fell out of favor because he was the one who gave Palpatine the power to create the Empire. Mapo seems interested in becoming a clown, and Jar Jar offers to help him do that. This offers a faint hint of hope that maybe Jar Jar can find redemption for his well-meaning but misguided actions.
All of this is great. But why does it matter?
The way the people of Naboo look at Jar Jar says everything. It’s a meta-commentary on how Star Wars fans treated the character. When he debuted in The Phantom Menace, kids loved him! He was a comedic relief. His slapstick humor was funny. Amidst all of the seriousness of the film, Jar Jar’s silliness brought a levity to the film that kids enjoyed.
Many adults who grew up with the original trilogy, on the other hand, saw Jar Jar as a dumb character. He was somehow indicative of how Star Wars changed since Return of the Jedi. In the documentary The People vs. George Lucas, one fan summed up the reaction to Jar Jar by calling him “a cartoon character invading this world that I was taking seriously up to that point.”
So many adults looked at Jar Jar with scorn and blamed him for films they felt were ruining Star Wars.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s exactly how Jar Jar is presented in Empire’s End. Perhaps there’s no better way to round off Jar Jar’s story in the saga by showing him as he began: someone maligned by adults, but loved by children—and, perhaps, by adults who can reconnect just a little bit with the silliness of their childhoods.
Whether we see Jar Jar in future Star Wars stories or not, we’re at least left with a bittersweet idea. Jar Jar, for all his faults, is still entertaining children in our world and in a galaxy far, far away.