[This post contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi]
The scripts for Game of Thrones season seven were leaked online months in advance. It’s big news when a major death on The Walking Dead isn’t ruined. A “this post contains spoilers” is now a near-obligatory introduction to any article (see: this article) written about Marvel. Or DC. Or especially Star Wars.
But to the immense credit of Disney, and the millions they spent on anti-drone drones and the jacked Eastern European bodyguards who flew them, little about The Last Jedi was spoiled in advance. Think about it: how much do you actually know about the movie? Do you know who Rey’s parents are? Do you know anything about Supreme Leader Snoke, other than his height? What the heck is that porg screaming about? If you avoided the trailers, and fast-forward through commercials (so: everyone), you could come into The Last Jedi cold turkey.
But even if you read all the fan theories and devoured every nugget of pre-release information like a rancor eating a Gamorrean guard, there’s one surprise in the movie that, based on my theater experience, made you gasp.
It happens near the end of the second act, after Rey departs Ahch-To to join the fight against the First Order, leaving Luke Skywalker alone and broken. The self-loathing Jedi tries to burn the tomes of his “hokey religion,” in order to rid the world of the Jedi for good, but stops himself at the last moment. (Much like he did in killing Kylo in his sleep during a flashback.) However, Luke is surprised to learn he’s not the only one there. For the first time since declaring his self-imposed exile at the end of Revenge of the Sith (or, in episodic order, ghosting with Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in Return of the Jedi), Master Yoda appears! He’s not the wise Yoda of the prequels, either, but the rascally Yoda who steals Luke’s food and bashes R2-D2 with his stick. I missed that guy.
Yoda’s in fine form in The Last Jedi. He’s funny (“page turners, they were not”), insightful (“the greatest teacher, failure is”), and, unlike Cornelius Evazan and Ponda Baba’s cameo in Rogue One, he’s important to the plot. He helps convince Luke to stop sulking. Oh yeah, and he uses force lightning to burn down the Jedi tree, which was almost as cool as seeing puppet Yoda again.
(At least it looked like a puppet to me. If so, that would be the first time since The Phantom Menace, although he’s since been replaced by a digital Yoda. There could have been some CGI involved, but it’s unlikely Disney will say anything until next week, after more people have watched the movie.)
Yoda is one of the few characters to appear in the original trilogy, the prequels, and the new trilogy, and he’s always been voiced by Frank Oz. In the lead-up to The Last Jedi, the Muppet legend was asked if Yoda would ever return to Star Wars. “To be true to the people who asked me, and they are kind of my family, I have to say I’ve been asked not to talk about it,” he teased, although there’s nothing in there that hints, “I am going to set a tree on fire in a few months.”
He’s back in the fold now, though, and Yoda’s appearance is significant for the final chapter in the post-Lucas-era trilogy. The Force Awakens was Force Ghost free, but with Yoda again doling out advice from beyond the pile of robes, we may not have seen the last of Luke, who, in the other big Last Jedi surprise, finds peace before dying. With so much death in the Star Wars universe, both on-screen (Han Solo, Luke, Admiral Ackbar) and off (Carrie Fisher and Kenny Baker), Yoda’s cameo was an unexpected source of excitement.
Even if the Jedi don’t believe in it.