Warning: this article contains full spoilers for The Mandalorian: Season 3, Episode 4! If you haven't already, be sure to check out IGN's review of "The Foundling."
The fourth episode of The Mandalorian: Season 3 brings back a familiar Star Wars face, albeit not necessarily in the way fans might have expected. Ahmed Best returns to the franchise, not to reprise the role of the controversial Gungan goofball Jar Jar Binks, but as Jedi Master Kelleran Beq.
Who exactly is Kelleran Beq, and why is this appearance such a big deal? Let’s break down the history of the character and why his Mandalorian appearance is so meaningful.
Who Is Ahmed Best’s Kelleran Beq?
Best is well-known for playing Jar Jar Binks in all three Star Wars Prequels, but he’s pivoted to a very different Prequel-era role in recent years. Best served as the host of the short-lived web series Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge. A kid-centric competition show in the vein of Wipeout and Legends of the Hidden Temple, Jedi Temple Challenge shows contestants battling obstacle courses and trivia challenges in order to collect the parts needed to construct their lightsabers and complete their Jedi Trials. Best hosts the series, playing the part of kind Jedi Master Kelleran Beq.
Given that it’s a reality series, Jedi Temple Challenge shouldn’t necessarily be taken as part of the official Star Wars lore. However, Best’s character has now been inducted into canon thanks to The Mandalorian. Beq’s in-universe role is still basically the same as it was on Jedi Temple Challenge. He’s an instructor at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant who supervises the Padawans undergoing the trials to become full-fledged Jedi Knights.
It’s certainly a treat to see Best’s Jedi Temple Challenge character back in action and swinging lightsabers. The show made a point of emphasizing Beq’s sword-fighting ability, with the character going by the nickname “The Sabered Hand.” Now we finally see that skill firsthand, as Beq deftly wields two blades at once and fights his way through Darth Vader’s finest troops.
Most importantly, we learn Master Beq played a critical role during the events of Order 66. He survives the initial attack on the Jedi Temple, helping escort Grogu to safety and escape aboard a Naboo ship. It’s clear that Grogu would never have survived to partner up with Din Djarin if not for the quick thinking and handy lightsaber work of Kelleran Beq.
It's also worth pointing out that Best previously cameoed as a character named Achk Med-Beq in Attack of the Clones. Med-Beq is one of the denizens of the Courscanti cantina in the scene where Obi-Wan and Anakin are pursuing bounty hunter Zam Wesell. According to Best himself, Med-Beq is somehow related to Master Beq, though they definitely seem to have grown up on opposite sides of the tracks.
The Star Wars Redemption of Ahmed Best
This episode is quite a change from the days when Best was effectively the poster child for anti-Prequel sentiment online. Jar Jar is not a well-liked character, to put it mildly, and that dislike had an unfortunate carryover effect in the real world. Best revealed he even faced death threats as part of the backlash to The Phantom Menace in 1999.
“"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."
That backlash took a heavy psychological toll on Best. The actor posted a heartfelt message on Twitter in 2018, revealing he struggled with suicidal thoughts during that dark period.
“20 years next year I faced a media backlash that still affects my career today,” Best wrote in a now-deleted Twitter post. “This was the place I almost ended my life. It’s still hard to talk about. I survived and now this little guy [referring to Best’s son] is my gift for survival. Would this be a good story for my solo show? Lemme know.”
Though Best persevered and seems much more at peace with his time as Jar Jar, his tweet is an uncomfortable reminder of how cruel subsets of Star Wars viewers can be to the actors and filmmakers working on these stories. Best’s Phantom Menace co-star Jake Lloyd faced similar struggles following the backlash to the movie, to the point that he quit acting entirely. Sequel Trilogy stars like John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran have hardly been safe from online harassment, either.
However disliked Jar Jar Binks may be, he’s hardly the root cause of the Prequel Trilogy’s storytelling failures. And certainly, no one can argue that Best or Lloyd deserved the vitriol being directed their way in 1999. They were actors hired to play roles, and they became pariahs because of it.
But for Best, at least, The Mandalorian is offering a second chance to leave his mark on the franchise. Free from the motion capture tech and cartoonish mannerisms of Jar Jar, Best is able to play a character defined by heroism and compassion in the what of battle. In an episode about Mandalorians waging war on dinosaur-like birds, Kelleran Beq is the coolest hero of the week. Best’s Mandalorian role is a welcome reminder that some Star Wars actors can find redemption by returning to the franchise.
What’s Next for Kelleran Beq and Grogu After Order 66?
Kelleran Beq has already played a pivotal role in the ongoing Grogu saga, but “The Foundling” makes it clear his role in the series isn’t finished yet. When we last see Beq and Grogu in the flashback sequence, the two have escaped aboard a Naboo starfighter while the guards heroically sacrifice themselves. So that raises an obvious question - what’s next for these two?
We know very little about Grogu’s life during the roughly 30 years between Order 66 and his first encounter with Din Djarin. Master Beq helped him escape the Jedi Purge, but at some point Grogu does fall into the hands of the Empire. He becomes a vital test subject in Dr. Pershing’s cloning experiments. Based on what we’ve seen so far, Grogu’s midichlorian-rich DNA may be the foundation on which Supreme Leader Snoke was built.
There’s clearly a story to be told about what happens next to Beq and Grogu. How long is Beq able to protect his Youngling ward? Do they flee to Naboo? Star Wars lore has revealed that the planet remains a site of anti-Imperial resistance, with even Queen Amidala’s former handmaidens joining the fight. Is Beq eventually killed defending Grogu? Just what hardships does the little guy have to endure before he’s taken into Imperial custody?
There’s a good chance we’ll get answers to many of these questions in the weeks to come. Grogu is clearly very haunted by the ghosts of his past, and those memories are flooding back to him during his time with the Armorer. We’ll probably see more flashbacks in future episodes, as the series continues to slowly fill in the gaps of Grogu’s mysterious past. And with any luck, we’ll get to see the Sabered Hand work his magic again.
For more on The Mandalorian, brush up on the troubled history of the planet Mandalore and the importance of the Mythosaur.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.