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What should we call Rey?

(Editor’s note: normally, rather than compete with the holidays this week would be dedicated to our biannual Second Look feature—and that will indeed begin tomorrow and run through Friday. But first, with The Rise of Skywalker being so fresh in everybody’s minds and reactions being, ah, also very fresh, I thought today would be a good opportunity for this short, lighthearted piece from Jay Shah, which let’s be honest, I couldn’t have stopped him from writing if I’d tried. – Mike)

Warning: heavy spoilers follow for The Rise of Skywalker.

So, there are many questions that The Rise of Skywalker raises, even as it purports to answer others. There will be many articles over the coming weeks asking or answering them, serious think-pieces and silly parodies. 

I plan to be serious in my silliness. 

We learn a few things about Rey in this movie. I want to discuss what they mean. Not specifically for her, or the saga, or the mythology. I’ll leave those discussions for someone else. I want to discuss what the appropriate form of address for her should be. 

But wait, you ask! Didn’t she say at the end of the film that her name was Rey Skywalker? She sure did. And she has a right to decide who she is and how she defines herself, regardless of what anybody else says — her bloodline, her family, the galaxy, etc. If she says she’s Rey Skywalker, then she is. 

But since I didn’t see her sign a legal change of name document, I’ve decided she’s still legally Rey Palpatine. This is an assumption on my part: we don’t know if her father was legitimate or if he or she was a product of a morganatic marriage.1 But this is a silly piece, so I don’t care. I’m operating under the assumption that her father is legitimate and so is she. The Emperor wanted her to succeed him, so that is enough to establish legitimacy for me, regardless of anything else. Princeps legibus solutus est,2 after all. 

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  1. marriage between people of unequal social rank []
  2. “the prince is not bound by laws” []

The Rise of Skywalker: It’s Kind Of A Lot

This piece contains major spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker. Like, all of them, probably several times over. Proceed accordingly.

Mike: Well, that happened.

I anticipated that my piece on The Rise of Skywalker two days ago would likely serve better as a semi-conclusive statement on the sequel era than something I forced myself to stay awake for in the aftermath of the movie, so instead of tackling this reaction piece single-handedly I invited the whole staff to weigh in with their first thoughts—but some quick ones from me first, because I’m in charge.

My friend Pearl and I both loved The Force Awakens, but we had absolutely polar reactions to The Last Jedi, and we’ve been arguing about it for two years, and will probably keep arguing about it forever because we’re like that. What I kept thinking during my first viewing of Rise tonight was that the movie felt precision-calibrated to make both of us, despite the separate universes we’ve been living in, equally happy—or at the very least, minimize our unhappiness at all costs.

Palpatine’s alive, but kind of not. Rey’s parents were nobody, from a certain point of view. Rose is there, but she doesn’t do much. There’s a gay kiss, but not the one people wanted. There’s a Reylo kiss, but it’s quick and vague and then he drops dead. Chewie dies and comes back. Threepio “dies” and comes back. There are porgs, but just barely. Hux goes rogue, but just barely. And on, and on—J.J. Abrams seems to screamingly, desperately want to make as many of us as happy as he possibly can, and if it required smothering logical and thematic coherence with a pillow, he was just the guy to do it.

But the thing is, superficial enjoyment is Abrams’s number one skill—and I’m honestly not saying that in a critical way, he’s really good at it. TFA definitely has a much, much easier lift than this thing does, but it’s got superficial enjoyability leaking out of every frame—and when it’s dumb, it’s just as dumb as Rise is. So I find myself in a weird position where I’m intellectually cynical but emotionally content, because a surprise acid trip that ruined your plans for the evening is still an acid trip, and chemically, it’s got you.

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Force Collector: Looking at the Galaxy with a Fresh Eye

This review is almost completely spoiler-free, I mention some minor details about who the main characters are but don’t get into the plot events.

I’d been curious about Force Collector ever since it was announced. They told us that it was a middle-grade novel about a kid gathering artifacts to learn more about the Force and the Jedi specifically. Generally, Jedi stories aren’t my favorite: but stories about artifacts and the general mythical environment around Jedi and the Force? I love those. The teaser info we got from author Kevin Shinick at New York Comic-Con sealed the deal: he told us it was a story about someone trying to uncover the events of the Star Wars films who had never heard of or seen anything to do with those events. The main character, Karr, gets strange visions when he touches artifacts that have “experienced” a lot of history or momentous events (historians would envy him that ability!) and begins to uncover bits and pieces of Star Wars history through experiencing vignettes from the books, comics, and movies.

Force Collector isn’t a “clip show” kind of story, and thank goodness for that. It reminds me of the initial pitch for Lost Stars, where Claudia Gray said she was initially told to write a story that introduced the YA audience to the original Star Wars films in a new way – and she created such a compelling story with her original characters that she went well beyond that original idea and created something special. The visions we see in Force Collector are interstitial visions, showing scenes before and after key Star Wars events to show them in a different context, but it’s the framing story that’s the real star for me. I liked Karr as a character, as well as his droid RZ-7 and his friend Maize. Karr’s whole deal is what got me interested in the book in the first place, and the two kids trying to figure out who they are and what they want in life is what kept me reading. It’s a story about regular people in Star Wars, and I love that stuff.

That’s not to say that the visions and Force stuff aren’t interesting. They are, but maybe for a different reason. When Del Rey’s Resistance Reborn recently released, there was some discussion about whether the book was approachable for new readers of the Star Wars literary universe. Some people made some excellent explainers about what people needed to know before reading it (you can take Star Wars Explained as the premiere example of that) while others got lists of lore and facts from the book to add to other lists of lore and facts. And it got me thinking about how different readers grow and become familiar with the universe differently. Some people enjoy reference books with charts and diagrams, some people really appreciate explainer videos, and others better digest “facts” and lore through the form of a narrative story. That’s basically what the premise of Force Collector is: it’s a book accessible to readers completely new to Star Wars books, that presents them with information about the Star Wars galaxy in a narrative fashion. And I think maybe that’s why a successful framing story is so important for this: Karr and Maize are just as new to a lot of this Force and Jedi stuff as a brand new movies-only reader might be, and being able to identify with them as characters helps readers explore Star Wars lore all the easier.

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Resistance Reborn: A Found-Family Reunion

Spoiler Warning: This review will mention characters announced in previously-released official excerpts and briefly mention things about them. I won’t reveal any surprises or unannounced characters – but calibrate your spoiler tolerance accordingly.

Rebecca Roanhorse has accomplished a great feat with Resistance Reborn. She’s taken a book with an ensemble cast – seriously, quite a huge cast – and given each character a personal touch. Characters show up from previous Star Wars canon books, comics, and video games but in a way that doesn’t feel shoe-horned or gimmicky. That’s very hard. Star Wars doesn’t have the best record with that, though sometimes it works really well. Resistance Reborn is one of those times.

Roanhorse has described the book as “bringing the squad back together” and that’s essentially what it does. But somehow Roanhorse manages to juggle this large cast of characters while making all of them feel vital to the story, and getting them all just right. It’s one thing to get film characters like Finn, Poe, and Rey right (and honestly – they’re not even that easy to get right), it’s another thing to take characters seen only on the page or in games and channel them in a way that feels authentic to the way their original creators wrote them. But while Resistance Reborn is a love letter to characters we’ve grown fond of in other places, it’s also a great character study in how these characters handle adversity.

It’s perhaps an understatement to say that the events of The Last Jedi were traumatic for our main characters, and impactful on the galaxy as a whole. There were deep, personal struggles for Leia, Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose, and for the Resistance itself. When the movie finished with the First Order in seeming victory and the Resistance reduced to a handful of people who could fit onto the Millennium Falcon, many of us wondered – what could possibly be next? Leia said that “we have everything we need”, and Resistance Reborn is the exploration of what that really means. It engages with characters on a personal level – from the main characters I just mentioned to new characters we haven’t met yet. How does the galaxy deal with the First Order’s triumph? What happens to the worlds of the Republic?

There’s some ugliness involved, and some beauty too. Above all, growth. That’s what makes Resistance Reborn a great read. It’s about people and their character. About collaboration with evil and persisting despite of it.

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The Case Against a Galactic Republic – Continuing Thoughts

Mike: Over the last few years I’ve started to wonder whether the Old Republic’s model of governance, even prior to the rampant corruption on display in the prequel trilogy, was doomed to fail just by dint of the scale of the Galaxy Far, Far Away and the idiosyncrasies of its countless worlds. On Friday I presented my case here, and in response I was pleased to hear a wide variety of other takes on the matter both here and on social media. Two of my fellow Eleven-ThirtyEight staff writers in particular, Nick Adams, and Jay Shah, had some very thoughtful, yet strong, disagreements with my conclusions.

While I suppose we’re going to have to agree to disagree, I felt that the conversation that ensued in the original piece’s comments section was worthy of a spotlight of its own—never let it be said that I don’t encourage a diversity of opinion here at ETE. As such, that conversation has been lightly edited and expanded and is “reprinted” below for your enjoyment.

Nick: Galactic history has already proven that when governance is weak evil rises. Without some central authority and military, what prevents powerful worlds from exploiting weaker ones? In your model, how would the “shining city on a hill” and Rey’s young school of Jedi stop Kuat from building a large navy to impose its will on its neighbors? Or stop the Corporate Sector from establishing control of trade in the Outer Rim?

If the answer is hoping that Chandrila will speak out, Mon Cala will build a navy to counter it, and Ryloth will send pilots, that’s a tad naïve. The galaxy has proven it can rally a few times, but is that really to be counted on? “Every village sending a warrior” isn’t a strategy, its a Pollyanna-like wish. We see this very risk in the sequel trilogy. If the “good worlds” don’t show up, do we just hope things will get better?

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