Friday Focus: Qi’ra-Ambitious Survivor

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I happen to be one of those people who loved Solo: A Star Wars Story. I don’t necessarily think it’s crucial for the canon (unlike Rogue One, another movie I loved even more), but it was a fun, entertaining heist movie.

One of the more interesting aspects of the story was Qi’ra, young Han’s love interest. They grew up together on Corellia, as orphans/runaways who worked for Lady Proxima, an alien crime lord. It was a tough life, but they dreamed of something better, of having their own ship and not living under anyone else’s thumb. Despite their crappy life, they had a youthful innocence that allowed them to dream.

The two hatched a scheme to escape, and, long story short, Han got out. Qi’ra didn’t.

The Star Wars Underworld: Deleted Scene From 'Solo: A Star Wars Story' Released

It’s the experiences of these two young people that determines the choices they make later, and how those experiences define them.

Han went into the Imperial forces to become a pilot, but decides it’s not the life for him. Plus, he couldn’t follow orders. Big surprise there. Despite seeing battle and war, it doesn’t ultimately change who he is–the irrepressible scoundrel we’ve all come to know and love. He’s still one of the “good guys”, even though he’s loathe to admit it.

When they meet again years later, Qi’ra recognizes this and knows they can never make a life together. Because she HAS been fundamentally changed by her experiences. We don’t get too many details besides dark hints and references to “the things she’s had to do” to survive.

For one, she’s beholden to baddie Dryden Vos for getting her off Corellia–at least that’s what I’m guessing–and giving her the opportunity to rise in his crime syndicate, Crimson Dawn. In addition to presumably killing indiscriminately at his command, I’m guessing she’s also had to sleep with him, something only hinted at in this Disney movie, but the assumption is there.

All of which leads to a self-loathing that she’s accepted, something that Han doesn’t recognize or accept himself.

13377 Qi'ra: (Pants suit/Red cape) build - Qi’ra: Kessel Run - 501st Legion : Underworld - Detachment Forums

Qi’ra sees that Han has retained some of his original innocence (and perhaps loves him more for it). When he tells her “You don’t know everything,” she replies, sadly but knowingly, “No. Just more than you.” For Qi’ra, there’s no going back to what she once was. There’s only forward, and it doesn’t include Han.

I don’t believe Qi’ra is evil. She’s damaged and she knows it; there’s no point in trying to be anything else. When she kills Dryden Vos, I believe it’s for two reasons: to save Han, out of a love she still feels for him; but also to elevate herself, for she has ambition as well. If this is how it has to be, then she’s going to be in charge. She’s taking back some power.

I do think she’ll get more than she bargained for dealing with Darth Maul. That’s a type of evil she hasn’t reckoned with yet.

Han Solo and Qi'Ra

Qi’ra’s abandonment hurts Han, and it partly shapes the man he becomes in the near future. No commitments, no attachments. Don’t trust anyone, a lesson he thought he’d learned from Beckett–until he meets a certain princess and her friends years later. That’s when we–and he–learns that he really is one of the good guys.

As for Qi’ra, I wish we could find out what became of her. The scene with Darth Maul was a teaser for a second film, but Solo’s disappointing reception (undeserved, in my opinion) may nip that in the bud. Too bad.

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Qi’ra may have written herself off from the good guys, but even though I believe she’s more than capable of fending for herself against crime lords, I don’t think she truly has the heart to play serious with the bad guys–Maul, the Emperor, the Sith, the Dark Side, etc. Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps we’ll never know.

Did you like Solo: A Star Wars Story? What did you think of Qi’ra? Comment below and we’ll talk about it!

Friday Focus: Jyn Erso-Reluctant Hero

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Here’s the latest installment of my Women of Star Wars series.

Jyn Erso from Rogue One is an interesting character to analyze, because she doesn’t initially align herself with either the Empire or the Alliance. Who is she and what does she want?

At the beginning of the film, I assumed that after witnessing the death of her mother at the hands of an Imperial, an Imperial who also took her father away, she’d naturally drift toward the Alliance. But no. When we first see her as an adult, she’s a criminal who is busted out of imprisonment by the Alliance for their own reasons.

My assumption was based on adult thinking; I forgot that as an 8-year old, Jyn might have understood things differently. All she knew was that she lost her parents to the Empire; and she was left in the hands of Saw Gerrera, an extremist formerly linked with the Alliance, who taught her how to survive, surely, but who also “abandoned” her. She trusts no one, and just lives day to day to survive.

I’ve read the Rogue One novelization, and it gets deeper into the character of Jyn. The book presents her as not just distrustful, but deeply damaged by these perceived abandonments; not only that, she spends many years hating her father. I’m going to delve deeper into the novelization in another post, but for now I’ll focus on Jyn as seen in the film.

Welcome Home

We don’t necessarily see that hate for Galen Erso in the film; what we see is a person who has endured many losses, who has had to fight to survive, and who has become bitter with that life. When her father says when she’s a child, “Whatever I do, I do because I love you. Say you understand,” and she replies, “Yes, Papa,” we know that an 8 year old can’t possibly understand what’s happening and why. The loss of her father is painful and bewildering, and she’s angry without understanding why.

When Saw Gerrera leaves her behind because she’s a liability for his group, he left her able to take care of herself. We, the audience, may understand it intellectually, but as a 15-year old, Jyn just sees it as another abandonment. Is it any wonder she has no particular allegiances?

When she agrees to help the Alliance, it’s because she has no choice, really, but we get the feeling that she needs to find her father, if only to get answers. This is a personal quest for Jyn; she’s not there because she hates the Empire, or has any sympathy for the Alliance. She probably hates them both, along with everyone else in the galaxy.

Things start to change for her once she sees her father’s hologram message. She understands a little more about him, what he’s done, and why. It brings up painful, almost paralyzing emotions, and Cassian must pull her away to escape the destruction of Jedha’s Holy City.

Witnessing that destruction, a mere fraction of what the Death Star can do, brings her father’s actions into focus, and she begins to understand the wider implications of such a weapon. It’s not just about her and her anger; it’s about that little girl she saved in Jedha’s plaza, a rescue reduced to nothing because she died anyway, vaporized along with her mother, and everyone else there. She witnesses Chirrut’s and Baze’s loss of their home. The Death Star has become horrifyingly real.

On Eadu, Galen Erso dies in her arms (from Alliance bombs, no less). His last words to her are “It has to be destroyed.” At this point, Jyn becomes determined to do just that–not for the Alliance, but to give her father’s death meaning. It’s still personal. Her father built the damn thing himself so he could secretly put a weakness inside it. This cost him his family, and caused Jyn to live the painful life she’d lived. It has to all mean something. She must finish the job, if she’s to have any kind of personal resolution.

"I'm not used to people sticking around when things go bad."

But it’s also not just personal anymore, either. Her confrontation with Cassian after Eadu moves her closer to this. She’s understandably upset when she learns he meant to kill her father all along. This perceived betrayal cuts deep, considering her trust issues. Cassian argues that he decided–on his own, against orders–not to pull the trigger. It’s not enough for Jyn, and she continues to harass him. He counters with, “You’re not the only one who’s lost everything.” Like her, he’s been suffering since he was a child. But, he says, “Some of us decided to do something about it.” Ouch.

June Wedding

She still grumbles, but it’s here that she’s beginning to come out of her own personal, painful bubble. Her faith in Cassian is restored when he gathers the Rogue One team after the Alliance Council decides against attack. The last third of the film shows Jyn being who she was meant to be: a woman with a purpose. She needs to destroy that Death Star not only to avenge her father and give his death meaning; not only to take back some power for herself after a life of powerlessness; but because it’s the right thing to do.

Jyn’s not looking to be a hero, but her sacrifice makes her one, along with the rest of the team. As she and Cassian watch their death approach, there’s sadness in her, certainly some fear, but no regret. She’s done what she’s meant to do.

How do you feel about Jyn’s character? Did she ring true for you? Comment below and we’ll talk about it!

Friday Focus: Phasma/Zorii-Masked Mysteries

Here’s my latest focus on the Women of Star Wars. I chose these two secondary characters to look at together, since they’re both masked and a bit mysterious.

Captain Phasma

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I realize there’s a Star Wars book on Phasma’s backstory (and a comic as well), and perhaps you’ve read it. I have not. And that’s fine, because I intend this blog to focus mainly on the films, and what we can glean from them. If that limits my analyses of characters or plot points, so be it.

That being said, I did read The Last Jedi novelization, and there was a great little tidbit in there that revealed volumes about this character.

I find Phasma interesting even though she has a very limited role in the films. She principally acts as Finn’s antagonist. She’s cold, efficient, almost like a robot beneath that flashy silver armor. We don’t know much about her, we don’t even see any of her face until the end of TROS–only that one cold blue eye peeking out in rage before she dies.

But in TLJ novelization, Finn recounts that there were rumors in the barracks about her–that the First Order had found her on some backwater, pre-Industrial type planet, and that she’d been some kind of wild, Amazon-like Queen. I find this fascinating. I’m guessing the First Order gave her a choice–join them or die. Phasma is a survivor, and so she chose life. They gave her a place of superiority and a chance to use her formidable skills.

Though she’s not a Queen anymore, she does have some power. As a queen, she would have expected obedience and loyalty, and I think that’s why Finn’s defection rankles her so much, why she takes it so personally. It appalls her.

This little piece of information about her former life changed my opinion about her. It made her a bit more three-dimensional to me, a person with a past. Sure, she’s one of the “bad guys,” but I understand her a little more. And I’d like to think that when she agreed to join the First Order, one of her stipulations was that shiny, bad-ass armor–fitting for a Queen.

Zorii Bliss

Another female character whose face we don’t completely see is Zorii, Poe’s mysterious comrade from the past.

I’m guessing they were lovers, or close to it during Poe’s spice runner era, but something went wrong–he left for the Resistance. This is what set her off and made her not too happy to see him when he arrived on Kimiji. He abandoned her and their independent way of life, for a cause she may have seen as hopeless. Like most in her profession, she probably felt that it’s best to live outside the law no matter who rules, and not join (kind of like DJ in TLJ, but less icky).

After a bit of persuasion from Rey, she does agree to help them find Babu Frik, and even gives Poe her prized Captain’s medallion to help him get past the First Order fleet. Clearly, she still has a soft spot for him. Either that, or she has a spark of resistance in herself as well. This plays out at the end of TROS, when she joins the fight at Exegol. But she still won’t give in to Poe’s flirty suggestions. I kind of like this girl!

Star Wars: Phasma: Journey To Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Phasma book
Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Captain Phasma
Phasma comic

What I find interesting about both Phasma and Zorii is that they are masked. Female characters have always and forever been judged on their looks, but you can’t with these two–their faces are covered, and so we must judge them by their actions and words, not what they look like (although Zorii’s form-fitting outfit clearly marks her as female–there you go, guys!). We only get glimpses of their eyes, the proverbial “windows to the soul”. We see the cold rage of Phasma in that blue eye; and the reluctant compassion in Zorii’s eyes.

These are two women in the Galaxy who choose not to be victims, and do what they can within the crappy situations they find themselves in: Phasma through power and intimidation; Zorii through freedom and choice.

What did you think of these two characters? Comment below and we’ll talk about it!

Friday Focus: Rey-The Search for Identity

Here’s the second installment of my Women of Star Wars series.

Capable Rey

From the moment we meet Rey, scavenging on Jakku, we know that she’s young, strong, and capable. Her harsh environment has taught her how to handle herself and others; she very rarely needs rescuing (something that Finn, annoyingly, fails to understand).

But at the core of her is a mystery, not only to us but to herself. There is a power within her, a strength in the Force that suggests she’s special in some way. Who left her on Jakku as a child and why? Rey’s desperate need to believe they’ll come back for her is a result not only of her terrible loneliness, but of her need to know: who is she?

The old adage “Be careful what you wish for,” comes into play by the third film. But in the second, The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren tells her, “You come from nothing. You’re nothing.” And we start to believe him. Her parents were simply junk traders, selling her off for drink money. Sad, but never mind. It’s all right. She doesn’t have to be anyone “special” to be, well, special. Rey’s experience in the dark well of mirrors on Ach-To seems to confirm this. She only has herself to rely on.

StarWars.com examines how Rey's journey in the mirror cave in Star Wars: The Last Jedi echoes experiences had by both Anakin and Luke Skywalker.
Lonely Rey

But a little part of me refused to believe it. Rey had to get those amazing Force powers from somewhere, right?

When we find out in TROS that Rey is a Palpatine, I was blindsided. Honestly, I didn’t see it coming at all. Rey had always been a vessel of Light to me. I couldn’t see her coming from the most evil man in the Galaxy.

The clues, however, were there for me to see. Rey had raw strength, yes, but she also had anger that she unabashedly drew from . In her battles with Kylo, she often seemed more angry and agitated than he was, though this was probably due to her lack of control. She’d never been properly trained as a Jedi, while Kylo had spent years as Luke’s student. She yells, snarls, and growls a lot in her fight sequences, as if she’s drawing on some monster inside her.

Star Wars (Guerra nas Estrelas BRA ou Guerra das Estrelas PRT) é uma franquia do tipo space opera estadunidense criada pelo cineasta George Lucas que conta com uma série de oito filmes de fantasia científica e dois spin-offs. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, também conhecido como Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, é uma futura space opera épica estadunidense de 2019. #starwars #RiseofSkywalker #Skywalker #darthvader #StarWarsIX #jedis
Determined Rey

On Acht-To, when Luke gave her that first lesson on the Force on the rock ledge, she went deep–deeper than he had expected, deep into both Light and Dark, which frightened him.

“You didn’t even try to stop yourself,” he said to her, eyes wide with fear. Rey had a (unbeknownst at this point) familial link to the Dark Side, almost an attraction that she couldn’t resist.

It’s ironic that Kylo, who was born to the Light, kept insisting that Rey surrender to the Dark Side, while even he hadn’t completely surrendered himself. Not really. He kept feeling the “pull to the Light”. He kept doing things that he thought would cement his commitment to the Dark. But he still felt “split to the bone,” in Snoke’s words.

Rey stubbornly refuses to surrender, even after her meeting with Dark Rey. She knows she comes from the Dark, senses the power she could have if she gave in to it; yet still plods on in the Light, determined to help her Resistance friends, and to face her grandfather, the Emperor.

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker  releases early footage | Daily Mail Online
Dark Rey

In facing the Emperor, Rey not only hopes to defeat him and help the Resistance, but to also defeat the Darkness within herself. Or, perhaps not to defeat, but to accept and control. After all, she and Kylo are “dyads” meant to bring “balance” to the Force. Not all Light or all Dark, but to integrate the two, one needing the other.

The full import of her parents’ sacrifice comes into play here. In giving her up and putting her into hiding (and they being killed in the process), she was protected from the evil influence of her grandfather. She fully gets to choose who she wants to be, whether she follows the Light or the Dark.

This is in contrast to Kylo, who had heard the whisper of the devil in his ear from a very young age, confusing and twisting him.

The gift Rey’s parents gave her is incalculable. In being able to choose her destiny, Rey is prevented from being a victim (as in many respects Kylo can be seen); and, of course, is able to save the Galaxy!

At the end of TROS, when she names herself “Rey Skywalker”, she gives up on the idea of somebody else telling her who she is. She’s choosing her own identity. It doesn’t matter to me whether she called herself Rey Solo, Rey Skywalker, or even Rey Palpatine, if she wanted to. The point is, she chose.

That’s claiming a power almost as strong as the Force.

Rey yellow lightsaber from Rise of Skywalker
Rey Skywalker

How do you feel about Rey’s character? Did you like her story? Comment below and we’ll talk about it!

Friday Focus: Leia-Strength Through Sacrifice

Here is my first post on my current series, Women of Star Wars.

Once a week for a while, I’ll be posting some thoughts on the women of Star Wars, since, well, I’m a woman and it interests me. Leia seems to be the perfect character to start with.

Princess Leia Costume - Star Wars
Tough Princess

In 1977, Leia Organa was seen as a new kind of heroine: the strong Princess who doesn’t need to be saved. Rather than being a damsel in distress, she was a “distressing damsel”, in the words of Carrie Fisher herself.

So true, and yet, technically, she did have to be saved from that first Death Star in a New Hope. She was locked in a cell, scheduled for termination. If the boys hadn’t come along and opened the door, she would have been just another martyr for the Rebellion. But Leia would sacrifice herself in many other ways over the course of the films.

This is no way takes away from her capability, obviously. She risks life and limb for her cause, and absorbs tragic blow after tragic blow with a stoicism I can’t begin to fathom. Her entire home planet, Alderran, gets blown to bits, and we see nary a tear. “There’s no time for our sorrows,” she says when she arrives at Yavin.

In the past, I often thought Leia to be a bit cold. We never, ever see her cry, though she suffers more than her fair share of tragedy. Padme weeps with sorrow, Rey cries in frustration. But Leia? Not one tear, ever. I used to think this was unrealistic, that any woman worth her salt would allow herself to weep for what she loves.

Home planet blown up? No time for sorrow. Man she loves encased in carbonite, may die? Confess love, but chin up. The closest we get to tears in Leia is in Return of the Jedi, when Luke tells her that he is her brother, and Vader is their father. When he leaves her, tears hover, but don’t quite fall. That’s the closest we get to waterworks from Leia.

Tough moment

In the sequels, she’s much older, and has seen ever more tragedy, namely the loss of her son to the Dark Side. I liken this to losing your child to a cult, almost a fate worse than death. I have to imagine that she’s shed a river of tears over this one; we just don’t see it onscreen. Leia is a rock, a pillar of fortitude. Even when she senses Han’s death, she sits heavily, as if she can’t bear this latest burden, but her eyes remain dry. Perhaps there’s no tears left at this point. But in pure Leia fashion, she sets aside her personal sorrows for the cause, and remains the strong General so many in the Resistance rely on.

Leia is the figure of sacrifice in Star Wars. Personal loss after personal loss, she swallows it and carries on. How much more crap can the galaxy fling at her?

But her very last act in life is one of sacrifice, again: she expends all of her remaining life force to reach out to her son in an attempt to bring him back to the Light. Even after she dies, she waits for her son to join her before she disappears into the Force.

We even learn in TROS that Leia gave up her Jedi training after having a prophetic vision that her son would die if she continued it. “Someone else” would pick up her lightsaber and continue what she began (Rey). Again, Leia sacrifices her own wants and needs for her loved ones, and the Greater Good. Cold? Hardly. Her strong emotional armor protects deep wells of love.

Thoughtful moment

It seems to me that, at the time of the original films, the character of Leia was caught between this new idea of a strong heroine (scrappy, capable) and the old stereotypes of how women should be portrayed, especially in the male-dominated action/adventure genre (bikini scene, anyone?) Strong female action heroes, like Sara Connor, Ellen Ripley, and even Furiosa, were several years away, even decades.

In a lot of ways, the character of Leia confounds me. She’s strong, independent, not prone to tears or emotional outbursts; but also incredibly selfless in the sacrifice of her own wants and needs to duty, her sense of right, and her loved ones. The stereotype of women sacrificing themselves for others as a kind of submission is turned on its head: her sacrifices become her strength.

How do you feel about Leia? Do you think her storyline did her character justice? Comment in the space below and we’ll talk about it!