Today's post, the first guest post on the C&C blog, is brought to you by Steve Wetherell.
Spoilers ahead, ye who have yet to watch The Force Awakens. Well, by now you’ve either seen it or you don’t like star wars and have no soul, so I guess I won’t be ruining anything for you.
Rey has the potential to be the true bad guy in the new Star Wars franchise.
It occurred to me as I was counting the parallels between The Force Awakens and A New Hope (yes, they’re very similar, but then again, that circle they keep on going on about is complete, so it’s narratively excusable,) that Rey’s journey and Luke’s journey are not really all that similar. Take a look at their character arcs:
In A New Hope, Luke’s brave and a great pilot, sure, but that’s about it. For the duration of the movie he’s got Obi, Han and Leah telling him what to do, and the culmination of his limited training is trusting in the Force rather than a targeting computer that is synched with (possibly inaccurate) Death Star plans. It works out for him, but he certainly doesn’t “beat” Vader. In Empire, we’re shown his potential, but also his fear and impatience as he abandons his training to try and rescue his friends. This doesn’t work out for him at all, and he gets the shit royally kicked out of him. Then, with a bit of bad ass instilled in him by a good old fashioned daddy-whooping, he masters his Jedi abilities in time for Return of said Jedi. It still doesn’t quite work out for him, though, as every plan he comes up with seems to go tits up.
He only saves Vader’s soul and defeats the Emperor by the grace of his mercy, earnestness and loyalty— traits he had before Obi Wan came along.
Rey, on the other hand, isn’t just a great pilot— she knows more about the Millennium Falcon than Han Mother Fucking Solo just by replacing a few of its parts. Nobody gets to tell Rey what to do at any point (that’s made quite clear in her early interactions with the well-meaning Finn). Her destiny is presented on a plate for her by Solo himself, and her birthright pretty much gift wrapped by Maz Kanata. They more or less say— “Here, you be the badass.”
True to form, though, Rey rejects it until she can accept it on her own terms. And accept it she does, mastering Jedi techniques it took Luke three movies to learn in a matter of minutes. By the end of her first movie, she’s far more naturally capable than anyone we’ve seen since….
That’s right, Rey’s not the new Luke, she’s the new Anakin. There are a lot of similarities— she’s more or less a slave on a Tatooine like planet. She’s taken on board by characters who well and truly know what they’re doing and instantly place complete faith in her. And while she certainly doesn’t have Kid Anakin’s “Duh, did I do that?” approach to saving the day, she falls into victory with little or no guidance. While Rey was very cool, I never felt her to be the underdog— that was very much Finn’s department. And narratively, we love an underdog. So what is Rey’s next challenge?
Defeating Kylo Ren again? The beats of story telling suggest not.
A clue may lie in what Luke’s been up to since RotJ. It’s said that the First Order only arose when Luke went AWOL, so we can assume that he brought balance to the Force, if only for a while. Or maybe not, maybe he just scored a win for the light side, allowing the Alliance to legitimise, and the resistance to become a separate and not-quite-necessary-at-the-time entity. If this is true, then Kylo could have been the one to bring balance, using the tried and tested method of murdering the shit out of a Jedi school, heralding a resurgence of the dark side just like his grandpappy done did.
Luke, seeing a pattern, legs it.
So, the balance between light and dark is probably going to be achieved between Kylo and Rey, but Rey’s already the top dog in this fight. More likely her own true enemy is going to be herself. For all her badass, she shares Luke’s weaknesses of fear and impatience, and Anakin’s weaknesses of stubbornness and deep rooted loneliness. Rey’s self-sabotage makes for a more interesting story than simply becoming the even besterer Jedi.
And Luke knows this. You can see it in his face. In their first confrontation, Rey looks like she’s meeting Lemmy, and Luke looks like someone took a shit on his pancakes. He knows he’s not the guy to be training anyone— he never even finished his own training, and his last class got murdered by someone who apparently got better advice elsewhere.
Thing is, though, this might just be the thing that does bring balance to the Force, eventually. Obi Wan’s self confidence and the complacency of the Jedi order sewed the seeds of galactic destruction in the prequels. Luke, in his achieving victory through failing the expectations of his trainers, by giving in to the trappings of love, opens the possibility that he perhaps harbours a more conducive philosophy for maintaining a balance between light and dark. His training of Rey might just be the thing that saves her.
…After she rejects it to follow her own agenda, which she surely will. Then it’s up to Finn to remind her what love is. But that’ll only happen if Poe hasn’t put the moves on him yet, which is inevitable. Is it inevitable that Finn will succumb to said moves? Yes. Have you seen Poe? Finn doesn’t stand a chance. Anyway, I’ve gone off on a homoerotic tangent. Bye!
Afterthought; It also seems likely that Kylo's reluctant journey to the light side will be entangled with Rey's dalliances in darkness. At least, I hope so. Though, again, I will happily take a sequel wherein he spends all his time in his room listening to The Cure.