No Place For Children

“War is no place for children.” – Toor Snapit, Jedi Scout

Locked in a deadly, all-or-nothing battle with the Sith Brotherhood of Darkness, the Jedi Army of Light is in need of soldiers to keep the fight going and is willing to recruit children into its ranks to do just that. This is the backdrop of Jedi vs. Sith, an Expanded Universe graphic novel written by Darko Macan which begins with young cousins embarking on an “adventure” that ends in tragedy. Hailing from the world Somov Rit, the cousins – Tomcat and Bug – are the first to be identified by the Jedi Scout Toor Snapit, himself sent to recruit force-sensitive children for the war effort. In turn, a third cousin – a young girl named Rain – is also taken by Snapit even though she has (seemingly) minimal Force-abilities.

That Toor Snapit has his doubts about taking children to war is obvious, commenting that “war is no place for children.” And yet, this doesn’t stop the elderly Jedi from taking the cousins from their home-world to battle the Sith on the planet Ruusan.  Nor, for that matter, did it stop him from taking the siblings Sladak and Slatva, twins whom the cousins meet on Snapit’s ship. The cousins (and the reader) only have but a moment with these twins, and as their vessel flies above the Ruusan landsccape, and the siblings express their excitement about their adventure, the ship is struck by Sith weaponry which kills Sladak and Slatva. Stunned, the cousins look on in horror, the excitement about their journey immediately giving way to the reality that has struck. In turn, as she screams that she “does not want to die,” the ship pivots and Rain falls through the hole in the side of the ship where the Sith had struck…

…and all Tomcat and Bug can do is look out the gaping hole with tears streaming down their eyes.

Rain's Fall 2
Tomcat (left) and Bug watch Rain fall from their transport.
Photo Credit – Jedi vs. Sith (Dark Horse Books)

Excitement and adventure are certainly themes in Jedi vs. Sith, but they are themes that highlight the naivete of children and a juvenile belief that war offers a thrilling escape from quotidian life. One can hardly fault children for this naivete, or even for the actions that they are forced to take as the story progresses, killing included. In fact, it is not long after Rain’s fall (spoiler: she survives) that Tomcat and Bug engage in their first skirmish, a skirmish which forces the children to kill a number of Sith soldiers. Neither are trained to fight, neither wears any protective armor, but they must never-the-less kill in order to survive.

Why they are killing – or rather, why they are killing Sith soldiers – is not clearly defined, though. While there is an obvious necessity in the moment to protect themselves, on a larger scale the reason the Jedi and Sith are fighting is never clearly defined. That is, it is not defined in any overarching ethical, moral, or political sense. Rather, the Army of Light commanded by Jedi Lord Hoth and the Sith Lord Kaan’s Brotherhood of Darkness are fighting because, quite frankly, that is what the Jedi and Sith do. And, in this sense, it really does not matter who holds the moral or ethical high-ground in this struggle. The Battle of Ruusan is about the Jedi vs. Sith, but which side one fights for is utterly pointless. Jedi or Sith, both sides are in the wrong because both sides are hellbent on one goal: destroying the other.

Although one could argue that the Sith do hold a sliver of ideological superiority to the Jedi. At the very least, dealing out death and destruction are what the Sith do best. After all, one can hardly fault a Sith for acting like a Sith. Then again, there is one Sith in the story who rises above all others, finding fault with his counterparts: Darth Bane. Scheming throughout the entire story, Bane is hellbent on one goal himself – not the destruction of the Jedi but the destruction of the Sith. Only after the Sith have been purged of their impurities – naemly, everyone but himself – will the Sith truly triump over their hated Jedi enemy. And, as Bane pushes Lord Kaan and the other Sith Lords towards a suicidal end, Bane will also happen upon a child on the battlefield: the girl Rain.

Rain’s Fall

That Rain is allowed to join the adventure of her cousins is shocking, a fact that is punctuated by her seemingly feeble connection to the Force but even more so by her youth. While all  three cousins are still children, Rain is the youngest and seeks to accompany Tomcat and Bug because of her childish desire to be part of the group. The Jedi Tor Snapit, having reservations about bringing children into a war zone, never-the-less acquiesces…and Rain pays the price when she falls from the transport ship.

But thankfully for her, she survives thanks to intervention of Laa, one of Ruusan’s native and sentient Bouncers. While her cousins continue on their journey guilt ridden and believing Rain fell to her death, the girl finds shelter and protection with Laa, traveling the planet with her new friend. Unaware of the deadly struggle unfolding on the world, Rain is once again saved by Laa when the Sith unleash a Force storm across the planet, burning the landscape and immolating other Bouncers in the process. Going crazy with feral rage, Bouncers which survived the destruction begin to attack Sith and Jedi alike, spreading panic among the combatants.

Rain's Fall
Rain attempts suicide but is saved by her powerful connection with the Force.
Photo Credit – Jedi vs. Sith (Dark Horse Books)

Following the devastation, as the battle on the world grows more intense, Laa – having foreknowledge of the future – tells Rain that she will become a Dark Jedi. Distraught, the child attempts suicide by jumping from a cliff, a shocking act and one that the reader can interpret as a continuation of her fall from the Jedi transport. Before her fall from the transport, Rain cries that she does not want to die. Now, confronted by Laa’s foreknowledge, Rain tells her friend that she wanted to die but changed her mind, realizing that she is incredibly strong in the Force and can destroy the Dark Jedi within her without killing herself.

Riding on Laa’s back as they seek out the Jedi, tragedy strikes when a Jedi arrow pierces her Bouncer friend, killing Laa and  sending Rain toppling to the ground (Rain’s fall is finally complete). Grief-stricken and angered by the loss of her friend, Rain unleashes her fury on the Jedi who fired the arrow, using the Force to snap his neck (and the neck of his accomplice). It is immediately after this stunning moment when Darth Bane will come across the child. Intrigued by the powerful girl who killed two Jedi, Bane will question Rain and, in turn, allows her to stay with him.

Seeds of Destruction

While Rain joins Darth Bane on his quest to destroy and reconstitute the Sith Order in his own image – imago Bane – her cousin Tomcat also joins the Sith, albeit earlier in the story. Disenfranchised by the Jedi and believing them weak, Tomcat murders the Jedi General Kiel Charny and agrees to become the apprentice of the Sith Lord Githany. In turn, this decision to join the Sith will set the stage for Tomcat’s fatal showdown with his cousin Bug.

Tomcat and Bug
Bug (blue saber) faces his cousin Tomcat (red saber).
Photo Credit – Jedi vs. Sith (Dark Horse Books)

Thus, the story comes full-circle. In the opening of the graphic novel, the adolescent rivalry of Bug and Tomcat is on display, the two engaging in normal behavior of youth jockeying to one-up the other. Now, the innocent cousin-rivalry gives way to an all-out battle of Cousin vs. Cousin – Bug vs. Tomcat – Jedi vs. Sith. 

It should never have come to this point, to a fatal moment where these opponents, once bound together in kinship, are now locked in a climactic struggle of survival and destruction. Rooted to the belief that they alone are right, the final battle between the rivals begins and ends in the only way possible: suffering and death.

Bug will die, crushed by a rock that falls upon him.

Tomcat will suffer, recognizing his errors when it is already too late to save Bug or Rain.

Rain will survive, not as an innocent young girl but as Zannah, Sith apprentice to Bane.

The cousins should have never been there to begin with. After all, the Jedi Toor Snappit was right, war is no place for children. 

Luke Skywalker: A Farewell to Arms

He hears the command the Emperor, the Sith named Sidious. The Dark Lord tells Luke Skywalker to “fulfill your destiny and take your father’s place at my side.” Young Skywalker, having battled Darth Vader, his father, had finally bested his foe. His “hatred made [him] powerful” and he had unleashed a dark-filled fury against his father, swinging and hacking with his self-crafted green lightsaber until a blow was finally dealt. Vader’s right hand severed, the father of Luke Skywalker lays prostrate, weaponless, and entirely at the mercy of his son.

Luke hears the Emperor’s command, he listens, but his disposition changes. Something within him stirs, a recognition we can see on his face. He is aware that he is on a precipice of falling into a never-ending chasm of darkness (it is little wonder the battle ended with Vader and Luke above an actual chasm, a clear metaphor if ever there was one). In this instance, looking down at the mechanical stump where he severed his father’s hand – and looking at his own mechanical hand, a result of an injury Vader exacted on him a year before – Luke makes his choice.

Turning towards the Emperor, Luke Skywalker will confidently declare to Darth Sidious that “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” But his words are only a part of this pronouncement, the exclamation point actually coming before he speaks when he willingly disarms himself, tossing away his lightsaber, the “elegant” weapon of a Jedi Knight. This is Luke’s active commitment to the Jedi, a practical statement of faith declaring his dedication to “peace and justice,” to “knowledge and defense, never attack.” It is the zenith of Luke’s story in the Original Trilogy, his narrative trajectory taking him from farm-boy on the desolate world of Tatooine in A New Hope to this decisive moment in Return of the Jedi as he stands in the Emperor’s throne room. 

Skywalker’s intentional disarmament is, in a sense, his Arthurian moment, or rather his reverse-Arthurian moment. While the legendary King Arthur inherited Britain’s throne by pulling a sword from a stone, Luke inherits the title of Jedi Knight not by grasping and brandishing his weapon but doing the exact opposite, ridding himself of it. With this simple but profound action Luke Skywalker fundamentally changes what it means to be a member of the Jedi Order and elevates heroism to an even greater level, a level which requires traversing a path of nonviolence, compassion, and mercy (even for one’s enemies). 

As a child I may not have been able to fully appreciate what Luke does in Return of the Jedi but today I am profoundly moved by Skywalker’s heroic choice. It is a stark reminder to me – and perhaps to you as well – that a farewell to arms is necessary in the pursuit of peace. Even when faced with our enemies and the possibility of death we must set aside our weapons of war with a willingness to sacrifice our lives out of love and not hatred. In this way, I interpret Luke’s act through the lens of Matthew 26:52 where Jesus tells a companion to “Put your sword back in its place…for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (NIV). Living by the sword, even a lightsaber, is no longer appropriate for a Jedi Knight; now, the only option is to walk the path of peace and justice fortified and armed with the Light Side of the Force. 

Haikuesday: The Battle of Umbara

Expansion Region;
Ghost Nebula; Umbara;
Confederate World


CIS Blockade
Tano and Offee attack
with Z-95s


The southern campaign:
Kenobi, Krell, and Tinn move
on the capital.

The northern campaign:
Skywalker engages their
foe’s reinforcements.


Umbaran forces,
technologically fierce.
Do they use clones too?

Haiku Addendum:
All Umbaran fighters look
exactly the same.

If I had to guess
I’d say yes, the Umbaran
militia are clones.


The 501st
lands in the north and a dark,
deadly fight begins.


A counterattack
catches Sky Guy’s troops off-guard.
Strategic retreat.

Abandoning ridge,
the 501st waits for
Odd Ball’s bombs to drop.


Anakin relieved,
ordered back to Coruscant.
Pong Krell takes over.


Pong Krell’s Strategy:
frontal assaults against the
dug-in Umbarans.


Key to invasion!!!
Krell scolds the 501st.
“Krell is such an ass.”


Into a minefield,
the clones march forward but are
ambushed and outgunned.


Umbaran airbase
supplying the capital.
The next objective.

With Rex in the lead,
half the battalion enters
a valley of death.

Caterpillar Tanks
greet the unsuspecting clones.
Casualties will mount.

Rockets do the trick,
the creepy crawlers destroyed.
Another threat looms.

Umbarans send in
their Mobile Heavy Cannons.
The clones are so screwed.

Dangerous mission:
Fives and Hardcase infiltrate
the Umbaran base.

Hijacking fighters,
Fives and Hardcase save the day!
MHCs destroyed.

Airfield is captured!
But another threat still looms:
A droid supply ship.


Atmospheric fight.
Separatist fleet battles
a Republic force.


Umbaran missles.
100 megaton yield.
Krell just doesn’t care.

I have to be frank:
100 megaton yield
IS NOT accurate.

The explosions
would be catastrophic and
utterly massive.


Protected droid ship
resupplies the capital.
But Fives has a plan.

Hijacking fighters,
Fives, Hardcase, and Jesse fly
into supply ship.

Hardcase shows courage.
“Live to fight another day…”
Hard-earned sacrifice.


Insubordinate.
Fives and Jesse found guilty.
Ready…Aim…FIRE!!!!!!!!


Umbaran advance.
Disguised in clone trooper gear.
Brothers should beware.


Ambushed by their own.
Brothers battling brothers.
Carnage of Pong Krell.

Deception revealed.
Every clone prepares to fight.
Fives and Rex in charge.

General scorn.
He won’t go down easily.
Irate, Krell attacks.

Jedi on the run.
Kix and other clones pursue.
Lured into a trap.

Many dead brothers.
Nevertheless, they persist.
Outraged for justice.

Pong Krell lies in wait.
Quietly prepares…attacks!!!
Rex rallies the clones.

Sabers ballet death.
Tup with a plan, his own trap.
Unaware, Krell strikes.

Victorious clones.
Waxer’s justice will be swift.
Xenos Krell shot dead.


Who pulled the trigger?
Not throwin away his shot:
the loyal Dogma.


The 501st.
The Battle of Umbara.
Dark, Deadly Triumph.


Haikuesday is a monthly series on The Imperial Talker, a new post with poetic creations coming on the first Tuesday of each month. The haiku topic is chosen by voters on Twitter so be sure to follow @ImperialTalker so you can participate in the voting. Now, check out these past Haikuesday posts:

Droids (February 2017)

Ahsoka Tano (March 2017)

Darth Vader (April 2017)

The Battle of Scarif (May 2017)

The Truce at Bakura (June 2017)

Queen Amidala (July 2017)

Ryloth (August 2017)

Cloud City (September 2017)

General Grievous (October 2017)

Millennium Falcon (November 2017)

Poe Dameron (December 2017)

The (Mis)Use of Captain Phasma

So this post has spoilers from The Last Jedi but you probably guessed that already…

Following the release of The Force Awakens in December 2015, I was perplexed and annoyed by how small Captain Phasma’s role had actually been in the film. The marketing for The Force Awakens had led me to believe that Phasma, the villainous First Order stormtrooper wearing chrome armor and a cape, would play a larger part in the movie. However, that wasn’t the case, and I was left grasping for understanding about why Captain Phasma was underused. 

In a previous post – Star Wars: Phasma – I highlighted this disappointment, noting in that piece that “I was pretty shocked by how little she factored into the movie.” As well, I also noted my conviction that Captain Phasma would undoubtedly be a greater factor in Episode VIII. In fact, I wrote as much, stating that,

“…I can’t imagine a scenario in which Captain Phasma doesn’t play a larger role. It would be silly for writer/director Rian Johnson not to utilize Phasma in a more direct way, particularly now that Starkiller Base is gone and, presumably, First Order and Resistance forces will be fighting a dirty and gritty war. Besides, with many fans expressing disappointment over how little she appears in The Force Awakens, it would make practical sense just to give us more of her.” 

Well, Captain Phasma certainly shows up in The Last Jedi, but her appearance was woefully underwhelming, even more so than her brief appearances in The Force Awakens. Rather than “more of her” we actually get less, and while we do see her fire her blaster and watch as she battles Finn (one of her former stormtroopers) this hardly makes up for the brevity of her screen-time, not to mention the fact that she dies only a short while after she finally shows up. To say that I was left stunned by Phasma’s (mis)use is an understatement, and while my expectations were admittedly high and could partially be to blame for how I feel, it is never-the-less perplexing that this mysterious villain would be so quickly laid to rest in Episode VIII without her doing anything of significance in the developing war against the Resistance which would serve the First Order’s interests. In fact…

…I find it most perplexing that Phasma died right BEFORE the climactic ground battle the First Order launches on the planet Crait. With Resistance fighters staging a last ditched effort to hold off the First Order, this would have been a perfect and brilliant moment to see Captain Phasma in her prime, leading soldiers fearlessly into battle (*What could have been an engagement that echoed Rogue One’s gritty Battle of Scarif was more of an aesthetic homage to the film at large with the bright red mineral dust of Crait overwhelming the battlefield*). Captain Phasma charging into a battle against the Resistance, that was what I was hoping for, that was the expectation I had anticipated when Phasma was first introduced in the lead up to The Force Awakens. The set up was there, the pieces in place for the Captain to lead her soldiers into a deadly battle, and yet…

…what we get is Captain Phasma falling to a fiery death on a burning First Order ship after being struck by Finn. Talk about disappointing.

FinnBattlesPhasma
Captain Phasma battles Finn
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

The thing is, this disappointment is amplified by the fact that two stories about Phasma were released in the lead up to The Last Jedi. The novel Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson and Marvel’s Captain Phasma comic series offer readers a deep and intriguing look at the woman inside the chrome armor. In particular, we learn in these stories is that Phasma is a survivor, that she will literally go out of her way to stay alive. Having discovered that survival at all costs is her modus operandi, it feels out of place that Captain Phasma would purposefully put herself in harms way by engaging Finn in a fight while the ship around her breaks apart and burns. As well, that she lets her guard down once she believes she has beaten Finn is equally confusing, something she never would have done in her earlier life on the planet Parnassus. 

In laying out my disappointment, and my belief that she was misused in The Last Jedi, I will readily admit that a small sliver of my brain believes Captain Phasma survived her fall. Given all of the unexpected turns that happen in The Last Jedi it wouldn’t be surprising if Captain Phasma survived her fiery flirtation with death, and Phasma is certainly the type who could do so. If so, this could create a very interesting plot-line in Episode IX, with Finn realizing that Phasma is still alive, and a badly injured Phasma holding a blistering grudge against him for besting her. In fact, I am just going to go on record and say this:

I think we will see Captain Phasma again in Episode IX. 

If I am right, I hope Captain Phasma and her re-emergence is treated with incredible care, and that she isn’t misused once again. An opportunity exists to not only show audiences that Phasma is a survivor, but for her to use her survival as a means of rising within the ranks of the First Order, to challenge General Hux for the #2 spot behind the newly minted Supreme Leader Kylo Ren. In fact, I think it is safe to say that IF Captain Phasma survived, Kylo Ren will be pretty damn impressed she did. And I wouldn’t be all that surprised if Phasma were to execute General Hux with Kylo Ren’s blessing…

But if I am wrong, if we won’t be seeing her again in Episode IX, then so be it. While I believe she deserved far more treatment and was misused in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, I am otherwise left with the worry that watching her fall to her doom was a cheap trick, a “gotcha” moment where she will return in IX just to be dispatched once again. At this point, while I have yearned for more of Captain Phasma on the big screen, and grew even more fond of her through the novel and comic series, I am otherwise just flat out tired of investing the time and emotional energy into this character….and I guess I will just leave it at that.

Haikuesday: Poe Dameron

Star Wars Trivia:
Poe’s parents fought for Rebs at
Battle of Endor


Mission to Jakku.
Poe handed crucial info.
First Order arrives.


A battle ensues,
Dameron sprints to his ride.
“Come on BB-8!!!”


His X-Wing damaged,
Poe passes the mission off
to his trusted droid.


Taking aim, Poe shoots.
A trooper is hit, goes down.
Blood. Pain. Death. Panic.


Lor San Tekka killed.
Dameron reacts, fires.
Frozen by the Force.


Interrogation.
Torture. Pain. Resilience. Grit.
Kylo will break Poe.


“The right thing to do.”
“You need a pilot,” Poe says.
“I need a pilot.”


TIE Fighter stolen.
Dameron heads to Jakku.
Finn isn’t happy.


TIE Fighter crashes.
Poe is no where to be found.
His jacket remains.


I have to be frank:
I never understood how
Poe just disappears.


Fast-forward the film:
Now we’re on Takodana
and Poe reappears.


“Fighters incoming!”
“It’s the Resistance,” Han says.
Poe leads Black Squadron.


Star Wars Trivia:
Poe flies a T-70
known as the Black One.


Dameron blasts TIEs.
“That’s one hell of a pilot!!!”
Ace in a dogfight.


Poe and BB-8,
pilot and droid reunite
at Resistance base.


Finn looks on, sees Poe.
Dameron looks up, sees Finn.
The two friends embrace.


Scrubs: Turk and J.D.
“It’s guy love between two guys.”
Star Wars: Finn and Poe


I have to be frank:
Oscar Isaac, who plays Poe,
is one handsome dude.


Star Wars Trivia:
Poe flew with the Republic’s
Rapier Squadron


“Disable the shields.”
“Take out the oscillator.”
“Blow up their big gun.”


 Preparing to fight,
the Resistance springs to life.
Poe readies his ship.


Base to Black Leader:
“…go to sub-lights on your call.”
Poe gives his orders.


Leading the X-Wings.
“Hit the target dead center.”
TIE Fighters inbound.


Hole in the target,
Dameron creates a plan.
He just needs cover.


Into a long trench,
Poe is pursued by TIEs and
targeted by guns.


“I need some help here.”
Ello Asty is destroyed.
Black Leader persists.


Threading the needle.
Poe blasts the oscillator.
Proton torpedoes.


Thermal Exhaust Port
and Thermal Oscillator.
Thermal Bros – Luke, Poe.


“Starkiller” destroyed.
“Our jobs done here, let’s go home.”
Hard fought victory.


I’m of the belief
that Poe should be given the
nickname “Starkiller”


Leia: Huttslayer
Poe Dameron: Starkiller
You know you want this.


Haikuesday is a monthly series on The Imperial Talker, a new post with poetic creations coming on the first Tuesday of each month. The haiku topic is chosen by voters on Twitter so be sure to follow @ImperialTalker so you can participate in the voting. Now, check out these past Haikuesday posts:

Droids (February 2017)

Ahsoka Tano (March 2017)

Darth Vader (April 2017)

The Battle of Scarif (May 2017)

The Truce at Bakura (June 2017)

Queen Amidala (July 2017)

Ryloth (August 2017)

Cloud City (September 2017)

General Grievous (October 2017)

Millennium Falcon (November 2017)

The Talker Toy Challenge

In August, I published a piece titled “Star Wars Toy Giveaway Challenge.” Posted in conjunction with Force Friday II and the release of the toys associated with The Last Jedi, I explained in it that I had been stockpiling Star Wars toys which I would be giving away to children in need. In turn, I also challenged readers to do the same thing, getting involved in what I dubbed The Talker Toy Challenge (#TalkerToyChallenge). With the holiday season upon us, I decided now would be a good time to return to the topic of giving in the hope that YOU will get involved in The Talker Toy Challenge and help me bring a small bit of Star Wars joy to kids who are less fortunate.

So, how does The Talker Toy Challenge work? Simple: You buy Star Wars toys, find a charitable organization that takes toy donations, and you drop them off to said organization.

While I have chosen Toys for Tots, an annual toy drive conducted by the United States Marines Corps Reserve as the destination for the toys I have collected, there are many other organizations that take donations and will distribute toys to children in need. That said, while the spirit of The Talker Toy Challenge is grounded in my own love of Star Wars, it is equally my hope that my own actions – and, admittedly, my prodding with periodic posts – will spur others to get involved with helping others in some way, shape, or form. Naturally, I would love for thousands of Star Wars fans to buy great Star Wars toys and give them away to kids in need. However, compassion cannot be codified in a single way, and whatever way YOU choose to get involved with helping others is worthy of admiration in my book. 

Still, if you do get involved with The Talker Toy Challenge, I would love to know! If you have a Star Wars related blog or podcast (even if Star Wars is not your sole focus) and get involved in the Challenge, let me know and I will add a link to your site below. If you are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or some other social media platform, post a picture or two of the toys you will be donating to kiddos (and be sure to use the hashtag #TalkerToyChallenge). Of course, while these are ways to help spread the word about the Challenge, I should note that these are hardly requirements for involvement. If you just feel inspired to buy a Star Wars toy (or any toy!) and donate without any fanfare, that is perfect too. No matter how you get involved, I hope you will take the opportunity to buy a Star Wars toy and hand it off to a child in need. 

Talker Toy Challenge Supporters

My Comic Relief

Star Wars is Love

Partisan Cantina

Hyperspace PodBlast

Just Dread-Full

The Prayer of Kylo Ren

“Forgive me. I feel it again. The pull to the light. Supreme  Leader senses it. Show me again, the power of the darkness, and I will let nothing stand in our way. Show me, Grandfather, and I will finish what you started.” – The Prayer of Kylo Ren

It is a scene in The Force Awakens in which the audience is invited to witness a small, sacred act – the prayer of an individual seeking forgiveness from, and offering continued devotion to, the object of his worship. Sitting before an altar, an altar which bears a cherished relic – the burnt helmet of Darth Vader – Kylo Ren, the film’s primary antagonist, invokes the strength and guidance of the deceased Sith Lord, his grandfather. The words spoken by the young Knight of Ren, brief as they are, offer a glimpse into the soul of a young and clearly tormented man, a man seeking respite and aid from his divine ancestor.

One can certainly imagine that this is not the first time Kylo Ren has offered a prayer to his grandfather, nor will it be his last. In turn, there are any number of things – thoughts and questions – that this scene, and this prayer, leaves open to the imagination. For example, while his prayer is offered to the burnt shell of Vader’s helmet, a narrative indication that he self-identifies with the Sith Lord, I have often wondered what Ren knows or understands about the man Vader once was – Anakin Skywalker. In turn, as Ren states “I will finish what you started” it is left open-ended as to what he means by this phrase. Is Kylo Ren referring to the destruction of the Jedi Order? The conquest of the galaxy? The continuation of the Sith Order? Or, perhaps, if he is thinking of his grandfather as the “Chosen One” who, according to prophecy, would bring balance to the Force, does Kylo Ren believe it is his responsibility to “finish” the balancing act? And if so, does Kylo view the “balance to the Force” as being not about equal sides, Light and Dark, but rather about completely extinguishing the Light altogether?

These and other thoughts/questions percolate in my mind each time I watch this scene (and even when I am not watching, like right now), and to be entirely frank I do not find any easy or quick answers. Which actually begs an entirely different question altogether:

Is it even necessary to interpret Kylo Ren’s prayer beyond what it is – a prayer?

Asking this hardly means we Star Wars fans need not, or even should not, consider what Kylo Ren says, using his words to further our conceptual understanding of the Force, the Jedi, the Sith, the Prophecy, etc. Rather, it is simply a question, nay a suggestion, that Kylo Ren’s prayer serves as a very direct reminder that within the Star Wars galaxy matters of the Force are matters of religious belief for many characters. It is easy to forget this, to become so focused on piecing together every last detail of Star Wars, obsessing over how “A connects to B” and “B connects to C” that we (myself included) can at times lose sight of the reality that Star Wars serves as a mirror which reflects our own concepts of the Sacred and religion. And, in the case of this particular scene, it is a reflection of devotion and supplication. Instead of contemplating the near infinite “meanings” of the words Kylo Ren directs towards his grandfather we should instead sit back and ponder, with open hearts and minds, how this scene serves another important purpose: as a reminder that prayer is a powerful tool/act which religious persons engage in as they seek connection and guidance from the Sacred.

Beyond that, we really do not have to dig any deeper.

I Have Failed You

Hovering above a lava field, exhaustion apparent on their sweaty faces, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader (formerly Anakin Skywalker) stare each other down. Heated emotions are clearly running through them, hot like the lava which surrounds them on all sides. Having engaged in a running battle, one that has put them both in harms way, this small moment of reprieve will not last long, but it is long enough for Obi-Wan Kenobi to address the foe who stands before him. A stern look on his face, Kenobi delivers a line packed with painful contrition:

“I have failed you, Anakin. I have failed you.”

We do not know precisely what Obi-Wan is thinking as he speaks, precisely what failures run through the Master’s mind as he addresses the former student whom he loves. But we really don’t need to know, and we can otherwise fill in those blanks on our own. Rather, the statement is Obi-Wan’s all encompassing mea culpa, an admission to the young man before him that as teacher he failed his student.

Juxtapose this with what came before, the last time Obi-Wan and Anakin spoke as friends. In that moment, as Kenobi prepared to depart for the planet Utapau, he admitted to Anakin that he had trained him since he was a boy and had taught his student everything he knew. And yet, now, as the two stand above the lava fields of Mustafar, sweat dripping down their faces, Kenobi acknowledges the hardest of truths: that everything he taught Anakin was simply not enough to keep the young man from heading down a dark path.

To Kenobi’s guilt-ridden admission, though, we can add another layer.  In Attack of the Clones, Anakin admits to his Master that he is the “closest thing to a father” the boy has ever had, and later complains to Padmé that Kenobi is “like my father.” One could see the father-son relationship without any explicit statements, but those statements certainly help solidify the familial connection Kenobi and Skywalker shared. In a very real sense, Kenobi adopted the young boy, raising him as his own. In this regard, the statement “I have failed you” is not only a teacher admitting that he failed his student, but it is equally that of a father painfully conceding that he has failed his son.

In turn, other layers can be tacked onto these. Thinking about the familial relationship differently, we can imagine Kenobi as Anakin’s older brother, a point which is actually reinforced when Obi-Wan admits moments later that “You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you.” Taken through the lens of brotherly love, Kenobi’s failure is that of an older brother who did not keep his younger brother from going astray. Or, one could easily view the statement through the lens of friendship, with the Jedi Master confessing that he failed to aid his “good friend” in his most dire moment(s). 

In noting these four layers, and even recognizing there could be others, I dare not dig any deeper. It feels fruitless to begin “explaining” specific failures Kenobi may be thinking in this particularly moment, and besides, as I already said, we can fill in those blanks for ourselves. Instead, what makes this line stand out to me, what makes it one of my absolute favorite lines in all of Star Wars, is the raw emotion and honesty inherent within it. Kenobi’s words are packed with pain, with remorse, with anger, and frustration. What he says is loaded with candor, with sincerity, and with the maturity of a Jedi Master. In this moment, Obi-Wan Kenobi takes on the weight of his own actions AND the actions of his former protege, placing the onus squarely on his own shoulders.

“I have failed you, Anakin. I have failed you.”

“I have failed you, Anakin.”

“I have failed you.”

“I have failed.”

It is a failure Obi-Wan Kenobi will live with for the rest of his life.


This post is part of the Star Wars ComLINKS series. Check out more Star Wars ComLINKS over at Anakin and His Angelswcomlinksbanner1

Haikuesday: Millennium Falcon

These haiku are based
on “Millennium Falcon”
by James Luceno

Haiku Addendum:
obviously I’m kidding
so let’s begin here…


The “Falcon” is the
single most important ship
in all of Star Wars.

If you don’t agree,
well, that is perfectly fine.
Except, you are wrong.


Make: Corellian
YT-1300f
And sort of trashy.


Cockpit on the right…
…so how the hell does Solo
see ships to his left?

Haiku Addendum:
the cockpit placement seems like
a big design flaw.


A really fast ship:
it makes point five past light speed…
…whatever that means.


Easter Egg Alert!?!?!
Y’all see the “Falcon” over
Jedha in Rogue One!?!?!?!


“What a piece of junk.”
Luke insults Solo’s baby.
Han just doesn’t care.


A really fast ship:
It made the Kessel Run in
less than twelve parsecs.

Point of inquiry:
wasn’t it fourteen parsecs?
Someone go ask Rey.


Han’s best maneuver:
list lazily to the left.
Family Guy joke.


“You came in that thing,”
the Princess asks the Captain.
“Braver than I thought.”


Dorsal and Ventral.
Quad laser cannons blast TIEs.
Luke gets one; Han too.


Last ship to arrive
at the Battle of Yavin.
A Death Star Destroyed.


Inside Echo Base
Chewie and Han make repairs…
…a lot of repairs.


Tool: hydrospanner
Use: fixing broken “Falcons”
A space screw driver.


On the Avenger,
the “Falcon” hides in plain sight,
which is sort of odd.

Point of Inquiry:
how come no TIE pilots saw
the “Falcon” parked there?


On Cloud City we
learn that Calrissian used
to own the “Falcon.”


We never see Han
piloting his prized “Falcon”
in Episode VI.


A really fast ship:
Solo offers his baby
to Calrissian.


“She won’t get a scratch.”
“I got your word…not a scratch.”
She, ah, gets a scratch…


First ship to arrive
at the Battle of Endor.
A Death Star Destroyed.


Leading Endor charge.
The Millennium Falcon
blasts TIEs left and right.


The Endor gunners –
Two Rebels: Cracken and Blount
They deserve praise, too.


Lando and Nien Nunb
pilot the “Falcon” into
the Second Death Star.


Sub-light: Girodyne
Hyperdrive: An Isu-Sim
Power Core: Quadex


“The garbage will do,”
Rey says to Finn as they flee
First Order Fighters.


Stolen by Ducain,
then the Irving Boys, then Plutt,
then by Rey, then Han.


Stress on hyperdrive.
Ignition line compression.
Some moof-milker’s fault.


Now that Han is dead,
who technically owns his ship?
Leia? Chewie? Rey?

Haiku Addendum:
did Solo have a space will?
Maybe Ben gets it…


Haikuesday is a monthly series on The Imperial Talker, a new post with poetic creations coming on the first Tuesday of each month. The haiku topic is chosen by voters on Twitter so be sure to follow @ImperialTalker so you can participate in the voting. Now, check out these past Haikuesday posts:

Droids (February 2017)

Ahsoka Tano (March 2017)

Darth Vader (April 2017)

The Battle of Scarif (May 2017)

The Truce at Bakura (June 2017)

Queen Amidala (July 2017)

Ryloth (August 2017)

Cloud City (September 2017)

General Grievous (October 2017)

Poe Dameron (December 2017)

The Imperial March

When the new Star Wars ComLINKS topic for October 2017 – Favorite Musical Score –  was announced over at Anakin and His Angel I knew I had to jump in and participate. For a while now, I have been thinking about writing a bit more about the music that accompanies Star Wars, the iconic compositions of John Williams that give the original trilogy gravitas and have also influenced other Star Wars composers. It is safe to say – and really a no-brainer – that without the music of Williams, Star Wars would be much different. But I will leave a larger conversation of the music of Star Wars to another person, or at least save it for another occasion. For now, with the ComLINKS topic in mind, I am excited to share my thoughts/feelings on Favorite Musical Score in Star Wars. And, of course, it’s “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme).”

The word “theme” is appropriate here because, let’s face it, I consistently return to The Empire Strikes Back to discuss my favorite aspects of Star Wars. It should really come as no surprise, then, that my favorite score would also come from my favorite Star Wars film. Naturally I love Star Wars across the board, but my deep affection for The Empire Strikes Back – embedded within me as a child – is the true grounding of my Star Wars adoration. That being the case, the issue at hand is not that my favorite musical score comes from The Empire Strikes Back, but rather, why is this particular score from the film’s soundtrack my favorite and not another?

To be entirely blunt, “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)” is my favorite score because it is established as the de facto anthem of the Galactic Empire. As a child, I was fascinated by the Empire, having a “Casterfoian” (google “Casterfo”) interest in the baddies of the Star Wars universe. While I knew the Empire was evil, and I celebrated the destruction of the Death Star in A New Hope with the Rebels, The Empire Strikes Back introduced me to a different way of viewing/experiencing the Empire. No longer were they simply the bad guys with a massive moon-sized space station but, instead, they were the bad guys who had Probe Droids, Super Star Destroyers, Imperial Walkers, Snowtroopers, TIE Bombers, and more. Even though they took a big hit in A New Hope, these baddies were anything but knocked out, and still had the means to level a crushing blow to the Rebel Alliance on the planet Hoth. And, to top it off, the Empire now had distinct piece of music – doubling as the theme for the villainous Darth Vader – to capture their harsh, galactic reach.

To this day, the raw power of “The Imperial March” continues to captivate and hold me not only because it originates in The Empire Strikes Back, but because I have come to appreciate it on a deeper level. As a child, I was unaware that the piece was influenced by Chopin’s “Funeral March” and Gustav Holst’s “Mars, the Bringer of War.” And yet, today, I am equally captivated by these pieces, all thanks to my childhood enjoyment of the Empire/Vader’s powerful anthem. Plus, this is also the case with a number of others scores from Star Wars, my enjoyment of these leading me to a more profound appreciation of other classical pieces.

At the same time, while “The Imperial March” is laced with childhood meaning and has led me to its musical influences, it also continues to be a piece that, quite frankly, captures me and takes hold each time I hear it. The repetition of the strings in the opening riff, crisp and dark (thanks to it being in a minor key), captures my attention until the brass presents the iconic melody in the fifth bar, gripping me with its clear-cut strength and power. Having washed over me like a wave in a storm, there is no escape. The moment I hear the opening to “The Imperial March,” and the iconic brass melody which serves as a leitmotif for Empire and Vader has begun, I must continue to listen. It would be wrong to turn around, to stop the March from moving forward. And so, no matter the situation, I will always let “The Imperial March” continue…

…which is, in a very real sense, the point of the piece. “The Imperial March” is aptly named because it perfectly encompasses the forward progress of the Galactic Empire, a progression which is difficult to stop. The Empire, wounded as it was at Yavin IV, continues its march of terror, death, and destruction. And, of course, Darth Vader spearheads the Imperial march across the galaxy, hunting down those who wish to stop the Empire. But it cannot be stopped, it will not be stopped, and it is futile to even try.


This post is part of the Star Wars ComLINKS series. Check out more Star Wars ComLINKS over at Anakin and His Angelswcomlinksbanner1