Revenge Of The Sith: Fear And Darkness

“Yourself you speak of, or someone you know?” — Master Yoda

“Someone.” — Anakin Skywalker

“Close to you?” — Master Yoda

“Yes.” –Anakin Skywalker

Three years have passed since nightmares of his mother’s unceasing pain and death tortured young Padawan Anakin Skywalker, heralding the death of the only person who truly knew him in the galaxy and setting him on the path that would lead him to the darkest part of his destiny. Blood and death, the nightmares brought only blood and death and hatred in their wake. Time has passed since the devastation and loss of Episode II and Anakin is now a Jedi Knight, a loving yet secret husband, and a General in the Galactic Civil War, but inside he is still the little boy who had to leave his mother behind to live the life they both dreamed for him and then held her as she died in his arms and promised her grave he wouldn’t fail again. Years have passed since that night, since Ani tasted blood and death in the desert air, years have passed…but now the nightmares have started again — and this time the person dying in them is the one person Anakin Skywalker cannot survive losing… his wife Padme.

Desperate to save her from his prophetic dreams, Anakin makes one last attempt to reach out to his fellow Jedi, putting aside his wounded pride and the sting of their mistreatment to beg for help protecting the one he loves most. He seeks council from the greatest of Masters, the epitome of the Jedi Order itself: Yoda, and tells him of his fears, of the death he sees looming on the horizon.

Visually, Anakin is emotionally upset, shaken. He’d endured these dreams only a few years ago, dreams that lead him to find his mother only moments before her death. He’d cradled her broken body as she drew her last breath, unable to save her himself… so he made her a promise. He would not fail again. But now the dreams have returned, sent from the Force itself or Palpatine, to torture Anakin into madness and still his first innate instinct is to turn to what should be the light and ask for help. His mother’s teachings ring true in him, and in his darkest fears he reaches for the light, despite it’s snubs. In truth, he has no reason to trust the Jedi, their contempt of him is and has always been glaringly obvious, but he has sworn his life to their humanitarian cause and has asked for nothing from them in return until now. He will not let his wife die the way his mother had… he promised. And so he looks to Yoda – to save him, to save Padme, to save the Jedi Oder from the fate it is bringing down upon itself…and is met with no more than placating children’s rhetoric. You fear losing something… well don’t, you shouldn’t be attached to it in the first place. Let it go.

“Attachment leads to jealousy… the shadow of greed that it… Train yourself to let go… of everything you fear to lose.” –Master Yoda

Watching the saga as a while, this is the moment the Jedi unapologetically and irrevocably seal their own fate. They have had countless opportunities to practice what they preach in terms of compassion and at every turn they fail to do so. They failed Padme in the Phantom Menace, they failed Anakin from the very moment they met him, and now when not only the fate of another innocent is on the line, but the entire galaxy itself, they fail themselves and those who look to them for Light.

For all his strengths, Anakin is not a good liar, Shmi did not raise him to be, so he’s about as subtle as a flashing neon sign. And let’s not forget that Yoda himself was present when Padme ran to Ani at the end of Attack of the Clones and threw her arms around him, embracing him without conscious or shame for all the world to see. It doesn’t take a genius to realize something is going on between them… and Yoda is far from unintelligent — so there is no conceivable way he did not know that Anakin and Padme were at the very least, lovers. Even Obi-Wan knew (a fact we learn from a deleted ROTS scene). And his response to Anakin’s plea highlights the stark contrast between simple, common decency and the unbending Jedi morality: Yoda offers no help or reassurance, merely passive-aggressive judgment and we call him the hero for it, for withholding empathy from someone in need — empathy, the link that connects all living beings.

How easy would it have been to drop the pretense and reach out to the boy that’s clearly terrified in front of him – even if he had no real advice for how to help – and just say: I am here for you. The Jedi – your family – is here for you.

Common decency, not dogma — that’s all that was being asked for here. You can speak platitudes and hold your actions and thoughts as superior to everyone around you but if you cannot act with the basest of humane kindnesses in the face of abject terror and suffering then how good can you possibly be? Tears streamed down Anakin’s face. He was shaking. He was terrified. But still Yoda remained unmoved. A Jedi feels no fear… a Jedi feels nothing, just as stone feels nothing. And stone men cannot know balance, they cannot lead, because they cannot feel the difference between right and wrong, they only think they know it. Anakin was mature enough to let go of his pride and ask for help from those he knew hated him. He knew pride, understood it for its complexities, and chose to set it aside for the greater good. But someone who’s never admitted pride, or fear, or anger, or love, or joy, never taken the time to understand them, cannot put them aside for any cause. Because these emotions that encompass both good and bad, light and dark, are nothing more than a fairy story, a rhetoric that can be learned but never understood. Any emotion can be a fault and a virtue, it can save or it can destroy, but only those capable of expressing empathy, of understanding emotions, can understand their importance.

Yoda condemns fear as darkness, but he had known fear since the moment he met Anakin Skywalker all those years ago, but instead of expressing it, understanding and moving past it, he feigns ignorance of its presence and is therefore consumed by it. He sits as unmoved  in the presence of anguish, fear, and love, watches as a ward of his Order cries for the life that may be lost and is stone. Fear can break a man, twist him into something he is not, but he can rise again with empathy in his heart, but eventually all stone crumbles into dust and is scattered by the wind — eroded by all things.

Attack Of The Clones: Naboo — The End Of The Fairytale

Star Wars has always had fascinating planets with beautiful – if not deadly – scenery and ambiance, but nothing in the Original Trilogy prepared me for seeing the beauty of Naboo for the first time back in 1999. The land was lush, with bright green grass and architecture that spoke of grandeur and elegance, even to a nine-year-old. It seemed fitting to me and my youthful sensibilities, that that’s where Padme Amidala came from, a beautiful, elegant planet for a beautiful, elegant woman. And when we were lucky enough to return to that shimmering world in Attack of the Clones, I was not only thrilled, but immediately entranced and mesmerized by the sheer tranquility of the Lake Country where Padme and Anakin took refuge after her deadly assassination attempts.

To me, Naboo symbolizes the very best the galaxy has to offer. I’s an Eden amongst the almost hellish desert and frostbitten worlds we more-often find our heroes in — and no disrespect to the Ewoks, but it’s a little more upscale as forest worlds tend to go. From what we see of its landscapes, cities, and hideaways, Naboo has a near perfect blend of nature and man, with man-made structures that enhance natural beauty, not attempt to overpower or overshadow them. And after reading Queen’s Shadow and even Leia: Princess of Alderaan, I feel like I understand its people and cultures better, their desire to be of service and to create art, celebrate life, and sustain peace.

With its rounded edges, shimmering waterfalls, quiet strength, and above all tranquil peace, Naboo is what is missing from the sequel trilogy. We began TFA with our core cast on the desert planet of Jakku, a callback to Luke and Tattooine from the originals, but Luke was always the middle of the story – the real beginning was on Naboo itself in Episode I. Over the course of the first two trilogies, we’ve gone from Naboo to Tattooine, in essence from Eden to Hell/ Paradise to the Underworld, and now in the last trilogy we’re back again in the desert, and there’s only one place I can think of that the saga can truly end, coming full circle, and that’s back where the story began: Naboo – paradise.

The story of Star Wars is timeless and cyclical, it mirrors and repeats itself in a thousand intricate ways, and what it’s ultimately shown us is the fall of the hero. Both Anakin and Luke start off strong in their heroic journeys, but overtime they stumble and fall, each going into their own isolated versions of the Hell/the Underworld: a volcanic, firepit of a world, and a lonely isolated island with no one to admire and love either of them for their heroic deeds. And neither truly escape those self-imposed Hells, Anakin dies in space, and Luke dies still on his spit of land in the middle of a raging sea. Both achieve redemption and glimpse the bright peace of the Force, either in the love shining in his son’s eyes, or the majestic double sunset that cries of home, but the audience and the redeemed characters are never taken back to the ultimate peaceful calm of Naboo. I think that is purposeful.

What better way to end the saga of the Skywalkers than where it all began – and with another Skywalker male in dire need of redemption, forgiveness, and love. To most, Kylo Ren’s redemption is the one that is most uncertain, but that’s why it is the most needed. Anakin committed many heinous deeds and actions, but because we met him as a child and saw the conditions he lived in and the suffering he faced, we are much quicker to forgive him. And Luke is so universally revered as an untouchable hero that most miss his failings all together, so his redemption is admittedly glossed over because the majority of the SW audience can’t see past the young hero we were given 40 years ago.

But Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo is another matter altogether. Kylo is someone we met when he was already an adult, we have no cute or endearing memories to put beside all the bad things he’s done. And he’s committed arguably the most heinous crime of all: he took Han Solo away from us. Let’s be honest, the majority of non-Kylo fans hate him, not because he killed his own father, but because he took something from the audience themselves, he took someone from us that we’ve had for almost a lifetime. He took our Han away. And that is unforgivable.

To most.

So, of our three troubled Skywalker men, no one needs more forgiveness from not only their own world, but from the audience and our world, than Kylo Ren. He needs something truly epic to shift the tide of favor but once it’s been done, he needs what no other redeemed hero has been given yet: the peace and healing that is found on Naboo. The story needs to complete itself, it needs to end with the fairytale quality that it’s always showcased so well, and loop back around to end at the beginning. Because that’s the beauty of Star Wars, whether you start at the beginning or dive in at the middle, you are always led back to the brightest hope for a happy ending, so that no matter how many times you tell the story, you are left with hope and a glimpse at what might be happily ever after.



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