The Galactic Empire: Another Side, Another Story 

The Galactic Empire: Another Side, Another Story 
Inferno Squad | Battlefront II

“Hope can not save them!” – Iden Versio

Warning: Potential spoilers for various novels including Aftermath: Empire’s End, Lost Stars, and Inferno Squad.

When I was a kid I knew one thing was true about Star Wars– the Rebellion was good and the Empire was bad. It truly was a cut and dry issue for me. If you had told me back then that there could be decent or honorable folks in the Empire, I’d have told you you were crazy. That said, it’s funny how our beliefs and ideals change as we get older and we realize not everything is black and white. 

Recent Star Wars media has been exploring what it’s like to serve in the Empire and I believe it’s actually been a great boon to the franchise. Let’s explore this idea a little more, shall we?

Grand Admiral Rae Sloane | Star Wars: Aftermath

“We need to demonstrate martial ability. The Empire is a hammer striking down disorder, not a knife slipped between unsuspecting ribs.” – Rae Sloane

While the old Legends Expanded Universe definitely had what TV Tropes dubs “villain episodes,” (e.g. Darth Bane, Darth Plagueis) the new canon has had enough purely Imperial-focused stories for me to start thinking that it’s intentional. Off the top of my head we’ve had Lost Stars, Lords of the Sith, Thrawn, Marvel’s Darth Vader (2 series total) the recent Battlefront II tie-in Inferno Squad and a number of short stories. That’s a lot of material in the span of 3+ years!

Now I know a lot of old-timers will say “why can’t we go back to a time when the good guys were good and the bad guys were bad?” We could, sure, but a little concept called character development suffers when you offer villains that are one-dimensional, mustache-twirling caricatures. Morality in real life can be a complex issue, so why shouldn’t modern fiction follow this same trend?

I think there’s a very good reason to include sympathetic Imperials in the Star Wars franchise. It is entirely possible to have good intentions and still fight for a cause that isn’t just. The new canon has had a good spread of both well-intentioned extremists and run-of-the mill Imperials (or some who blend both categories.) Most of these Imps simply believe that the Rebels are anarchists and terrorists looking to destroy their way of life. 

Ciena Ree from Lost Stars is a good example of this mentality. She was born on Jelucan —  a backwater Outer Rim planet that (in her eyes) the Empire raised to prominence and technological modernity. She joined the Empire because she felt it was the right thing to do. Of course, she later realized that truly honorable people were a rarity in the Imperial ranks and she struggled to rationalize atrocities such as the destruction of Alderaan. The conflict within herself and with her heel-face-turned Rebel boyfriend made for an excellent story.

Grand Admiral Rae Sloane is very similar in that she had a childhood incident which inspired gratitude toward the Empire. Unlike Ciena, Sloane’s belief in the true Empire never wavered despite her bearing witness to the destruction of the second Death Star and seeing dishonorable acts committed against the fledgling New Republic by her former boss, Gallius Rax. Sloane carried these ideals with her until well after the Battles of Endor and Jakku and she became a key player in the founding of the First Order.

Cover for Inferno Squad

Finally, I’d like to mention Iden Versio, the star of Christie Golden’s recent and excellent novel Inferno Squad and also the playable character for the upcoming Battlefront II‘s (yes, Imperial-focused) campaign. Iden shares similarities with Ciena and Rae in that she is very pro-Imperial and laser-focused on her goals. However, unlike those two, Iden was actually born into the Empire and its way of thinking through her father, Admiral Garrick Versio. If you’re planning on playing through BFII’s canon post-Return of the Jedi story, I would definitely recommend picking up the aforementioned novel. (In the meantime I’ll just keep looking forward to Iden and Luke’s meeting as teased in the trailer. Talk about an antipodean clash of ideals!)

I really didn’t want to make this a character analysis piece so I tried to keep the previous segments brief . That said, I did want to illustrate how it is possible to have “heroic” archetypes on the antagonistic side and still have them be relatable human beings. Maybe it shows how much I’ve evolved as a person that I really enjoy these Empire-centric stories as much as the traditional good guy tales.

These stories do a great job in convincing me why these characters follow an obviously (to us) evil regime. When information and media via the HoloNet is censored so heavily, of course our Imperial characters will believe that the Rebellion is just a group of rabble-rousers. Perhaps their ignorance only makes them more tragic. That’s what I believe. 

That’s all for now! Hope you enjoyed it! I apologize for the scarcity of my posts the last few months. Life is just crazy lately. 

*Honorable and obligatory mention for Timothy Zahn and the absolutely delightful April 2017 novel Thrawn. I wanted to mention the titular Chiss Grand Admiral with the other Imps that I’ve enjoyed, but I didn’t want to bloat my character mentions. Seriously though. Read it! 

**Ironically the New Republic ended up being nearly as corrupt as the Empire although for completely different reasons. 

Advertisements

Darth Maul: Sympathy for the Devil 

Darth Maul: Sympathy for the Devil 

Warning: Spoilers for Twin Suns 

“The Sith…the Sith took everything from me! Ripped me from my mother’s arms, murdered my brother, used me as a weapon and then cast me aside! Abandoned me! Once I had power, now I have nothing.” – Maul

I still remember seeing The Phantom Menace all the way back in 1999. One of the characters that really made an impression on the 12-year-old version of me was the tattooed, red and black Zabrak Sith Lord known as Darth Maul.

Maul just oozed awesome from the moment he appeared on screen. Even though he had very limited dialogue, his ferocious looks and double-bladed lightsaber (previously only seen in Legends stories e.g. Exar Kun) more than made up for it. Unfortunately for the Sith apprentice, he soon met his end at the hands of a young Padawan by the name of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Our poor villain was bisected at the waist and fell into a deep pit in the bowels of Theed Palace.

I vaguely recall thinking that we barely knew anything about this guy before his demise. Kind of a waste to include such a popular villain only to off him after one film.

Well…

Darth Maul | The Clone Wars

You may have forgotten me, but I will never forget you. You cannot imagine the depths I would go to to stay alive, fueled by my singular hatred… for you.
– Maul

I won’t touch on Dave Filoni and George Lucas’s decision to bring back Darth Maul in The Clone Wars too much as I have already covered that aspect of Maul’s vengeful crusade against Kenobi culminating in Duchess Satine’s murder.

What I do want to mention is that Maul’s reentry into the Star Wars mythos started him on a path of meaningful character development and it gave him actual sympathetic qualities. I know I’ve mentioned many times how much I love Dave Filoni for fleshing out events or characters from the films and Maul’s persona is no different.

YoungDarthMaulSidious.png
Young Maul and Sidious | Son of Dathomir

I know where you’re from, I’ve been to your village. I know the decision to join the dark side wasn’t yours. The Nightsisters made it for you.

– Obi-Wan Kenobi


Although The Clone Wars showed that Maul was more than a blunt instrument and genuinely came close to emulating his former master’s more cruel and cunning ways, the writers also began to drop hints that perhaps Maul wasn’t just a hate-driven tool of the dark side. I’m obviously not excusing all of his obviously evil actions, (i.e. butchering colonists and their children on Raydonia to get the attention of Kenobi) but there was no denying that Maul’s dark persona was at least partially a result of being raised by one of the most sadistic individuals in the galaxy. Maul’s tale could definitely fall into one of those psychological nature vs. nurture debates that are all the rage these days.

By the time Maul reappeared on Rebels, he was a broken soul with nothing but revenge to sustain him. His initial ire and vengeance was targeted at Sidious, but once his plans on the Sith world of Malachor were thwarted he realized just how much he was outmatched by Vader and Palpatine. He then settled on seeking out his old Jedi nemesis on Tatooine.

Star-Wars-Rebels-600x338
Ben Kenobi vs. Maul | Star Wars Rebels

“Look at what has become of you. A rat in the desert.”

“Look at what I have risen above.”

“I have come here to kill you, but perhaps it’s worse to leave you here, festering in your squalor.

If you define yourself by your power to take life, your desire to dominate, to possess, then you have nothing.”

– Maul and Ben Kenobi

Spoiler warning #2. I’m serious.

The decision to have Kenobi end Maul’s life (and swiftly!) was one that I commend the writers for. I know some people complained that they wanted a long, drawn-out duel but honestly that would have been sheer fanservice. Maul was a shattered individual, left a husk by the dark side and I think on some level he wanted to die at the hands of someone who would show him respect. It makes sense on a deeper level too. Maul is what you would call a shadow archetype to Kenobi. Think about it, both of them were skilled warriors who lost people close to them. Both of them lost their apprentices to Sidious (one had a literal death, the other a death of personality.) Maul and Kenobi also watched a woman they loved die in front of them (Mother Talzin/Duchess Satine Kryze)

I could go on, but there’s no denying that despite their diametrically opposed moral alignments, Maul and Kenobi shared more similarities than either of them would care to admit. The key difference is that Kenobi never hated Maul and actually pitied him. One final symbolic gesture from their last meeting is how Kenobi held Maul as he died. It’s near-identical to the way he cradled Qui-Gon at the end of The Phantom Menace.

darth-maul-dies-star-wars-rebels-twin-suns-238924
Kenobi holds a passing Maul | Star Wars Rebels

“Tell me… is it the Chosen One?”

“He is.”

“He will avenge us…”

As Maul died, I found myself getting misty-eyed. It was at that moment that I stopped and said to myself, “did I really feel sadness over this monster’s death?” The answer to that is yes. Like Kenobi, I felt sympathy for this once-butcher of a Sith Lord. But isn’t that the mark of good writing and character development? The best bad guys aren’t the mustache-twirling, evil for the sake of evil villains, but the ones whose motivations are at least somewhat relatable or sympathetic.

So with Maul’s arc finally done, I just want to say thank you to a few people. Thank you to Dave, George, and the Clone Wars (eventual Rebels) team for bringing this once-wasted character back from the brink of death. I also want to give a huge thank you to the ever-talented Sam Witwer for providing the deliciously evil (and often broken) Maul with his voice. You also do such a fantastic Palpatine and I hope you get many more Star Wars VA gigs.

————————————————————————

Anyway, thank you for reading! I apologize for the huge delay in posting another entry here (June?!) Life has been so busy and I really needed the break in writing to get my motivation back.

May the Force be with you!

 

 

 

Clones: The Forgotten Victims

Clones: The Forgotten Victims

Spoilers, always.

“Clones can think creatively. You will find that they are immensely superior to droids.” – Lama Su

Clone-Troopers_76eb5caf
Clone Troopers | Attack of the Clones

Today I’d like to talk about the clones that comprised the majority of the Grand Army of the Republic. I certainly know how to pick unpopular topics, don’t I? Regardless, I implore you to continue reading. There is much to discuss here.

I understand why people didn’t like the idea of a clone army in the prequels. Really, it was hard to care if nameless face #500 died while fighting generic droid #501. Add in the uncanny valley effect of CGI troops and you can easily see why these guys weren’t very well-received by moviegoers.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but The Clone Wars really fixes or supplements a lot of the deficiencies in the prequel trilogy. One thing the show excelled at was giving the clones humanizing traits like nicknames, unique personalities (major props to voice actor Dee Bradley Baker for this!), or helmets emblazoned with kill counts. Another aspect of the show that I really enjoyed was how it depicted specific Jedi like Yoda, Plo Koon, Anakin, and Obi-Wan valuing and trusting their troops (disregarding Pong Krell, of course.) These Jedi Generals often encouraged individuality and allowed them to think creatively in combat.

Regardless of the character development, the clones’ ultimate purpose was a foregone conclusion. Anyone who’d seen Revenge of the Sith knew that they would someday murder the very Jedi they’d served with in cold blood. Absolutely heinous, right? Well, I’m going to suggest something rather different. I’d like to posit that the clone troopers were just as much victims of Palpatine’s schemes as the Jedi Order was. I’ll elaborate below.

Purge

image
Caleb Dume (later Kanan Jarrus) and Depa Billaba | Kanan: The Last Padawan (Marvel)

“It was at the end, the end of the war. Our fellow soldiers, the clones, the ones we Jedi fought side by side with suddenly turned and betrayed us. I watched them kill my Master! She fought beside them for years and they gunned her down in a second! Then they came for me. Later, they said they had chips in their heads that made them do it, that they had no choice.” –Kanan Jarrus

I can’t fault anyone who’s seen Episode III for assuming that the clones were merely Manchurian Agents–trained soldiers set off by a trigger word or secret command. However, the truth is far more sinister. One of the last story arcs in The Clone Wars introduced the concept of an inhibitor chip installed in the brains of every clone embryo produced on Kamino. A clone trooper dubbed “Tup” had his chip prematurely activate in the middle of a battle and he immediately murdered the Jedi General Tiplar. Though the Jedi nearly discovered and unraveled Sidious’ entire plot then and there, it was covered up through the murder of another Clone, Fives. The Kaminoans then spun the story so that the chips were responsible for repressing Jango Fett’s violent nature in each of the clones.

So what are the moral ramifications for these inhibitor chips? Well, these nasty things overrode the will of sentient beings en masse. I would say that makes the clones just as much victims of Order 66 as the Jedi they murdered. Think of it this way–you’ve served with someone for years in a galaxy-wide conflict. One day, you awaken from a daze and discover that not only did you kill someone you respected and cared about, but you can’t really remember doing it. Dave Filoni has mentioned that those who did remember fell into deep depression (or worse.) To make matters worse, because of their rapid aging, the Empire soon decommissioned clones without pay for their service in the Clone Wars and forced them into manual labor. How’s that for gratitude?

wp-1466778704469.jpg
Clones Grey and Styles | Kanan: The Last Padawan (Marvel)

A New Beginning

star-wars-rebels-season-two-the-lost-commanders-captain-rex-commander-wolffe-gregor
Clones Rex, Gregor, and Wolffe | Star Wars Rebels

“I didn’t betray my Jedi. [indicates scar on temple] Wolffe, Gregor, and I all removed our control chips. We all had a choice.” –CT-7567 “Rex”

I still remember the fervor the fandom expressed when Dave revealed the return of Rex in Rebels. Who would have thought that a clone could produce such a passionate response from fans? That is the power of good writing and character development. I was thrilled too and it’s easy to see why this character is so beloved. He’s brave, loyal, and a good friend of another returned favorite–Ahsoka Tano.

Of course, not everyone was thrilled to see the return of clone troopers. Kanan still bore a lot of the childhood trauma of seeing his master gunned down. Rex and his group had removed their chips and had not participated in the Jedi slaughter, but Kanan still had prejudices to work past. I think a lot of the fun of Season 2 was seeing Rex and Kanan work past their differences and Kanan’s abiity to finally forgive the clones.

I really hope to see more of the clones in the upcoming third season of Rebels. It would be even more awesome to see additional disaffected clones defect to the Rebellion like Rex ded. I’d love to learn what happened to Kenobi’s clone, Cody, for instance. A man can dream, can’t he?

Oh! Fun fact for the day. There is exactly one known clone still alive during the time of The Force Awakens. Clone trooper 6116 “Kix” was one of the clones to discover the awful truth behind the inhibitor chips. However, Dooku had this clone kidnapped so that he couldn’t tell anyone the truth about Sidious’ plot. A Republic force attacked the ship Kix was held on before it could reach Dooku. The ship’s droid jumped to a random point in hyperspace and the ship ended up on a desert planet called Ponemah where Kix would remain frozen for 50 years.

Decades later, a pirate named Sidon Ithano was looking for Count Dooku’s treasure (rumored to be stolen kyber crystals) and found the frozen clone trooper. Upon awakening, Kix demanded that he speak to General Anakin Skywalker regarding what he had learned. Whoops. With the Republic and the Clone wars long over, Kix decided to join Sidon and his crew in exchange for information on lost Republic bases.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Happy Ending Override

Happy Ending Override

Warning: Spoilers for the recent novel Bloodline and The Force Awakens

“But when we think of those people who perished in the conflict, let us remember that they died for justice. For liberty. For the extraordinary peace we now enjoy. This is what we fought for.”
–Senator Tai-Lin Garr

Futility

wp-1463583248851.png
Destruction of the Hosnian System: TFA

I just finished Claudia Gray’s Bloodline last night. In my opinion, it is the best novel in the new canon. Not surprising considering how much I loved her previous entry Lost Stars.

As awesome as the book was, my first thought upon finishing it was just how bleak this new post-VI timeline is. In fact, one of the more common criticisms I see leveled against The Force Awakens is how the film renders the Rebellion’s victory completely meaningless. I mean, who cares if the Empire fell if the New Republic is just as useless and corrupt as the Old? (Thanks Mon Mothma!)

Same goes for the Big Three of the Original Trilogy. Han and Leia’s marriage went sour, their son turned to the dark side, and Luke is a traumatized hermit in hiding after his failure to restore the Jedi Order. Kind of seems like these guys fought for nothing.

Oh, and to top all of that off, remember how I wrote about Vader’s dark legacy a few weeks ago? As of Bloodline, the secret of the Skywalker twins’ parentage is public knowledge. Leia’s political adversaries use this to discredit her in the Senate and strip her of any power there. Leia suffers the most for this revelation but the novel briefly touches on Luke’s trustworthiness being questioned and the potential for abuse of his Force powers.  

Two heroes with bad publicity; what a difference from their Legends personas. I suppose we’ll have to wait until Episode VIII to fully see how the public views Luke.

wp-1463583780815.jpg
Han and Leia: TFA

Necessary Evil

Here’s the thing. Any time a sequel to a completed story arc is announced, you know that something bad has to happen to further the story. The Peaceful Retirement Adventures of Han and Leia sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it? You can’t have a good story without conflict and it’s no different in a galaxy far, far away.

Not So Different 

lucasfilm-adresses-star-wars-expanded-universe-and-its-use-in-their-projects
Star Wars: The New Jedi Order

I frequent a lot of Star Wars-related social media and I’ve seen some Legends fans criticize the new timeline for its darker overtones and lack of happy endings for the Power Trio. I think it’s just nostalgia talking because the old Legends EU was just as rife with conflict and heartbreak as the current canon. Let’s take a brief look back at a few of the ways Legends made life difficult for our heroes, shall we?

1. Palpatine returned

2504634-ee_emperor_palpatine
Star Wars: Dark Empire

Yep. Not much to say here. Probably my least favorite aspect of Legends. Zahn wasn’t a fan either.

2. The galaxy was invaded by extra-galactic, technology-hating alien fanatics

3. Chewbacca had a moon dropped on him. 

4. The Solos suffered one tragedy after another.

Jaina_vs_Caedus
Jaina vs Darth Caedus

Think they have it bad in current canon? The Legends Solo family lost their youngest son, Anakin, to war and their eldest son, Jacen, turned Sith and was killed by his twin sister, Jaina.

Yeah.

5. Luke lost his wife to Jacen/Caedus and his New Jedi Order was eventually destroyed by Darth Krayt’s One Sith nearly 100 years after Endor. 

 

Going Forward-A Ray of Hope

tumblr_inline_o0xbwdY6Ag1qd38md_250
Rey: The Force Awakens

“Without the Jedi, there can be no balance in the Force.” –Lor San Tekka

(Ah, name puns… How I love thee.)

With all the downer and bittersweet endings we seem to be getting lately, it’s important to remember that Star Wars is a story about hope and good triumphing over evil. Despite decades of darkness, the light side isn’t out of the fight yet. With Leia leading her Resistance and Luke and Rey representing the last bit of Jedi light, it’s apparent that Snoke and the First Order still have much to fear from our protagonists. 

None of our heroes’ past struggles were for naught. How does the old adage go? “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

(Sorry, Han!)

Thanks for reading!

 

Note: I forgot to note another criticism of the nucanon New Republic–its short reign. It was actually around for longer than the Empire and the galaxy got almost three decades of peace. Nothing to sneeze at.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rebels Finale: Thoughts

Warning: Spoilers ahead

image

“Anakin Skywalker was weak. I destroyed him.”
Then I will avenge his death.”

I know, I know. The Season 2 finale for Rebels premiered weeks ago  (March 30th, to be exact.) I am woefully behind in writing about it. That said, I just watched it a second time with my wife and I’m ready to share my thoughts on the things I found noteworthy.

Ahsoka and Vader

image

“I won’t leave you! Not this time.

I’ll dive right into the best part of this finale—this gal. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a character go from loathed to almost universally beloved by a fandom like Ahsoka has. Who would have guessed that Anakin’s bratty Padawan teenager would grow up into one of the most confident and powerful Force-users in the series?

Anyway, her reunion with Vader was as emotionally charged as I thought it would be. We kind of knew her efforts to reach her old master were doomed since Luke was ultimately the one to redeem him. Still, it was amazing to see her duel her former mentor.

image

“Then you will die.”

Props to the writing team for mixing James Earl Jones’ voice with Matt Lanter’s after she cut part of his helmet away. Equal parts chilling and sad. Also, backing up a bit in the episode, what a badass entrance for our favorite Sith Lord.

image

Maul

image

“You seek knowledge. Call me Old Master.”

You’d think I would be sick of this guy by now, but Sam Witwer always manages to do such a brilliant job voicing this character. Maul plays a darker, seemingly helpless version of Yoda upon first encountering the young and impressionable Ezra Bridger.

Of course, we all knew it was a ruse. Maul has never forgotten his betrayal at the hands of Sidious. To him, the Jedi on Malachor were nothing but tools (or a potential apprentice in Ezra) in his quest for revenge. I’m curious to see what else the writers have in store for the ever-resilient Dathomiri renegade.

Kanan

image

“Kanan, your eyes!”
“Let’s worry about that later. We’ve got to get that holocron out of here.”

Maul burning out one of my favorite character’s eyes with his lightsaber—let’s just say I never saw that coming. It’s sad, but I don’t see it crippling our newly-knighted Jedi one bit. Remember what Obi-Wan said? “Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.”

Coincidentally enough, this isn’t the first time a character voiced by Witwer has burned out the eyes of a Jedi. In the now Legends game The Force Unleashed, Vader’s apprentice Starkiller blinded Master Rahm Kota. The similarities between Kanan and Rahm have not gone unnoticed.

Let’s also not forget that in Legends there was a whole species (Miraluka) of blind Force-sensitives. If ever there was a time to recanonize them, it’s now.

Final notes

– The ancient battle between Jedi and Sith on Malachor is something I’m very curious to learn more about.

– Ezra picking up an ancient crossguard lightsaber from the battlefield was a neat touch. Kylo Ren supposedly got his design from the Scourge of Malachor.

– Not a huge fan of the ambiguity surrounding Ahsoka’s fate, but hopefully she’ll get her due later. Filoni has said that her time on Rebels is over.

– I’m totally on board with Ashley Eckstein’s statement regarding the coloring of that Convor bird. It’s similar to Daughter (embodiment of the light side of the Force) from The Clone Wars. I’ve seen people say that Ahsoka is grey since departing the Order, but that’s not true at all. It was the Jedi who forsook the light they were supposed to serve, not her.

– Ezra opened a Sith holocron. That can’t be good.

Anyway, thanks for reading. It was a phenomenal season and I can’t wait to see what the team has in store for us in the third season later this year.

May the Force be with you!

Dark Family Legacy: Forgiveness and Consequences

Spoilers ahead. Read at your own peril

  

Luke: “No, you’re coming with me. I’ll not leave you here, I’ve got to save you!”                           Anakin: “You already… have, Luke. You were right. You were right about me. Tell your sister… you were right.” 

Hello again. Today I’d like to discuss a topic that resonates very strongly with me–redemption. In this case a very specific individual’s path back to the light: Anakin Skywalker. I’ve often heard it said that Vader’s redemption at the end of VI felt forced or cheap when you consider all of the atrocities he had committed as a Sith Lord. 

This is obviously a very controversial topic (can a villain ever truly atone for their sins?) without a clear answer. To start, I’d like to dive right into Anakin’s actions as Darth Vader. 

  
“You were selfish. You abandoned me! You failed me! Do you know… what I’ve become?”

-Vision of Anakin to Ahsoka

I won’t spend too much time discussing Anakin’s fall this time. His personal failures and the actions of the Council/manipulations of Palpatine are a topic all on their own. As I mentioned above, we’ll take a look at Vader’s more obvious crimes.

  

“I killed them. I killed them all. They’re dead, every single one of them. And not just the men, but the women and the children too.”

Let’s be clear here. It would be really hard to sympathize with any group that kidnapped and tortured your mother. I couldn’t even fault someone for wanting revenge against said individuals. However, what Anakin did to that village goes way beyond wanting justice. He wanted that Tusken clan to suffer and he murdered all of them in cold blood. One of his first clear steps toward darkness. 

His slaughter of the Jedi (including children) after his Sith christening was just another step on his path toward the dark side. Here, he believed he was bringing justice and peace to the galaxy. That said, after being slighted by the Jedi so many times (especially in TCW series), I really can’t blame him too much for his hatred of the Order. 

Even after his transformation into the sinister cyborg we all know and love, Vader was still racking up the kill count. His own minions were fair game for a killing if they displeased him enough. In Marvel’s Star Wars 2015- comic, Vader telekinetically used his own stormtroopers as human shields to fend off sniper fire. Later, he snapped the neck of a hapless underling who just happened to see his scarred face. 

While he did not directly command the moon-like superweapon to fire (that was Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin), Vader was still complicit in the Death Star’s destruction of Alderaan. (Two billion deaths is nothing to sneeze at.) 

Finally, we have the torture and scheduled execution of his (then-unknown) daughter and the maiming of his son in a lightsaber duel. 

We get the point now. Anakin turned into a very evil person. So much so that Obi-wan Kenobi (even after discovering Vader survived) considered Anakin to have been killed after their duel on Mustafar. With all of that wrongdoing, was it even possible to redeem someone that wicked? Luke and Anakin’s former padawan, Ahsoka, certainly believed it was. 

  

“I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate.” –Luke Skywalker                                                   

“There’s still a way.” –Ahsoka Tano

While I don’t know yet how Ahsoka will fare against her former master later this season (Rebels), we all know the story of Return of the Jedi. Luke’s love and compassion for his father ultimately led to a resurgence of Anakin’s old personality. He sacrificed himself to save his son and destroyed the Sith Rule of Two. A truly noble action. But is one act of nobility truly enough to redeem someone awash in the blood of so many innocents? 

This is where I need to explain the difference between redemption and atonement. Redemption, as defined by the dictionary is defined as: “the action of being saved from sin, error, or evil.”  What Anakin did for his son falls into redemptive territory by the sheer fact that it pulled him away from his dark and selfish tendencies. To give your life for someone is the ultimate sacrifice. For a Jedi, this is the ultimate expression of the light side of the Force (it also proved that the Jedi Order was wrong about healthy attachments like family.) 

So we’ve established that Anakin redeemed himself (at least where his son and the Force were concerned), but the real question is did he atone for his actions as Vader? Let’s delve further, shall we?

The definition of the word atonement is “reparation for a wrong.” So other than choosing his son over Sidious, did Anakin atone for anything else? I would have to say, no. Not by a long shot. For that to happen, Anakin would have had to make reparations to every single individual he had wronged (most were dead already and they numbered in the billions if planetary annihilation is taken into account.) 

True, he ascended into a Force spirit alongside his old mentors, but I’m inclined to think that even as a ghost, Anakin would still have to live with the knowledge of all the atrocities he had committed. It’s probably for the better that Sidious fried Anakin’s life-support systems and he died. Otherwise, I’d imagine there’d have been a trial and execution for war crimes. Redemption equals death indeed. 

Interestingly (as seen below,) unused concept art for Anakin’s spirit in The Force Awakens depicted his spectral form as shifting between his human and Vader forms–perhaps hinting at some kind of punishment or dark, unforgotten legacy. Non-canon, but still food for thought. 

   

Speaking of dark legacy, Anakin’s actions would continue to haunt the Skywalker clan for decades after his death. That leads us to…

  
“Show me again the power of the darkness. Show me, grandfather, and I will finish what you started.”

–Kylo Ren 

Kylo Ren, born Ben Solo, was seduced by the dark side and his grandfather’s legacy as Darth Vader. He went on to murder Luke’s fledgling new Jedi Order (sound familiar?). I can only imagine Anakin’s anguish as he watched his grandson make the same mistakes he did. 

One hope spot for Anakin here. If Rey is indeed a Skywalker, seeing the family lightsaber pass to someone as incredible as her would be heartwarming to witness. (Assuming Force spirits never move on like they did in the old EU.)

  
Vader’s legacy impacted one more individual– his daughter. Since we don’t have much material to work with between RotJ and TFA, I can’t say whether or not Leia ever forgave her father like she eventually did in Legends. There’s only one comment in the new film where it’s mentioned that Han and Leia’s son has “too much Vader in him.” It’s brief, but telling. Leia is far less of an idealist than her brother and it’s likely that she either never forgave or forgot what her father did in the name of the Empire. Not fully, anyway. 

As pictured above, a new novel by Claudia Gray (yessssss! I adored Lost Stars) called Bloodline will shed light on her time in the New Republic Senate and the shadow Vader has cast over her family name. I cannot wait to read it. 

That’s it for today. I’ll probably cover more of Anakin’s fall to the dark side in another post. 

Thanks for reading!

The Steadfast, Heartbroken Knight

Spoilers, as always. 

img_1685

“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”

As mentioned in an earlier post, Luke Skywalker is my favorite Star Wars character. However, there is another Jedi that I am also very fond of. Today I’d like to take a look at the man who started Luke on his path to become a Jedi Knight—Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Nicknamed “the Negiotiator” by his Jedi peers, Kenobi is everything I admire in a hero. He is selfless and kind, brave in the face of danger or tragedy, and he never lost his faith in the light side of the Force.

Did I mention tragedy before? Yeah. This character has one of the suckiest lives in all of fiction. Let’s count the ways in which Obi-Wan has experienced hardship or heartbreak, shall we?

1. The death of a beloved mentor 

No getting around this one. The death of Qui-Gon had a huge impact on the young Kenobi. Jinn’s final wishes (the training of Anakin) acted as a catalyst that would change the course of the galaxy forever.

Anyone who saw the Phantom Menace as a kid knew how cathartic it was to see Obi-wan slice his master’s killer in half. Well, unfortunately for Kenobi…

2. Darth Maul survived

“You may have forgotten me, but I will never forget you. You cannot imagine the depths I would go to to stay alive, fueled by my singular hatred… for you.”

Yep. One of the most controversial (and my personal favorite) twists in The Clone Wars was the decision to bring Darth Maul back from his supposed death on Naboo. Maul used his hatred for Kenobi (and perhaps his Zabrak physiology?) to keep himself alive.

The years on Lotho Minor were not kind to our favorite tattooed Nightbrother. He was driven insane by thoughts of revenge and the shame of his earlier defeat. His mind was finally restored when his brother, Savage Opress, brought him to their birth mother – the head Nightsister, Mother Talzin. Talzin also used her magicks to forge Maul a new set of cybernetic legs.

Darth Maul then set out on his mission to lure out Kenobi. To achieve this, he began sending the Jedi Order holovids of his wanton butchering of innocents (including children. This show got really dark toward the end). Knowing that Maul would murder more if he did not come alone, Kenobi made the decision to relive his old nightmare and once again face the demon he had failed to slay so long ago.

“You know, when I cut you in half, I should have aimed at your neck instead!”

Maul and Obi-wan would have a few skirmishes after their reunion, but their encounters would ultimately culminate in more heartbreak for Obi-Wan. That brings me to…

3. The death of a duchess

 

“Remember my dear Obi-Wan, I loved you always… I always will.”

– Duchess Satine Kryze 

Maul conspired with the terrorist Mandalorian group Death Watch in order to oust the pacifistic leader of Mandalore, Duchess Satine. After the duchess escaped from her prison cell, Maul correctly anticipated that Satine would contact her knight in shining armor, Obi-Wan, for assistance. Since Mandalore was a neutral world in the Clone Wars, the Jedi Order had no jurisdiction to intervene. Kenobi chose to travel alone and incognito in defiance of the Council’s wishes.

Long story short, Maul captured Kenobi and realized he had the perfect instrument with which to exact his revenge – Duchess Satine. After Obi-Wan tried to appeal to Maul’s inner goodness and sympathized with him (“I know the decision to join the dark side wasn’t yours”), Maul proved how very wrong Kenobi was by running Satine through with his lightsaber.

As the woman Obi-Wan once claimed he would have left the Order for died in his arms, she professed her love for him one more time. Kenobi was visibly broken by her death which greatly pleased Darth Maul. He was content to let Kenobi “drown in his misery” while he was left to rot in a cell.

Of course, being the strong individual he was, Obi-Wan didn’t let Satine’s death slow him down. As Satine’s peaceful Mandalore burned in open conflict all around him, Kenobi escaped to warn the Republic about what had transpired there.

The one positive for this episode is that the smug Maul and his brother get absolutely wrecked by Sidious later on. As much as I loved Sam Witwer’s portrayal of the sadistic, yet tragic Zabrak Sith Lord, I didn’t feel one bit sorry for him as he was being tortured by Palpatine.

4.  The loss of a brother 

 

“You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you.”

Forget the hammy dialogue. Forget the wonkiness of the lava-CGI. Forget the sometimes uneven script. There was one moment (shown above) in Revenge of the Sith where I felt the acting was genuine and heartbreaking. The moment where Obi-Wan dropped his calm persona and truly let the audience know how he felt about losing his friend.

Sure, the films never really showed much camaraderie between the two Jedi, but after watching The Clone Wars all the way through, the scene feels all the more powerful. The loss Kenobi must have felt there; I can’t even fathom it.

5. The loss of purpose/isolation 

 

“You never trained me for this, Master Qui-Gon. You never taught me how to fade away.”

I don’t know about you, but after all the aforementioned tragedy, I’d be looking to hide on a remote, tropical planet for the rest of my life. What does our hero do? He volunteers to keep watch over the son of the man who betrayed him and his Jedi family. Oh, and did I mention he has to live on one of the most miserable planets on the Outer Rim?

Two standalone Marvel Star Wars issues have given us glimpses of Obi-Wan’s transition from Jedi Master and general in the Republic Army to crazy old Ben, a hermit no one knows or trusts. He does not adjust well to doing nothing or being alone.

What’s saddest about these stories is that Obi-Wan wants to help the common people of Tatooine protect themselves from Jabba’s thugs, but because he needs to remain anonymous, he cannot overtly help them without drawing unnecessary attention to himself. Worse, Kenobi clearly sees all of Anakin’s best traits (piloting, bravery) manifesting in Luke, but Owen Lars forbade any Jedi training for fear that the boy would become his father.

Kenobi also carried guilt from believing that he failed to prevent Anakin from turning to the dark side. Not an easy burden to carry.

Conclusion 

So what can we learn from all of this? Like Luke, Obi-Wan never let any of his personal failures or tragedies stop him from doing what was right. He was committed to the tenets of the light all the way up to his heroic sacrifice on the Death Star. He was also notable for being one of the only Council members who opposed turning Ahsoka over to the Republic courts after she was framed for terrorism.

Was Kenobi perfect? Of course not. He once faked his death and didn’t tell Anakin (which severely shook his faith in Kenobi and the Council) and he also didn’t tell Luke the full truth about his father. But what good hero doesn’t have flaws?

Obi-Wan also wins points for his constant snark and sarcasm. Both Alec Guiness and Ewan McGregor played the dry humor card very well. In The Clone Wars, James Arnold Taylor turned the snark on full blast leading to some wonderful exchanges between friends and foes alike.

Finally, let’s talk about his lightsaber style: Form III – Soresu. Form III has always been my favorite because it essentially turns the user into a stone wall. It’s a highly defensive form that waits for an opponent to tire or make a mistake before ending the duel in a decisive blow. The Negiotiator he might be, but Grievous and the newly-christened Vader both learned the hard way what happens when you get on the wrong side of Kenobi’s blade.

As seen above, Obi-Wan also managed to hold off Maul and Savage at the same time using Jar’Kai (two sabers: his and the recently deceased Adi Gallia’s). He even sliced off Savage’s arm in the process, ending the duel. Basically, the guy was a beast in his prime.

Okay, thanks again for reading! Hopefully this was an interesting read. Just wanted to explore a few of the many events that shaped this man into one of the most influential Jedi in galactic history.

Let me know how I did in the comments below.

“The Force will be with you, always.”