R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson) wrote,
R.J. Anderson

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Star Wars Meta INCOMING

Since I'm not updating my Tumblr any more, you all get the dubious benefit of me overthinking The Force Awakens here instead (because that is basically how I've been rolling non-stop since the end of December).

Ever since TFA told us that Han and Leia's son went to the Dark Side after years of training with Luke, SW fandom has been assuming that Luke was running some sort of Jedi Academy in which Ben was only one of several if not numerous students. But there's actually nothing in what Han says on-screen, or elsewhere in the script, to say so. Here's the actual quote:

"He was training a new generation of Jedi. One boy, an apprentice, turned against him, destroyed it all. Luke felt responsible... He walked away from everything."

"A new generation" can mean a group of young people of the same or similar age, but it could also mean an individual who represents the next generation -- i.e. that Luke was training Ben, his nephew, to become a Jedi like himself. In fact, that's what Claudia Gray's recently published, canon-compliant novel Bloodline (which takes place 6-7 years before the events of the film) implies -- because in it we find that far from being able to visit Ben at some established institution of learning surrounded by his fellow students and apprentices, Leia often has difficulty contacting her son or even knowing where he is because he's off travelling to unknown parts of the galaxy with Luke. Which seems like a strange thing to do if either or both of them were responsible for training a group of prospective Jedi.

Consider also this interesting remark by current Star Wars canon keeper Pablo Hidalgo*, when somebody asked him how long ago the attack on Luke's "academy" had been:

Which bears out the idea that Luke never had such an academy (even if he'd perhaps hoped to build one). And we've already had it confirmed, again by Hidalgo, that Rey's vision of Kylo and the Knights of Ren on what appears to be a rainy battlefield is not a flashback to the destruction of Luke's academy, but something else entirely. (I have a theory that it's actually a glimpse of the future, but my reason for believing that is based on a shooting spoiler for Ep. VIII so I won't get into that here.)

Anyway, my point is that if Ben WAS the "new generation of Jedi" to which Han was referring, then all he had to do to "destroy" all of Luke's dreams was to turn against him and join the First Order. If Luke had been unable to find other Force-sensitives who were able or willing to train with him, and he couldn't keep Ben from turning to the Dark Side, it makes sense that Luke would blame himself, conclude that he was not ready or able to train anyone else, and retreat to the first Jedi temple in search of wisdom and perhaps a measure of peace. It would also explain why Luke looks so grieved when Rey offers him the lightsaber at the end of TFA -- because he knows she's strong with the Force, he knows she needs someone to train her, yet his bitter experience with Ben makes him fear that he won't be able to keep Rey from falling to the Dark either.

None of this is meant to negate what TFA clearly shows us, that Kylo Ren is a murderer (indeed a mass murderer, since he gave the order to massacre an entire village). He is guilty of great evil, whether that includes slaughtering a bunch of hypothetical fellow Jedi apprentices or not. But it's an interesting thought, at least to me, that his title of "Jedi Killer" (which is never mentioned in the film or the script, only in supplemental material) might well be more rumor than actual fact.

* Yes, I know his Twitter has kittens all over it and claims to be a parody account. That's a recent change, and an in-joke for those who've been following him through all the madness since TFA -- but it actually is Pablo Hidalgo.
Tags: meta, speculation, star wars, the force awakens
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Oh, that is very cool speculation! I did indeed assume "Academy" myself and was assuming there were many students, but the "single student" (or even if it was only a few, and they were traveling around a lot with Luke) makes so much more sense to me in terms of how Ben became Ren...

I look forward to more of your thoughts!
I'll just bring up the counter arguments first to get them out of the way: I am pretty certain that StarWars.com mentions Kylo Ren killing fellow students, and Pablo has said that Han and Leia's separation was instigated by Ben/Kylo becoming a murderer. So whatever happened, it was likely he left under violent circumstances. The debate seems to be more a matter or scale and specifics.

But, IIRC Bloodline doesn't mention any other students of Luke - though it does mention acolytes. And I think Pablo suggested calling it a temple at one point. So I think it's plausible what Luke builds has only a few people actually training to be Jedi, but instead more a collection of laymen spiritual believers (ala Lor San Tekka?)

You are right that everything we have about what happened when Ben fell is deeply cryptic. And outside those comments I've seen above, every source seems to talk around exactly what happened in the most vague terms possible. I get that it is being withheld for spoiler reasons, but the sheer fact that this information needs to be held back makes it seem like there's more going on than face value.

It all just seems unnecessarily oblique for describing what should be facts.
There's an Wookieepedia article called "Destruction of Luke Skywalker's Jedi", but even the title of the article is labelled "pure conjecture". It's very carefully worded to stick to pretty much exactly what Han said in the movie, as well. Though it does add the tidbit from the Visual Dictionary that "destroying the Jedi that Luke had been training" earned Kylo the nickname of "Jedi Killer". I'll be interested to see if that nickname is ever repeated in the films.

I think it's very possible you're right about the idea of a temple tended by Jedi supporters and scholars (the "acolytes" you mentioned), rather than actual Force-sensitives. Perhaps they were gathering information and artifacts that would help Luke find and train more Jedi, and that's what Kylo (with or without the help of his fellow Knights) destroyed. Perhaps Lor San Tekka and his followers escaped that destruction and fled to hide out on Jakku, hoping to keep Kylo from finishing what he started (see what I did there?).

Also, Rey's Force vision includes a scene of Luke touching Artoo while a "temple" (as the script calls it) burns in the background. It's dark, but there's no sign of rain -- whereas in the next scene where we see the "Clan Leader" stabbed by Kylo, it's pouring. Two different incidents, perhaps? Could the second one be a glimpse into the future rather than the past, like the image Rey saw of a masked Kylo stalking her through the snow?

SO MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS. Is it December 2017 yet?
I'm fairly certain the titling of that Wookiepedia article has been subject to furious debate. (Actually, IIRC there was even debate about what surname to give Ben). So for now they are erring on the side of hard evidence.

The acolytes thing makes me think the vibe they are going for with Luke's new Jedi temple is learning more to the mystical side of things rather than political peacekeepers of the prequels. But your speculation certain explains how Lor San Tekka knows who Kylo Ren is and what happened.

Definitely two incidents, but past or future is up for debate. That entire scene is just fodder for debate, especially because it's all so cryptic, and a lot of things were apparently cut. There was an interview with the film's editor who said it was cut back to focus more specifically on Rey. But she also said a cut scene in that vision involved Snoke with a "young boy". Which is interesting.

When I first saw Star Wars it was a (the OT part, anyway) closed canon. This not knowing what happens next is very frustrating.
Interesting! I would argue that the phrasing "ONE boy, AN apprentice," rather than "the boy, his apprentice" indicates more than one apprentice ... but it could still easily be only a handful of students, or even two (Rey and Ben, *coughcough*, hence the need to hide Rey and focus the First Order's attention on finding Luke to keep her protected until she grew into her full potential). I never really liked the idea of a Jedi Academy anyway ... the ways of the Jedi Order in the prequels led to their downfall, and Luke has already proven that he will do what he believes is right rather than blindly follow tradition, so I don't see him adhering so closely to the old practices and ways. Plus the Jedi Academy plot has already been explored quite thoroughly in the Expanded Universe (er, Legends, I guess we're calling them now) novels, and I really, really don't want to see the movies imitating those particular plotlines.

Also, when you consider the turmoil of the galaxy, that things never really settled down after ROTJ, Luke deciding to retire somewhere and start up an Academy for Force-strong children, when a Jedi would still be so needed everywhere else, without any other Jedi to help him, doesn't make much sense. Him taking an apprentice along with him as he went about his work, the way Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and (in the animated Clone Wars) even Anakin did, seems much more likely.
Yeah, you're right about the "one boy, an apprentice" line. And there's certainly been a lot of speculation about Rey possibly being one of Luke's students, but leaving her on Jakku would involve mind-wiping her or replacing her memories with false ones so she wouldn't remember anything about Luke or the Force, and that would mean introducing new Jedi force powers we've never yet seen in canon. Also, Luke would have had to have left Rey on Jakku a long time before Ben turned to the Dark Side, since in Bloodline Ben is 23, still travelling with Luke, and Leia thinks of him fondly and without any apparent concern. (Which would make Rey 13-14 at the time, far too old to be the newly abandoned child in her flashback.)

Agreed that we don't need to see the EU plotlines rehashed in the new movies, any more than we needed to see the Virgin and BBC New Adventures plots rehashed in the Doctor Who revival (even if they did sneak an adaptation of the former 7th Doctor NA Human Nature in at one point).

(There is a SUPER GREAT novel-length "Rey is rescued by Luke and Ben as a child and ends up at the Jedi Academy" AU fanfic on AO3, though, if you're even slightly interested in that. The writing is fantastic and I can't wait for the sequel: Like Young Gods, by diasterisms.)

Anyway, I totally agree with you about the unlikelihood of Luke retiring to set up an academy in the wake of ROTJ, not to mention the practical difficulty of doing so even if he'd wanted to. The more I think about it, the more I'm amazed how easily we all (and I include myself because I bought into it for a long time) jumped to that conclusion and how many otherwise well-thought-out metas took it for granted.
My hunch is that the very existence of the Jedi Academy in the EU made it easier for us all to assume that's what Luke did when he set up the training of the next generation of Jedi, just as Anakin's slaughter of the Jedi younglings in ROTS made it easier to envision Ben/Kylo doing something similar to Luke's students. But I for one like the idea of Ben NOT simply rehashing Anakin's sins (that scene in ROTS is the reason that particular movie is the only Star Wars movie I have only seen once, and do not own - heck, I even have the two Ewok movies, but that scene just turns my stomach. It very nearly wrecked Star Wars for me altogether, particularly the framing of it to attempt to build pity for Anakin as he is engaging in the act of murdering children). Not that Ben's betrayal of Luke, whatever form it might have taken, nor his act of patricide, is fine and dandy. Just ... not murdering children who are, with good reason, expecting you to protect them from evil, would go a long way toward making me believe in Leia's insistence that there's still light in him, as well as his own constant pull toward the light.

Also, I have not read Bloodline, as I've kind of gotten away from SW novels since the Yuzhaan Vong appeared in the Legends and finished its slide into awfulness, so definitely not up on the timing and ages of things, but if that's canon, it does put a damper on my theory of Rey being left on Jakku either by Kylo (to get rid of her but not kill her) or by Luke (to protect her) after Ben officially "became" Kylo Ren.
BLOODLINE is super great and I highly recommend it. It's a fantastic look at Leia's character, has some really engaging and fascinating new characters (one of whom was in the original draft of the TFA script, but got cut) and definitely adds a new dimension to the events of the film. I personally haven't read any of the SW novels since Courtship of Princess Leia, which was so dreadful it put me off reading any further, but the EU's no longer considered canon anyway, so that's all right. :)

I also recommend LOST STARS, which takes place during the original trilogy and gives some background for the Battle of Jakku, as well as a fascinatingly nuanced look at how a principled, caring person could end up serving the Empire and believing the Rebellion are a bunch of terrorists (yet without justifying or excusing real evil, which is an impressive balancing act). Claudia Gray has quickly become my favorite Star Wars tie-in author and I dearly hope she gets to write more books!

And I completely agree with you on ROTS. Never, ever want to see that movie again.
Oh, now that is a very interesting angle that hadn't occurred to me. I'd definitely gone along with the assumption that there was some form of Jedi Academy and that Ben was involved in its destruction. If that's not the case, and his turning was more of a personal betrayal but didn't directly involve the killing of fellow students... Doesn't in any way negate the choices Ben made, but it does throw a different light on things. Both in terms of what Ben and Luke's relationship/apprenticeship would have looked like (possibly much closer to what we see of Qui Gon and Obi Wan), and in the scope of what his actual turning probably involved (if there were one or more other students who were killed/harmed/threatened in the process, it was probably not the kind of cold-blooded wholesale slaughter that I think many had been envisioning).

Hmm. Again, it doesn't discount or minimize anything Ben/Kylo has done since then, but it is very interesting indeed, and may be influential in the likelihood of seeing a redemption arc for him in the future.
I think, along with what drakyndra and others have said above, there's still a good chance that Kylo killed a bunch of Luke's acolytes who were trying to help him bring back the Jedi, even if those people weren't actually Jedi themselves. So in that sense it doesn't make a redemption arc any more likely...

Although I do think it's interesting to note that unlike Anakin Skywalker, who was explicitly shown murdering (or at least about to murder) a large number of Force-sensitive younglings who were utterly incapable of defending themselves or even realizing what he was about to do, we have no reason to believe that Kylo has ever killed a child, fellow student or otherwise. (The villagers in Tuanul were all adults who had chosen to follow Lor San Tekka as part of his Church of the Force. Some were obviously better fighters than others, and none were strong enough to beat a squadron of stormtroopers, but they weren't kids.)

The biggest hurdle to a redemption arc for Kylo, arguably, is Han's murder. But we're shown Han forgiving Kylo even in his dying moments (the junior novelization even says this explicitly), and I find it really hard to believe that the script would have Leia say "there's still light in him" and urge Han to "bring him home" without some kind of eventual payoff. It's just too bleak.
Yep, his killing Han is definitely the biggest hurdle at this point. Because it's Han, it's his father, and because from an audience perspective, even if it turns out to be arguably not the most egregious act someone's committed, what we actually see playing out in realtime tends to have a bigger emotional impact than past events that may feel more theoretical (regardless of the light we'd assess those actions in from a more objective perspective).

But yes. Given Han's forgiveness, and Leia's line, and the way we see him struggling with that pull to the light side... It would seem uncharacteristically bleak to turn back from that potential without payoff.
I'm desperately hoping for a good, hard redemption arc for Kylo/Ben ala Zuko.

So many times in fiction and movies, the villain we love gets redeemed by dying. And yeah, that's well and good and can be very powerful (Exhibit A: Anakin Skywalker). But living with what you did after you come back from the dark is harder to write, is harder to make work in a story. I want to see that. I want to see if someone who killed off a beloved character can be fully redeemed and still live; I want to see how he makes restitution and if he is or even can be restored to what he was before his fall.