Okay, say what you will about the prequel trilogy: it’s long, it’s self-indulgent, it’s a baroque mess of green screen madness and confusing political mumbo jumbo. But for all its faults, George Lucas actually gave us some incredibly cool new characters for the Star Wars canon. And we’re not talking about Watto.
Warning: we’re about to go deep into Star Wars lore. Like, extremely deep. Only readers with Midichlorian counts over 20,000 dare go further!
Mace Windu–one of the franchise’s only legitimately virtuous, strong, black lead characters (until The Force Awakens came along)–inspired a ton of excitement and pandemonium when he first ignited his purple lightsaber in Attack of the Clones. The badass Jedi Master was crucial to the timeline of Anakin Skywalker, the moody so-called “chosen one” who would soon turn to the dark side, only to save the Republic several decades later in Return of the Jedi. Windu, who sat beside Yoda at the head of the Jedi Council, never quite got along with Skywalker. But it was Windu himself who actually tried to slay Darth Sidious and stop the dark lord from corrupting Anakin’s brain once and for all.
Fans of the franchise will vividly recall this surprisingly shocking moment. Windu has all but defeated Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith, the aging politician/secret baddie has his back against a shattered window, begging Windu not to kill him. Anakin bursts into the chamber, and Palpatine forces him to make a choice: allow Windu to cut him down, or save Sidious, who, as the dark lord says, “Has the power to save the one [Anakin] loves.” It’s one of the franchise’s strongest narrative beats. Anakin, of course, chooses to bow before the Dark Side, chopping off Windu’s arm, which allows Palpatine to send a furious wave of lightning at Windu, electrocuting him off the windowsill and out into the skies of Coruscant, falling to his death. Or so we think.
Like theories about Boba Fett or Darth Maul (which actually ended up coming true), Star Wars fans have long believed that Windu is still alive, despite having an altercation that seemed fatal. In the Star Wars canon, we never heard from Windu again–not as a Force Ghost, not as a disembodied voice–nothing. Unlike Qui-Gon Jinn, who is alluded to having become a Force Ghost at the end of Revenge of the Sith, Windu never came back to grace the Jedi world with his presence. For a Jedi Master of his level–one of the all-time most powerful and most significant on the Council–this is odd. And not only that, but a Redditor has explained that, even though the Sith scene was pretty brutal…there’s nothing in there that really confirms a death. Especially in Star Wars, where people are getting their limbs chopped off, falling from cliffs, and being electrocuted all the damn time.
Reddit user u/shahkabra posted a theory saying, “I propose that under no circumstance could Master Windu have been killed by the act of force lightning, being literally disarmed, falling from a great height, or a combination of all three. In fact no Jedi has ever died from any or all of those things. Therefore Jedi Master Mace Windu survived as well.” That’s a fair claim, but the Redditor actually digs in pretty deep. Shahkabra argues, correctly, that Lightsabers are “designed to cauterize wounds so as to not kill.” It’s true. We never see blood spurting out of these burnt wounds–so Windu bleeding to death is definitely out.
U/Shahkabra then goes on to say, “There has never been an instance in which a Jedi or Sith has been killed by force lightning.” Anakin, Yoda, Darth Vader, and even a bunch of characters from the relatively obscure Star Wars animated series have all been electrocuted a ton. But, none of them have died. And Mace Windu is no ordinary, run-of-the-mill Jedi. We’re talking about one of the most powerful Jedi Masters of all time here. I think he can take a little buzz from time to time.
Finally, the issue of “falling from great heights” is unpacked. Could Windu have died on impact, falling to his death on the roads of Coruscant? They were, after all, pretty high up, from what we can see in the exteriors of the scene. U/shahkabra links to a bunch of other Star Wars heroes and villains who have survived falls from great heights. There’s Anakin falling in Attack of the Clones. Darth Maul being chopped in half and bouncing off walls, falling down an enormous corridor in The Phantom Menace. And, of course, there’s Luke Skywalker himself, who fell from an insane height in Cloud City at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. In Star Wars, people fall. It’s just kind of part of the thing. Why would Windu’s fall be different from any of these?
The end of u/shahkabra’s post says, “Due to the incredible resilience and fall damage of Jedi and Sith, there is no way that with the evidence in mind that Mace Windu is dead.” And then, “I believe that he realized that he could not defeat both of them so he never came back.” This last line is the most intriguing part of the entire theory. The idea that Windu, a towering figure in the history of The Jedi, realized in that moment what would lie ahead for the benevolent warriors, essentially foreseeing the events of the next few movies. This includes the vicious, genocidal slaughter of the Jedi known as “Order 66.” And then, the hunt to destroy any remaining followers of the religion to eradicate them once and for all. Not a great time to be around, especially not for a Jedi as notable as Mace Windu.
Considering u/shahkabra’s theory in the context of The Rise of Skywalker is extremely fascinating. Samuel L. Jackson, of course, is a huge figure in Hollywood right now. He’s Disney-friendly, having starred in countless Marvel movies as the super spy, Nick Fury. It’s said that Jackson is one of the most bankable stars in the game right now.
When Disney released footage of Rise of Skywalker at their big D23 celebration, J.J. Abrams actually included a shot of Jackson as Mace Windu in the clip reel. Abrams has said repeatedly that the history of the franchise is important to him, as Rise of Skywalker seems intended to tie off a series of loose ends for the three-trilogy saga. It’s been all but confirmed that we’ll be seeing some returning Jedi in this new film–Mark Hamill’s voice has been featured prominently in all the trailer footage so far, and there are rumors going way back that Yoda will once again be making an appearance in the film. It was even revealed recently that, in early drafts of Return of the Jedi, Lucas intended for Force Ghosts to be able to come back from death to help Jedi fight against Sith Lords. It seems like Palpatine is back in Skywalker. It seems like the modern-day heroes might need help from some of the Jedi of before. And who better to answer the call than Mace Windu, the only Master we have seen so far (aside from Anakin Skywalker) who was able to defeat Sidious in battle?
Alive, Force Ghost, or otherwise, the stage feels perfectly set for Samuel L. Jackson to march back into the fray, purple lightsaber blazing. Now we just have to hope he says his best line: “This party’s over.”