We have finally learned what happened to Jar Jar Binks since we last saw him in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith — and even the most adamant hater will be hard pressed not to feel a tinge of pity.
Chuck Wendig’s forthcoming novel Star Wars: Aftermath — Empire’s End, which is considered canon by Lucasfilm, has a chapter dedicated to perhaps the most reviled character in that galaxy far, far away. The scene is set in Naboo and focuses on a young refugee boy named Mapo, a damaged kid in desperate need of a friend. His caregiver encourages him to go visit someone in the town square, a certain Gungan derided by the other kids.
The clown, they call him. Bring the clown. We want to see the clown. We like it how he juggles glombo shells, or spits fish up in the air and catches them, or how he dances and falls on his butt… Nobody even says his name.
Yes, Jar Jar Binks has literally become a sad clown.
Mapo, of course, strikes up a conversation and learns the clown’s name is Jar Jar. Jar Jar, still as unaware as ever, explains why he has been ostracized.
“Mesa thinkin it cause-o Jar Jar makin some uh-oh mistakes. Big mistakes. Der Gunga bosses banished me longo ago. Mesa no been to home in for-ebbers. And desa hisen Naboo tink I help the uh-oh Empire.” For a moment, the Gungan looks sad. Staring off at an unfixed point.
The brief interlude ends on a happier note as the two outcasts, Mapo and Jar Jar, decide to become pallos.
From his arrival as the comic relief in The Phantom Menace, Jar Jar Binks polarized the fan community. A large swath condemned the pidgin-speaking amphibian as the Star Wars equivalent of Stepin Fetchit. But there were also defenders, who embraced the Naboo native as a welcome dose of levity in George Lucas’s dense political drama.
Stung by the criticism, Lucas radically reduced the Gungan’s presence in the follow-up, Attack of the Clones. Jar Jar, now a representative to the Galactic Senate, is largely off screen during the film’s action, except for one key moment. The naive character becomes the patsy of Chancellor Palpatine, presenting a motion in the Senate that gives Palpatine emergency powers, which he ultimately seizes to solidify his ascension to Emperor.
While J.J. Abrams wanted to kill off the maligned creature in The Force Awakens (but abandoned the idea), Jar Jar apologists have attempted to reinvent him in recent years. Most notably, there was the viral Darth Jar Jar Theory of 2015, sprung from a Reddit fever dream that envisioned the Gugan goofball as a stealthy Sith lord. Alas the events of Empire’s End scuttle that idea.
Empire’s End, which arrives in stores on Tuesday, is the concluding installment in Wendig’s trilogy set between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Though largely focused on characters not seen in the films, major characters do play supporting roles (in Empire’s End, Leia’s pregnancy and her relationship with Han is a major subplot), and the overarching narrative — about the Imperial remainder and their shadowy leader, who has ties to Jakku — has potential ramifications for The Last Jedi. More on that later.