Second Look: Luke Skywalker is a Fallible Hero and That’s Okay

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

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“Luke Skywalker has vanished.”

The opening line of the crawl for The Force Awakens was like a gut punch to Luke fans everywhere. And not only was Luke gone, he’d apparently gone missing voluntarily, as a result of Ben Solo falling to the dark side and becoming Kylo Ren. For two years the fandom theorized not only on why Kylo became evil but why Luke Skywalker, Rebel hero and Jedi legend, has apparently given up. In The Last Jedi, we finally get those answers. Luke takes Yoda’s advice to “pass on what you have learned” to heart, but a split-second mistake on Luke’s part brings the whole thing crashing down. And as a result Luke decides to exile himself on a remote island and leave no trace of his whereabouts. By the time Rey finds him, he’s an acerbic, sarcastic hermit who in so many rude ways tells her to leave him alone and that he refuses to help Leia fight the evils of the First Order.

This seems a sharp contrast to the bright, shining figure we see in the original trilogy. Luke had hardships and made decisions that backfired on him, but he was never one to run away from a problem. So at first glance this seems like a long string of extremely out of character moments meant to create drama and difficulty for Rey and Kylo. However, when taking a deeper look at Luke’s character and personality in the original trilogy, his circumstances in TLJ are a natural extension of his character.

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One comment

  1. Leo Charles M. says:

    It feels like you and I took away a different lesson from the throne room scene in RotJ.

    See, Luke WAS impulsive, prone to trying to be a hero, apt to rush off to try to save people believing that he was the only one who could do it because he was young and he had that mighty Skywalker blood in him. He failed on Bespin because he tried to do it alone, conversely, he succeeded at Jabba’s Palace because he didn’t go in there to save Han alone at all.

    The OT is all about Luke learning from his mistakes and the mistakes of the old Jedi Order. This culminates in the mirrored scenes of him cutting off Vader’s head in the cave on Dagobah, and cutting off Vader’s hand in the throne room on DS2. He gave in to impulse FOR THE LAST TIME. He sees his own mechanical hand, and in that moment the “impulsive nature” is washed away and Luke emerges a Jedi. “You’ve failed your highness…”

    Luke is the best equipped person in the galaxy to see the conflict between the dark and the light within Ben. Luke literally turned Darth Vader to the light side because he was willing to die for his faith. I do not understand how he goes from that to “instinctively activating his lightsaber in fear”.

    Additionally, you failed to address the other issues in Luke’s character in TLJ that are unsupported by the OT. When was Luke a coward? Did he ever run away from a fight once? If Han or Leia was in trouble, Luke did something about it. Also, since when does Luke Skywalker lie? When R2 ran away in the middle of the night?! LOL

    So, yes, I’m a Luke stan and you can dismiss me, but it is not because I cannot accept Luke falling from his lofty place as the Hero of the Rebellion and Beacon of hope to the Galaxy. If Ben fell to the dark, attacked Luke in his temple and killed his padawans, but Luke failed to stop him because he loved his nephew and saw too much conflict in him to strike him down… I’m not saying Luke had to stay the hero, but TLJ feels like a gross misunderstanding of the whole point of the first 6 films in the series. Luke deserved better than this.

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