Luke Blows Up Jabba’s Sail Barge

“Get the gun! Point it at the deck!”

In my last post, The Gamorrean Affair, I examined the scene in Return of the Jedi where Luke enters Jabba’s Palace and uses a Force Choke on a couple of Gamorrean Guards. What I argued in that piece was that Luke unequivocally uses the Dark Side when he chokes the Guards, an act that symbolically and literally ties him to his father, Darth Vader. You can go check out the entire post HERE and see everything I had to say about the incident.

While I had plans to move onto a non-Luke topic after writing that piece, I haven’t been able to get Luke and his interactions with Jabba out of my head.  But out of all of the comments and actions in those scenes, there was one moment in particular that really kept bugging me  – at the end of the battle over the Great Pit of Carkoon, Luke blows up Jabba’s Sail Barge.

Why has this been bothering me? Welllllll, because Luke makes the unilateral decision to kill everyone who is left on Jabba’s Sail Barge EVEN THOUGH some of those individuals pose zero threat to him and his friends. Now, this isn’t to say that no one left on the Sail Barge was a threat. In fact, we know that there were many loyal (or, at least, well-paid) followers of Jabba who were willing to fight on the Hutt’s behalf. But there were clearly individuals on the Sail Barge who were non-combatants like Saelt-Marae (aka Yak Face), and Max Rebo and his band. Did Rebo deserve to die just because he was playing music for Jabba ? Or Saelt-Marae just because he was willing to watch the execution of Luke, Han, and Chewie? I mean, we may not like their association with Jabba, but that is not reason for them to be killed.

Max-Rebo-Gif
Max Rebo on the Sail Barge
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

But the fact that they are killed leads me to ask a pretty straight-forward question: What possible justification did Luke have for blowing up the Sail Barge and killing everyone who was left on it?

As it stands, what we have on our hands is a really weird ethical and moral dilemma that involves Luke killing a lot of beings which effectively makes him guilty of multiple cases of manslaughter (or rather man/alienslaughter). And, along those lines, there is really no way of exonerating Luke for this crime. Then again, why would he should be exonerated? Is the hero of the story free to act however he wishes, killing indiscriminately just so his friends are safe?

“But Mr. Imperial Talker, Luke was fighting the bad guys!”

Why yes, I suppose he was, but when he kicks the trigger of the deck cannon, he is not under attack or being threatened. And besides,there were also innocent lives present on the vessel.

Saelt-Marae1
Saelt-Marae
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

“Right, there were innocent lives, but Luke wasn’t traveling on the Sail Barge, Mr. Imperial Talker, so he had no way of knowing about Max Rebo, or Saelt-Marae, or any other non-combatants who were present.”

A fair point, Luke wasn’t traveling on the Barge and would have no way of knowing about those non-combatants. But I must ask – should we defend Luke’s actions by defending his ignorance? I would suggest that being unaware of all the present beings means that he should be even MORE cautious with his actions. Because Luke doesn’t know who else is on the Sail Barge is precisely why he should not have made the decision to blow up the craft. For all he knows, Jabba’s young son could have been on the vessel.

“Yes, well, Luke was just caught up in the battle. When he orders Leia to ‘point it [the gun] at the deck’ the viewer is as caught up in the moment as Luke, immersed in the battle raging over the Great Pit of Carkoon. We are right there with Luke as he grabs a rope, takes hold of Leia, kicks the trigger, and swings to safety. Luke is just being heroic! We can’t fault him for being caught up in the moment, for just going with the flow of the fight to save his friends even if innocent beings die…right?”

Wrong. While we can applaud the fact that Luke rescues his friends, fighting to save them does not give him carte blanche to act however he wishes during the battle. His actions must be proportional and acceptable within the context of the fight. Plus, as a burgeoning Jedi, we should expect and anticipate Luke to be extra cautious with his decisions and actions. He should be aware not only of the possibility for innocent lives to be harmed, but must be cognizant of his own mental state, his emotions, his body, and his connection with the Force.

Luke on the Sail Barge
Luke battles on the Sail Barge
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

However, awareness is not enough — Luke must also be in control of himself. And for him to have that control, he must rely on his connection with the Light Side of the Force. Luke must allow the Light to wash over him, calming his mind, his feelings, his body. If and when he must fight, he must do so within a state that ensures he will maintain a calm and peaceful disposition. Mindful of himself, Luke must act in a way that ensures innocent lives are protected and any enemies are dealt with using appropriate and reasonable means.

But in the battle over the Great Pit of Carkoon, if Luke was so swept up in the fight, then he was not truly in control of his actions, he was not calm nor at peace. Ultimately, what this means is that he was not being guided by the Light Side of the Force.

“Perhaps he was aware and in control of his thoughts/actions and knew what he was doing during the battle. If so, was he being guided by the Light Side of the Force?”

No, and for a very simple reason – if one’s actions are truly guided by the Light Side, those actions will not lead to the death of innocent beings. Nor will those actions include the indiscriminate killing of one’s enemies just because one has the means to do so. This is precisely what sets the Jedi apart from the Sith, the Light apart from the Dark.

“So does this mean Luke was being guided by the Dark Side when he blows up Jabba’s Sail Barge?”

What I would suggest is that when Luke goes to rescue Han and the others from Jabba the Hutt, he has clearly not internalized the teachings he received from Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. He might fancy himself a Jedi, but blowing up the Sail Barge is unnecessary and taking the lives of countless beings is a clear indication that he is not guided by the Light and is NOT a Jedi.

As for being guided by the Dark Side, well, I will let you decide that one for yourself. Leave a comment and let me know what ya think.

30 comments

      1. I would say that, while this is disturbing, it’s nothing new. When you take into account that every stormtrooper has been conditioned and essentially brainwashed in a cultish training program, it’s at the very least unsettling that Luke (and many other heroes) slaughter them so willingly. One could say that killing stormtroopers was a necessary evil, but then wasn’t destroying the ship?

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      2. The stormtroopers do nothing but follow orders. When your orders come from a cruel Empire your actions tend to be cruel as well. They are danger to everyone in the galaxy. They are trained to fight without care or remorse. That is what makes them dangerous.

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      3. They are absolutely dangerous. But are they evil? I don’t think so… So is it okay for Luke to kill them just because doing so removes a danger? If so, then isn’t it okay to kill the innocents on the ship?

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      4. It is for the safety of others. It would be irresponsible to let the stormtroopers do what they wish. What a Jedi needs to ask is “is it the right time and is it necessary to use violence”.

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  1. Tommy ABSOLUTELY agrees that Luke’s actions were not guided by the Light Side. I find the deaths of innocents at Luke’s hand equally upsetting. However, let us consider the alternative. If Luke had left the sail barge after saving Leia without its destruction, Jabba’s minions will still be after him. I suppose Luke could have gone through and killed everyone who wasn’t a threat but that would be both unsafe and extremely non-jedi-like. So this is quite the conundrum. And there is also no certainty that Max Rebo and Saelt-Marae wouldn’t try to hunt and or kill Luke. Also there is the troubling possibility that the survivors could tell the Empire that there is a living Jedi who just freed rebel leaders. That would cause massive problems. Is Luke acting like a Jedi, no. That is what I enjoy about RoTJ, watching Luke progress from a more or less LUKEwarm(see what I did there) area to the pinnacle of the Light and then the sudden fall to the Dark and the final redemption of himself and his father.

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  2. Oh, and another brief point. Just because the two individuals you mentioned look innocent and harmless doesn’t mean they are. They could be incredibly dangerous. Yoda for example does not look like a powerful Jedi but in reality he is the leader of the order. Appearances can be very deceiving. Just a thought.

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    1. Quite true, appearances can be and frankly are deceiving more often than not. So how about we pretend for a moment that Rebo and his band, and Saelt-Marae are dangerous individuals. In fact, let’s just go ahead and presume that everyone left on the vessel are notorious criminals, bounty hunters (Bossk is on the ship), thugs, henchmen/women, etc. (you get the idea). Now, let me ask this: even if everyone on the vessel is bad in some way, having committed crimes in the past for whatever reasons, do they deserve to die? And, if they do deserve to die, who gets to decide how they die? Is Luke, or anyone for that matter, allowed to be judge, jury, and executioner? And if so, on what grounds?

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  3. It seems the question at the heart of the issue here deals with the right to take a life. Yoda tells Luke that the Force comes from life. Qui-Gon speaks of the Living Force. So it seems safe to infer that a Jedi must have the highest respect for life. Is a life expendable because it’s ” corrupted” or “dangerous?” To take a life at all seems questionable (at least it’s difficult to assert when it can easily be done) let alone to take it in the at Luke does on the sail barge.

    Also, with the stormtroopers, even if they are following evil orders, aren’t they still responsible for their actions? I think we can argue we’re all responsible for our actions – a Jedi perhaps more than most. There is a very fine line between acceptable and not that you are playing with here Mr. Talker, and I’m excited to see where you end up!

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    1. I would also add that there is an interesting juxtaposition between Luke’s actions involving Jabba (and Jabba’s henchmen) and his actions involving his Father. Luke consistently talks about the “good” that is left in Vader, even telling Kenobi that he can’t kill his Father. But, if he is unwilling to kill his Father because he sees the good in him, then how come Luke is unable to give the same benefit to Jabba? Is the Hutt un-redeemable? What do you think of this, Mike? Am I reading more into it than I should be or is this a legitimate issue that we should reflect upon when thinking about Luke’s journey in the film?

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      1. It seems that Luke thinks(for some of the time) that the vile gangster can be reasoned with. It could be argued that Luke never intended for Jabba to die. Even a non-Jedi could see the Jabba’s desth would result in absolute chaos since Jabba controls a vast criminal empire(enter Talon Karrde). However, Jabba’s identity as a Hutt means redemption is unlikely. They truly have no morals and look down upon thoses who have them. Their language Huttese actually lacks a word for criminal because that is what they do naturally. That’s why the majority of crime bosses are Hutts.

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      2. I would disagree about the Hutts having no morals. They do not have morals that are in line with the Jedi or the Republic, but they most certainly have their own set of morals that guides them. But the morality of the Hutts is not the issue – the issue in this case is the morality of Luke. Jabba the Hutt may be a vile gangster as you say, but vile or not, why should Luke be the one to decide Jabba’s fate? The Jedi of old could have, if they had chosen, to rid the galaxy of the Hutts but they didn’t – why? Plus, the Jedi actually worked with the Hutts at times. The entire premise of The Clone Wars movie is the Jedi working to solidify an alliance with Jabba. Besides, in the film we also see Jabba show love and affection to his son Rotta. A crime boss for sure, but even crime bosses are capable of love.

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      3. First and foremost, Tommy I LOVE that you just referenced Talon Karrde!!! YES! That is some classic EU excitement you’re unfurling here. Well played sir!

        Second, to your point Jeff, that’s a very important question and one, honestly, that I haven’t considered as I should have before. Luke’s belief that Vader can be redeemed, that there is still good in him, is central to his hero’s journey and the accomplishment of his quest. Granted, when we comes to Jabba’s Palace (as has been discussed all over here) he’s not acting as a Jedi should. But is this a perspective a true Jedi should hold? Should a Jedi seek to see/find/elicit the good in EVERYone? It is a challenging idea with challenging implications. Hmm…this leaves me with much to ponder.

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      4. Oh Talon Karrde, what a guy. I have been trying to find his action figure to go with Mara Jade and Thrawn…

        As to your question, should a Jedi see/find/elicit the good in EVERYone? I am going to say yes, absolutely. This hardly means that a Jedi can’t disagree with anyone, get upset, argue, yell, or even defend themselves/others when attacked. But I would suggest that when a Jedi encounters (an)other(s), they strive to engage with said said individual(s) in a way that shows them respect. While I am not sure of the exact techniques one may use to elicit the good in everyone (I am not a Jedi), I do think that the Jedi should strive to see the good in others no matter who they encounter. I mean, that is essentially THE underlying issue in the franchise – that everyone is capable of the good and the bad. Why shouldn’t the Jedi be the one’s to at least see that good in everyone?

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      5. To Matt: Discrimination is the wrong word here. Outside of the Republic/Empire the Hutts are the most powerful beings in the universe. This is due to their ruthlessness and utter lack of morals. They just do what they wish.

        To Mr. Miller: some people cannot be redeemed, the Jedi know this. But a Jedi must always strive for redemption first. The entire theme of Knights of the Old Republic is redemption. But, sometimes, redemption of person, especially a dangerous person, can be impossible. If this person is dangerous and a threat, what is the other alternative that a Jedi must turn to? To quote Obi-Wan, a Jedi “must do what [he/she] must”. Yoda saw this to and fought Sideous and told Luke to kill Vader. The Jedi have to balance the teachings of their order with the safety of the galaxy.

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      6. I would agree that there is a limit to what a Jedi can do to redeem another. Obi-Wan does not charge into battle against Anakin in ROTS, but talks/argues with him at first, trying to point out the flaws in the young Sith Lords logic. Then, as you rightly note, Obi-Wan says that he will do what he must when the conversation turns into open conflict. This is a reasonable use of force on Obi-Wan’s part. I think we would all agree with that. Plus (and this goes to your conversation about Mace Windu in another comment), Windu and the other three Jedi Masters initially seek to arrest Palpatine in the name of the Republic. I hardly think Windu or the others believed Palpatine, a Sith Lord, would allow himself to be arrested, but they did present themselves in a manner we would expect of law enforcement.

        I also think, Tommy, that your last sentence here gets at the core of what is at stake for the Jedi in the Clone Wars. The Jedi DO have to balance their teachings with the safety of the galaxy. To say that this is a difficult task is an understatement. Even Yoda is conflicted about this on a number of occasions (his comment at the end of AOTC is essentially that the onset of war has allowed the shroud of the dark side to fall over the galaxy). What I would suggest, though, is that in moments of crisis like that it is even more important for the Jedi to have a strategy laid out that will protect the galaxy and balance their teachings. I think that in some respects the Jedi fail in the end because, among other things, (and this is going to sound nuts) they just don’t have a contingency plan for how to balance their responsibility during a galactic conflict. This doesn’t mean they should have a plan of battle in case half of the galaxy secedes…but that they should have a plan in mind for engaging in a conflict that also ensures the absolute maintenance of their ideals. From the looks of it, they didn’t. And so, they begin engaging in some otherwise questionable actions (which is essentially the premise of Dark Disciple – that the Jedi use a tactic completely unworthy of the Jedi Order to attempt to end the war).

        Anyway, I said a lot here. I need more coffee and I want to hear what others have to say so keep it coming. I love these conversations!

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      7. In many cases, the Jedi end up failing because of their attachment to their teachings. In the Clone Wars cartoon Anakin and Tarkin point out that it is because of these teachings that the Jedi fall short of victory.(On a side note, I think that the inclusion of Tarkin was a great choice. I enjoyed seeing the creation of a friendship between the future Sith Lord and Grand Moff.) The Jedi try to combat evil but have to restrain themselves to prevent becoming that very evil. What I really whould like to know is, why was this war actually fought? Is secession really worth fighting over? And why is it that the Jedi have to fight? The Republic itself is not being threatened, just some systems want to leave it. To use a non-canon Eu example(thanks a lot Disney) when the Mandalorian Wars break out the Jedi want no part in it. This time however the Republic is being attacked by an outside force. Why don’t they defend it in cases when the Republic needs it yet fight when it may not be necessary?

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    2. Life(at least for a Jedi) is never expendable. Taking a life should only be done after considering every alternative and when there is no other choice. A Jedi must think, “if this person is left alive, what consequences will there be”. They also must consider taking prisoners whenever possible, especially when they are defenseless. We see this in the giant prison on Coruscant. The problem is, can a Sith BE defensless? In the case of Count Dooku, yes. He was unarmed, literally and did not deserve to die. But Palpatine should have died at the hands of Mace Windu. He was simply to dangerous to be left alive. He looked helpless one second, but then he throws Windu off the roof with Force Lightning. Sometimes, a Jedi NEEDS to take a life.

      But what does interest me is a Jedi’s inherent respect for life and his reluctance to destroy it. I agree that it has to do with their interactions with the Living Force. However, I think it goes deeper. I think that for a Jedi who works with and is guided by the Light Side, taking a life will cause pain. Not just emotional pain or regret, I mean actual pain is a Jedi’s response to a forced death. Consider the lives lost in the Jedi purge or on Alderaan. Both Yoda and Obi-Wan are shown to be affected even though the massacres happened light years away. Shouldn’t there be some kind of reaction(maybe one unseen) when a Jedi takes a life upclose? This adds another reason why a Jedi would be reluctant to take a life.

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      1. Yes a Jedi would still feel pain when killing a Sith. I like to think that for a Jedi, killing someone is like cutting off an arm. Most of us will be very reluctant to do so. But in some cases, your arm could get caught and the only way to get out is by removing it. In the case of killing a Sith, imagine the arm infected with gangrene. It must be amputated before the infection spreads. It will still hurt, but if you let the arm stay the entire body gets infected. I hope that made sense.

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      2. Sorry for the delay, Tommy. I think you are right, it would seem only logical that if a Jedi takes life and feels pain, then taking the life of a Sith would result in the same pain. How would one reconcile this, though, with Obi-Wan killing, but not really killing, Darth Maul? Since Maul did not technically die, wouldn’t the lack of pain be an indication to Kenobi at the very least that Maul did not die?

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      3. It’s possible that Obi-Wan hadn’t taken a life before. Also when a Jedi fights with anger or hatred(the Dark side) he or she wouldn’t feel the pain because these emotions harm the connection with the Living Force(not necessarily permanent harm). I liken the use of the Dark Side to a narcotic. The numbing effect would allow them to kill without self-pain but will also become addictive and the former Jedi will not be able to stop.

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      4. It seems to me that after Qui-Gon died, Obi-Wan fought in an enraged state, which is where the Dark Side thrives. Now, it could also be said that Obi-Wan had not yet made a complete connection to the Light Side during the time in which the battle takes place. He is still a padawan and at the time the Council didn’t think he was ready to begin the trials. I do believe that Obi-Wan’s encounter with his anger and hatred end up making him a better Jedi.

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  4. I just followed a disturbing train of thought to its troubling conclusion. It began with me considering, why the stormtroopers are so zealous to kill rebel scum. This zeal is because the rebels are terrorists, rebel being a euphemism. This caused me to ask why aren’t the rebels called terrorists by the empire. They aren’t because Star Wars is a story being retold. It happened “a long time ago”. History is written by the victors. Rebels and terrorists are the same thing just with a different point of view. The Empire probably used the word terrorist a lot. This leads me to ask, what else did the rebels distort? Is it possible that the evil of the Empire was over exaggerated? Was the Empire ever evil at all? Could it be that Star Wars is merely propaganda that exists to justify a regime, possibly an oppressive one? Wouldn’t it then be wise to have stories of an evil Empire that the rebels had to destroy to show that theirs is not that bad? Maybe the regime created by the rebels is creating this story of Light Side and Dark Side to make the masses think that they are good? Even more important, is there actually a Force?

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    1. This actually makes me think of the lines that Palpatine speaks to Anakin where he essentially says that the light and dark sides of the force are simply different, without one being morally above the other. Could it be that while the light side puts up the pretense of being “good,” it is really no different than the dark side? This would explain why Luke would not feel prohibited to murder stormtroopers or other threats. Or could the case be that the true light side is much more Quigonian in nature, but had been distorted throughout the years to represent the highly disputed grey area of the Force… or even the dark side? Or is Palpatine right, and is the difference between the two merely a facade?

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      1. My main issue here is that maybe Palpatine and the empire were good and Luke and the rebellion were evil terrorists who have distorted history. Since the story is told from the winner’s point of view, can we truly know who is good or evil?

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