Ever since the release of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 the character of Yoda has become a pop culture icon. He’s appeared in many of the Star Wars films and shows. When many people think of Yoda they think of a wise Jedi Master who seems to know all the answers and is filled with deep quotes. When the character is examined in a much deeper way we can see that goes through a very interesting character arc. To see it, his story must be experienced in every film and every main TV show he appears in. From the Prequel Trilogy to the Sequel Trilogy it’s truly fascinating.
At the start of the story, during the Prequel Trilogy, we see that the Jedi are at a place of power. They are heavily involved in the affairs of the Galactic Republic and sit high above the people they say they protect in their ivory tower. Yoda’s personality and behavior reflect this position the Jedi were in at the time. He is very calm and collected.
Instead of serving the people as they say they do the Jedi appear to be serving the Republic Senate. This devotion to the Republic even makes them turn against one of their own, Ahsoka Tano, when she is accused of unspeakable crimes. Yoda and many of the other Jedi do not try to defend her even though they’ve known Ahsoka most of her life and she has been shown to be devoted to the order. They do give her the chance to join the Jedi Order after she is proven innocent but that was after they showed where their true loyalties lie. This was one of the many ways Yoda and the Jedi as a whole gave Palpatine the chance to strike which eventually led to their downfall.
Later, after the rise of the Galactic Empire, the former Jedi Master is in exile after failing to defeat the Emperor but he is not out of the fight. When he appears in the Star Wars Rebels episode “Shroud of Darkness”, he gives advice to Kanan Jarrus, Ezra Bridger, and Ahsoka Tano. When he talks to Ezra he discusses the Clone Wars and recognizes how the hubris of the Jedi at the time blinded them to the true threat. This is the first major sign of character growth because Yoda is able to show the young Jedi that the former Jedi Order that he led failed due to their pride.
Yoda’s next major appearance was in the Original Trilogy where he helps Luke Skywalker train to become a Jedi Knight. He teaches his new apprentice the ways of the old Jedi in order to continue the peacekeeping knights for generations.
As Luke is in the middle of his training he discovers his relation to Darth Vader and he begins to feel the good in him that was once Anakin Skywalker. When Yoda confirms to Luke that he is indeed the son of one of the greatest Sith Lords to ever live he tells his apprentice that he must face Vader and confront him.
In the conversation between Luke and Obi-Wan moments later it is implied that Yoda and Obi-Wan want Luke to finish what they started by destroying Darth Vader and saying that, “he is more machine than man”. Luke refuses because of his faith in the force and how he can sense Darth Vader’s conflict. Luke confronts his father but is able to turn him to the light. Luke’s actions led to a change in the Jedi and he grew beyond his masters in the process.
During the events of the Sequel Trilogy, Yoda’s former apprentice finds himself dealing with his own struggles after his Jedi Order failed. This is where we see the conclusion to his character’s journey. We see him give counsel to Luke once again but this time Yoda has truly learned from his mistakes and helps Luke to learn that his mistakes make him human. He also tells him that the Jedi Order doesn’t need to end but that it needs to grow and evolve even if that means moving on from the old ways. He’s learned that every generation will make mistakes the next one will improve and learn. That’s why we need to move on from the past but remember it and learn from it.
Throughout the saga (and even prior in the High Republic era), Yoda’s character arc is one of the most fascinating due to how it spans the whole saga and helps to show how Star Wars is a generational story. He goes from allowing his pride to blind him from the dark side and wanting to continue the ways of the Jedi that had failed them in the first place to then acknowledging his mistakes and realizing that in order for the Jedi to continue they must move on from the old ways. This arc he goes through also shows that this iconic character is more than just a wise old Jedi. He had a long life filled with trials and tribulations which tested him even when he was a Grand Master in the Jedi Order.