Ahsoka Tano

The Fate of Master Sinube

Admittedly, writing a piece about “the fate of Master Sinube” is a rather straightforward endeavor. Barring some freak accident or a natural death, Tera Sinube – the elderly Jedi Master who assists young Ahsoka Tano track down lightsaber in The Clone Wars episode “Lightsaber Lost” – most certainly died during the Jedi Purge, his fate sealed when Order 66 was put into effect. In fact, we can probably be even more specific and say that he died in the Jedi Temple, perhaps shot by clone troopers or struck down by the blade of Darth Vader. True, he may have escaped the Temple on that fateful day, much like Jocasta Nu, perhaps fleeing individually or with other Jedi, but that also seems unlikely. No, I believe it is safe to say that Master Sinube encountered the same fate as most of the Jedi that day, meeting his end in a tragically violent way.

Sinube and Tano
Ahsoka Tano walks with Master Sinube.

Photo Credit – The Clone Wars Season 2, Episode 11: “Lightsaber Lost.”

While we may surmise that Sinube met his end on that fateful day, a question never-the-less persists in my mind: what were his final moments like? Where in the Temple was the elder Jedi and, like others in the Temple, did he put up any form of resistance? Personally, I like to believe he did. Elderly he may have been, his actions in “Lightsaber Lost” demonstrate that he was far from needing geriatric care. Master Tera Sinube most certainly did not go down without an act of resistance. In fact, we might take this thought a step further, extending the faculties of the imagination with a bold suggestion: on that horrible day, Master Tera Sinube stood his ground first against clone troopers, and then against Darth Vader.

Wisdom of a Jedi Elder

It is easy for me to believe that as the Temple came under attack, Sinube took it upon himself to safeguard Jedi younglings against the onslaught, perhaps even rallying a handful of Knights to lead the younglings away from the fray. I can picture Sinube giving orders, demanding that these Knights seek out one of Sinube’s contacts in Coruscants criminal underworld. Master Sinube was, after all, an expert on the underworld, and surely would have known a contact willing to help the Jedi flee the world. Implored by the younglings and Knights to join them, Master Sinube would have been reassuring but firm: “The Cosmic Force beckons me to return home. Go, I will hold off your pursuers.”

Clearly, there are any number of ways to imagine how Sinube’s final moments of life played out. Even as I write these words, the possibilities abound, the imagination running in numerous directions. But what my heart tells me is this: Master Tera Sinube did not even draw his lightsaber, instead leaving it confined in his cane. Wouldn’t this very contradict what I said in a paragraph about, that Sinube most certainly resisted the clones and Vader? Only if we assume that resistance must involve violence. 

A wellspring of Jedi wisdom and knowledge, thoughtful and patient in his actions (as we see in “Lightsaber Lost”), I believe Tera Sinube confronted his clone attackers that fateful day with only the Force as his ally. As the clones burst into the room, DC-15 blasters blazing away at an easy target, Sinube would move quickly, not harming but disarming his assailants. With care and precision, fully attuned to the Force, the Jedi Master systematically incapacitated the clone soldiers, debilitating but not killing, doing so with the gentle touch of the Light Side. 

Unable to break through the stalwart defense of their elderly opponent, comrades falling left and right – some getting back up to rejoin the struggle only to be knocked down again – eventually the word would spread through the Temple that the clones needed reinforcements to break through Sinube’s defense. And a reinforcement would arrive, not in the form of more clone squadrons, but the shadowy figure of a Dark Lord of the Sith. 

Vader March
Darth Vader marches into the Jedi Temple with his clone soldiers.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Undoubtedly, Master Sinube could sense the Dark presence within the Temple from the very beginning of the attack. Now, as the clone assault on his position waivered once again, he felt the Dark figure moving towards him, and was about to enter the room. But Sinube, I am certain, also knew from the very beginning that the Dark Lord in question was, only recently, a Jedi. When the Sith entered the room, Sinube was calm and unsurprised – he knew he was about to see the face of Anakin Skywalker.

Vader’s blue blade already ignited, the two stood for a moment looking at the other. Suddenly, the blade was extinguished and Vader moved forward until he was but a foot or two from the elder Jedi. Extending his right arm, the Sith wrapped his hand around Sinube’s neck. But before he could squeeze, Master Tera Sinube looked into the eyes of his destroyer and, with peace in his voice, uttered his final words:

“I forgive you, Anakin.”

Ahsoka Tano Sexy

If you are thinking to yourself “Wow, that is a really provocative and uncomfortably disturbing title for a Star Wars post” you would not be wrong. I have lured you into this post with this title so I can address how completely and utterly messed up it is that people do google searches for “Ahsoka Tano Sexy.” You see, every now and again WordPress will inform me of the specific search terms that were used to find The Imperial Talker. More often than not, those search terms are pretty banal and run-of-the-mill. People have found my site by googling “Padme funeral,” “Dooku’s face when he dies,” “Yularen,” and “did Luke use the Dark Side in Return of the Jedi.” But every now and again, someone will stumble upon The Imperial Talker by searching for “Ahsoka Tano Sexy” or some other combination of Ahsoka Tano and Sex. Since my site was recently frequented by another individual seeking gratification looking for “Ahsoka Tano Sexy” on the internet, I figured I should just go ahead and commandeer the search term by turning it into a title.

That some people find my site by searching for sexy images (or even stories) of Ahsoka Tano is grossly unfortunate, although entirely unsurprising. Since her introduction in The Clone Wars movie/series, there has been a trend on corners of the internet to sexually objectify Ahsoka. While the sexualization of characters in Star Wars is hardly shocking , what sets Ahsoka apart is that she is not an adult in The Clone Wars, she is still child.

ahsokaintro2
Ahsoka meets Anakin and Obi-Wan for the first time.
Photo Credit – Star Wars: The Clone Wars

A while back, I wrote a piece titled Ahsoka Tano, Child Soldier which considered the stark reality that when she is sent to the front lines of the Clone War, Ahsoka is only fourteen years old. While it is easy to view Ahsoka as older and more mature than her age, given some of the deadly situations and difficult decisions she is forced to make, the fact remains that throughout the entire animated series Ahsoka is a post-pubescent childhood who has not yet arrived at adulthood. As such, her participation in warfare is problematic in and of itself, an ethical dilemma that should have given the Jedi Order pause. Likewise, that she is a child, and is overtly objectified by pockets of Star Wars fans, is also incredibly problematic.

In many respects, the way Clone Wars era Ahsoka has been sexualized in images could easily be summed up as a Star Wars version of “jailbait.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term, or lacking a coherent definition, jailbait can be defined quite easily as the sexualized images of minors, specifically tweens and teens. Conducting a basic, safe google search of “Ahsoka Tano Sexy” will result in countless images of Ahsoka as jailbait – scantly clad, presented in seductive poses, and more. Turn off the safe search and things become even more uncomfortable.

That a subset of Star Wars fans either do not see, or willfully ignore, the inherent problem of sexualizing Ahsoka is dismaying. More importantly, it is inexcusable. There is simply no justification for a girl, a child – even a fictional one – to be treated by adults as an object of sexual desire. The American Psychological Association would agree.

In a 2007 report, the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls explored the variety of ways girls are sexualized within our society, likewise examining the myriad of consequences this hyper sexualization reaps on the burgeoning minds of girls. According to the Task Force,

Sexualization occurs when

  • a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
  • a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
  • a person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
  • sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.

All four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualization. The fourth condition (the inappropriate imposition of sexuality) is especially relevant to children. Anyone (girls, boys, men, women) can be sexualized. But when children are imbued with adult sexuality, it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them.¹

The way “sexualization” is defined by the APA Task Force is important to this conversation as a whole, but what is critically relevant is the very last sentence: “…when children are imbued with adult sexuality, it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them.” This is precisely what has happened to Ahsoka Tano. There is never an instance of Ahsoka being imbued with “adult sexuality” in The Clone Wars. No, in the movie/series, Ahsoka Tano is a self-assured and headstrong young girl, a Jedi padawan who is immature but never-the-less eager to learn, to act, and to adapt to the difficult situations she finds herself in.

ahsoka vs death watch
Surrounded by members of the Death Watch, Ahsoka dispatches them with ease.
Photo Credit – The Clone Wars Season 4, Episode 14: “A Friend in Need”

Moreover, and more importantly, from her first appearance in The Clone Wars movie and onward, Ahsoka consistently demands the recognition of the adults she interacts with: Anakin Skywalker (her Jedi Master), Obi-Wan Kenobi, Clone Captain Rex, Admiral Yularen, and others. She does so not by selling her looks, by being “pretty” or “sexy” but through her persistence, showing time and time again that she has the talents to succeed and a willingness to grow from her mistakes. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Ahsoka has no qualms speaking her mind and offering an unfiltered opinion, a characteristic which earns her the nickname “Snips,” a nickname which is simultaneously fun and which reminds us of her unrelenting pursuit for respect.

That Ahsoka is a child and is sexualized is disgusting. What is even more pathetic and gross is that this sexualization intentionally strips her of the qualities which make her who she is. Rather than experiencing her, and in turn depicting her, as a strong and confident young girl who serves as a role model for children and adults alike – within the Star Wars universe and among fans – she is instead utterly disrespected by individuals looking to satisfy their perverted sexual fantasies.

Thankfully, among the vast majority of Star Wars fans, Ahsoka Tano is given the respect she deserves. I take solace in this fact, reminding myself each time someone finds this site by searching for “Ahsoka Tano Sexy” that there are far more fans who seek out Ahsoka for who she is – a remarkable girl and extraordinary woman. 


References:

¹American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. (2007). Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report-full.pdf

Haikuesday: Recap

Haikuesday: Recap
Looking Backward and Forward
A New Haiku Dawn

In January 2017 I had this crazy idea: what if I wrote Star Wars-inspired haiku and posted them on the first Tuesday of every month. Thus, my Haikuesday series was born. Since the first Haikuesday was posted in February 2017, I have written fifteen other Haikuesday posts, the topic for each being chosen via polls on Twitter. Allowing my followers and others on Twitter to vote for each Haikuesday topic was a way to garner some fun and “fan”tastic support for the monthly series, and while all those who voted may not have gone on to read the haiku I wrote, it was never-the-less fun to know so many people were voting!

I am incredibly proud of the Haikuesday posts I have written, in large part because these posts have enabled me to explore my love of Star Wars in really unique ways. Never would I have imagined, when Haikuesday began, that I would have be scouring the Expanded Universe novel The Truce at Bakura for inspiration, or that I would be obsessively listening to Carl Orff’s O Fortuna (from Carmina Burana) as I wrote haiku about Darth Vader. I dug into my knowledge of the Star Wars: Uprising mobile-game (which I played obsessively before it was cancelled) for the haiku about Cloud City and was inspired by the poetry of Toru Dutt and Hindu mythology as I wrote about Queen Amidala. Long story short, Haikuesday has enabled me to explore not just Star Wars, but a wealth of other music, art, literature, and more in really interesting ways.

At the same time, the writing of Haikuesday posts has taken numerous forms, and happened at pretty random times. For many of the sixteen posts, I would work on the haiku over the course of the week leading up to Haikuesday. Sometimes my inspiration would come late in the process, and I would still be writing haiku an hour before I planned on actually publishing. More often than not, though, the haiku would be completed in advance of Haikuesday. As well, many of the haiku were first written by hand, and I have two notebooks filled with my Star Wars-inspired poetic creations. As I told my friend Kiri from the site Star Wars Anonymous (who write some of her own Star Wars haiku!), I often keep a notebook with me to ensure that I can write a haiku if it pops into my mind. And, in those moments when I do not have a notebook, my iPhone comes in pretty handy.

There are definitely some other little things about Haikuesday I could mention, but realistically, and for the sake of brevity, I will skip all of that. Like, you don’t really care that I wrote most of The Battle of Scarif haiku in the backseat of a car, Rogue One: The Visual Dictionary by my side, on a road trip from Detroit, MI to Alexandria, VA…do you? Naw, of course you don’t care, so I won’t share that with you. And I definitely won’t share that I wrote all of The Battle of Umbara haiku in a note on my phone (I remember when phones were just used for making calls and not writing haiku. Those were the good ole days…in the 1990s). 

So, what is next for Haikuesday? Well, first and foremost, a much-needed creative break. I love rendering Star Wars in haiku form but my brain is tapped out right now. For right now – meaning for a few months – I am taking a break from Haikuesday to focus on some other Star Wars posts I have wanted to nail down for this site. In fact, now that this site is over three years old, I have quite a few ideas moving forward…including plans to FINALLY do Wookiee Week (but more on that later). As for Haikuesday, I already have some fun and innovative ideas to revamp it, changing how I approach it – from when/how I write, to the topics, and getting Star Wars fans (you!) involved in writing haiku! I even have this crazy idea to do an entire Haikuesday post in Aurebesh…

But all of that is in the future. For now, I hope you will take some time to read (or re-read) and share my Haikuesday posts. Leave a comment on them, tell me what you like, and if you have any thoughts/ideas on helping me make Haikuesday even more successful I am all ears!

Below are all of the featured images I used for every Haikuesday (with links to each post in the captions).


oom_battle_droids-2
Droids















Thrawn TIEFighter
Thrawn

Haikuesday: Ahsoka Tano

I have to be frank:
When Young Snips was introduced
I did not like her.

Haiku Addendum:
Regarding the last poem,
I’m now fond of her.


Ahsoka Tano
was basically Padmé and
Ani’s first child.


Scene: on Christophsis;
A youngling is sent to war
by Jedi Masters.


Does anyone know
why Ahsoka went off to
fight without armor?


Jedi Commander
Outranking Clone Captain Rex
Both child soldiers.


The Battle of Teth:
Tano fights for access to
Hutt hyperspace routes.


The Malevolence
destroys Master Plo Koon’s fleet.
Tano will save him.


In Resolute bay,
Ahsoka complains about
being a gunner.


“I feel it,” she says.
“A disturbance in the Force.”
Pellaeon listens.


A duel with Grievous
unfolds in Ruusan moon’s sky.
Snips barely escapes.


Blue Shadow Virus!
Ahsoka is infected!
Oh no, Padmé too!


Scene: over Ryloth;
Tano uses Marg Sabl
in battle with Seps.


Ignoring commands,
rash Ahsoka continues
fight for Felucia. 


Ahsoka Tano,
Jedi Padawan and the
best library guard.


Held hostage by Bane,
Anakin must choose how to 
save his padawan.


Ani and Tano
bicker while battle rages.
“Another fine mess…”


Noble sacrifice;
Tano and Offee “die” so 
that others can live.


“Kill me” pleads Barris,
brain worms infecting her mind.
Can Snips kill her friend?


Maurya Ruler,
Conqueror of Kalinga.
Whoops! That’s Ashoka.


Tera Sinube
helps Ahsoka look for her
misplaced lightsaber.


Mon Gazza podrace,
Ahsoka gets a “Crash Course” 
in high speed flying.


Two Jedi track Fett
from Coruscant to Florrum.
Will they find the boy?


I have to be frank:
Pics of sexy Ahsoka
are really creepy.

Haiku Addendum:
Seriously, she’s a kid,
not a sex object.


Tano with Chuchi;
Just two friends hiding on a
Federation ship.


Padmé in danger!
Ahsoka senses a threat,
but could she be wrong…?


Scene: on Mandalore;
Ahsoka helps some kiddos
tackle corruption


Young Ahsoka speaks
with her older self in the
complex Mortis-arc.


With his dying breath,
Piell imparts Nexus Route
upon young Tano.


Trandoshans capture
Ahsoka and use her as 
prey to be hunted.


I can’t figure out
why Ahsoka came with the
Lego MHC…

Haiku Addendum:
Ahsoka was not in the
Umbaran stories.


Battle in the deep.
Ahsoka protects Lee-Char,
King of Mon Cala.


Ahsoka and Lux,
sitting in a tree, K-I-
S-S-I-N-G!!!!


Tano is all like
cray jelly that dreamy Lux
likes that chick Steela.


A padawan framed!
Ahsoka flees into the
deadly underworld.


“I’m not coming back.”
Ahsoka Tano leaves an
Order in chaos.


I have to be frank:
I don’t like that she leaves but
sees Ani again.


Siege of Mandalore.
Tano duels a tattooed foe.
Rex will spring the trap.


Ahsoka novel
Review: started strong but the
climax was just meh.


Scene: moon called Raada;
A mechanic named Ashla
lends aid to farmers.


Snips turned fifteen on
September 22nd
1955

Haiku Addendum:
Hidalgo figured this out
so go talk to him.


Mystery figure.
Aiding the Lothal Rebels.
Who is this Fulcrum?


Rex and Ahsoka
are finally reunited.
Memories abound.


It’s pretty damn cool
when Ahsoka schools the two
inquisitive sibs.


“You abandoned me!”
“Do you know what I’ve become?”
“No. No!” she cries out.


Scene: on Malachor;
“I am no Jedi,” she tells
her former Master.


Did Ahsoka live?
Or did she die in the duel?
There’s no wrong answer.

Haiku Addendum:
Ahsoka theories don’t suck,
nor do Snoke theories


If left up to me,
in The Last Jedi I’d have
Luke chat with Tano.


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)

Darth Vader (April 2017)

The Battle of Scarif (May 2017)

The Truce at Bakura (June 2017)

Queen Amidala (July 2017)

Ryloth (August 2017)

Ahsoka Tano, Child Soldier

“I’m the new Padawan learner. I’m Ahsoka Tano.”

While I absolutely love Ahsoka Tano and find her an enthralling Star Wars character, I am also torn by the reality that Tano, a child, was a combatant in the Clone Wars. Story-wise this was purposeful, as a juvenile protagonist – a “youngling” as Obi-Wan Kenobi calls her – was needed to draw younger viewers to The Clone Wars film and television series of the same name, giving kids a character that they could easily identify with. Narrative necessity aside, no one can deny that when she arrives on the planet Christophsis in the movie, Ahsoka Tano not only takes her first steps towards becoming a Jedi Knight but also becomes a child soldier.

Admittedly, when I first watched The Clone Wars movie and series I was never bothered by this reality. In all honesty, it never even crossed my mind until recently. So deeply enchanted by the new Star Wars stories being told, so excited to experience the Clone Wars which Obi-Wan first spoke of in A New Hope, it never dawned on me that Ahsoka Tano’s participation in the war was/is egregious. That Jedi Master Yoda would see fit to use the youngling as a courier, carrying an urgent message into the heart of a major battle is alarming, especially considering she is sent without any body armor. That he and the Jedi Order would allow Ahsoka and other Jedi children to be warriors in the conflict is appalling.

Then again, while alarming and appalling, it is not entirely surprising. The Jedi Order – Master Yoda included – was quick to take command of the clone army in Attack of the Clones, an army of genetically bred soldiers who were also, technically speaking, just children. That the ancient Order, committed to using the mystical Force for “knowledge and defense, never for attack” would move so swiftly to militarize is disconcerting, proof that the Jedi were not only imperfect but also flirted with the Dark Side. Sending children into battle, younglings such as Ahsoka Tano and Caleb Dume (himself younger than even Tano) is but another reminder that the Jedi Order in the late days of the Old Republic acted, at times, in morally and ethically repugnant ways.


I am interested to hear what you have to say about Ahsoka Tano as a child soldier, but I would also encourage you to check out the sites below to read more about the plight of child soldiers around the world. 

Child Soldiers International

Human Rights Watch

Amnest International

Children and Armed Conflict
(Be sure to watch the video featuring Star Wars actor Forest Whitaker)

Generational Echoes in the Star Wars Saga

Guest Talker: Andrew

A few weeks ago while watching Return of the Jedi, I was struck by a particular scene. In fact not a scene per se but a small section of a scene that lasts for just over ten seconds in total. It occurs in the middle of the film just after Luke Skywalker contemplates his father (now Darth Vader, formerly Anakin Skywalker) and pronounces, “then my father is truly dead“. Luke is led away by Imperial Stormtroopers and as the doors shut one senses a distinct lapse in Vader’s demeanour as he places his black gloved hand on a steel girder in the corridor where the scene takes place. Although Vader is masked, one is left with little doubt as to the turmoil boiling within him which his son has sensed only moments before being escorted away.

CapturedLuke
Captured, Luke stands before his father.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

This is a scene that I am extremely familiar with and it’s no exaggeration to say that I have viewed it hundreds of times at this point. Many of you reading this will be in the same position. An interesting point of note however, is that as time progresses in Lucasfilm’s new canon, layer upon layer of light and shade is gradually being cast onto erstwhile familiar scenes. What made this particular scene reverberate once again for me was both the advent of a sequel within the cinematic saga – namely,  The Force Awakens, and the work on Anakin/Vader’s back story that we are now aware of from the new canon (the novel Lords of the Sith, and television series The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels).

Now I’m no neuroscientist, but I’m in no doubt that some neural connection (figuratively or otherwise) fired within me during my recent viewing of this “Vader scene” in Return of the Jedi. I think that having been shown evil and vulnerability co-existing so obviously on screen in the character of Kylo Ren, I may now have increased sensitivity towards those traits within Vader. One can’t help but note the incongruity of Kylo Ren seeking strength in Vader’s artifact (his Mask), when Return of the Jedi shows us, particularly in its last scenes, that Vader himself obviously harbored tensions between internal light and shade. Indeed, those tensions within Vader would have occurred not just in that scene but presumably at other points that George Lucas did not show us. Our insight into Kylo Ren has shown us that witnessing a character purveying violence and atrocities, does not mean that they aren’t conflicted. We know that Ren seeks strength from his Sith relics, erroneously viewing Vader as a pillar of pure, un-tempered dark power.

KyloRenVaderHelmet
Kylo Ren sits with and speaks to his most precious artifact – the mask of Darth Vader.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Ironically it is actually Ren’s insecurities that heighten his ability to strike fear in the viewer. Vader’s representation of ultimate martial strength may have been underpinned by the portrayal Lucas chose to focus upon in episodes III, IV, V and VI. Importantly though Lucas also spoke of the need to use Vader sparingly so as not to dilute his impact on the viewer.

Consider for a moment your perception if all you had seen of Kylo Ren was the Battle of Jakku, the interrogation of Poe Daemeron, and the killing of his father Han Solo. You would in all likelihood take the view that Ren demonstrated darkness and nihilism on par with Vader. As it is, due to the different approach to character portrayal within Episode VII, we have been given an insight with a wider focus as plot device. In turn that insight sends us back to what we have seen before and makes us wonder if the same kind of internal conflict occurred in Vader’s early years, only to be buried deep before ultimately being released by his son Luke in advance of his final hours at Endor.

In The Force Awakens itself we see Kylo Ren, formerly Ben Solo, also struggle with a pull towards the light, the draw of his family, and the effects of surprise dissent and challenge. Vader’s struggle, although less obvious, is sensed by Luke and is driven by his son’s appeal to the traces of the Anakin Skywalker that his father once was. What adds a further dimension to the scene in question from Return of the Jedi, and shades of gray to Vader’s portrayal in the overall saga, is the fact that we now know so much more about Anakin than we once did.

It’s worth noting in this context that I write this article after the broadcast one of the most heart-rending moments in the Star Wars canon, the confrontation between Vader and his former Padwan learner Ahsoka Tano. Forged in The Clone Wars series, their relationship as Anakin and Ahsoka reached its cessation (for the time being) in the Rebels Season 2 Finale, “Twilight of the Apprentice.” Like the scenes within that finale, this scene in Return of the Jedi is rendered so powerful through a contextual knowledge of the Star Wars saga. We now watch such scenes while projecting both forwards and backwards in our Star Wars knowledge. This isn’t compulsory for viewer enjoyment, but it will significantly enhance it.

VaderAhsoka
Ahsoka Tano receives a Force vision that reveals the truth – her former master, Anakin Skywalker, is Darth Vader.

Photo Credit: Star Wars Rebels Season 2, Episode 18 – “Shroud of Darkness”

Unlike a viewer of the Return of the Jedi scene in 1983 we are now aware of a cinematic portrayal of Anakin Skywalker, the innocent young boy from Tatooine, and his desire to assist the stranded Qui-Gon Jinn and Padmé, we are aware of his later awkwardness as a teenager, and his ultimate seduction by Palpatine towards the ways of the Sith immediately in advance of Mustafar. We know of the Shakespearean tragedy of Anakin’s fall in Episode III Revenge of the Sith, and his becoming the symbol of terror known as Darth Vader. Likewise, we know that those events occurred due to a desire to save and preserve family, and in some respects as a response to loss of family, both his mother Simi and his wife Padmé, and his unborn child (in fact his unborn twins although he didn’t know this).

Now we see Vader facing his only son, a son who senses a residual light within Vader through the Force. Luke is certain that there is good left in him. Let’s watch the scene in question, paying close attention as the scene builds towards its conclusion:

The scene begins with an exchange where Luke acknowledges his father and Vader notes his acceptance of the familial relationships. Luke qualifies this however. His first move in this meeting of minds is to state “I have accepted the truth that you were once Anakin Skywalker…”. Note how quickly Vader interjects, instantly snapping that, “that name no longer has any meaning for me!”. The reaction of Vader is instinctive; Luke has sparked a reflex triggered by Vader’s most private of ruminations. Luke persists however stating that, “It is the name of your true self you have only forgotten” and concludes “that’s why you won’t bring me to your Emperor now.” Watch Vader closely in the background behind Luke. He marginally but notably withdraws. Crucially there is no sense of aggression or loss of control.  Instead Vader’s eyes, or at least his direction of vision indicated by the direction of his Mask, turns towards Luke’s new lightsaber. One senses an indication of remorse, regret, or contemplation.  The crisp ‘snap-hiss’ of the lightsaber igniting then throws us, and immediately breaks any sense the viewer has that Vader doubts his position in any way. The noise, one of the many unique sounds in the Star Wars universe, snaps the viewer back into focus on the peril Luke is facing.

Vader says to Luke “your skills are complete – indeed you are powerful as the Emperor has foreseen.” In doing so he brings the conversation back to Luke as the focus. Luke in turn again  attempts to persuade and this time we start to anticipate a much more noticeable thaw within Vader. Crucially we are given our first verbal indication of the doubt conveyed earlier only by discrete body language. Vader speaks to Luke and states “Obi Wan once thought as you did…”and the soundtrack theme softens. The viewer is now thinking of the brothers in arms that Anakin and Obi Wan once were. Luke tries to persuade but Vader eventually concedes, “it is too late for me Son“. There is a marked sincerity in Vader’s voice and as he utters the words “The Emperor will show you the true meaning of the Force – he is your master now” one is left wondering if the warped mind of what once was Anakin Skywalker now actually believes that Palpatine will do the best for his son, and the best for the galaxy.  

Then comes the highlight of the scene. Luke responds with the words “then my father is truly dead.”  Luke’s tone highlights his disappointment but also his courage given what lies in wait for him. It shows the strength of Luke that he is not cowed in this situation. He is confident that his path lies in his Jedi teaching, and his compassion towards his father.

FatherisDead
“Then my father is truly dead.”

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Vader tracks Luke’s withdrawal with the Stormtroopers and this to me is critical. At 3:19 on the video, watch Vader and wonder what is going on behind that Mask, knowing as we now do that Luke was right. What are the thought processes that occur? The door of the elevation capsule closes, and Vader turns and looks out the window of the corridor, there are almost ten seconds that pass while the viewer listens to Vader’s mechanical breathing apparatus and looks into the depths of his blank stare.

Projecting forward, and as noted above, we are at the time of writing exploring the legacy of this scene and the events immediately thereafter. The Knights of Ren in the new sequel era have a false understanding of both this event and those immediately surrounding it. They view Vader as a quasi-Divine figure. We are not quite sure of their relationship with the Sith at this point. What is certain, however, is that Ren seeks strength from the ultimate in Vader artifacts, his Mask, indeed literally Vader’s death Mask. Ren seeks strength to overcome the same emotions that trouble Vader in the scene we are contemplating, and then tragically uses the inspiration obtained from that relic to do what Luke refuses to do: kill his own father, Han Solo.

The reason that I now view this section of Return of the Jedi as one of the critical scenes in the saga is because from it we see the linkages that span from the opening scenes in The Phantom Menace and trace the repercussions those events still have around 70 years later. We see how Luke’s relationship with his father is having a direct effect in the sequel era on a misguided Ren’s relationship with his own father. We see the death of one of the saga’s most beloved characters and the hero of the New Republic slaughtered because of a false impression of strength that has cascaded from the myth of the grandfather to the reality of the grandson. We see Luke’s beliefs and Luke’s obvious failure to impart his own beliefs, and their wisdom, to his nephew who has become corrupted.

This is what is beautiful about these films and why the latest developments in the saga and new canon have enriched and embellished films that we have known and loved for nearly 40 years. With the developments in the beautiful animation found in The Clone Wars and now in Rebels, and the love and passion brought to such works by people like Dave Filoni, we can probably look forward to another 40 years of thoughtful and inspired mythology.


Writer’s note: I know that others will have different takes on these cinematic events and portrayals. As always this is part of the enjoyment of these films and I look forward to exchanges with fellow fans on these issues. Find me on Twitter @PartisanCantina and check out my site (Partisan Cantina).

The Rank Lists Awaken

This is the first of MANY pieces I have coming on The Force Awakens. Those other posts will start digging into the content of the film, but for now, I wanted to think about The Force Awakens in relation to the Star Wars canon in general, and the other six live-action films specifically.


Almost immediately after seeing The Force Awakens, one of the first questions I was asked about the film had nothing to do with anything that happens in it. Oh no, the question I got was very specific and not at all surprising – where would I rank The Force Awakens in relation to the other Star Wars films. Frankly, the question left me a little dumbfounded.  I was, at this point, less than 12 hours removed from seeing the movie for the first time and had not fully digested what I had watched. I might be a die-hard Star Wars fan but after one viewing of the film there was just no reasonable way for me to rank The Force Awakens with the other films. So, I politely deflected the question and didn’t answer it.

Empire
Photo Credit – Disney/Lucasfilm

Yet, the question won’t leave me alone. It has popped up in a few other conversations I’ve had about The Force Awakens and I have seen some people post their own updated rankings of the Star Wars films on Facebook,  Twitter, in articles,  etc. Now, to be fair, none of this is surprising. Since a new movie has been added to the list of Star Wars films, it was only a matter of time before conversations started circulating about where The Force Awakens should be ranked in that list. I just didn’t anticipate getting the question immediately after seeing it for the first time, though the person who asked it certainly meant well (as do those who continue asking me).

Here’s the funny thing, though – I don’t have a rank list of the Star Wars films. While The Empire Strikes Back has always been my favorite, I have never taken the time to analyze the others and come up with some definitive list for second, third, fourth, etc. In fact, while “Empire” is my favorite, it’s probably not the one I have even watched the most. I have seen all six films so many times that I have lost count, so I really just don’t know which one tops the viewing chart. Then again, that doesn’t matter. At this point, all six are so engrained in my brain that they are, quite frankly, part of who I am, part of my self-identity.

But the more I have thought about ranking the films, the more various angles and questions began popping into my brain.

Anakin and Ahsoka
Ahsoka Tano sits and talks with her Master, Anakin Skywalker, after the Battle of Christophsis. 
Photo Credit – Star Wars: The Clone Wars (movie)

For starters, when I see fans ranking the films, I can’t help but ask: why aren’t they including The Clone Wars movie? Sure, it isn’t a live-action  film, but it did premier in theaters in 2008. Plus, it  introduced Star Wars fans to Ahsoka Tano, THE most popular character in the Star Wars canon who has never appeared in live-action form. All I’m saying is that if one is going to rank Star Wars films, don’t leave this one off the list just because it’s animated.

In turn, this opens the door to a larger question: why not just rank The Force Awakens with ALL of the Star Wars canon? I’m talking movies, books, comics, video games, etc. Since the Expanded Universe was disbanded by Disney/Lucasfilm, everything going forward is on equal footing as being canonical and relevant. So I have to ask: Is The Force Awakens better than Christie Golden’s novel Dark Disciple, Claudia Gray’s young adult novel Lost Stars, or the Shattered Empire comic series? Perhaps one would rank Ryder Wyndham’s junior novel, Ezra’s Gamble, above The Force Awakens but below the Season 3 episode of The Clone Wars entitled  “Witches of the Mist.” Or maybe someone enjoys The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary MORE than the movie itself and have decided to place it above the film in their list. That might seem counterintuitive to some but to that particular person the decision would make perfect sense.

Realistically, of course, it is difficult to rank the entire Star Wars canon, even for someone like me who is, more often than not, submerged in the Star Wars universe in some way, shape, or form. While everything added to the canon has equal authority, how does one even begin to compare junior novels to the films, or comics to video  games, and so on? There are certainly some stories that I have enjoyed more than others, and there are others that I am more critical of, feeling they fall flat for various reasons. And even if I were to rank the entire canon what would that accomplish? My canonical ranking would look different than someone else’s ranking, and I really have no interest in sitting here trying to argue that mine is the right one.

Theatrical Trailer

Photo Credit – Disney/Lucasfilm

But like I said, the vast majority of people aren’t like me or other die-hard Star Wars fans. For the average moviegoer, The Force Awaken is the newest installment of Star Wars, period. My uncle, for example, has seen all six previous live-action films in the theater, but he certainly didn’t go and see The Clone Wars movie, nor does he read any of the books, comics, etc. AND this takes me back to what I said earlier: I’m not surprised that The Force Awakens is being compared to/ranked with the other live-action Star Wars films. Most people only have the original six films as their points of reference, so I can’t really expect them to include The Clone Wars movie (among other things) in their rank  list.

So, seeing as I’m back where I started,  where do I go from here? Well, the original question is still relevant: where should one rank The Force Awakens in relation to the other six live-action films? I already noted that I don’t have my own rank list and I’m not interested in starting one. However, if you’re planning on creating/updating a rank list, or have already done so, I would suggest you take the following question into consideration:

Is it fair to place The Force Awakens (or Rogue One) higher in a rank list than any of the original Star Wars films?

Attack
Photo Credit – Disney/Lucasfilm

Now, I am purposefully using the word “original” here to refer to both trilogies for a very specific reason: Episodes I-VI are the films that Star Wars creator George Lucas wrote, the comprehensive story he wanted to tell. Those six films are, in every sense of the word, the original Star Wars stories. So, we can reframe the above question in a different way, coming at it from a slightly different angle: Can a new  Star Wars movie like “The Force Awakens” (or Rogue One), a movie NOT written by George Lucas, be a better Star Wars story than Lucas told in the original films?

Don’t presume, though, that I’m suggesting The Force Awakens is not worthy of carrying the banner of Star Wars. On the contrary, I personally enjoyed the film and believe it’s as much a part of Star Wars as Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, Attack of the Clones, etc. Rather, what I’m asking is whether its possible that The Force Awakens – or Rogue One – is, a more compelling, a more complete, an all-around better Star Wars story than anything Lucas gave us?

Really, I can’t decide this for you. Whether you’re a “rank list” kind of person or not, you’ll just have to figure it out and articulate the answer for yourself.

From Padawan to Knight

“You are on the council, but we do not grant you the rank of master.” – Mace Windu

“What? How can you do this? This is outrageous, it’s unfair.” – Anakin Skywalker

Remember that moment in Revenge of the Sith when Anakin is given a seat on the Jedi Council but Mace Windu tells him he IS NOT granted the rank of Master? Young Skywalker is pretty ticked about not being elevated to Master, and voices his disgust vehemently only to be chastised for his outburst. Anakin takes his seat and the scene moves along.

Anakin learns that he has been placed on the Council but was not promoted to the rank of Master. Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Anakin learns that he has been placed on the Council but was not promoted to the rank of Master.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

I can’t really argue one way or the other if it was the right decision for the Council to deny Anakin a promotion. I could, of course, spend this entire post dissecting the decision of the Jedi Council, and Anakin’s reaction, but my interest in doing so isn’t very high, at least not at the moment. Instead, I want to spend my time in this post wrestling with a different moment, or rather, a different transition point, in Anakin’s life as a Jedi. Basically, I want to know when and why he was promoted from Padawan to Knight because there is no canonical reference to it and, frankly, I want to know what the event/moment was like for Anakin.

Honestly, I think it is curious that we have never witnessed, nor read, anything about this very central moment in Skywalker’s life.[1] And, my curiosity is only amplified when we realize that we DO get to witness other significant points in Anakin’s life, all of which affect him in profound ways. Here is a brief list of some of these moments:

  • As a 9-year-old, Anakin is freed from slavery and leaves his mother on Tatooine (The Phantom Menace)
  • Anakin becomes Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Padawan (The Phantom Menace)
  • Young Skywalker has doubts about training to become a Jedi and considers leaving the Order (Obi-Wan and Anakin)
  • He is given his first, independent assignment as a Jedi guarding Senator Amidala (Attack of the Clones)
  • Anakin witnesses his mother’s death, and slaughters a tribe of Tusken Raiders (Attack of the Clones)
  • He secretly marries Padmé Amidala (Attack of the Clones)
  • Anakin takes on a Padawan of his own, Ahsoka Tano (The Clone Wars movie)
  • Anakin watches as Ahsoka walks away from the Jedi Order (The Clone Wars)
  • He learns that he is going to be a father (Revenge of the Sith)
  • He is appointed to the Jedi Council (Revenge of the Sith)
  • Anakin cuts off the arm of Mace Windu, turning to the Dark Side, and becomes Darth Vader (Revenge of the Sith)

While this list could definitely be expanded, again, what has no possibility of being added right now is the moment Anakin becomes a Jedi Knight. Of course, some might suggest that this event needn’t be developed, that we get to see him as a Knight in The Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith. Shouldn’t that be enough?

Anakin with his Padawan Ahsoka Tano Photo Credit - Star Wars: The Clone Wars (movie)

Anakin with his Padawan Ahsoka Tano
Photo Credit – Star Wars: The Clone Wars (movie)

Well, this is true. But we should also keep in mind that becoming a Jedi Knight is not a trivial thing. A Padawan must go through the “Trials,” the ritual process within the Order whereby a Padawan becomes a Knight. While there are a number of significant moments for a Jedi youngling in their training, from the creation to their lightsaber to their being apprenticed to a Jedi Knight or Master, the “Trials” are THE most significant rite of passage one will ever undertake within the Order because it is what makes one a full- fledged Jedi. While the responsibility of the Padawan is to learn the tenants of the Order, to learn how to follow the Jedi Code, this responsibility flips when one becomes a Knight. The Jedi Knight is a full Jedi because they are no longer tasked with learning, but with practicing and implementing the Code. In turn, the Knight will also take on a Padawan of their own, teaching the beliefs and duties of the Order to a young, up and coming Jedi.

But it is also worth noting that it is the Jedi Council which decides when a Padawan is ready for the “Trials,” and also determines when/if the Padawan has passed. Only then, if they have passed, will the Council confer the rank of Knight upon the Padawan.

Anakin’s Trials

In my mind, this is an event in Anakin’s life that is not simply about his taking and passing a test. Or, to say it another way, I am not interested in this particular story just to be able to say Anakin’s “Trials” were X, Y, and Z. Oh no, I want this story because it opens up a wealth of possibilities to get into Anakin’s head, to see how, during this immensely important period of his life, he viewed himself and his relationship to those around him.

Now, it is worth nothing the possibility that Anakin was granted his Knighthood immediately following the events depicted in Attack of the Clones. In The Phantom Menace, Obi-Wan is promoted to Knight after his own Master dies, and he defeats Darth Maul in battle. Perhaps the Jedi Council felt that young Skywalker’s actions, such as protecting Padmé, trying to rescue Obi-Wan, and facing Count Dooku, were ample reason to promote him to Jedi Knight. If this is the case, that is all well and good, but I also think it would be a mistake to think the Council promoted Anakin in the wake of all of these deeds.

Here is why: after going through everything we see him go through in Attack of the Clones, Anakin would have believed he had faced his “Trials” and should receive his Knighthood. Imagine, then, how royally pissed off he would be if, after everything he went through, he was still a Padawan as the Clone Wars began!!! You and I both know that HE would believe he had faced his “Trials” in the past few weeks, particularly after taking on a Sith Lord. Instead, upon returning from Naboo, he discovers that he is STILL Obi-Wan’s Padawan. If I was writing the book on Anakin’s “Trials,” I think the Prologue would need to have a scene in which he bursts into the Council Chamber demanding to know why he was not promoted to Jedi Knight…

Anakin and Count Dooku engage in combat Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Anakin and Count Dooku engage in combat
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

The way I see it, if Anakin is elevated to Knight immediately after, and as a result of, his actions in Attack of the Clones, this shuts the door on Anakin having one more reason to be mad at the Jedi Council, one more reason to complain to Padmé, one more reason for Palpatine to plant the seed of Jedi greatness into his young mind. Of course Anakin would eventually end up facing the “Trials,” but there would be an underlying and persistent resentment, a boiling anger directed towards the Council, and even Obi-Wan, for holding him back yet again, a disgust for being treated like all of the other Padawan’s when he is convinced he exceeds them and most other Jedi.

And added to this resentment and disgust would be the ultimate Anakin paradox: that in feeling he should be promoted to full-fledged Jedi Knight, Anakin would also be wrestling with all the ways he has broken the Jedi Code – from killing an entire tribe of Tusken Raiders out of anger to secretly marrying Padmé Amidala. In other words, this story should not be told just so we can see Anakin get upset and pissy once again, but rather to dig into Anakin’s inner-self at a deeper level, to better understand how he reconciles his actions, thoughts, and beliefs with the Jedi Order he is sworn to serve.

Besides, it is in the heart and mind of a Jedi where the “Trials” truly take place and, well, after the things he says and does in Attack of the Clones, I want a front row seat to Anakin’s psychological and emotional turmoil as he transitions from Padawan to Knight. Plus, as a side show to the Anakin’s inner action, the story would also give us insight into the way(s) the Jedi Council view Anakin, allowing us to see their hesitation in promoting him and, perhaps, even the decision to provide him with a Padawan after he has become a Knight.

Oh, and as a final thought, just imagine who would be there to help Anakin through the “Trials,” who his closest confidant would end up being. It is hardly a stretch to imagine Chancellor Palpatine taking the time to work with young Skywalker through this period, a closer bond being forged between the two. And when Anakin did finally receive his Knighthood, Palpatine would be right there, off to the side, just watching and smiling…

I really do hope we get this type of story someday.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Do you agree there should be a story that looks at Anakin’s “Trials” and, if so, what sort of thing(s) would you want to see in it???


[1] We DO get to see Anakin face the Trials, and receive his promotion, in the non-canonical Clone Wars series from the early 2000s.