Jar Jar Binks is perhaps the leading candidate for the title of most loathed Star Wars character. His debut in The Phantom Menace was very polarizing; while youngsters laughed at his antics, older moviegoers immediately hated the Gungan. Fair or not, Jar Jar became the poster boy for everything wrong with the prequels, despite his role being significantly cut in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The impassioned hatred Binks inspired is so strong, Lucasfilm has (justifiably) been reluctant to bring him back to the fold ever since The Clone Wars television series wrapped up. Jar Jar’s an infamous part of the lore many would rather forget.
However, Jar Jar is the only main character from the prequel era whose story never received any form of resolution, meaning his fate after the rise of the Empire remained up in the air. After re-establishing goodwill with fans over the past couple of years, Lucasfilm’s story group decided the time was right for Jar Jar to return, including him in an interlude in the new novel Aftermath: Empire’s End (which, like all the books, is part of the official canon). In a depressing twist, Jar Jar leads a solitary existence as a street clown, performing tricks for children on Naboo. But that only scratches the surface of the heartbreak.
Nobody (besides little kids) wants to talk to Jar Jar because the Gungan is blamed for helping form the Empire. Viewers may recall in Episode II, Binks was the one who moved for the Senate to give Chancellor Palpatine emergency powers, leading to the formation of the Republic’s clone army. In the interlude, it’s quite apparent Jar Jar feels tremendous personal guilt for something that was well beyond his control, adding a layer to his character. In Empire’s End, a young boy named Mapo asks Jar Jar why he’s all alone:
“My no sure.” The Gungan makes a hmm sound. “Mesa thinkin it cause-o Jar Jar makin some uh-oh mistakens. Big mistakens. Der Gunga bosses banished me longo ago. Mesa no been to home in for-ebbers. And des hisen Naboo tink I help the uh-oh Empire.” For a moment, the Gungan looks sad. Staring off at an unfixed point. He shrugs. “My no know.” Though Mapo wonders if he knows more than he’s saying.
While author Chuck Wendig does not specifically mention Palpatine’s emergency powers, it is heavily implied this is what Jar Jar is referring to, and one can’t help but feel sympathetic towards his plight. Jar Jar was a naive and innocent Senate Representative whose kind-hearted nature was exploited to advance a nefarious agenda – something that not even the Jedi Council could see. Binks was merely a pawn in the Emperor’s longterm game, but he took the brunt of the consequences. Jar Jar is still haunted by his call to action and feels partially responsible for the years of tyranny that ensued. In all likelihood, Palpatine would have received his emergency powers one way or another, but Jar Jar hastened the process and is now unfairly ostracized by society.
It’s funny to consider that in five pages of a book, Wendig humanized Jar Jar in a way George Lucas never could in a trilogy of two-hour films, but it shows that with the right writer, the Gungan may have had potential as a supporting character in the prequels. Disney and Lucasfilm deserve credit for taking a chance and bringing Jar Jar back, confident that the fans would be willing to buy in after a bevy of other great content in this new era. And though Wendig doesn’t necessarily shake his finger at viewers for not accepting Jar Jar in The Phantom Menace, he could be asking readers to reconsider their overall opinion about Jar Jar. He’s an easy target for the angry adults on Naboo, searching for an outlet for their frustrations. That sounds eerily similar to the many people who strongly disliked Episode I and ravaged Jar Jar and Jake Lloyd to no end. The interlude has a meta aspect to it, which makes it even more compelling.
Source: Aftermath: Empire’s End