As new trailers arrive for The Last Jedi, I will add them to this post.
As new trailers arrive for The Last Jedi, I will add them to this post.
“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.
Children and Armed Conflict
(Be sure to watch the video featuring Star Wars actor Forest Whitaker)
In a recent post – Cheating Death: The Dark – I discussed the hate-filled path Darth Maul traversed in order to survive his horrific wounding in The Phantom Menace. If you have not read the post, or want to refresh your memory, I would encourage you to do so. In this piece I do a 180, flipping the conversation from cheating death to transcending death in order to consider how a Light Sider user can, if they are chosen and deemed worthy, preserve their conscious identity (and bodily form) in the netherworld of the Force.
As I point out in Cheating Death, the Sith and the Jedi share in having dynamic but also limited understandings of the Force. Just as Darth Maul could not dream of the level of Darkness he would reach in his state of intense hatred, the Jedi also lack full comprehension of what the Light Side offers regarding death. This is not a criticism of the Jedi, though. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that the religious orders in Star Wars – Sith, Jedi, Knights of Ren, Nightsisters, and so on – do not have 100% complete conceptual understandings of the Force. Ultimately, the religious orders believe about the Force is centered around their specific experience of it and, as a result, their respective dogmas directly reflect this experiential knowledge.
A perfect example of the Jedi Order’s limit is the skepticism – nay, the outright denial – that one can preserve their individuality after death. In The Clone Wars Season Six episode “Voices,” Anakin Skywalker describes the Order’s dogma on the subject of life after death quite poignantly when he states, “…everything that we know about the Force tells us that an individual retaining their identity after death is impossible.” To this we can also add Jedi Master Ki-Adi Mundi, ranking member of the Jedi Council, who notes “…the dead are part of the Cosmic Force and lose their individuality.” Even Master Yoda, the oldest/wisest of the Jedi and head of the Council, does not at first believe in the possibility of maintaining one’s individuality after death, expressing his own skepticism when he hears the voice of dead Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. Nevertheless, Yoda will come to realize that Master Jinn is speaking to him, opening himself to a possibility he thought impossible. In turn, guided by Qui-Gon, Yoda will begin his own journey towards transcendence.
The journey, though, is not an easy one. Yoda, we find in the last few episodes of The Clone Wars series (starting with “Voices”), must face significant trials to show that he is worthy of retaining his individuality after death. In other words, the great gift of transcendence is not liberally given to all Light Side users. While Jedi Masters such as Mace Windu, Plo Koon, Shaak Ti, and Ki-Adi Mundi are incredibly wise and act with good intentions, they nevertheless are not presented with the possibility of transcendence.
On the other hand, Yoda is chosen to receive the great gift, chosen because he will “teach one who will save the universe from the great imbalance.” Still, even Yoda must be put to the test, and in the episodes “Destiny” and “Sacrifice” he is forced to master himself – his own darkness, hubris, and temptations – in order to prove that he can master transcendence. It is only after passing these difficult tests, coming into a fuller understanding of his own identity and his connection with the Light Side of the Force, that Yoda will begin a long process of training through which he will learn to manifest consciousness after death.
Although we are given a fleeting glimpse of this training in The Clone Wars, the training Yoda receives has otherwise never been fully explored – either shown nor described – in any Star Wars stories. The same is also true for Obi-Wan Kenobi, whom we also know is granted this gift of transcendence. While Yoda explains, at the end of Revenge of the Sith, that Qui-Gon Jinn will be Kenobi’s guide in the process, we are not privy to the tests or lessons Kenobi will learn from his former Master.
Yet, all of this is okay. The Force is mysterious, and some of the sacred teachings, artifacts, and rituals that go hand-in-hand with it should be equally mysterious. Just as Sith and Jedi alike are not privy to every aspect of the Force, the same is also the case for fans of Star Wars. In fact, I would suggest that the training Yoda and Obi-Wan receive never be fully explored, lest we water down the sacred mystery of transcendence through over-explanation or take away from each fan’s imagination. Besides, what we do know is that Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi did learn to manifest consciousness after death, proof that their training, whatever it entailed, was successful.
But while Yoda and Kenobi completed their mysterious training, we also know that Qui-Gon Jinn did not. In “Voices,” Master Jinn explains that he was killed before his training was complete, before he had fully learned to manifest his individuality after death. While his concious identity was preserved at death, enabling him to speak from the beyond as a manifestation of the Force, Qui-Gon is unable to appear in bodily form to those who are still alive. As we are well aware, appearing in bodily form to the living is something which both Kenobi and Yoda are able to do. This is precisely because their bodies quite literally disappeared when “death” arrived, transported along with their consciousness to the netherworld of the Force. Thus, the pinnacle of one’s training, the pinnacle of transcendance, is the capacity to “exist where there is no future or no past” in both mind and body.
On this last point, it is worth mentioning that what existence is like for Qui-Gon, Kenobi, and Yoda in the netherworld of the Force is outside of the realm of comprehension. There are simply no words – not here or in any Star Wars story – that can capture what it truly means to exist once one has reached transcendence. Certainly finite language can be used to give hints; after all, even Buddhists understand that all suffering will cease once Nirvana has been reached. But what transcendence actually feels like on a subjective level, what existence means for one who now inhabits the netherworld of the Force, that can only be known to the individual whom has entered the new state of being. And because of this, I hope the existence which Qui-Gon, Kenobi and Yoda achieve is kept a mystery to other characters in the saga as well as fans.
While I have only played The Old Republic MMO sporadically, I have never-the-less been stunned by the incredible cinematic trailers that have accompanied the game. So, I decided to collect them all into one spot so people could watch them without needing to do much searching. Enjoy!
Guest Talker: Michael J. Miller
In the months leading up to the release of The Force Awakens, one of the most prominent questions on everyone’s mind was – Where is Luke Skywalker? He wasn’t in any of the trailers. He was shockingly absent from the poster. We only heard his voice, narrating a slightly altered version of what he tells Leia about his family and the Force in Return Of The Jedi. Speculation was rampant. And there were even those (apparently the ones who’d never watched Star Wars or totally missed the point of the whole narrative) who were insistent that Luke had fallen to the Dark Side and perhaps was even Kylo Ren. Now, all those questions have been cleared up. But the most important question for me still remains. And I hope I get an answer worthy of the mythic hero of Star Wars.
The answer to this question is important because, to put it simply, Luke is important. Luke Skywalker is the hero of Star Wars. Yes, it’s Anakin’s story but Luke is the force (no pun intended) of redemption that allows Vader to do what must be done. If Anakin is the savior, Luke is the redeemer. And both of them are necessary to bring balance to the Force. So we know where Luke was at the end of Return Of The Jedi – happily celebrating a major victory with his family and friends, while the redeemed Force ghost of his father looks on with Obi-Wan and Yoda. And we know where Luke is at the end of The Force Awakens – doing his mystic hermit thing on a not-so-easily-accessed lake front property in utter isolation. Even R2 was left behind. His hand hasn’t been cared for (presumably), leaving the synthiflesh to rot away and expose the metallic hand underneath.
The question I need answered (the question I am so, so scared won’t be answered with the clarity and detail it absolutely needs) is what has Luke been doing in the thirty years since the Battle of Endor?? One of the major faults I have found with the Disney Canon is that (with few exceptions) it gives us no real worthwhile details. It’s all painted in broad strokes. We are left struggling to fill in almost as many gaps during those thirty years as we had before The Force Awakens was released. Disney seems to perpetually tell stories set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, stories (more often than not in my opinion) having little to no significant impact on the saga, while ignoring the gaping holes in the timeline Star Wars fans want to know about.
The major exception to this rule would be Claudia Gray’s beautiful and brilliant new novel, Star Wars: Bloodline. This was the first novel I’ve encountered since Disney took over that gave me the thrill I almost always found with the old EU. It gave a detailed look at the Star Wars galaxy. It expanded on what was in the films in a way that made logical sense. And the expansions were helpful and felt necessary. Also, she gave us both a picture of Leia that was organic and dynamic as well as new characters who were exciting and seemed to naturally fit in the Star Wars universe. Ransolm Casterfo is the first new character I’ve found in the Disney Canon who seemed as complex and integral to the Star Wars universe as characters like Pellaeon, Natasi Daala, and Talon Karde did the first time I met them.
The novel also left us with some MAJOR question marks in regard to Luke Skywalker. (If you haven’t read Bloodline yet, this paragraph and the next contains minor spoilers about moments Luke is mentioned in passing in the novel but doesn’t address anything that’s central to the plot of the book.) You see, Bloodline is set six years before The Force Awakens. Granted, we only get glimpses of what Luke’s been up to since Return Of The Jedi. But it doesn’t seem like he’s been doing much. He and Ben Solo are bouncing around the galaxy doing…something.
A discussion in the Senate sees Lady Carise Sindian remark, “Princess Leia spoke of her brother, the famous Luke Skywalker, who has been little seen in the public sphere for many years now.” Then Tai-Lin Garr replies, “Since the Rebellion, Skywalker has lived a private life. He has asked no more of the New Republic than any of its other citizens, nor have we just cause to ask any more of him than the substantial service he has already given.” So the last of the Jedi decided to…retire? He’s road tripping with his nephew? Whaaaat??
Judging from the little information the new Disney Canon has provided us, Luke is apparently completely disconnected from the New Republic and almost entirely cutoff from his family. We can infer then IN THE PRECEEDING TWENTY-FOUR YEARS he didn’t rebuild the Jedi Order. So, I ask again, what was he doing?
The final conversation Luke has with Yoda before his death on Dagobah makes this even more confusing. As Yoda lays down for the last time he tells Luke, “Twilight is upon me and soon night must fall. That is the way of things, the way of the Force.” His final words to Luke are, “Luke…when gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be. Luke…the Force runs strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned. Luke…there is…another…Skywalker.” The literal final instruction Yoda – the Jedi Master that Kenobi told Luke to find to complete his training – gave Luke was to pass on what he had learned. And the Disney Canon wants us to accept that Luke’s response was, “Nah.” I don’t buy it. It doesn’t make any sense.
Luke wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. He spends much of the Original Trilogy trying to become a Jedi Knight like his father. In A New Hope, Obi-Wan taught Luke, “The Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy before the dark times, before the Empire.” So he knows that the Jedi were an order who protected people during the Old Republic before Vader and the Emperor wiped them out. He finds Yoda, completes his training, is instructed to pass on what he’d learned, and THEN DOES NOTHING FOR OVER TWENTY YEARS.
Why?? Again, it makes no sense and a legitimate answer must be given.
This story must be told and it must be told with a depth and intimacy to rival Claudia Gray’s depiction of Leia in Bloodline. A few lines of exposition (and maybe a few flashbacks) in Episode VIII aren’t going to cut it for me. Luke Skywalker is too important a character for that! We need to understand why he turns his back on everything he was, everything he did, and everything he was instructed to do.
As I watched Yoda’s death scene in Return Of The Jedi a few more times, I wondered if perhaps Disney wanted us to buy that Yoda told Luke to pass on what he learned to his family alone. You could make the argument, from the phrasing, that Luke could have interpreted it that way. But we know this isn’t the case. In The Force Awakens, Han tells Rey and Finn that Luke was bringing up a new group of Jedi when Kylo Ren cut the order apart and Luke took off. We know that there can’t be that many Skywalkers around. So, in the six years between Bloodline and The Force Awakens, he was (finally!) training new Jedi. But the question remains, why did he wait? What was he doing??
In the Expanded Universe, Luke spent much of his time after the Battle of Endor learning everything he could about the Jedi to rebuild the Order. By seven years after Endor (in Kevin J. Anderson’s “The Jedi Academy Trilogy”) Luke was taking his first tentative steps in recruiting new Jedi and training them on Yavin 4. Yes there were problems. There were ups and downs. But Luke was passing on what he had learned and trying to restore the Jedi to the galaxy. Why isn’t he doing that in the Disney Canon? Why isn’t he advising the New Republic in any role? What could possibly be going on that’s more important than all of this?
All Luke Skywalker, last of the Jedi, does post Return Of The Jedi in the Disney Canon is…fight for shrubbery?? In the (weirdly lackluster) conclusion to Shattered Empire, our first new canon look at life post-Endor, we see Luke Skywalker and Lieutenant Shara Bey infiltrate the highly secure Imperial base on Vetine…to save two trees. They’re important I guess? Luke says of the trees, “These are all that remain of the tree that grew in the heart of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. The Force is with them.” And they are clearly important enough for Luke to risk his and Shara’s lives by invading this facility three months after the Battle of Endor. But they’re also important enough for Luke to just randomly and spontaneously give one away to Shara so she could plant it in her family garden?? What? So Luke redeems his father, fights for a shrub (a shrub we never hear about again), and then does absolutely nothing.
We’re supposed to believe that the man who destroyed the first Death Star, who became the last Jedi Knight, who learned from Yoda, who redeemed Anakin Skywalker so balance could be restored to the Force just walked away? He did nothing. For over twenty years. He was just sitting around…waiting? Why? WHY?
The cynic in me believes it’s because Lawrence Kasdan remains pissy that Lucas didn’t use the darker ending he wanted for Return Of The Jedi. As is well documented, Kasdan wanted Han Solo dead and Luke, so broken by his ordeal, to fade into the mist like Shane at the end of the famous Western of the same name. Lucas didn’t go that route (in part, I’d argue because he understands the purpose of myth and what lesson Star Wars was supposed to be teaching us) and Kasdan has been open about his displeasure with it. Well now The Force Awakens rolls around and look what happens! With Kasdan helping with the writing duties Han Solo dies (admittedly, in a powerful moment that I feel served the character and the story well) and Luke Skywalker has disappeared only to be found out in the wilderness alone, not unlike a wounded gunslinger haunted by what he’s had to do (something that doesn’t fit his character or the tone of the end of Return Of The Jedi at all).
Cynicism aside, this is still a MAJOR question that needs an appropriate answer. There’s no logical reason Luke Skywalker hasn’t been active in the galaxy since the Battle of Endor. And every instance he’s shown up in the Disney Canon has only served to make his absence and apparent apathy more confusing. So, when the time comes, I hope we get a story that honors who Luke Skywalker is. The relevant question for Episode VIII is no longer Where is Luke Skywalker? but rather What has Luke Skywalker been doing for THIRTY YEARS that is more important than rebuilding the Jedi? The answer, whenever Disney decides to give it to us, better be damn good. Luke Skywalker as a mythic hero, and we as Star Wars fans, deserve nothing less.
Check out these other Guest Talker posts by Michael Miller:
Set more than twenty years after the events of Return of the Jedi, author Claudia Gray’s novel Bloodline provides a captivating glimpse of Princess Leia – now a Senator – as she navigates the political turmoil of the New Republic. The book adds a great deal of insight into the post-Endor universe and I highly recommend that Star Wars fans read it. My intention in this post, though, is not to provide a full-fledged review of the the novel. Instead, what I really want to do is share just a couple of thoughts I had while reading Bloodline, a couple of connections that got me excited. So, let’s get down to business…
At the outset of Bloodline, an emissary from the Twi’lek homeworld of Ryloth addresses the Galactic Senate, briefly explaining that his planet has historically been the target of Hutt oppression, and that this oppression was doubled under Imperial rule. Emissary Yendor goes on to explain that with the decline in power of the Hutts, other criminal factions – most notably cartels run by the Niktos – have arisen to fill the power vacuum. In particular, he notes that a Nikto cartel run by a Kajain’sa’Nikto (red Nikto) named Rinnrivin Di possess the greatest threat to the people of Ryloth, and beseeches the Senate to investigate Rinnrivin Di’s criminal activities.
For those of you who have watched The Clone Wars animated series, and specifically the Season 3 episode “Supply Lines,” you may recall that the episode features a Kajain’sa’Nikto Jedi Master named Ima-Gun Di. Well, the moment I read the name “Rinnrivin Di,” the lights and sirens went off in my brain and I immediately wondered: are the two Nikto somehow related?
Honestly, I have no idea. It certainly could be possible, but “Di” could also just be the “Smith” of the Nikto species. Still, it sure is interesting that the two have the same surname, and it really makes me wonder if Claudia Gray or someone on the Lucasfilm Story Group had the idea of connecting Ima-Gun Di and Rinnrivin Di in their OWN bloodline.
What makes this all the more fascinating, though, is that Master Ima-Gun Di led the Republic effort to defend the planet Ryloth – and the Twi’leks – against a Separatist invasion. While Master Di’s only appearance is in “Supply Lines,” and only in a handful of scenes at that, these few moments in the episode are enough make us understand quite a lot about him. Ima-Gun Di is tactically gifted as a general, holding out against a far superior enemy and we watch as he concocts a plan to bottleneck the Separatist forces. But we also see that he is a true friend of the Twi’leks as he works tirelessly to protect them from the oncoming battle droids. This is no more apparent than when Master Di personally oversees the rear-guard action that will cost him his life, selflessly fighting and dying “for the Twi’leks” so they can “live to fight another day.”
One Nikto with the surname “Di” fighting on behalf of the Twi’leks, another many years later causing harm to the Twi’leks. Again, it really makes one wonder if the connection between these two is intentional…
But I don’t want to belabor the connection. It is definitely worth pondering, but I have another thought to consider about Ima-Gun Di and the Twi’leks, one that relies on a little more information found in Bloodline, and elsewhere, about the Nikto species.
One piece of that information comes during Emissary Yendor’s address to the Senate, but it comes not from the Emissary but instead from c-3PO. Turning to Leia as she listens to Yendor’s presentation, C-3PO states that “The Niktos served the Hutts for centuries. They’ve never had a truly independent government of their own. Hardly even a world of their own, really.” In fact, the first Niktos we meet in Star Wars appear in Return of the Jedi and are henchmen for Jabba the Hutt. Furthermore, we also see Nikto enforcers serving the Hutt Clan in The Clone Wars, and learn from Star Wars: Uprising that Nikto stalkers are utilized whenever Hutts feud with one another.
Now, it is certainly possible to raise some thoughts and questions about the relationship between the Niktos and the Hutts. In Bloodline, Rinnrivin Di himself tells Leia that his “people have their reasons for hating the Hutts.” But my interest here is not to speculate on what those “reasons” happen to be. Rather, for the sake of this post, I am far more curious about the relationship between the Niktos and the Twi’leks. Since the Hutts oppressed Ryloth for centuries, and the Niktos served the Hutts as henchmen, enforcers, and stalkers, it is safe to assume that the Twi’leks had many negative encounters with members of the Nikto species who were acting on behalf of the Hutts. In fact, Princess Leia strikes at very heart of this point in Bloodline when she notes that “Ryloth has never had much in the way of resources, and whatever they had was traditionally taken away from them by either the Niktos or the Hutts.”
So what the heck does all this have to do with Jedi Master Ima-Gun Di? Well, since the relationship between the Niktos and Twi’leks was tenuous at best, how then would the Twi’leks have reacted to a Nikto Jedi Master leading the defense of their homeworld? Imagine, for example, being a Twi’lek parent whose young daughter was ripped away from them by Nikto enforcers to be taken and made a slave in the palace of a Hutt. Now, imagine seeing a Nikto Jedi Master step off a Republic gunship – how would it make you feel?
You see, as I read Bloodline and thought about the possible relationship between Ima-Gun Di and Rinnrivin Di, I also found myself thinking about the possible emotions the Twi’leks may have experienced seeing, or simply knowing, that a Nikto was fighting FOR them when their planet was under threat. I can easily picture the look of shock and/or surprise on the face of some Twi’leks when they first saw Ima-Gun Di, wondering if this Kajain’sa’Nikto was really to be trusted.
But I’m also certain that Master Di knew that members of his species, working on behalf of the Hutts or in their own self-interest, were responsible for a great deal of Twi’lek suffering. As a Jedi Master and as a Nikto, Ima-Gun Di must have been aware of what his presence on Ryloth would mean to many Twi’leks. This is why I think it would be brilliant for a Star Wars writer like Claudia Gray to create a story – even if it is only a short story – that shows us Master Di’s arrival on Ryloth and his subsequent interactions with the Twi’leks before we meet him in The Clone Wars. This story could provide a little background on an otherwise unfamiliar Jedi Master, insight into the beginning of the Ryloth campaign, but most importantly it could show us the compassion of Master Di as he worked to heal some of the pain the Niktos had inflicted upon the Twi’leks.
Of course, this is not to suggest Master Di could single-handedly mend every wound, especially since he had a battle to fight, but perhaps his example and legacy could serve as the future for understanding and reconciliation between the Twi’leks and the Niktos.
This is not the post you are expecting it to be. Read on and see what I mean…
It’s a Star Wars question so common that I rarely think about it: since Obi-Wan uses his lightsaber to cut off Ponda Baba’s arm in the Mos Eisley Cantina, why does the arm bleed? A fair question to be sure – technically, there shouldn’t be any blood because the wound should be cauterized when the blade goes through the arm. When others are dismembered by lightsabers, like Luke in The Empire Strikes Back or Zam Wesell in Attack of the Clones, their wounds are cauterized, there is no blood. But Ponda Baba is the exception, his wound is a bloody mess and I haven’t the slightest clue how to explain it. Perhaps Ponda Baba’s race, the Aqualish, are incapable of being burned and only bleed when wounded? Or maybe Obi-Wan cut the arm at just the right angle to open an artery but not cauterize it? Frankly, your guess is as good as mine.
But I’m not really interested in solving the dilemma about the bleeding arm (though I think my “Aqualish always bleed” approach makes sense). Instead, I’d rather take this moment, since I have your attention, to pose a much different question about this particular incident in the Mos Eisley Cantina…
Why does Kenobi dismember Ponda Baba and kill Baba’s partner, Dr. Evazan?
This is a question I have wrestled with for some time, with the starting point to answering it always being the most obvious explanation: Kenobi is simply acting in self-defense.
Initially, Luke is the one who is threatened by Evazan and Baba, and when Kenobi intervenes to calm the situation, the two nefarious individuals become rather violent. Kenobi ignites his lightsaber and, rather quickly, puts an end to the scuffle. The deed finished, the bloody arm lying on the ground and the groans of pain being heard, Kenobi stands resolute with his blade upright. And, just as quickly as the incident began, the scene moves along and we are introduced to Chewbacca and Han Solo.
Now, first and foremost, I certainly think Obi-Wan is allowed to defend himself and Luke. But the issue I’m raising in the question is not whether Kenobi can act or should in self-defense, but how he acts in self-defense.
To me, the issue of the bleeding arm is a distraction from the real issue inherent in the incident – the fact that one of the last remaining Jedi, a Jedi Master no less, chooses to kill one individual and maim another. When Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba become enraged and attack Old Ben, why is Kenobi’s immediate reaction also a violent one? Surely a Jedi Master could disarm these two in a less confrontational manner, doing so without the need to call upon the Force in an obvious, attention grabbing way. Kenobi needn’t, for example, use the Force to throw the two across the room. Rather, using his finely tuned Force skills, Obi-Wan could have easily incapacitated the two, making them trip over their own two feet if he wanted.
But, that isn’t what happens. Instead, we are left with the absurd reality that Kenobi uses deadly force, inflicting pain and death without the slightest bit of remorse. And this is where things get tricky. Suggesting, for example, that Kenobi’s actions are of the Light Side of the Force would entirely undercut the fact that the Light Side does not lend itself to the destruction of life. At. All. So no, I absolutely do not think Kenobi is guided by the Light when he strikes down Evazan and wounds Baba.
Does this mean, then, that Kenobi was being guided by the Dark Side? Well, if he does the deed out of anger and malice, then sure, we could say he is using the Dark Side. However, we have no idea what Kenobi is thinking in the moment, so it’s hard and a bit unfair to suggest he is dropping into the Dark Side without knowing his thoughts. Then again, dishing out pain and death are specialties of Dark Siders…
So where in the name of Malachor do we go from here? Honestly, I haven’t the slightest idea. The fact that Kenobi kills Evazan and maims Baba opens the door to a cacophony of thoughts and questions, the Light Side/Dark Side being just the tip of the iceberg. Thinking about the incident for some time, and now putting the thoughts into a post, I am pulled in numerous directions with no clear-cut end in site. Part of me wants to absolve Kenobi because he is one of my favorite characters, another wants to chastise him for not acting the way a Jedi Master should act, and yet another wants to throw papers into the air in frustration (maybe I will).
In lieu of all of my hair going gray thinking about this, I want YOU to chime in. Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments and, as a team, think about Kenobi killing Evazan and maiming Baba. I’m curious to hear what others have to say about Kenobi’s actions during this short but violent incident in the Mos Eisley Cantina.
While short, the scene in Revenge of the Sith is intensely powerful. Jedi younglings, hiding in the Jedi Council Chamber from attacking Clone Troopers, emerge from their concealment when a familiar figure enters the room: Anakin Skywalker. Unbeknownst to the young Jedi children, Skywalker is no longer the Knight they have all come to love and respect. Instead, he is Darth Vader, and he is the one leading the Clone Troopers in the attack against the Jedi Temple.
As the younglings emerge, one young boy steps forward and in a calm but obviously scared voice asks, “Master Skywalker, there are too many of them, what are we going to do?” Immediately, the camera shot changes from the innocence of the boy’s face to the malice of Vader’s. Reacting with only the slow downward nod of his head, Vader stares at the child who has addressed him.
The shot changes again and we now see the child in the center of the shot with other younglings to his sides and behind him. Vader’s body is cut off, and all that is visible of him is his left hand and the lightsaber he holds within it. His hand moving, Vader ignites the saber into a brilliant blue beam. At this, the child jolts, takes a step back, and the scene ends.
I can still remember sitting in the theater watching Revenge of the Sith the night it opened and being absolutely shocked by this scene. We all knew going into the film that Anakin Skywalker would fall to the Dark Side, that he would become Darth Vader. Hell, we even knew he would end up leading an attack on the Jedi, beginning the purge that would whip out the vast majority of the ancient Light Side order. But what I wasn’t prepared for were these few seconds where young Jedi children, innocent, adorable, and hiding from the Temple attackers would come face-to-face with Vader.
While it hurts to watch the systematic destruction of the Order as Jedi Generals are killed by their Clone Troopers, it was at least bearable since those Jedi were adults. Children though, that’s tough. We may not see Vader do the deed, but we all know, when the lightsaber is ignited, what’s about to happen. Our imaginations are strong enough to put the pieces together.
The thing is – and I admit this is a weirdly absurd thing to say – he is fully justified in killing the younglings. I’m not suggesting I like that the younglings die, but within the context of the story that is Star Wars, their murder makes perfect sense. After all, the person we see enter the Council Chamber is not Anakin Skywalker but a newly minted Dark Lord of the Sith – Vader.
Before attacking the Temple, Vader’s new Master, Darth Sidious, gave him strict instructions to “Do what must be done.” He told Vader “not to hesitate” and to “show no mercy” to the Jedi he would encounter. Is what happened to those children heinous and cruel? Of course, but why should a Sith care? Those children weren’t just any children, they were Jedi younglings. Their collective death is justified by virtue of their being members of the ancient, mortal enemy of the Sith. Should a Sith be blamed for acting like a Sith? I don’t think so.
Besides, would we be as shocked if the Sith doing the killing wasn’t Vader? Say it was Darth Maul, or Darth Tyrannus, or even Darth Sidious – what then? They, too, would be justified in killing Jedi younglings, and we can easily imagine a scenario in which any one of these Sith Lords would kill any Jedi, young or old, if given the chance.
But this scene needs Vader to make it work. The dramatic effect in the scene hinges on “Master Skywalker” being the would be savior of these children. Like I said above, the youngling who is speaking is unaware that Skywalker is no more, and the person standing before him is a Sith Lord. But WE are aware, and with this knowledge we’re trapped inside the room with those children, unable to escape from the reality of what Anakin-turned-Vader does to the younglings. Again, we don’t see him do the deed, thus we don’t know precisely how Vader goes about killing each child. Perhaps he cuts them all down with his blade or uses a Force choke on a few of them. Luckily, we are sparred from having to watch the dark deed but part of me wishes we had been forced to watch, if only to cement in our minds how twisted Anakin had become and how ruthless Darth Vader really is.
During my most recent viewing of The Force Awakens, I was slammed by an epiphany so insanely obvious I was shocked it hadn’t hit me earlier. This epiphany came during the conversation Finn has with Maz Kanata while the two sit at a table in her castle. Finn, adamantly stating that there is no way to fight the First Order, is confronted by Maz when she climbs onto the table and crawls towards him. Adjusting her “glasses” as she looks at Finn, Maz states to him that, “I have lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people…I am looking at the eyes of a man who wants to run.”
Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with Finn who tells Maz she doesn’t know anything about him. Of course, we know that Maz is right, Finn DOES want to run, even if she doesn’t necessarily know all of Finn’s backstory. But although Maz confronts Finn and reveals what she sees in his eyes, she does not try to convince him to stay and fight. Instead, she simply points to two individuals who Finn can hitch a ride with to the Outer Rim. And that ends their discussion, as Finn gets up to leave and Maz returns to her seat.
Okay, so far, so good. Now, what of that epiphany I mentioned? Well, in the moment Maz says to Finn that she has “lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people” and that she is “looking at the eyes of a man who wants to run,” the following thought entered my mind:
Kanan Jarrus was running, too.
And with that, the flood gates opened…
What if as he followed his late-Master’s order to “run,” Kanan Jarrus (formerly Caleb Dume) ended up on Takodana, in Maz Kanata’s castle?
What if he when he met Maz Kanata for the first time, she could sense who he was – a Jedi?
What if in conversing with Kanan, in discussing his past as a Jedi, she looks into HIS eyes and sees “a man who wants to run,” saying the same thing to him that she says to Finn?
What if, what if, what if…
Honestly, I see no reason this encounter shouldn’t happen. No, it NEEDS to happen. Think about it – it would add a fascinating dimension to Maz’s interaction with Finn, the recognition that she hasn’t just seen the eyes of random men who were running, but saw those eyes in one of the last members of the Jedi Order. In this vein, an encounter between Maz and Kanan could function as a building block for Maz’s backstory, a window into her past. While the centerpiece of their interaction would obviously focus on Kanan running from his past life as a Jedi, the conversation could also provide keen insights into Kanata’s views on the galaxy, particularly a galaxy reeling from the aftermath of the Clone Wars. Frankly, after meeting Maz Kanata in The Force Awakens, I would love to hear what she has to say about the Clone Wars, the fall of the Jedi Order, and the rise of the Empire. Plus, it would be pretty cool to see her counsel the young Kanan, providing the young Jedi with her own ancient “Yoda-esque” wisdom.
Speaking of Kanan, it sort of goes without saying but this interaction would be an easy way to bolster the already rich backstory surrounding him. And, there is already a perfect medium for us to see Maz confront Kanan “the runner” – the Marvel comic series Kanan. This series provides a fascinating glimpse of a young Kanan running from the Empire in the days and weeks after Order 66, and I think an encounter between Maz and Kanan would be a natural fit for the series.
So what do you think? Am I crazy for wanting to see Maz Kanata have the same interaction with Kanan that she does with Finn?
Addition: Since writing this piece, the Kanan comic series has come to an end (the last issue was released on March 16, 2016). Sad, I know, but I am still convinced that a meeting between Maz Kanata and Kanan Jarrus would be a great story. Hopefully it is the will of the Force that the two characters cross paths.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.