Ahmed Best Is Back as a Jedi Knight

Disney | Lucasfilm

In the fourth episode of The Mandalorian’s third season, titled The Foundling, fans saw a familiar face appear in a flashback. Grogu, the cute little “Baby Yoda” beloved by the internet, was once a youngling Jedi who trained at the temple on Coruscant. However, when the Emperor initiated the Great Purge, someone whisked Grogu away from the planet and out of the Clone Troopers’ reach.

For years, the identity of this rescuer has remained a mystery to fans. Some speculated that Grogu’s savior might have been Mace Windu or even Obi-Wan Kenobi, but The Mandalorian saw fit to subvert expectations and present a brand-new character as Grogu’s escort away from the Jedi Temple. Interestingly enough, though, this “new” character is familiar in a few ways. 

Kelleran Beq rescued Grogu during the night of the Purge, using his dual lightsabers and defensive skills to shuttle the young one safely off-world. He’s portrayed by returning Star Wars actor Ahmed Best, best known for his role as the critically reviled Jar Jar Binks. This marks something of a homecoming and Redemption for Best, giving him a serious role to make up for his goofy, terrible turn in the galaxy far, far away twenty years ago.

Kelleran Beq

Kelleran Beq is a new character to Star Wars, having only previously appeared as the host of a game show called Jedi Temple Challenge. That show presented Beq as an in-universe mentor to Younglings at the Jedi Temple, but most fans wrote the role off as a fun cameo for Best instead of as a serious, canonical entry in the franchise.

Interestingly enough, this didn’t even mark the first time the “Beq” name has appeared in the series. In Attack of the Clones, Best has a brief cameo as a background character identified as “Ack Med Beq,” a clear play on the actor’s own name. In interviews with fan magazines, Best has stated that both Beq characters are brothers, given their identical appearances and shared surname. 

Kelleran appears to be an adept Jedi Knight in his first canonical appearance in The Foundling. He wields a pair of lightsabers and brandishes them with an acrobatic flair. He easily fends off the attacks of numerous Clone Troopers throughout the scene, protecting Grogu from his would-be assassins. This marks Kelleran as a very different character from Jar Jar. 

The Legacy of Binks

Ahmed Best’s role as Jar Jar Binks in the prequel trilogy was universally reviled upon the films’ release. Binks is unquestionably one of the worst parts of the entire Star Wars franchise, simultaneously serving as a comic relief buffoon in a series full of goofy characters and somehow also a racist caricature. Despite this, Best himself never deserved any scorn or derision for portraying the character–he provided the lines and motion capture as he was directed.

It’s hardly Best’s fault that the prequels have nonsensical scripts and nonexistent charisma. Still, that didn’t stop some toxic viewers from sending Best consistent hate-mail and harassing him endlessly for his part in the prequels. The backlash against the films was so severe, in fact, that it seems to have generated a counter-backlash of younger fans who now defend the prequels as misunderstood masterpieces.

This viewpoint is quite flawed, however, as the prequels remain abysmal, nearly unwatchable garbage compared to the other six entries in the mainline franchise, but nostalgia can have some unusual effects on a person’s tastes. But the films’ quality notwithstanding, Best never deserved such vitriol. It’s heartwarming to see him back in the franchise, reprising a genuinely cool role in a universally-acclaimed TV series.

Star Wars Redemption Tour

The Disney+ slate of Star Wars shows has functioned as something of a Star Wars redemption tour. Fans largely disparaged the prequels upon release, damaging the brand and impacting the public perception of the franchise. The sequels were much more readily accepted, barring some unusual culture-war-adjacent drama regarding The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker

Still, the perceived negative fan reaction to the eighth and ninth entries in the series has led to many commentators online referring to The Mandalorian and its sibling shows as a rehabilitation for the brand’s image. The Mandalorian is uncontroversially awesome, offering fans some classic Star Wars action and distancing itself from the controversies of the past. As such, it’s the perfect vehicle for an actor like Best to find his footing in the galaxy once more.

This is similar to the path that the middling Obi-Wan Kenobi series took with Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen. Both actors are fantastic in their roles in other films but are just downright awful in the prequels due to poor direction and painfully awkward dialogue. Kenobi offered both a chance to set things right, but that series was sadly dragged down by the overuse of CGI and a plot that largely retreads most of the story beats of other Star Wars entries.

Expanding the Universe

Best’s reappearance in The Mandalorian delighted fans immediately. Those who hate the prequels were happy to see Best in a non-Jar Jar role, and those who still champion the earlier films felt vindicated to see a prequel actor back on the small screen. In either case, Best’s reemergence shows how important The Mandalorian has been for Star Wars.

The Disney+ slate of shows has given the franchise new ways to grow the universe without spending an entire movie’s budget. Fans have universally applauded The Mandalorian, even if Kenobi and The Book of Boba Fett have left a few things to be desired. Still, these limited series runs are still a great way to explore some corners of the Star Wars universe and give enough context and background to characters who fans want to see more from.

The real test will be whether The Mandalorian has the guts to bring Jar Jar Binks himself back into the fold. It seems unlikely that Best will reprise that particular role, though, given just how much grief it caused him back in 1999. Everyone’s least favorite Gungan might be doomed to have his last appearance be a goofy episode of The Clone Wars.