The Star Wars movies introduce a lot of characters, but it would take TV shows like Star Wars: The Clone Wars to bring most of those characters to life.
Take Jedi Master Luminara Unduli, an easily underestimated Mirialan.
Luminara at the Movies
Jedi Luminara Unduli made appearances in both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith but she’s really just scenery, an example of another alien species in the Jedi order. She has no lines, and beyond the fact that she’s a member of the Jedi Council we know almost nothing about her.
Who played Luminara Unduli?
Luminara was played in Star Wars Episode II by Mary Oyaya and in Episode III by Fay David. She was voiced by Olivia d’Abo in the animated Clone Wars TV show and in the final moments of The Rise of Skywalker. In case you missed her, she’s the petite, green, female Jedi with a tattooed chin, dressed in black robes with a big hat.
Luminara’s most dramatic movie scene is where she joins the Jedi strike force sent to rescue Obi Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala. There she wields her green lightsaber to great effect against the battle droids before leading the first units of the new clone army in what became known as the first battle of Geonosis (or simply the Battle of Geonosis if you’ve never watched Clone Wars).
Beyond Attack of the Clones
But it’s in the events away from the big screen, in the epic, 7-season Star Wars: The Clone Wars where Luminara Unduli really comes to life.
Luminara Unduli is the first Jedi in the secondary cast to be showcased, and we get our first real look at her in only the ninth episode of the series, Cloak of Darkness.
Tasked with delivering Separatist leader Nute Gunray to justice, Luminara Unduli is joined by Ahsoka Tano aboard a Republic ship. Separatist forces attempt to rescue Gunray, and as Luminara fights off a droid attack her skill as a warrior is clear, but we also see in her a trait all too common in the Jedi: arrogance.
Ignoring Ahsoka’s warning, Luminara faces off against Asajj Ventress alone and very nearly pays for this mistake with her life. Ahsoka arrives just in time to stop the death blow, but even together the two Jedi are unable to best the dark powers of Ventress.
Luminara, though, shows depth of character by admitting her error and praising Ahsoka. Her humility may be new, but in their exchange we glimpse a surprising warmth in Luminara.
It Takes a Village to Raise a Padawan
As a Jedi, Luminara Unduli was bound to take a padawan at some point in her career, and we meet her apprentice, Barriss Offee, early in the second season of Clone Wars.
(Fun fact: we actually see Barriss for the first time in Attack of the Clones, as the only padawan included in a Jedi briefing to Chancellor Palpatine, and then she joins Luminara at the first Battle of Geonosis.)
Master and apprentice
In Weapons Factory, Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano are joined by Luminara Unduli and Barriss Offee, and the relationships between master and padawan are sharply contrasted. Whereas Anakin and Ahsoka are openly bickering, Luminara and Barriss share a close bond.
Luminara’s always several steps ahead of the brash Skywalker and while she treats him with respect, she clearly has no time for his emotional nonsense. Luminara Unduli is unquestionably in charge, and it’s cool to have Anakin put in his place without a single moment of confrontation.
The sign of a true master
Later, when both padawan are thought lost, Luminara’s maturity shines through. Unlike Anakin’s emotional reaction, Luminara remains calm. She admits to caring for Barriss, but she’s also willing to face the fact that she may have died.
Anakin even accuses Luminara of having given up on them, but instead of getting angry she makes an observation that echoes through the entire Star Wars saga: “Unlike you, when the time comes I am prepared to let my student go.“
Anakin’s emotional attachments and fear of loss are the cause of the central tragedy of Star Wars. Of all the Jedi, Luminara Unduli is perhaps the first to recognize the danger.
You are reckless…
Shortly afterward, and ignoring the advice of both Obi Wan and Ki Adi Mundi, Luminara sets out in pursuit of the Separatist leaders. Apparently she hasn’t shed all her arrogance, but to be fair she does find the secret temple. She also gets captured by the one Geonosian queen still free. She comes close to being used by the Geonosians and their mind worms, but is rescued just in time.
I’m not afraid…
Overall, though, it’s great how much authority Luminara Unduli holds over the other members of the Jedi order, and it’s refreshing for a petite, soft-spoken female to take charge as a general should. In too many adventure stories it’s men who call the shots, but Luminara Unduli continues the long tradition of Star Wars canon as a strong, confident woman.
(I suppose someone like Kenobi could have tried to mansplain Unduli… No doubt she would have shut him down with a few well-placed words – or served up a good, solid kick to his Jedi jewels.)
Luminara and Barriss – not so similar after all
For much of the rest of Clone Wars, General Unduli is only seen in the background or on those holo-video calls, but her padawan Barriss Offee still has a role to play. After years of training under such an impressive Jedi, young Offee clearly acquires the same force of will as Luminara.
But whereas Luminara served as a paragon of Jedi virtue to the end, Barriss chooses a very different path, bombing the Jedi Temple to protest the war and pinning the blame on her dear friend Ahsoka.
Where did Luminara go wrong?
We don’t have enough information about how Luminara trained Barriss, but the younger Mirialan was clearly a stellar apprentice. Luminara certainly cared for her, but perhaps there was too much of an age difference for them to truly connect.
(I can see Barriss including a hashtag or two in every one of her messages, whereas Luminara would hang out more on the Star Wars equivalent of Facebook…)
Whatever the cause, the betrayal by Barriss Offee devastated her Jedi master. Luminara would have spent many an anguished meditation looking back for a sign that could have prevented the tragedy.
How did Luminara Unduli die?
We encounter Unduli one last time in Revenge of the Sith, joining the Wookie defense force on Kashyyyk. Unlike most of the Jedi, she isn’t killed outright during Order 66 but is captured and taken prisoner.
Why didn’t Yoda help Luminara Unduli?
There’s been criticism of Yoda for not helping Luminara during Order 66, since they were both on Kashyyyk. Yoda gasps in pain as he senses through the Force the sudden deaths of so many Jedi, and we might wish that he’d then used his lightsaber to hack a path through the clones to Luminara.
But perhaps, in his overwhelmed state, he didn’t realize that she’d been captured instead of killed. Or perhaps he knew that he couldn’t get to her and, in that cold Jedi way, made his escape for the greater good.
Beyond Star Wars: The Clone Wars
As the Republic transformed into the Empire, and Imperial forces used all their assets to hunt down those few Jedi who had escaped Order 66, Luminara was taken to the Imperial prison known as the Spire. There she was tortured but not initially killed, the Empire instead choosing to show her occasionally on video broadcasts.
A tragic end
The Sith Inquistors used Luminara as a sign of false hope to lure Jedi one by one to attempt a rescue. She eventually died in the Spire at the hands of the Grand Inquisitor, but the Force still emanated from her body and was used as an Imperial trick for years to lure rebels and Jedi sympathizers to their doom.
Luminara Unduli’s final appearance is in Star Wars: Rebels when Kanan Jarrus infiltrates the Spire in the vain hope of rescuing her. Her sad fate is finally revealed and the last gasps of Order 66 very nearly wipe out the few remaining sparks of hope in the galaxy.