Another ongoing debate left in the wake of The Force Awakens: what becomes of Kylo Ren? Not just what will happen, but what should happen? Between invading Rey’s mind and ending Han’s life, many are already convinced he is beyond redemption. Recently, guest writer Mark Eldridge considered the deeds of Darth Vader in this light—were they not just as bad? The fascinating thing about Vader is how important his redemption is to the first six films while at the same time it’s dwelt on barely at all; what does it mean, in the cosmology of Star Wars, for someone to be redeemed?
…almost as soon as he has saved Luke from the Emperor, Anakin Skywalker ascends into the Force and is rewarded by retaining his identity. The film does not show him facing up to his previous actions, and he does not have to atone for them in the physical world. Nor does he face justice through any legal system. Star Wars avoids these questions entirely, and is not interested in showing him redeeming his bad deeds by working to rebuild the galaxy. Sacrificing his life for his son is enough.
Mark considers that something more, well, cosmic is happening than simple worldly atonement—certainly Vader didn’t manage that. He then goes on to apply this perspective to Kylo and where his character might go from here. Not just will he be redeemed, or does he deserve to be redeemed, but: what would it mean if he was?
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Last April, with the Leia-centric novel Bloodline fast approaching, Sarah Dempster took advantage of the calm before the storm to advocate for more content, a novel in particular, focused on Padmé. Despite being Luke and Leia’s mother and an important part of Skywalker history, the Expanded Universe, and the new canon thus far, have been very hesitant to spend serious time sketching out her life, or even her headspace during the sweeping events of the prequel trilogy:
How does her relationship with Palpatine change as he goes from her subject to her Chancellor? How does Sidious feel towards her, since she nearly singlehandedly undermined his plan due to her tenacity and smarts when faced with adversity? How do the events of TPM affect her and inform her going forward? She mentions in AotC that she was relieved when her two terms were up…but then the next queen asked her to serve as senator and Padmé says she couldn’t refuse.
Sarah goes on to note that while the character started out strong in The Phantom Menace—as arguably the main character, no less—she suffered a great deal from cut plotlines in the next two films, meaning that her life as both a politician and as Anakin’s wife was never explored satisfactorily; a perfect opportunity, in other words, for tie-in material to fill in the blanks and give more depth to one of the most hotly debated characters in the prequel trilogy.
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One of the big debates in the aftermath of The Force Awakens—and on some level, continuing today—revolved around the degree to which the New Republic “failed” as a government by not preventing the destruction of Hosnian Prime. They knew Imperial remnants were still out there, didn’t they? How could a competent government allow something on the scale of Starkiller Base to happen undetected? Ben Crofts followed this line of thinking to its logical conclusion: how could the New Republic claim to be any better than the Empire if it eliminated every single ex-Imperial? And even if it could and would do such a thing, what next?
After all, the Imperials are in the history books. Everyone knows what they are and some are susceptible to them. Clearly the only response is to purge this hidden column of Imperial wannabes and outlaw any positive depiction of the Empire. Yet not even that will be entirely effective for, as the Nazis have demonstrated decades after their defeat, evil retains an allure of fascination. Even if they are depicted as total baby-killing bastards, still some will be drawn to their banner.
This kind of thinking, Ben argues, is at best an example of 20/20 hindsight—Starkiller seems like an obvious threat by the end of the film, but could any New Republic, let alone one worthy of the name, ever have utterly prevented any possibility of such an attack? And even if it could, would it have been worth the necessary sacrifices?
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You know Star Wars Rebels had a monumental week when four different members of our show team want to weigh in on it. In the late season two episode “The Honorable Ones”, we see the first hints of decency in Agent Kallus as he and Zeb are forced to work together to survive being stranded on a frozen moon of Geonosis. I rejoiced at the show finally giving its Imperial characters a little nuance, but wondered whether it was too late for us to actually empathize with Kallus after all we’d seen him do. Jay wasn’t so sure that was the goal:
The episode was showing more depth and humanity for Kallus, but not seeking that we empathize with him. We see why Kallus does what he does, and we see how he lives a comfortable lie: thoroughly convinced the Rebels are monstrous and his deeds are justified. We see, too, how he has difficulty justifying them when challenged, as opposed to living in an environment where everyone agrees to the same truths. That’s a valuable perspective.
While Ben and Sarah agreed that the episode was successful as long as one didn’t overestimate what it had set out to accomplish, that was the last time we saw Kallus in season two. It remains to be seen just how his story will continue.
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For those of you who have just joined us recently, Second Look is a twice-yearly feature where the staff takes a week off and I highlight five pieces from the previous six months that I think deserve, well, a second look. First up is a piece by guest writer David Tayman III—in Homer, Virgil, and That Guy on Twitter, David used his personal theory regarding the origin of Snoke (derived solely from the placement of his scars) as a vehicle to explain why speculating is so fun, and why it can be fun without needing to conform to the story as it ends up being told:
Basically, what we’re doing when we speculate is creating our own fun, what-if timelines. Our own Legends, you might say. People who scoff at the idea of fanfic create it every time they speculate, or entertain a speculation. I like to think the collective brain-trust at Lucasfilm (enough of whose members are keenly aware of fan desires, wishes, expectations, and no-fly-zones) is more clever and willing to think outside the box than I am. But that doesn’t mean others don’t have great ideas, too, with potential to enrich one’s experience of the Legend.
After all, he concludes, Star Wars is a myth, and the best myths expand past the boundaries of any one telling, “official” or not.
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