Is it safe to come out now and try to have a conversation about The Last Jedi? Maybe? Okay, let’s talk about Force sensitivity in canon and legends, good and bad, and how it hasn’t really changed all that much. If The Last Jedi ruined your childhood, this may not be something you’re interested in reading. But the Definite Article stands to ready to dissect, dismantle, and hopefully understand.
Much to the dismay of comment sections across the world, the new Star Wars sequel films introduced new characters and ideas. Like the prequels before them, the sequel trilogy has moved to a different time period. Rather than introduce clone armies, senate hearings, and killer battle droids, the sequels have shown how a galaxy crippled by its own inactive government can be taken over by a few zealots with innumerable weapons and blind followers. And to top it off, the sequels are changing the rules of the Force.
Except they really aren’t. We all know that the story group, as well as film directors, are pulling ideas here and there from the Legends universe, i.e. books published before Disney bought Star Wars and decided to make all new entries in the Star Wars saga canon unless otherwise stated. The sequel films have introduced Force powers such as mind-reading, the bridging of minds through the Force, projecting oneself across the stars through the Force, and stopping blaster bolts in midair. Similar feats and dozens of stranger ones were also explored throughout Legends, but now they’ve come to the big screen.
Rey from nowhere, considered to be an instrument of the Force itself (or something of a prodigy) is at the center of the argument regarding the ‘new’ ways the Force works. YouTube videos, comment sections, and scathing articles seem to agree that there’s no way Rey should be so strong in the Force as quickly as she’s shown to be throughout Force Awakens and Last Jedi. She can mind trick stormtroopers, pull Luke’s lightsaber intro her grasp, and hold her own against Kylo Ren in battle. Not only that, she’s able to fend off the Praetorian guards under Supreme Leader Snoke with the help of Kylo Ren mere days later.
So how does that make sense?
We know it through her dialog, first of all. She’s felt the Force as a presence that’s always been there, but she’s never known how to control it. When she’s trying these amazing feats, she doesn’t know they’re going to work – but she believes in the Force and herself, and that makes them work to a degree. It also helps that the first person she tries to mind trick is a First Order stormtrooper, someone who is so brainwashed already that an implanted thought doesn’t feel all that wrong or foreign to them. We’ve also learned that the Force’s will sometimes trumps individual freewill, granting powers to strong-willed individuals that can shift the galaxy into – or out of – the states of peace and chaos, the elusive balancing of the light and dark sides.
Speaking of the dark side, we also have new villains that aren’t Sith and are instead a master and apprentice unbound to tradition. Kylo openly tries to tempt Rey to the dark side, and also has his own cadre of most-likely dark side warriors, the Knights of Ren. This follows traditional lore, that there are not only the Sith but also things like the Nightsisters and other acolytes such as Inquisitors, beings tethered to the dark side who follow a different path than that of the Rule of Two. With the Supreme Leader now dead as of Last Jedi, we don’t know what path Kylo Ren will follow – can he be redeemed, or will his downward spiral continue?
That’s speculation for another day – what I really want to talk about is that the rules haven’t changed, at least not all that much. The Force is still special and we still have a lot to learn about it. The fact that Rey picks it up quickly or that the kid with the broom before the credits can Force-pull said broom into his hand aren’t galaxy-shattering, childhood-ruining changes to the Force – they’re just how the Force works. It’s always been mystical and weird, and Legends proves that. So let’s take a look at the past so we can better understand our present and maybe even the future.
Weird Example of Force-Sensitivity #1: Zuckuss
Zuckuss is an insectoid bounty hunter. And he has some degree of Force-sensitivity. While not capable of certain feats such as moving things with his mind, he was able to read the intentions of others and learn their location through ritual meditation. With fellow bounty hunter 4-LOM at his side, Zuckuss was able to hunt successfully for decades, partly in thanks to his unique connection to the Force.
The Verdict: If you’ve got it, flaunt it. When the Force gives you powers, why not use them to your advantage? Like Rey, Zuckuss knows how to read intentions in people, and it helps her see and understand the conflict in Kylo Ren throughout The Last Jedi.
Weird Example of Force-Sensitivity #2: Nova Stihl
Nova Stihl is a Death Star trooper who was stationed aboard the first Death Star. While unnamed in the film, his backstory is explored in one of my favorite Legends novels, Death Star by Michael Reaves. I won’t spoil a great deal as Death Star is a great read, but Nova Stihl is confirmed to be Force-sensitive after a blood test reveals his high midi-chlorian count. Nova, like Zuckuss earlier, can’t levitate things with his mind or push people around with the Force, but it does give him an edge in hand-to-hand combat, allowing him to read his opponents’ moves and intentions before they can gain any advantage over him. He also felt the great outcry of suffering as Alderaan was destroyed by the Death Star, resulting in massive casualties also felt through the Force by Obi-Wan Kenobi. After this display of mass destruction, Nova turns his back on the Empire.
The Verdict: The Force works in mysterious ways, giving villains and heroes alike strange powers. What you do with these powers and how you interpret what you learn – that’s what makes actions good or evil. Even Imperials can grow a heart and learn the true nature of the Empire.
Weird Example of Force-Sensitivity #3: BoShek
BoShek is the most important character in Star Wars. In A New Hope, he’s the guy who points Obi-Wan Kenobi in the direction of Han Solo and Chewbacca. Without BoShek there to point out who to arrange transit with, how many more worlds could have been destroyed by the Death Star? How many more systems would be enslaved? And would Luke have ever met his father, the infamous Darth Vader?
BoShek is also an example of Force-sensitivity that went largely untrained. Like any task, tapping into the Force is difficult without training or a natural gift such as that of Anakin Skywalker or Rey. Though he never accepted the teachings of a master, Jedi or Sith, he frequently meditated in hopes to grow his connection to the Force into greater power. Although the connection seemed strained and more difficult to deal with the more he trained, BoShek could eventually glimpse into the minds of others.
The Verdict: BoShek is the most important character in Star Wars. Though the Force was not always with him in great strength, he believed in his connection through and through, and wanted to see results of his strenuous meditation. Not unlike Temiri Blagg aka broom boy, BoShek believes in something and wants to see it through. Whether that means great heroics or just a better life for those around him remains to be seen in the case of Blagg, but BoShek is proof that just about anyone has been able to tap into the Force if they believe and work at it enough.
Weird Example of Force-Sensitivity #4: The Reborn and Kyle Katarn
Twisted and artificially-infused with the power of the Force, the Reborn are a sect of dark side warriors who fought for the Imperial Remnant after the destruction of the second Death Star. Spearheading the mission to destroy these warriors was Kyle Katarn, a reluctant Jedi who had cut himself off from the Force for years, fearing its power and how it would shape his destiny. Both the Reborn warriors and Kyle Katarn are proof that the Force works in ways we sometimes cannot understand, at least at first, and that the Force can be manipulated to do terrible things.
Reborn warriors were imbued with Force powers and able to battle the New Republic with lightsabers and a variety of dark side techniques such as Force choking, fits of dark rage, and draining life from their enemies. They were loyal to their masters Tavion, Desann, and Lord Hethrir as well as the Imperial Remnant. Their warped talents in the Force allowed them to hold their own against Katarn, as well as many students from the restored Jedi Academy. Though ultimately defeated, they presented a challenge like no other – an enemy willing to fight and die for the sake of the dark side that seemingly had no choice in the matter.
Meanwhile, Kyle Katarn reluctantly accepted his role as a Jedi after years of purging his connection to the Force. He was right to be afraid, as his natural gifts pulled him back and forth between the light and dark sides. Katarn could access powers of healing as well as destruction, and it took him years to find the right path for himself somewhere in the middle. Yet finding oneself in the midst of galaxy-spanning war isn’t easy, and his journey lead him to battle the Reborn, divisions of the Imperial Remnant, and see his students struggle with the same imbalance.
The Verdict: Kylo Ren and Kyle Katarn aren’t too different if you look at their struggles to find identity within the Force. Neither asked to be burdened with such power and responsibility, yet they make tough choices they believe are best, for the sake of light or darkness. The Reborn also had no choice, having unnatural powers that warped their minds into becoming dark side soldiers. Kyle Katarn also sets a precedent for a Force-user quitting cold space turkey and leaving the Force behind. Maybe Luke Skywalker got the idea from his old friend Kyle.
Weird Example of Force-Sensitivity #5: R5-D4
R5-D4 appeared in A New Hope, and as we all know, he blew his top due to a bad motivator – this mishap lead to Luke Skywalker’s uncle Owen purchasing R2-D2 instead. This set in motion R2’s continued journey to find Obi-Wan Kenobi somewhere on Tatooine and saved him from being scrapped for parts by jawas.
And then there’s Skippy the Jedi droid. While never considered canon, this comedic tale takes a different spin on just what caused the fatal motivator malfunction. Somehow, R5-D4 aka Skippy was attuned to the Force, and had visions of the future involving Darth Vader, invading stormtroopers, and the death of Luke Skywalker. Saving the galaxy from certain despair at the hands of the Empire, Skippy caused a small explosion within himself, leading Luke to believe the droid wasn’t worth purchase. With R2-D2 in tow, Luke Skywalker was set to find his own destiny with a pair of faithful droids.
The Verdict: Look, the Force did way weirder stuff in Legends. Do I really need to explain this one? The main character is a girl with Force powers turned up a notch from the normal Padawan-level stage. Deal with it, we could’ve gotten Skippy: The Movie if this franchise wasn’t in the right hands.
The Final Verdict:
The mysteries of the Force have always been vast and strange, sometime stranger than others. In a galaxy full of more wonders than we can count, it isn’t time to nitpick ‘the rules’ to death; they haven’t changed all that much. If anything, the sequel trilogy is actually legitimizing many ideas from the legends galaxy. So can we finally stop nitpicking the new films to death, or at least this aspect of them? The Force is staying right where its always been, and that’s all around us, binding the galaxy together and doing weird space magic that somehow makes sense.
Thanks for reading! And keep on trooping.
-Supreme Leader David