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The Pitch: Rey’s To-Do List

The Rise of Skywalker happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It is already over. Nothing can be done to change it.

So, what now? Rumors abound, but outside of season two of The Mandalorian and a slate of books and comics that looks pretty similar to last year’s (at least until they spill the details on Project Luminous), exactly what form mainline Star Wars content will take remains an open question. The Old Republic, or maybe the Even Older Republic, seems to be the most likely next step, if only to give the sequel cast some time to breathe and perhaps age up a little.

But the galaxy didn’t end just because the Skywalker saga did; the story of those characters will go on, first in fanfic and almost certainly in officially-licensed material of some sort, someday. Let’s dwell for a moment on what that day might look like.

Rey may be the last Jedi, but even the relatively tight confines of the sequel films have established at least two other Force-sensitives in Finn and Temiri Blagg, better known as Broom Boy. Potentially even Jannah’s entire company of former stormtroopers depending on how strictly you want to interpret ROS’s nudges–imagine for a moment a new Jedi Order whose first class is composed almost entirely of First Order stormtroopers! It’s a hell of a thing. Between that and Rey’s own training seeming to have come at least as much from the original Jedi texts as from the Skywalker twins, you’ve got a recipe for a very different Jedi Order.

And they’ll have their work cut out for them. Another side effect of the saga’s tight-focus ending is a lot of lingering threads and unanswered injustices in the galaxy: slavery, both biological and mechanical; a newly-familiarized Unknown Regions with untold mysteries and threats, the ignorance of which allowed the First Order to rise in the first place; and even within the quote-unquote civilized galaxy, political divisions have been exposed that make the Empire look positively centrist. Not only are the possibilities endless, but it strikes me that they’re uniquely interesting in their potential to underline the ways in which the old Jedi let the galaxy down in the name of holding it together, and the lessons Rey might have learned from them.

So with that in mind, what’s an established, persisting injustice in the GFFA that you think an ideal NJO should take on? If you’re Grand Master Rey, what would you do in your first hundred days?

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The Case for Mid-Budget Star Wars

Star Wars is at a crossroads. While The Rise of Skywalker’s worldwide box office will gross over a billion dollars, that’s a far cry from The Force Awakens’ two billion. ROS will end up below every Avengers film, both Jurassic World films, and even its predecessor The Last Jedi. Perhaps most shockingly, the finale to the Skywalker saga could well end up with a lower total gross than DC’s Joker. Uncertain, the future is.

Imagine it’s 2016, and someone says to you an R-rated psychodrama would make more money than Episode IX of Star Wars. How would you react? You’d probably tell them to lay off the death sticks. Yet as I type these words, Joker stands ahead. There is, for sure, a large confluence of factors that led to this upset. Both films are divisive, but controversy boosted Joker while deflating Star Wars. Critical reviews for ROS were tepid at best, while Joker has been nominated for eleven Oscars, including Best Picture. Regardless, it can’t be ignored that Joker has made its production budget of (at most) $70 million back at least fifteen times over. ROS, with a price tag of $275 million, has returned less than four times as much. A billion dollars is nothing to sniff at but as a return-on-investment that’s far from a home run.

2019 was the year the mid-budget film struck back. Joker leads the top of a wide pack, followed by It: Chapter Two, Us, John Wick: Chapter 3, Knives Out, Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, and many more. Audiences flocked to smaller films and studios saw strong, sometimes enormous, returns on budgetary investments of less than $100 million—while tentpoles like Dumbo, Alita: Battle Angel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and X-Men: Dark Phoenix floundered.

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“I’m Where I Need to Be” – Captain Doza Learns a Hard Lesson

The finale of Star Wars Resistance is going to be upon us shortly. While the middle section of the show’s second season hasn’t been as meaty or meaningful as some of us were perhaps hoping, as we’ve moved toward the end the show has picked up momentum. More than anything, it has given us some memorable new characters, such as Venisa Doza, while still managing to find time to give older, established characters moments of depth and development. An understated but nonetheless important character who has grown quite a bit over the show’s run is who I’ll be highlighting today: Captain Doza himself. But first, let’s circle around on our main character Kaz Xiono for a bit of context.

In the episode “No Place Safe”, Kaz makes the decision to leave the Colossus. The station has found a safe haven on a distant planet, and they have formed an alliance with the local population to allow them to stay out of the First Order’s way, restoring something like their previous status quo on Castilon. With this lull in the fighting, Kaz has a moment to contemplate, and comes to realize that he isn’t content sitting and waiting for the war to end or for the First Order to find them again. With his friends out of danger for the moment, he makes the decision to go back to the fight, to rejoin the Resistance proper. He makes that decision because, in the end, he wants to help people, and now that the Colossus no longer needs his help, he is ready to move on and keep fighting the First Order elsewhere (even if it breaks the hearts of people like Neeku and Torra to see him go).

The episode winds up putting him back where he started when their haven is discovered and the Colossus is forced once again to flee, but the important thought that Kaz has of going where people need him and seeking only to help seems to resonate within Captain Doza. In the very next episode, “Rebuilding the Resistance”, Doza makes the unilateral call to not only allow the Resistance to bring its new recruits to his station, but even decides that they can stay permanently, making the Colossus into a mobile base for the Resistance and its pilots and officially abandoning his neutrality. Inspired by Kaz, and also by the examples of his wife and daughter, Doza is making a decision that he probably should have made long ago.

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They Are Just – Rose Tico and Dexter Jettster

“Poe Dameron is super cool. Finn’s super cool. Even though [Rose] is good at what she does, she’s not known. She’s not cool. She’s this nobody, this background player…”

Kelly Marie Tran

This was our introduction to Rose Tico: an interview with Entertainment Weekly, well before Kelly Marie Tran graced the big screen in The Last Jedi. From the beginning, Rose has been billed as someone overshadowed by the heroes surrounding her. If it’s not the Sequel Trio, it’s her own gallant sister Paige. The Forces of Destiny and Star Wars Adventures comics take it another step and emphasize this in-universe, as head mechanic Lazslo actively demeans her place in the Resistance. It’s a mindset that Rose herself internalizes. In Spark of the Resistance, she dismisses her own instincts because she’s not a Jedi like Rey or a great leader like Poe. She’s “just Rose” (emphasis mine).

“I can’t save them all. I’m just one person. I can’t even save one of them.”

Dexter Jettster (emphasis mine)

This was an unexpected glimpse at Obi-Wan Kenobi’s friend: a heartfelt journal entry as he takes on a Crimson Dawn labor camp. From the beginning, Dexter Jettster has always exuded confidence. The script for Attack of the Clones describes him as “not someone to tangle with”, and between gun-running on Ord Sigatt and brawling on Ord Mantell, his underworld background in Legends only increased this reputation. In the new canon, The Smuggler’s Guide starts with this similar tone of confidence only to come to a shuddering halt with Dex’s doubts.

In a franchise where many of our leads spend time believing themselves to be something more than life has planned, Rose and Dex seem to believe that they aren’t enough. It’s a galaxy full of cruel empires and powerful crime syndicates, and Dex is just one person, and Rose is just Rose. They are, as Tran continued in her interview, “just like everyone else” (emphasis mine). And grim though this perspective might be, there’s a grounding and a gentle inspiration in characters like these.

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Heisenberg’s Principle for Peace and Justice: Why the Jedi Never Seem Very Good at their Job

The first thing we ever learn about the Jedi is that they were the “guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.” Until I read Claudia Gray’s Master & Apprentice, it never occurred to me that this definition contains a contradiction. Peace and justice together are the defining conditions of the ideal polity. It’s an idealistic platitude too familiar to invite closer examination. That’s why it feels so revelatory when Gray shows us that in practice, Jedi often found that peace and justice were tragically at odds.

Master & Apprentice takes place eight years before The Phantom Menace, and reprises much of that film’s premise. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are sent to negotiate a deal between a planet’s willful teenage queen and a powerful, malicious corporation. Their lives are threatened by mysterious assassins, and they turn to a slave for aid. That overt similarity between the two stories allows Gray to take a second crack at a thematic question raised tangentially by TPM: is it right for the Jedi to ignore injustice in pursuit of the greater good?

In TPM, Qui-Gon doesn’t find this question very difficult to answer. He frees Anakin to gain a powerful Jedi, not to end the injustice of his slavery. He makes a half-hearted effort to win Shmi’s freedom too, but doesn’t press the issue. The question of freeing any other slaves never even comes up. They didn’t come to Tatooine to free slaves. The people of Naboo are counting on them; they can’t afford to get distracted by every injustice that crosses their path.

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