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Crime and Punishment: Star Wars: Champions of the Force

So, here’s a weird question where the Force is concerned—it’s one thing to have fallen to the dark side of the Force, but if you’re being actively manipulated by dark side agents, can you be held accountable for your actions? If so, to what extent?

The conclusion to the Jedi Academy Trilogy is really about healing more than anything else. And that’s all types of healing, be it psychic, physical, or emotional. Sure, things usually get worse before they get better, especially in fiction. But how much worse they get in Champions of the Force likely shocked quite a few readers… because genocide doesn’t exactly sit well with anyone.

With the Sun Crusher in his possession, Kyp manages to destroy not one, but two whole star systems, killing the brother who he had planned to rescue in the process. This massive-scale act of revenge brings Luke back from his Force-induced coma, but does not leave him able to communicate with his students. Han rushes off to save Kyp from himself. Leia is too busy trying to rescue baby Anakin from Ambassador Furgan, the same Imperial responsible for Mon Mothma’s health crisis (though no one knows that just yet).

Throughout the Star Wars Expanded Universe there is a lot of anti-Force sentiment. It’s a logical aspect to any society that shows a certain group having special, seemingly magical skills that others do not possess. Either you rope that society off, the way the wizarding world does in Harry Potter, or these people are going to come into contact with dissenters, much like the anti-bending movement in The Legend of Korra. The question becomes—who should these people report to? How should they be held accountable? Can we even demand that from them? It is entirely possible that this is why the Jedi Order ended up folded into the Old Republic in the first place, though we see that doesn’t work out so well down the road.

But with what Kyp Durron is responsible for… is it all that hard to blame anyone for thinking that the Force grants a power that no one should be able to wield?

It’s almost as though the harder question had to be avoided in this narrative; if Kyp had turned to the dark side without another mind influencing his, if only Han had been able to turn him back due to their bond, the question of Kyp’s culpability here would not have been up for debate. It would have been a fascinating emotional arc and a painful one, and would have poised the difficulties that we were perhaps meant to ponder at Vader’s redemption. After having committed such heinous acts, what does redemption actually mean? And what steps should be taken to prevent a relapse? After all, falling off the wagon into the dark side brings a pretty high bill in collateral damage.

But when the students on Yavin 4 overthrow Exar Kun and his influence on Kyp is broken, Kyp instantly stops. The question instead becomes, would Kyp have done everything the same without that influence? And the answer appears to be a resounding no. So how do you punish him? And how far does the blame carry? Should we be punishing Luke in addition for not uprooting the Praxeum the instant he realized a Sith spirit was hanging around the place? Some would argue that we should.

It’s an excellent journey for Han to go on because his interaction with the Force has been limited to Luke and Leia at this point, both of whom are relatively safe in that regard. (Even with Luke being tempted to the dark side again in the Dark Empire arc, it is Leia who bears the burden on that front.) His children aren’t quite old enough yet for him to realize the affect that it will have on his life, and Kyp is a glimpse, just a bare one, of how bad things can really get. When we take a look further down the road to his son Jacen, this story becomes a precursor of sorts, a harbinger of what’s to come.

Kyp’s difficulty in coming to terms with his actions is a rehabilitation that will take a lot longer than one novel, but this book is only concerned with whether or not he will continue his training as a Jedi. His guilt is a problem, of course, but more than anything he needs the chance to prove that the power Kun had over him is vanquished. Luke gives Kyp that chance by providing him with a test similar to the one he underwent on Dagobah. Where Luke failed, Kyp manages to pass with flying colors, realizing the spectre of Kun is nothing to fear, and revealing his brother’s spirit in the process. Kyp is given closure on that front, and comes back to the Force. Which is good because Luke gives Kyp some tough love on that front—he wasn’t going to accept any wishy-washy answers.

Leia gets her baby back, Admiral Ackbar gets his groove back (I assume Mon Calamaris have a groove), Mon Mothma gets her health back, and Daala gets a great big headache when her shiny installation is destroyed along with most of her neat toys. Good guys win the day for now. Luke’s student show that they are a formidable bunch, proving that the new generation of Jedi are going to be a tough group to keep down. Which is for the best, since Jedi seldom get the easy road through life. Let it never be said that starting a Jedi Academy is a simple venture.

Emmet Asher-Perrin is still amazed that they let Luke decide what to do with Kyp. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.


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