“It’s time for the Jedi to end.”
Since Luke Skywalker dropped that bomb in the middle of the Star Wars universe in the first trailer for The Last Jedi, questions have been swirling:
Has Luke turned to the Dark Side?
Has he discovered something about the Jedi Order that will redefine what the term “Jedi” means?
Will Rey evolve past the binary Dark/Light Side and become the first (canonical) Gray Jedi?
GIVE US MORE PORGS.
Okay, the last one isn’t a question. It’s a demand. From all of us—and we’re serious, Lucasfilm.
The central nugget here is that all signs are pointing to a new era for the Jedi. One that’s more ambiguous in its understanding of good and evil; one that’s more complex, perhaps darker, and less—again—binary.
If only we had Star Wars stories that explored the uneasy complexities of the Jedi Order. If only, at some point, we’d seen the dangers inherent in the Jedi’s rigid sensibilities.
Oh, wait. We have.
They’re called the prequels.
Okay, I’m going to be totally candid about something, here: I’m one of them. One of those nutty prequel defenders. I’ve written about them before, and I’ll write about them again. I love those movies, and I always will.
Even so—I know they’re not flawless films. Most of the time, when people are screaming me down about what a dolt I am for enjoying these movies, I get where they’re coming from. I see it—I just don’t abide by the same thinking, nor do I necessarily agree. But, again, there’s a part of my brain that totally gets the reluctance to embrace the prequels.
That said, one of the things I thought those three movies totally nailed was its treatment of the Jedi Order as being pure and noble in theory, but highly flawed and reckless when put into practice. Granted, the flaws that the Order had exposed were circumstantial: The Jedi aren’t meant to act as generals in a large-scale offensive (Yoda admits as much). They’re not meant to operate in war as it’s antithetical to their purpose, which is to keep peace. So, if a galactic war breaks out on their watch, well, they’ve seriously messed up.
And the prequels show the Jedi failing—in principle and in practice—again and again. They fail to stop a large-scale aggression, they fail to prevent systems from falling into the hands of the Separatists, and they fail to sniff out Palpatine—the Sith lord hiding in plain sight—before it’s too late. Their greatest failure, though, is a more intimate one, and it’s one that speaks directly to the flaws in their own principles: Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side. As Obi-Wan said: “I have failed you, Anakin. I have failed you.” The Jedi masters’ inability, not to control Anakin, but to reach him, is what cost them both the war and, arguably, their soul.
Anakin’s downfall is an infinitely complex one, and one can examine it from several angles. From a certain point of view (heh), you can say the Jedi are completely to blame for what became of Anakin. They tore him away from his mother at a young age and never supplemented the parental and emotional nourishment he clearly needed. The Order was never completely sold on him—perhaps because they sensed something dark within him, perhaps because they were jealous of his status as the Chosen One of Jedi prophecy—and, therefore, they never fully embraced him. What’s most interesting is their potential for jealousy and how (potentially) that prevented the Jedi masters from accepting—and therefore understanding—who Anakin was.
Anakin wasn’t a typical Jedi. He couldn’t abide by their rigid code of discipline and suppression. Anakin had great passion, as evidenced in his love for both his mother and Padme, and that’s a big part of what kept him at arm’s length from the Jedi Order. He was different. And, yes, his passion made his morality far more, let’s say, flexible than a typical Jedi. Yoda, Mace, and the rest of the Jedi Council never made determined attempts to help raise him into the Jedi he could have been, choosing instead to try and squeeze him into the only mold they allowed themselves to understand—even as their world, their principles and mores, were crashing down around them during the Clone Wars.
Anakin was a Gray Jedi; the problem was that no one around him was interested in understanding what that meant. He was light and had the capacity for great heroics; but through his great passion—his love and his rage—he also had the capacity for darkness. Whatever Luke has discovered that has led him to believe the Jedi need to end, I’d bet that it’s an extension of the problems with the Order that Anakin exposed before his transformation into Darth Vader. And I’d bet that Anakin’s rise and fall will be reflected in the deeper understanding that Luke’s acquired.
And through this understanding, at last, Luke will bring balance to Force—by showing all of Star Wars nation just how critical the prequels truly are.
(And I’m kidding in that final line—so don’t trash me too hard in the comments!)
Michael Moreci is a comics writer and novelist best known for his sci-fi trilogy Roche Limit. His debut novel, Black Star Renegades, is set to be released in January 2018. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelMoreci.