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!

Post-TFA

Warning: Spoilers for The Force Awakens ahead. You have been warned. 

 

“Hope is not lost today… It is found.” -Maz Kanata 

I got to see the new Star Wars film while on vacation with my wife in NC. It was a good trip and now that I’m home and I’ve gotten some time to mull over the finer details of the movie, I’m ready to talk about it.

So what did I think of the newest chapter in the saga? I adored it. It was a return to form for the franchise and the critics and (most) fans seem to agree with this sentiment (94% Rotten Tomatoes. Not bad).

This post won’t be going into too much detail on specific points. Instead, I’d like to quickly go over the aspects I really enjoyed or that I thought were important.

Practical Effects

 

I didn’t realize how much I missed the aliens of the Original Trilogy until I saw this film. In fact, this entire gorgeous film just has a tangibility to it that was sorely lacking in the PT.

That’s not to say there wasn’t CGI (it’s a 2015 film, no way they wouldn’t have used some), but when computer animation was used, it complemented the look of the film instead of dominating it.

Bittersweet Tone

There’s no getting around it, The Force Awakens personifies the trope Happy Ending Override more than Legends ever could. Sure, the Empire finally fell at Endor followed by Jakku, and a New Republic was established to bring democracy to the galaxy, but the film portrays anything but a post-VI happy ending. Let’s count the ways the film tramples on our hearts.

1. A fanatical offshoot of the Empire (First Order) remains a credible threat despite being dismissed by the New Republic. The FO proceeds to cause the…

2. Destruction of the (current) New Republic capital world Hosnian Prime. Nice job dismissing Leia’s warnings, NR senate.

(Remember what I said about spoilers? I’m warning you again, because this one is a doozy)

3. Han and Leia’s son, Ben, is seduced to the dark side by Snoke and the legacy of Ben’s grandfather, Vader.  Their marriage goes sour. They reunite briefly only for Ben (now called Kylo Ren) to skewer his father through the chest. If you didn’t feel Chewie and Rey’s anguish in that moment, perhaps you need a heart check.

4. Luke Skywalker. I’ve never been shy about the fact that Luke is my favorite character and a fictional hero of mine. Although his appearance was brief and wordless, his face spoke volumes about the heartbreak and failure he had experienced.

I think I came to realize that I had held on to fragments of his post-ROTJ Legends counterpart. In my pre-TFA mind, Luke successfully reestablished the Jedi Order in order to combat the First Order’s Knights of Ren and the new dark side threat.

Well, I was half right. Luke did start a Jedi Academy, but I never predicted that he would be betrayed by his nephew and that he would see his apprentices slaughtered. Having another Jedi purge just decades after Order 66 is horrific.

That being said, tragedy often makes for good storytelling. My naive, idealistic desire to see a New Jedi Order in the film is fanfic material. What I actually got lends itself well to character development. As much as I hate to admit it, a downtrodden Luke is more believable than the one who essentially became a human god in Legends. (Please note that I guarantee Luke is still absurdly powerful, but the film only gives us a brief glimpse of his physical and emotional state and not his Force prowess).

Rey

 

I’m sure this comes as a surprise to no one, but of all the characters I was most excited to see in The Force Awakens, Daisy Ridley’s Rey was number one. Boy, was I not disappointed. This girl is clearly the star of the show, and the movie shines all the more for it.

Rey averts the tired damsel in distress trope in a huge way. She is a self-sufficient, intelligent, and likable. As Luke was the hero I wanted to be as a kid, she will be to a new generation of female Star Wars fans.

I strongly disagree with the Mary Sue criticisms, by the way. If any male character (like Luke) showed aptitude for any of the things she does, he’d merely be seen as a standard superhero. She’s been shown to be incredibly Force-sensitive and perhaps has some (suppressed) former training. Plus, if the most obvious parentage theory is correct, she’s got the Chosen One’s blood in her veins. (Why else would the Skywalker family lightsaber call out to her?)

Kylo Ren

 

You’d think that after all the atrocities this character has committed both on-screen and off, I’d hate this character. Truth is, I really like this character a lot. He’s genuinely angsty and brooding in a way Hayden’s Anakin failed to be on every level.

Ben’s conflict between light and dark lends itself well to his character’s persona and his psychotic fits of rage show just how undisciplined he is. Plus, the guy takes a bowcaster bolt and is still able to fight. That says a lot about him.

Lightsaber Duel

I’ve seen the final duel between Finn/Rey and Kylo Ren criticized as “boring” and “unflashy.” I disagree. None of these characters were masters with the lightsaber and their incessant hammering on each other carried far more emotional weight than the sterile, overly-choreographed fights of the prequels. Watching Rey smash through Kylo’s defenses was extremely cathartic considering who he had just murdered minutes before.

Oh! And I really liked how lightsabers now cast a glow on their wielders and surroundings like they should. It makes for a really cool effect.

That’s about it. I’ll save some content for next time. It wasn’t a perfect film by any means and it did borrow quite a few things from a New Hope (like a plot coupon hidden in a droid) and yet another (sort of) Death Star. But all in all, Abrams and Kasdan nailed it. It is a Star Wars film through and through. I can’t wait to see more of Luke and Rey in VIII and the inevitable clash between light and dark.



“That’s not how the Force works!”