Star Wars just made one Return of the Jedi murder even more tragic
The Bad Batch just retconned the classic trilogy in a very sad way.
Luke Skywalker is the coldest-hearted murderer in Star Wars. Not only does Luke kill thousands of people aboard the Death Star in A New Hope, but he also brutally rams a spiked door into the spine of a trapped rancor in the opening moments of Return of the Jedi. After that, Luke blows up a sail barge, presumably filled with servers, food workers, and other people who were catering Jabba the Hutt’s party and had no ties to his crime syndicate.
I know. We’re not supposed to think about Luke like this. He’s the hero of Star Wars, and if you just don’t think about all of Luke’s (necessary?) killings, we’ll all have way more fun. The only problem is that recent Star Wars stories aren’t letting us forget about these darker moments in Luke’s life. This brings us back to the rancor. In the latest episode of The Bad Batch, we get an entirely new backstory for this poor beast. And that added context makes Luke’s most brutal murder 10 times more tragic. Spoilers ahead for The Bad Batch episode 5, “Rampage.”
When the Bad Batchers head to the planet Ord Mantell (mentioned by Han Solo in Empire) they’re looking for a Jedi informant from the Clone Wars named Cid. After meeting with Cid, they’re set up with a job to rescue a child from some local slave traders. The Batchers take the job because they need the information Cid has to offer them: specifically the identity of the bounty hunter after them. (We already know it's Fennec Shand.)
A twist arrives about two-thirds of the way through the episode when “the child” they’re rescuing turns out to be an adolescent rancor named Muchi. Eventually, we learn that Cid was hired by Jabba the Hutt, via Bib Fortuna, to bring Muchi back home, presumably to Tatooine.
Is Muchi the rancor from Return of the Jedi?
Okay, here’s where things get weird. According to some canon sources, including the novel Aftermath: Life Debt, the rancor in Jabba’s Palace was male and named Pateesa. This would suggest Muchi is not the same rancor from Return of the Jedi, which is confusing for those of us not prone to Googling the history of rancors. By introducing a teenage rancor — that belongs to Jabba the Hutt — roughly 20 years before the events of Return of the Jedi, The Bad Batch strongly suggests to any casual viewer that there’s a connection between this rancor and the one Luke kills. Why bother connecting Muchi to Jabba the Hutt if we’re not supposed to read into it?
It should be noted that canon novels have been slightly revised by onscreen Star Wars canon before. For example, Cobb Vanth first appeared in the 2015 novel Aftermath: Empire’s End, but his backstory feels slightly different by the time we see him in The Mandalorian Season 2. The point is, onscreen canon tends to take precedence over what’s in the books or comics. It’s possible that Muchi’s introduction in The Bad Batch is a subtle retcon of Pateesa.
Why the rancor death is now 10 times more tragic
Even if we’re meant to think Muchi is not the same rancor from Return of the Jedi, the fact that she’s meant to live with Jabba the Hutt is depressing. “Rampage” spends a good deal of time making us love and want the best for Muchi so it’s tragic that, in all likelihood, things are not going to turn out well for her. Is Muchi the mother of the rancor from Return of the Jedi? A friend living in the same cage? Either way, two decades later, Luke comes in there and slaughters a rancor, so any warm feelings we have for Muchi are tainted by that knowledge.
A future episode of a Star Wars cartoon (or novel, or comic) could reveal that Muchi was eventually freed and was nowhere near Luke’s rancor-killing in Return of the Jedi. But right now, it doesn’t look that way. Even if we’re dealing with unrelated rancors, Wrecker revealed a much more humane way to deal with them than Luke’s strategy. (It’s like how Din Djarin can talk to Tusken Raiders, instead of following the Skywalker path of murdering them as an easy out.)
Muchi’s rescue is cute in the context of The Bad Batch. But in the overall story of Star Wars, it’s unsettling. Interacting with the likes of Luke Skywalker and Jabba the Hutt, these rancors have terrible lives with grisly outcomes. Muchi would have been better off joining the Batchers.