Skip to main content

Middle-Chapter Romance – How The Last Jedi Holds The Empire Strikes Back and Attack of the Clones Accountable

As regular readers of the site may know, I do not interpret The Last Jedi as romantic. However, I understand many of the reasons why others do, even if I don’t agree. Romance has always been a part of Star Wars, and many relationships end up being mirrors of each other. For my part, I can read romance into The Last Jedi from that angle, though it’s not necessarily a positive spin. With parallels to the previous Star Wars romances visible, I can see this film as a commentary on The Empire Strikes Back and Attack of the Clones.

Movies are a type of communication. And like any type of communication, movies can communicate their ideas well, poorly, or anywhere in between. So when I speak about how the two previous “middle chapters” of Star Wars fail in their romances, I am not discussing the idea of Anakin or Han as romantic leads, nor am I critiquing fans who see either of them (or Kylo) as just that. I’m discussing how the film communicates those ideas of romance. This is a Doylist discussion.

The Last Jedi in general is a wonderful exercise in Watsonian and Doylist interpretations. “Watsonian” is from the universe: John Watson explaining the events of his adventures with Sherlock Holmes. “Doylist” is from the meta: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle explaining why he wrote those events.

Read More

The Return of the Mon Calamari – An Interview with Ethan Sacks

The Journey to The Rise of Skywalker is underway and we’re excited to share an interview I recently conducted with Ethan Sacks, Marvel Comics author and longtime Star Wars fan, about his miniseries Star Wars: Allegiance, which debuts this week. Set between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, Allegiance shows the ongoing efforts of Leia Organa and the Resistance to light the spark of rebellion once more to face the First Order. In dire need of allies and with their numbers reduced, Leia reaches out to the world of Mon Cala, hoping they will join the fight once again.

First off, thank you for taking the time for this interview, Ethan! For starters, could you walk us through how this opportunity popped up and how you went about crafting your initial story pitch?

My wonderful editors, Mark and Tom, came to me with the assignment right as we were wrapping up Galaxy’s Edge. I knew it would be a little bit of a tricky dance because this story had to fit neatly as a puzzle piece that lined up with J.J. Abrams’ vision for The Rise of Skywalker, so Lucasfilm was very involved in helping me hone the story so that it fills in some of the backstory that happens before the final installment starts. But I had some leeway as to how we got there.

When we last see the Resistance at the end of The Last Jedi, it is basically down to a few dozen people and the Millennium Falcon. Can you give us a sense of how much time has passed when your story starts and what have our heroes been up to?

It’s a few months later and the Resistance is scrambling from planet to planet to find more ships and weapons to stand a fighting chance against the First Order. But Kylo Ren is still nursing his own outrage over being outwitted by his former teacher and being abandoned by the one person in the galaxy he thought would understand him. So, finding Rey and crushing the Resistance is very, very personal. Which means General Organa has little room to maneuver.

Read More

An Element of Redemption – What The Last Jedi Tells Us About Grace

There was a moment in my first viewing of The Last Jedi in which I went “Welp, there goes my credibility. The website is never gonna let me write for it ever again.” Understand, I’m not much of a theorist. I’m better at reflective analysis, and overall, I prefer it. It keeps me from being disappointed that my Snoke theory didn’t work out.

Nevertheless, I tried my hand at theory in my first guest piece here at Eleven-ThirtyEight, ending on a claim that Finn would become an iconic Star Wars archetype – the arbiter of compassion – and would become a mentor of sorts to Rose. I was certainly wrong about that.

Yet somehow here I happen to be, on staff at the very site of my blunder. It’s a small example of some evergreen Star Wars discourse. We discuss frequently the nature of redemption, especially with our most recent antagonist, but this is a broad topic. One person may use “redemption” to mean forgiveness, while another uses it to mean recompense, and a third will use it to mean repentance.

Repentance is not the same thing as recompense, and neither of them are remotely similar to forgiveness, and yet all are invoked to build this idea of redemption. In my understanding of it, redemption is not a concept that stands on its own, but rather is comprised of many elements that weave together. One of these elements is grace.

Read More

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?

Read More

Let Every Village Send a Warrior – The Case Against a Galactic Republic

My memory doesn’t work like most people’s. I’m bad with hard details—from minor trivia-question stuff like what year the TIE interceptor debuted in-universe all the way to the major plot mechanics of books I read even a handful of years ago. I can tell you that Kenobi is my favorite Star Wars novel, but when writing my recent EU Explains piece I still had to read the plot summary on Wookieepedia to remember what the hell actually happened in it. What does stick in my mind is the big picture, the tone, the flavor of a character, a book, an era. That’s why I’ve always been into the sweeping, historical aspect of Star Wars canon(s); I have a good eye for context, and I enjoy picking out new insights from the tapestry of stories the franchise puts out and how they interact—intentionally or otherwise—even as their particulars are quick to flee my mind.

What’s been especially interesting over the past five years has been the things I notice about the new canon that feel distinctly different from Legends continuity. Foremost among these is the sense that the Galaxy Far, Far Away is bigger now; more anarchic, harder to get around.1 While the EU tended to portray galactic society as not too different from contemporary Earth—where the relationship between Corellia and Rodia, say, was roughly along the lines of that between Vermont and Colorado, or Greece and Luxembourg—in the new canon there barely is a galactic society. Luke Skywalker is a myth, the Empire was good for employment, and it’s entirely possible to go through life without running into anyone who’d testify otherwise.

While novelist Alexander Freed has played with this provincial take on the galaxy more than most, one particular detail in his recent novel Alphabet Squadron really stood out to me. The central protagonist Yrica Quell isn’t the only Imperial defector in the cast, but as a participant in Operation Cinder, she is by far the most loyal Imperial in the book not currently serving with the Empire. Yet despite her cooperation with the worst the Empire could dish out, we also learn that during Yrica’s youth, her sympathies were with…the Rebel Alliance. Lacking any other way to receive flight training, she enlisted in the Empire with the express intention of learning just enough to ditch them and fight for the other side. Sound familiar?

As much as Yrica’s backstory reads like Luke Skywalker’s worst-case scenario, the commonalities of their two stories—combined with the rest of Alphabet‘s cast of rebels—catalyzed something in me: maybe the galaxy is just plain too big, too ornery, to individualistic, to comprehensively govern. Maybe its natural state is not representative government so much as rebellion itself.

Read More

  1. Even as hyperspace travel seems much faster than it used to be. []