Warning: The Last Jedi Spoilers ahead.
I had a very different reaction to Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi than many of my friends. While they saw him as heroic and charming… I thought he was… kind of an epic jerk.
(Putting it lightly, but what I originally typed devolved into swearing, snorting, and spittle flying, so…)
Now, I should point out here that I don’t think this was out of character for Luke. I am not one of those people that saw the film and flipped a table because HOW COULD THEY? Instead, I can see exactly how he got here.
It makes perfect sense for his character, given the path Star Wars has taken. The evolution of this epic space opera from A New Hope, through The Empire Strikes Back, hitting Return of the Jedi, venturing to The Force Awakens, and finally taking a trip back in time to Rogue One. (And it even makes sense when thinking about the Prequels. Which I try to avoid doing…)
The Luke in The Last Jedi is who Luke could have, and indeed should have, become.
I still hated him, though. Still thought that when he was antagonizing Kylo Ren at the climax of the film that he was an utter piece of shit. He goads him into fighting. And I recognize that this was because he was attempting to allow the others to escape. Now. At the time, though, I couldn’t. The rage I felt was so strong I could’ve set the theater ablaze with it.
When Luke died, I honestly thought “good. This is literally the least you could do for fucking up the galaxy and killing Ben Solo. THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT.”
(There was a lot of yelling on my part while I processed The Last Jedi.)
It’s important to differentiate here between Ben Solo and Kylo Ren so we can break down my issue with Luke Skywalker. Ben Solo was the young boy sent off to train with his (theoretically) beloved uncle because he was so powerful in the force. This power both made him appealing to Snoke and easier to manipulate. When you don’t have to work as hard for something, it’s so much easier to take it for granted.
The Jedi-in-training Ben Solo continues to become the Sith Lord under the influence of Snoke as he works with The First Order to undue everything Luke had done. And even though he’s been living as Kylo for a number of years, Ben doesn’t fully become Kylo Ren (and cease to be Ben Solo) until he refuses Rey in The Last Jedi.
That was his last chance at redemption. To easily reach out and take her hand. And then start the much less easy task of redemption for his part in The First Order and the death of the Hosnian System, countless innocents, and … you know … his dad.
(Which would’ve turned Star Wars into the redemption tale of a fuckboy dudebro, that I quite frankly don’t have the time or energy for. I’m almost glad he took that path.)
Still… the fractured lightsaber now stands as a symbol of redemption denied. Refused and rejected. An end to the metamorphosis that began when Luke, his (theoretically) beloved uncle, drew his lightsaber on Ben.
And I can feel it now. I can feel the people saying “BUT HE STOPPED HIMSELF. HE FELT BAD!” And I know he did. I honestly do. But the thing is… I just don’t give a fuck.
Because a father figure in my life threatened to kill me when I was a child. He stood there in front of me and told me he was going to beat me to death the with fighting stick he kept in the corner of the room. The one I had to see for years and years lying casually against the wall. He screamed himself hoarse until his rage finally abated and then, much later, he felt bad.
But by that point, I was already ruined. The innocent girl I was was dead. I was now scared and scarred. I couldn’t handle yelling. I shook. I cried. I was physically afraid of men. To this day, if I feel this person is upset I get almost sick with worry. I’m shaking and crying just writing this.
But he felt bad.
I can’t even talk to him about it. Not only because the thought of doing so it makes me feel sick to my stomach. The one time I gathered up the courage to try, he informed me he wouldn’t talk about it because it was “the worst night of his life.”
Because it was such a fucking high point for me…
So I’ve never gotten my apology. I’ve never been able to work it out. I just had someone I loved and trusted, who I thought loved and trusted me, threaten to kill me. Someone who misunderstood a situation and instead of asking for clarification or thinking it through acted rashly.
I drew in on myself when it happened. Curling into a fetal position as I instinctively made myself as small as possible while protecting vital organs. I didn’t fight back. I couldn’t fight back. It wasn’t in my nature and I had not been trained to.
But if I had…? If I’d been trained not only to fight but to wield the force in defense of myself and of others? If I’d had that power at my fingertips?
I would’ve pulled the roof down on his mother fucking head. I would’ve turned away from everyone. Including the mother who left me in his care. I would’ve lashed out and raged and made sure everyone in the galaxy felt the pain that I did.
Because I was a child. I was a child and I’d just been betrayed in one of the most horrific ways possible.
Just like Ben was.
So while I can (and do) judge Kylo for the choices he made. For running straight into Snoke’s arms and allowing himself to be twisted into the monster he now is. I cannot say for certain is if I would’ve done anything differently.
That is why, while I mourn Luke Skywalker the man, I also mourn Luke Skywalker the ideal, the innocence of Ben Solo, and the Jedi he could have become.
Thanks for sticking with my as I worked through my “middle-aged male role model betrayed me by making a shitty split-second decision.” Please take a moment to mourn Admiral Ackbar, also lost to us in The Last Jedi.
May the force be with you.