Delving Into Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow

Hello my fellow Star Wars fans, I know I usually have the third post of the week up by Saturday afternoon but I’m going to be honest with you… I got the new Star Wars book: Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston and I am HOOKED! Seriously, first page in, I cried. Third page in, I cried again. There’s just so many feels!!!

The story follows Padme and her handmaidens after the events of The Phantom Menace as she leaves behind the mantle and responsibility of Queenship of Naboo and begins her new life as a galactic Senator in the bright media-laden spotlight of faraway Coruscant. Now I’m only halfway through so far, so I don’t know where exactly it ends but judging by the cover I’d say somewhere near Attack of the Clones so that’s pretty darn perfect for my monthly movie timeline!

I’ll definitely have more to say regarding the events and revelations of this book and how it impacts the story we know and the story we only think we know once I finish reading, but I’ll also definitely have my regularly scheduled third post up tomorrow! Between the book and the annual Celtic festival I go to every year, it’s been an wonderfully eventful few days and I am straight up exhausted 😂 Love you guys and thank you for your patience and I’ll see you again tomorrow!

P.S. Have you read Queen’s Shadow yet? WITHOUT SPOILERS…how are you liking it? Let me know in the comments!!!

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End Of The Month Review: The Phantom Menace

I can’t believe the first month of our year-long countdown to Star Wars Episode IX has come and gone my fellow SW fans and we’re already gearing up for round two! We’ve happily spent the past few weeks together exploring the fandom and breaking down the themes, characters, and meaning behind the first film in the Skywalker saga: The Phantom Menace – and I don’t know about you, but I feel like we covered some hella fun topics along the way!

Before we jump headlong into Attack of the Clones and all its epic Anidala glory, I figured it’s only fitting to tie up our experience with TPM with a little end of the month review! So, if you’ve missed any of January’s posts or are new to Whimsical Mutterings in general, now’s the perfect time to explore the site and get all caught up before Episode II begins! Thanks for coming on this Star Wars journey with me – thank you for every view, like, comment, and share. You guys are amazing, and you make SW and the fandom amazing too!

May the Force be with you ❤

January’s TPM Posts:

The Journey Begins: The Phantom Menace

TPM: Judgement and Consequence

TPM: The Emergence and Importance of Fate

TPM: A Light in the Darkness

TPM: Enter The Gray Jedi

TPM: Shadows In The Force

TPM: The Reign Of A Queen

TPM: A Queen’s Victory

TPM: A Mother’s Love And Legacy

TPM: The True Phantom Menace

Bonus Posts:

Star Wars Episode IX: The Beginning of the End

Epic Fun In The Fandom: #ReyloNight

 

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The Phantom Menace: The True Phantom Menace


For over forty years we’ve celebrated the Jedi as heroes, the ultimate victors in the galactic conquest that spanned time and space itself, and when we had nothing but the Original trilogy to go by, that might have been true. But if the prequal trilogy has taught us anything, it’s that the truth is never what you think it is and things are never as simple as they originally appear. For example, Darth Vader is more than a suit-encased villain…he’s a little boy who builds droids to help his mother and who risks his life to help complete strangers. And the Emperor is more than a threatening hooded-figure holding Vader’s leash on the Death Star, he’s a suave, well-liked politician who comes from one of the most peaceful planets we visit in the entire series. Even Obi-Wan was once a student with a flair of a temper who questioned his teacher. Time and again we are shown that our first impressions of these characters and themes are wrong, or incomplete because we didn’t know the whole story. So with all that in mind, are we to believe that the entirety of the Jedi order just conveniently misunderstood the word balance and nobody bothered to correct them?

“You refer to the prophecy of The One who will bring balance to the Force. You believe it’s this boy?” – Mace Windu

I know prophecies can be interpreted in a thousand different ways and none of the interpretations be correct, but balance has a straightforward definition as words go. Balance: a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. Pretty easy stuff. And yet a roomful of highly intelligent and supposedly wise, leaders of the galactic police-force all misinterpreted it? Even Master YODA?! He’s been around for over 900 years at this point and has presumably spent a great chunk of that time meditating and seeking wisdom, so either he’s really bad at it, and by default, the rest of the Jedi are as well (which I find difficult to believe) … or our more likely, our heroes knew exactly what balance meant — and actively fought against it, because it makes no sense that such a diverse group of enlightened individuals all came to the wrong conclusion about the meaning of such a simple word.


There’s a line Padme speaks in Revenge of the Sith that catches my attention every time I revisit the saga: “What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists, and the Republic has become the very evil we have been fighting to destroy?”

Ergo: What if our heroes are not heroes at all…what if they’re the villains?

Let’s be honest, the Jedi Council knew exactly what the prophecy of The One meant because if they didn’t then their lack of intelligence is unbelievably staggering. So when Anakin finally appeared before them, they immediately shunned him– and by proxy, the will of the Force itself – because they knew balance does not mean wiping out the Sith to leave the Jedi unchecked. Balance means a clean slate. It means equality. It means an end to their powerbase and their perceived right to judge the galaxy by their views and opinions.

That’s right. When a little boy newly freed from slavery stood in front of a roomful of heroes and asked to join them in their quest to help bring peace to the galaxy, they responded with a harsh and resounding: NO. He is too old, they crooned, too full of fear. And because they’re our heroes of old, we and the rest of the galaxy listened, and in their excuses heard wisdom. But is anyone too old to learn to be a better member of society. Is anyone too old to try to do the right thing? I personally wasn’t aware that there was an age-limit on becoming a good person. A child who has been a slave all of his life and who suddenly has the autonomy to choose his own course in life, decides to give himself over to selflessness and the good of the galaxy and you belittle him and tell him no…because he’s nine…and has the emotional maturity to handle all the things life has thrown at him without becoming bitter or violent… and you’re the heroes in this story?

I don’t think so.

The plain truth is the Jedi Council recognized Anakin for what he was the moment he first stood before them: he was their reckoning, their downfall from power. And in their own palpable fear, they rejected him. They purposefully rejected the will of the Force and because we hailed them as heroes, we didn’t see it. Anakin was the physical manifestation of the Force itself coming to wipe the slate clean and put an end to the warring extremist ideals, which would in turn leave the notion of the Jedi in the antiquated past where it belonged, and as a collective voice the Jedi Council said no – we wield the Force, the Force does not wield us.

So no, I do not see heroes here. I see an inflated sense of self-importance, a belief in their own divine right to rule and judge both the Force itself and the morality of the galaxy at large. I see narcissism, and fear, and the refusal to compromise. You can preach and speak peace and love and harmony, but your actions better reflect all those things or everything you claim to stand for is meaningless. If your hallmark is compassion, then you damn well better show it.

“See through you we can.” – Yoda

In the end, the prequel trilogy sets us up to discover all the hidden truths in the Star Wars saga that we ultimately missed the first time around, and it all begins in The Phantom Menace. We learn that Vader was more than a monster, and that the story we thought we knew is only partially true. But perhaps most important to the tale as a whole, and yet sadly overlooked due to our emotional attachment to the original story, we’re given a harsh truth about those we’ve come to love, emulate, and admire above all others. We just have to be brave enough to see it. Because again, the truth is there in the simple meaning of the words: The Phantom Menace. It’s not referring to the darkness we all plainly see coming, it’s hinting at those who hide in plain sight, those whose darkness is masked by faces of those we trust most. The true phantom menace.

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The Phantom Menace: A Mother’s Love and Legacy

One of the great tragedies of the Star Wars saga is that it is so epic and sprawling and continuously moving forward that sometimes great characters or ideas are lost in the unceasing momentum. True, this is occasionally rectified by tie-in novels, comics, or other mediums, but other times the audience is left with simply no other information or background but what their own imaginations can create. This is especially true for the Mother of the Skywalker line: Shmi Skywalker. Who is this amazing woman, what was her story? What was her life like before Anakin? Did she have any inkling of how his future would turn out? Would she have changed anything if she did? We simply just don’t know. But what we do know about this powerhouse of a woman is that she was kind, gracious, brave, and that she taught Anakin to be the best version of himself while he was in her care.


Shmi’s backstory is one I’ve wanted to hear since she arrived onscreen for the first time back in 1999. I mean, the mother of Darth Vader…it doesn’t get much more compelling than that. I still have hope that sometime in the future the full story of her life might come to light in one form or another, but just because she isn’t onscreen or visibly present for much of the saga doesn’t mean that she doesn’t play a key role in the entire future of her family line and the galaxy at large. Shmi’s interactions with both Padme and Anakin fundamentally change them and sets them on a path that brings fulfillment to not only their fated-destinies, but to their personal lives as well. Although she was just a slave on a backwater gangster-ridden desert planet, Shmi Skywalker’s influence is felt in every corner of the galaxy and continues to be present even in the time of the sequel trilogy.

“There was no father. I carried him, I gave birth, I raised him. I can’t explain what happened.” — Shmi Skywalker

As I’ve noted before, from what we can see, Shmi is given a life most would have cracked beneath. A female slave who bore a fatherless child into a world where they’re bought and sold, won and lost on the whims of villains and cutthroats… she very easily (and understandably) could have been portrayed as bitter and vindictive. A harsh presence that we as the audience would have wanted Ani taken away from and who would have made most of us go: yep, that’s why he turned out so bad. But that’s not what we’re given at all. Instead we’re presented with a strong, kind, and incredibly warm mother who only wants the best for her son and for the galaxy at large. Instead of letting the darkness in her life hold sway, she seeks out the light, seeks out the hope and the kindness and the best in people and that’s what she instills in her son. She teaches him that although the galaxy is harsh, people are still worth helping and that it is their duty to reach out a hand to their fellow people.

That is one reason why The Phantom Menace is such an integral part of the Star Wars saga, it the only time we get to see what Anakin is like without Jedi-interference. Yes, he meets Qui-Gon and sets his feet on the path the Force has designed for him, but we also see that he is just a little boy who loves his mother and who genuinely and unselfishly wants to help people because that’s the type of person he was raised to be. This Anakin is the one most people forget about, the one that was told he wasn’t good enough by a council of grown-ass men because he understood his own emotions and wasn’t afraid to admit to his fear. This is the Anakin that Shmi raised, that she instilled her core beliefs in, and it is this Anakin that we mourn we he finally loses himself to Darth Vader. Without seeing Shmi’s Anakin, Shmi’s son, Vader is just a villain without a greater purpose. It is Shmi and her influence that ultimately humanizes the man we all thought to be the greatest monster in the galaxy. And it is the callous disregarding of her influence that shows us who the actual villains really are.

Even in the face of crushing sorrow, Shmi displays nothing but quiet strength and unending love, teaching Anakin to do the same. When Qui-Gon presents him with a seemingly better life without her, she doesn’t falter, doesn’t give into jealousy or act selfishly. She lets her son go and gives him the courage to leave her without looking back. And because of her example and her belief in him, Anakin can let go. It is only later, when the Jedi have instructed him to forfeit the teachings of his mother and suppress his feelings, that Anakin panics and latches on to the things he fears to lose. Even later, after facing abduction, torture, pain, and absolute primal fear, Shmi leaves the world – and Anakin – with words and expressions of love. She doesn’t rail against fate, or demand retribution or vengeance, she shows absolute joy and tells her son (with a mother’s affection) that he’s grown…and that she loves him. She leaves Anakin with one last example of how to face the greatest darkness in the world, and although it takes longer for this lesson to come to visual fruition, Anakin ultimately does the same for his son.

“Will I ever see you again?” — Anakin Skywalker
“What does your heart tell you?” — Shmi Skywalker
“I hope so. Yes… I guess.” –Anakin
“Then we will see each other again.” — Shmi
. . .
“Now, be brave, and don’t look back. Don’t look back.” — Shmi

Likewise, her influence on Padme is equally notable and equally long-lasting. Before arriving on Tattooine, Padme Amidala was a Queen in title, but as a person she was uncertain about her voice and how to use the great responsibility and power she had been given. Although intelligent and eager, she is untested and doesn’t know how to harness her power. In the larger scope of things, she is incredibly unknowledgeable about the actual lives and conditions of people outside her own world. She has no concept that the Senate might be powerless in certain places and doesn’t realize that the horrors and atrocities she thinks are things of the past in her privileged world, are alive and rampant on others.

“The Republic doesn’t exist out here. We must survive on our own.” — Shmi Skywalker

It is only after she meets Shmi and Anakin and experiences – even if for only a short time – the desolate, seemingly impossible, and hopeless nature of their lives, that she starts to truly assert herself. She finds her voice and uses it to win back her planet’s freedom and unite its broken populace. She goes on in the next two films to become one of the loudest voices in the Senate, demanding change and is even targeted with death-threats because she refuses to back down and remain unheard. Shmi gave Padme an honest view into a life she never could have known on her own world, and Padme spends the rest of her life being a voice for people like Shmi who otherwise wouldn’t have one to be heard.

Shmi’s example of kindness and resilience echo on through the galaxy through her son and his wife and later by their children. And as we saw in the closing moments of The Last Jedi, Luke and Leia have far-reaching influences of their own, and that influence of hope and kindness just further spreads their grandmother’s teaching across the vastness of space. From across the galaxy, spanning time and death itself, one slave’s influence and light reaches another slave and brings with it hope.

That is Shmi’s legacy. That is her gift to the galaxy and to the Star Wars saga itself: the knowledge that that even in darkness, there is light — even in hate, there is love. You decide how you see the world, you can choose to be a victim or to be a light for others in the darkness.

 

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The Phantom Menace: A Queen’s Victory

Obi-Wan Kenobi may have overcome the epic new darksider Darth Maul in the finale of The Phantom Menace with one of the most powerful songs in the history of film playing in the background, but I think it’s safe to say that the true victory of the first installment of the Star Wars saga is unequivocally Padme Amidala’s. With her unerring bravery, compassion, intellect, determination, and lack of self-sabotaging ego, Padme goes from a young Queen under attack to a bold ruler who negotiates and fights both on and off the battlefield to secure the safety of both herself and her world’s peoples. Even with the accompaniment of two of the order’s most capable Jedi sent to assist her, it is Padme who ultimately formulates the plan to end the Trade Federation’s unlawful occupation of Naboo and while doing so, mend the tattered relations with the other Sentient race of Naboo, the Gungans.

In a series that is so dominated by masculine heroes and ideals, I think it’s incredibly impactful and telling that the prequels begin the origin of the Skywalker saga with the victory of a woman, a Queen. I have no issue with Luke as the main hero in the originals, he’s the one I’ve rooted for my whole life, the man I emulated and hoped to be like. Leia was strong and fierce and amazing, but she is sometimes overshadowed by her twin brother and even that rascal who won her heart: Han Solo. The victories, even the typically more feminine emotional ones, were mostly male accomplishments. So when the first great battle of the new trilogy was won by a girl about my age, let me tell you, it made me feel so powerful, so capable of anything.

“I will sign no treaty Senator. My fate will be no different to that of our people.” — Queen Amidala

And what made it even more impactful was witnessing Padme’s frailty, her fear and hesitation, because not only did it humanize her, but it made her so much more real. Leia was ALWAYS the baddest b*tch in the galaxy and she knew it, but it was nice and important to see the perceived weakness grow into the strength that saves the day.

Over the course of the film, we are visually bombarded with similar scenes of Padme trying to stand her ground and make life or death decisions while her councilmen, pilots, head of security, Jedi ambassadors, senators, and even the lackluster Supreme Chancellor all vie to make their opinion her decision.

Even after being whisked away by Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Padme is lost and noticeably alone amongst her troupe of male saviors, but she doesn’t let that fear keep her from acting. (Yes, she has her handmaidens by her side some of the way – and yes, they are hella epic – but onscreen we don’t get too much of them.) She refuses to be left behind while Qui-Gon scouts Mos Espa for supplies to fix their ship, and it is her determination to see the world for herself and her curiosity of life outside of her own limited view that leads her to understand the issues of the galaxy at large – which later impacts her decision to remain in the political arena once her term as Queen has ended. She meets with people who have no voice, people who have no choice in their own lives… it’s not surprising that afterward she becomes one of the loudest voices in the room.

“I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee!” — Queen Amidala

It’s here that Padme meets the only other impactful woman in The Phantom Menace: Shmi Skywalker. Shmi is a slave and an only mother raising an extremely gifted young son on a planet where she is considered cattle to be bought and sold, won and lost to the highest bidder. She easily could have been portrayed as bitter, a spiteful shrew how hates the galaxy for doing her wrong, but instead we’re given a powerful, peaceful woman who sees the evils thrown her way and stands tall with pride and compassion. I have more to say about Shmi, but that’s for another post…suffice it to say, we see a noticeable difference in Padme after she encounters the Mother of the Skywalker line.

“The Republic doesn’t exist out here. We must survive on our own.” — Shmi Skywalker

The Padme that emerges from Tattooine is more grounded, surer of herself and the actions she must take. She still doesn’t know how to right the wrongs of the Trade Federation, but now she sees the plight of others outside of herself and her people…which in time leads her to Jar-Jar and the hidden strength of the Gungan army. Padme’s decision to appeal to the Gungans showcases the greatest lesson she’s learned since leaving her home-planet: that great evil can be conquered not only by force, but by intelligence and compassion. It is her humility and lack of ego, something she learned to put aside on Tattooine, that convinces the Gungans to help her, and it is only with their combined efforts that they free their planet.

“I ask you to help us… no, I beg you to help us.” — Queen Amidala

This is Padme’s greatest victory: a battle for justice and peace hard-won by brute force and intellect, her compassion for life as well as her passion for her planet, her selflessness as a woman, and her power as a Queen. A true middle-ground, a shade of gray, placed here in the first movie as an example of what can come of later is others follow in her footsteps. I can only hope to see her legacy live on in her grandson, another leader who has the greatest lesson to learn and everything that matters to either win…or lose.

Media Via:

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The Phantom Menace: The Reign Of A Queen


“I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war.”  — Queen Amidala

I remember being in awe of Padme Amidala the moment she appeared onscreen in The Phantom Menace. She was — for lack of a better word — just epic.

Like everyone else in the packed theater, I didn’t know she was actually Leia’s mom, but between her unforgettable fashion and her unwavering bravery, I knew I had found a new Star Wars woman to look up to and I was captivated.  She was only a few years older than me (back in 1999) yet she seemed so much older and wiser than my lackluster nine-year old self. Padme was fearless, steady, intelligent, and elegant — pretty much everything I ever wanted to be. When she first appeared onscreen before the Trade Federation she was unflinching and unbreakable; she refused to accept defeat, and instead held her head high as she fought against the illegal invasion of her home-world. Simply put: she was a badass. I mean it’s no wonder Leia was such a spitfire princess and rebellion-leader!

Even on Naboo amongst her own council Padme stands stalwart and alone amidst a sea of men, each telling her what he thinks she should do, vying for her attention, and forcefully declaring their opinion to be the only valid one. Visually, it’s a powerful scene and as a woman it’s even more so because it would have been so easy to have her listen to one of them, to have her admit defeat, and then wait to be rescued by the heroic Jedi knights. But instead we see her hold her ground, frightened and alone as she is, she stands up for her own point of view — expressing herself elegantly but forcefully. And most importantly, we see this determined young Queen actively decide her own fate.

It is Padme’s choice to leave Naboo and appeal for help abroad, it is her choice to follow Qui-Gon into the desert-swept town of Mos Espa, and then to step before the galactic Senate and speak the truth that no one else wanted to hear. And when no help was offered from said Senate, it was Padme’s choice to humble herself before the other occupants of Naboo and ask for their assistance securing the planet. Every step of the way, for good or for ill, Padme is an active participant in her life, she doesn’t shirk decision-making or side-step taking the first step. She evaluates situations as they arise and she alters her course to ensure that her people and her planet are cared-for to the best of her abilities. She is no figurehead Queen. Padme is a battle-tested monarch, a woman born to rule and brave enough to do it.

With a blaster in hand and a razor-sharp intellect, Padme Amidala is one hell of a role-model for the prequel-era generation – or any generation at that. She makes mistakes like everyone else around her, she wrestles with fear and sorrow, and struggles to beat back political oppression and manipulation but through everything thrown her way, she never stops believing in herself or the power that inherently resides within her. She even stands up to my favorite Jedi: Qui-Gon Jinn when she believes his judgement to be skewed. and if that’s not self-assurance and bravery I don’t know what is. She is a woman I proudly modeled myself after then and now, and when I think of the prequel trilogy it is her iconic lines that run through my head, her wisdom that shapes the way I see the story. Her life may have been unexpectedly short, but it’s impact stretched to the far reaches of the galaxy and her strength, determination, and bravery were nevermore present than here, right from the beginning in The Phantom Menace.

 

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The Phantom Menace: Shadows In The Force

When I started today’s post (yesterday) I actually thought it was going to be a relatively easy one to write. It was one of the first ones I jotted down when I decided I wanted to do the one-film a month theme, and I just felt so passionately about it. Then when I started writing, the words flowed so effortlessly and with a humor I don’t often achieve, so suffice it to say, I was thrilled.


Until about 8:30 pm last night when I’m about halfway through writing and it hits me, and dammit if it didn’t hit me with my own Star Wars logic that I was using at that very moment to prove my point: I was wrong. I was very, very wrong, and the entire half a blog post I’d already written was going to have to be scrapped because although I could finish it and it would make sense to most everyone else, I knew it was flawed and would make my arguments inconsistent. So…I panicked. I shelved the unfinished post and created a Whimsical Mutterings tumblr account to give myself something to do while I calmed down and figured out what to write instead. Needless to say, it was a long night.

Originally this post was going to be all about how Qui-Gon stole from Fate (the Force) by manipulating the dice-roll to obtain Anakin’s freedom and in retaliation, Fate fought back in the finale and claimed his life. I mean the song playing as he, Obi-Wan, and Darth Maul are fighting is even called Duel of the Fates! It was so epically perfect!

Until it wasn’t…

“All is as the Force wills it.”  — Chirrut Imwe   Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Ironically my notion of Karma being a bitch ultimately bit me in the ass. My argument was predicated on the fact that Qui-Gon acted outside of the will of the Force, to obtain what he wanted. And in my defense, it truly does seem that way. He wants Anakin freed, there is a 50/50 chance this will happen on its own or that the Force will choose Anakin on its own, but Qui-Gon uses the Force to ensure that it does. He took away the possibility of Shmi being liberated and in doing so set Anakin on a path that led directly to the Jedi Council and their own deadly neuroses. It made perfect sense then that since he interfered and essentially tipped the scales, there would be resulting consequences. He dueled with fate and ultimately fate claimed victory. Thank you, the end, put a nice bow on it and we’ll call it a day.

Except that I believe (and have said so before) that Anakin’s destiny was predetermined. He was the one foretold to bring balance to the Force and that meant he had to walk a certain path in life, no matter how difficult or painful. So how could I then say that Qui-Gon acted outside of the will and desire of the Force by essentially ensuring that Anakin goes where he needs to, to fulfill his ultimate destiny?! I can’t. It doesn’t work. Yes, Qui-Gon interfered because he wanted to, but also because the Force knew he would want to and placed him there to do just that. He didn’t steal from fate… he helped it.

So naturally you can see my dilemma, I couldn’t publish something that I no-longer believed in myself, but there was still something about the idea of fate and Qui-Gon that wouldn’t stop nagging me. And the title of the song – Duel of the Fates – it, it was basically taunting me, I mean it couldn’t be for nothing right? There was something there, I just had to find it. And after many hours of pondering and some verbal sparring, I hit upon something: Qui-Gon didn’t steal from fate/the Force, but at the very end he did unlock a new aspect of it.

His role in the Chosen One’s life was always meant to be short. He had to die to ensure Anakin turned out the way he did under Obi-Wan and the council’s guidance and tutelage because eventually Anakin would have to turn on the Jedi to bring balance to the Force, but he never would have if Qui-Gon had lived. It was Anakin’s anger, resentment, insecurity, and need for secrecy that was necessary to make him break from the Jedi, but they would be non-existent had he grown up with a more tolerant Gray Jedi like Qui-Gon who would have tailored his training to fit Ani’s unique situation and personality. He would have taught Ani hand’s on and with a calm passion and determination, instead of spouting off never-ending rhetoric and sarcastic witticisms. Therefore Qui-Gon had to die. He had to pass the torch on to his morally-upright padawan, Obi-Wan for Anakin to become the conflagration that the Force needed to cleanse itself. And he did.

But that was only the beginning.

Qui-Gon is the first Force Ghost we get any mention of it the Star Wars saga (not the first to appear onscreen, but in the timeline of the episodic story I mean). He is the first to transcend death and still remain himself after the passing of his mortal body at the end of The Phantom Menace, which seems to come as quite a shock to others – even the great master Yoda himself. So it stands to reason that this occurrence is outside the norm, even in this fantastical galaxy far, far away. Unseen and mostly unheard, Qui-Gon can no longer affect the outcome of the prophecy of the Force, but that doesn’t stop him from at least being present when Anakin needs him most. We hear Qui-Gon call out to Anakin in The Attack of the Clones when Ani takes his vengeance upon those who killed his mother. He reaches out, desperate to reach that little boy he’d found so long ago who has grown up to know such desolation and pain. Even in death, he never gives up on Anakin. Instead he stays with him, trying to guide him even when no one can hear him. Until Yoda does.

Just as Anakin’s resentment, anger, and insecurity were necessary for him to become the balance of the Force, so to were Qui-Gon’s skepticism, determination, and his absolute belief in Anakin, in allowing him to accomplish what no other Force-user had done before: to open a doorway to immortality, and perhaps time itself. I know they’ve delved into the shadowy realm of time in the Rebels show so it would not surprise me if the subject came up again in Episode IX. There is something there in the space beyond death, in the web of fate and time itself that Star Wars wants us to see and comprehend. And when we finally reach that moment of clarity and understanding it will be with the knowledge that Qui-Gon, a Gray Jedi, led the way for us.

 

Media Via:

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The Phantom Menace: Enter The Gray Jedi


Hello again my fellow Star Wars fans, thanks for joining me once more on this Epic Star Wars adventure! Now, by this point my distaste for the Jedi and their manipulative practices has probably become apparent, but for those just joining us, let me basically sum it up: I don’t dislike every Jedi simply for being what they are, as individuals they are either descent or not, but as a collective group and power I think they are as morally corrupt as their dark counterparts, the Sith. I think Kylo Ren pretty much had the right idea: the Jedi, the Sith, all the constructs of the past that separated people into opposing groups needs to end. People are not made to be all good or all bad, and to say otherwise is setting people up for discontentment, failure, or in Anakin’s case total and complete destruction. That being said, I didn’t always feel this way. It wasn’t until I got old enough to read between the lines and dissect what was actually happening in the story that my opinion of these lightside heroes began to shift.

“Remember: Your focus determines your reality.” — Qui-Gon Jinn

As a child, my heart was set on being a Jedi. Dear God, did I want to be a Jedi, and I was partially convinced I was one until I discovered Harry Potter on my eleventh birthday and then I just knew I was a Jedi/Witch hybrid the likes of which the world had never seen. I mean I used to walk around grocery store with my eyes (mostly) shut and pretend the Force was guiding me – I was that kid. I LIVED by Yoda’s fear leads to anger leads to hate leads to suffering speech, like hardcore. I refused to hate anything, even in jest as a preteen because my ass was not walking down that path. Dramatic much yes, but I was a writer even then and we tend to be a rather emotive people. Suffice it to say, I was enamored with the Jedi-code…which is why I think it’s funny because even then, when I all-out believed in the Jedi way of life, my absolute favorite Jedi was the one who called them out on their bullsh*t and questioned the council every step of the way: Qui-Gon Jinn.

As soon as he appeared onscreen in The Phantom Menace, calm, cool, and collected, Qui-Gon had my attention. I know most people were thrilled to see his apprentice Obi-Wan and I was too, but there was something about Qui-Gon that just captured my interest. Looking back on it now, I recognize him as being the closest representation to a Gray Jedi that we ever get onscreen – a Force-user who embodies the middle-ground between the light side and the dark side of the Force, neither completely good or bad but capable of using both sides at will. Gray Jedi’s believe in balance: light and dark, love and hate, compassion and passion. They are what I hope the sequel trilogy is leading us towards: more all-rounded individuals who don’t suppress aspects of their personality, but instead use moderation.

“Keep you concentration here and now, where it belongs.”

Qui-Gon espouses some of the most meaningful wisdom in the prequel trilogy, reminding us all to live in the moment while it’s here and now and that what we focus on determines what we get in life. He sees the injustice of the council purposefully shutting Anakin out and resolves to teach him anyway. Yet he’s also a masterful user of subterfuge and is definitely not above cheating, using misdirection, or threats to get what he wants. He’s unafraid to walk that hazy middle-ground of Jedi morality to ensure that things happen as they should and even back then I noticed and appreciated Qui-Gon’s uniqueness. He chose to defend the galaxy, uphold goodness and order, but he didn’t do it blindly. Qui-Gon questioned everything every step of the way, and when those in power turned their backs on a child for their own security and ease, he called them on it.

In the end, Qui-Gon Jinn is not perfect. He makes assumptions and mistakes that cost the galaxy greatly, but he does so with the best of intentions. He acts with what I would call societal morality, or common morality, not the limited concept permitted by the Jedi teachings, and though it is flawed, it is the most like our own human morality. I think what Qui-Gon represents in The Phantom Menace is the beginning of the shift towards true balance – which is what the Force itself desires. With this in mind, I also think Kylo Ren is a composite character of Qui-Gon, Anakin, and to a certain extent Luke, much like Tolkien used the best aspects of Bard and Thorin from The Hobbit to later create Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings. For any kind of major change, the groundwork needs to be laid in the beginning, and Qui-Gon, unperfect as he is, set the foundation for what I hope to see as the story progresses, a shift from uncompromising and restrictive dogma, to the acceptance of people just as they are. Good and bad, light and dark, compassionate and passionate, individuals striving for the betterment of the universe but with the option to pick their path as they go. We have that opportunity with Rey and Kylo in the final upcoming film, to see a dark-sider find the light inside himself, and a light-sider embrace the darkness that fuels her. Together with both halves of their personality present and accepted by themselves and each other, they could do what Qui-Gon tried to do in The Phantom Menace: bring true balance to the Force and with it, peace to the galaxy.

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The Phantom Menace: A Light in the Darkness

“Are you an angel?” — Anakin Skywalker

Before May of 1999, it was hard to imagine Darth Vader having any sort of relationship with a woman that would lead to her having his kids – you know, back when he was a suited-up, mechanical cyborg-man bent on destroying all the good in the galaxy – but watching little Ani meet Padme for the first time was like seeing the hands of fate in motion. He’s so unflinchingly emotive, everything he feels and thinks he says, and right from the get-go he understands Padme is important to him and has no qualms about expressing that. True love, soulmates, Force-bonded, whatever you want to call it, these two are meant to be and their love is so powerful it changes the face of the entire galaxy for generations to come, and in more ways than one. But it’s the genesis of this love, its very own origin story if you will, that we finally get to see in The Phantom Menace and it’s as beautiful as it is heartbreaking.

“There was no father. I carried him, I gave birth, I raised him. I can’t explain what happened.” – Shmi Skywalker

Anakin was a child of the Force itself, made manifest to complete a destiny that was already written in the darkness of the stars. It crafted Anakin, creating every facet of his personality to be the one who bought balance to the warring sides of its supposed-practitioners. It gave him Shmi, a loving, intelligent mother to instill in him the desire and drive to act as his conscious saw fit. It made him a slave, so that he recognized and understood the slow-burning hatred of being controlled and oppressed. It made him powerful enough to attract the attention of those who might otherwise overlook him. And finally, when the time was right, the Force ensured an unbelievably strong, powerhouse of a person came into Anakin’s life at the exact right time.

Fate can be cruel, but it can also be kind.

Now personally, I believe that Anakin was always meant to destroy the Sith and the Jedi, because balance does not mean wiping out one side so the other can become more powerful and be left completely unchecked. Balance means evening out the playing field, or in more drastic cases, wiping it clean to start completely over again. I never understood how the Jedi interpreted that prophecy any other way considering the amount of time they spent meditating and seeking the will of the Force (I mean talk about narcissism am I right) but I don’t want to dwell too much on the subject because that’s another post entirely. The basis of my thought just needs to be explained for the rest to make relative sense.

The Force crafted Ani – knowing exactly what was going to happen later and what he was going to have to do – and there is great cruelty in that, creating something to purposely make it suffer for your own ends. But the Force is neither good nor evil, malicious nor kind, it’s that middle-ground in between that just is. It is the balance. So alongside that cruelty there is compassion, and it is that compassion that brought Anakin and Padme together. Despite the looming darkness of the future, they were given this time to bask in the light. Yes, they would both live incredibly harrowing, painful, and ultimately short lives, but they would also know the greatest joy and beauty that can ever be found in life: love. Deep, everlasting, pure love.

Knowing the death and despair that was to come, the Force provided a short span of years – the calm before the deadliest of storms – to know that they were absolutely loved heart and soul and it all began here in The Phantom Menace when Ani walked into the Watto’s junk shop and found Padme waiting for him. He recognized something in her immediately, and voiced it. He was brave enough to speak out, and Padme was brave enough to reciprocate. Anakin needed to know this love, needed to feel it soul-deep, because only the absolute fear of losing it would ever make him turn so far from the light and reach out instead for the darkness inside him. Even in compassion there is cruelty, and there can be no cruelty without compassion. Balance.

But for now in The Phantom Menace, the scale is tipped in our favor. And in the bright heat of desert-swept Tatooine and jubilant celebration of lush Naboo, we can revel in the triumphant light of hope and blossoming love for as long as we possibly can.

 

 

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The Phantom Menace: The Emergence and Importance of Fate


When I think about The Phantom Menace, I am overwhelmingly struck by the quintessential fairy-tale nature of the entire film. The scope, the dreamy colors, the adventure, and dangers, and daring! It’s all there and so are the familiar characters we as an audience know by heart: the age-old damsel in distress (who valiantly saves herself IMHO), the Arthurian-esque knights of morality who color our perception of good and evil for better or worse, the archetypal lost prince with an uncertain destiny, and larger than life villains who seek to overthrow goodness and humanity, etc. etc. In essence, TPM truly is the “Once Upon a Time…” segment of the Star Wars saga and without it the entire series is immediately unmoored and unbalanced.

The trials and tribulations of the future don’t mean as much or pack as much of an emotional punch when you don’t know that before Vader was Vader, he was Anakin, a young slave who dreamed of setting his people free and who opened his heart and his home to people in need and risked his life to help them when no one else would. And it’s hard to care about the momentarily-mentioned broken bond between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader in A New Hope (when so much else is happening onscreen with Luke and Leia and Han) unless you’ve witnessed the two meeting for the first time and felt the ripples of fate move across the surface of the galaxy. And it’s difficult to feel pity for a man who makes ALL THE WRONG DECISIONS when it comes to his family unless you know that that entire future of that family began with a little boy innocently asking a beautiful young girl if she was an angel.

And that’s what I love so much about The Phantom Menace. More than any other prequel film, it shows the working hands of fate – or the force – and all that was required for the story that we know and love to come into existence. Padme’s world had to be invaded so she would leave it, her ship had to be damaged so it would need repairs, and Ani had to be a slave so he would be in the shop when Padme walked in looking for help. Because how else would a Queen from a lush, green planet meet a slave boy from a harsh, desert world?

In short, this movie had to happen, these events had to take place for the rest of the story to mean anything. Without TPM the story of Darth Vader is still there, but the emotional impact is stunted, and the characters only partially fleshed out. After all, a villain is only a villain at a certain time in his life, and a hero is only a hero when the story is told a certain way.

 

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