Ever since The Last Jedi came out, Star Wars has commented almost exclusively on Star Wars. That film’s Luke Skywalker echoing Obi-Wan Kenobi’s sense of failure and exile—never mind Col. Kurtz—enraged fans who wanted to see only what Luke teased Rey about in Rian Johnson’s script: staring down the whole might of the First Order “with a laser sword.” Mind you, Luke actually did that at the end of The Last Jedi, and it was one of the most tremendous moments in the franchise. But he did so in a way we were taught to appreciate was truly Jedi-like in behavior. He did not kill or hurt anyone, but through a trick of the Force he saved lives.
Fans who wanted to see Luke cut down hordes of enemies, however, considered it a betrayal of expectations, and Lucasfilm fecklessly took note. So when Mark Hamill was turned into a ghastly de-aged mannequin in The Mandalorian a few years later, the first thing he did was slice and dice dozens of faceless foes with his green lightsaber. Fandom was ecstatic.
The same held true when Obi-Wan Kenobi brought back Hayden Christensen, all so Obi-Wan and Darth Vader could have another fight just like the one in the original 1977 Star Wars, save this one must have no stakes. We know Vader kills Obi-Wan in Star Wars, so their confrontation in the Disney+ TV series is ultimately meaningless—a regurgitation of Star Wars content you already saw before that must end with the exact same status quo it started at.
With the exception of Tony Gilroy’s magnificent (and little watched) Andor, the streaming shows have become an ouroboros. They’re snake-shaped corporate products eating their own tails. Hence large portions of Ahsoka devoted to recreating moments from an animated TV series, only now young Ahsoka sees Christensen turn into Darth Vader for a flash of a moment before turning again to Anakin. Star Wars is stuck in a circuitous and repetitive conversation with itself, discussing the same characters, with the same talking points, on a loop ad infinitum.
As a result, the world of Star Wars has never seemed smaller or more insulated than on a litany of Disney+ shows where the entire galaxy revolves around the same five characters bumping into each other and making reverent nods to the same three movies released 40-plus years ago.
This might be the way, but not long ago The Last Jedi promised another. It was a film where the depth of the Jedi/Sith paradigm grew with newly added complexities and ambiguities; the power of the Force felt bigger and more mysterious as Luke projected himself across the stars with his last breath; and the films could freshen up the mythos by drawing on new influences and weird details—like drawing on a ‘70s Vietnam War film that was in turn based on a Joseph Conrad novel from 1899.