The Star Wars prequels may not have garnered immense praise when they were first released, but even the most ardent detractor will begrudgingly admit that the films succeeded spectacularly in worldbuilding.
George Lucas established a galaxy filled with complicated political intrigue, introduced entirely new species and worlds, and fans were quickly drawn to even the most minor characters. The first films had characters like Boba Fett; the prequels had countless Jedi seen in the backgrounds with little to no dialogue. Nonetheless, every viewer quickly got a favorite. (I remember immediately becoming a Kit Fisto fan after seeing him force-push C-3PO and flashing his soon-to-be iconic grin afterward).
One famous example of a minor prequel character becoming a star is Jedi Master Plo Koon. His unique look, with his orange skin and signature black mask and goggles, helped make him stand out in every scene he was in, even if he was sharing the screen with icons like Mace Windu and Yoda.
While Plo Koon was simply a background character in the actual prequel movies, his popularity amongst fans saw him gain a much bigger role in the franchise’s extended media, especially in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. However, it wasn’t just the admiration from fans that brought Plo Koon into the limelight; enter the cowboy hat-wearing man himself, Star Wars writer Dave Filoni.
Who is Plo Koon? Examining the Jedi Master’s role in the Star Wars Universe
Jedi Master Plo Koon was a Kel Dor, a species hailing from the planet Dorin. The Kel Dor have a unique physiology; oxygen is poisonous to them, so most Kel Dor, like Plo Koon, are often seen wearing specialized masks in order to survive in foreign atmospheres.
Plo Koon, one of the most prominent Jedi of his time, and served on the order’s council alongside Yoda, Mace Windu, and Ki-Adi-Mundi, wielded a blue lightsaber, and had an expert command over the Force. As portrayed in The Clone Wars, the stalwart Plo Koon was a textbook Jedi; noble, kindhearted, and clear-minded in dangerous situations, not one to swing his lightsaber and ask questions later. But stars help any droid or bounty hunter who gave him a reason to turn on his lightsaber!
Despite meeting a tragic end during Revenge of the Sith‘s climactic Order 66 scene, The Clone Wars’ first three-episode arc, early in season one, sees the character in a lead role, trying to survive the blackness of space with the clone troopers serving under him being hunted and eliminated one-by-one, while also having to contend with a terrible new Separatist superweapon. During this arc, Plo Koon not only shines as a fighter but also a leader. He surprises the clones by showing them immense empathy. “I value your life more than finding that weapon,” he expresses to the clones. When the troops question why anyone would want to rescue them, observing “We’re just clones, sir. We’re meant to be expendable.” Plo Koon emphatically replies: “Not to me.”
The Jedi Master’s background is also elaborated on as the series reveals that he was the one who discovered a young force-sensitive Ahsoka Tano. This gives Plo Koon a special connection to one of the show’s central characters.
And when you find out that Plo Koon was a favorite of Dave Filoni — the main writer and producer behind The Clone Wars — it makes sense that the Kel Dor Jedi was given such a spotlight.
Filoni’s love for Plo Koon was actually used to trick fans during ‘The Mandalorian’s’ second season
In today’s world where social media dominates our daily existence, it’s almost impossible for studios and production companies to prevent story leaks. Everyone and their mother knew Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire were going to appear in Spider-Man: No Way Home. And let’s not forget that absolute storm of drama regarding The Last of Us II leaks.
So, when The Mandalorian season 2 finale came out and fans got to see a prime Luke Skywalker saving the day, everyone was shocked. This season had countless appearances from iconic Star Wars figures. Katee Sackhoff reprised her role Bo-Katan, bringing the character to the world of live-action. Fans were treated to Temuera Morrison bringing back the legend that is Boba Fett. We even got Rosario Dawson as a live-action Ahsoka Tano! Most fans were probably aware of at least two of these appearances. However, Mark Hamill’s de-aged return as Luke Skywalker was the moment that completely rocked the internet. Nobody saw this coming.
In the Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian episode covering the season 2 finale, fans get an in-depth look at how Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, and the entire team worked to bring Luke Skywalker back. Obviously, aside from the technical aspects regarding a younger Luke’s appearance, one of the chief concerns was how to keep a lid on things. Filoni, realizing just how much the fans knew he loved Plo Koon, used this to the production team’s advantage. The director-writer stated: “It’s fairly well known by deep core fans that Plo Koon’s my favorite Jedi. And a lot of people, if Plo Koon from the script got out, would assume, ‘Well, of course, ’cause Dave likes Plo Koon.’”
Early digital art of the Jedi Master was even crafted for the show and used during production. “We had a digital Plo Koon head placed on the actor in dailies,” Filoni explained. (Granted, as seen in the photo above, this is the stuff of nightmares. Don’t worry. Plo Koon Skywalker can’t hurt you!)
Even actors like Sackhoff were fooled by this trickery. “[He] lied to my face and told me it was Plo Koon,” she said an interview after the finale’s ending.
It’s honestly amazing and hilarious that this was one of the key ways they kept Luke Skywalker and Mark Hamill’s return a secret. This is some crafty strategy using the hardcore fans’ knowledge against them. Thank you Dave Filoni, and thank you Plo Koon!