M: “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” But Luke is also like his father in many other ways…
K: …and boy does it freak Obi-Wan out.
M: Poor dear never stops stressing. Even after death.
K: He and Yoda both spend a large part of ESB and RotJ just panicking that they are going to lose Luke to the Dark Side the same way they lost Anakin. Which is understandable considering the parallels between the two Skywalkers.
M: Let’s start with the basics. Both Anakin and Luke grew up on Tatooine–which obviously messes a person up, all that sand–and both enter Jedi-hood late in life, after some serious trauma.
K: The Jedi Council thought Babykin was too old, imagine Mace’s face if he got a look at 22-year-old Luke asking to be trained as a Jedi.
M: And he’s certainly not the Jedi Council’s idea of an ideal student. He’s whiny and stubborn and has some sort of revenge/heroism dream when it comes to fighting the Empire. He is so incredibly normal, I can’t stress that enough. Just a stereotypical 19-year-old kid who isn’t quite sure what he wants to do with his life… he just knows he wants it to be *different.*
K: And off of Tatooine.
M: His initial Jedi crash-course is frighteningly similar to Anakin’s. He’s helping some random Jedi Master get off Tatooine and then said Jedi dies before he really gets to train.
K: Ooh good parallel. It’s not quite as bad as Anakin with Qui-Gon, because Luke wasn’t promised a Master and training at the Jedi Temple only to have it seemingly taken away, but the loss of Ben is a big turning point in Luke’s life.
M: Given that his aunt and uncle have just died, he transfers his need for guidance onto Old Ben.
K: And then he’s just left adrift with this vague knowledge of the Force, a lightsaber that apparently belonged to his father, and a disembodied voice that occasionally appears in his head (and for all he knows, that might just be him going crazy).
M: Luke is incredibly unprepared for being “The New Hope.” He’s got all sorts of attachments, and has a huge amount of power with very little idea of how to control it or even what it is exactly. The whole situation is so similar to Anakin’s that it’s no wonder Yoda immediately tries to say he is too “like his father” for training.
K: Despite that, I think it’s important to note that Luke has made a lot of progress by the time ESB starts. He’s a commander in the Rebel Alliance, leading a fighter squadron. He’s more mature, and he’s clearly been trying to practice with his lightsaber and the Force. He just needs some guidance. Which Yoda is wildly reluctant to give him.
K: Hahaha. Compared to the way he taught Jedi during the days of the Republic, Yoda takes a very different approach with Luke. Very little combat training, that we see anyway. Lots of open talk about the dangers of the Dark Side and practicing with the Force and meditation. He’s trying to learn from his (and Obi-Wan’s) mistakes.
M: Of which there were plenty. Luke’s training with Yoda is basically “Difficult, being a Jedi is, deal with it you must.” Yoda immediately teaches Luke not to give in to fear or despair, and does not give him violence as an outlet– no practice lightsaber duels or special missions. Luke’s outlet is… Yoda Backpack Obstacle Course.
K: “I can be a backpack while you run.” He even replaces “hate” with “aggression” on the list of emotions for Jedi to avoid. He does not want a repeat of Anakin. But let’s back up for a second and talk about that scene in Yoda’s hut when Obi-Wan intervenes to get Yoda to train Luke.
M: Oh yes, go ahead.
K: Up to now, Luke’s whole experience with Yoda has been a test of Luke’s patience, literally. Then Yoda asks him “Why wish you become Jedi?” and Luke says “Mostly because of my father, I guess.” Which, ow, my heart. But right after that, Yoda says he can’t teach him because he has no patience. And then the clincher, “Much anger in him, hmm. Like his father.” But what I love is Obi-Wan’s response: “Was I any different when you taught me?” I mean, we’ve all seen Obi-Padawan–he’s got some repressed anger for sure.
M: “Why do I sense that we’ve picked up another pathetic lifeform?” Obi-Padawan is no paragon of humility or acceptance. But back to Luke– Yoda straight up trolls Luke. He makes Luke eat his weird soup while chirping “patience” like 5 times, and then as soon as Luke gets frustrated Yoda gets hella serious… but this time, it’s Obi-Wan who comes to the young Skywalker’s defense. Which I love. Because Obi-Padawan was NOT on board with training Anakin… but this time, given Obi-Wan’s hard-earned wisdom, I think he knows that Luke’s natural emotions don’t mean he’s going to go slaughter younglings as soon as he’s unsupervised. It just means he needs some good-old-fashioned Jedi Master guidance in controlling his emotions.
K: But, the fact remains, Luke’s training begins like his father’s–with a lot of doubt about whether he can pull this Jedi thing off. (Also with a claim about not being afraid, which Yoda sees through both times.)
M: Luke is so focused on the future, which Yoda is quick to point out to Obi-Wan. “All his life as he looked away to the future, to the horizon, never his mind on where he was. What he was doing. Hm. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things.” Meanwhile, Luke just wants to get going on this Jedi training so he can save his friends and fight the Empire.
K: And get going he does, in the ESB scene that probably most closely parallels Luke and Anakin. Luke has a vision of his friends in danger–and his immediate reaction is to run to the rescue.
M: Ugh, this scene kills me. I’m just sitting here like a Force ghost: “No, Luke, no!” (Though of course we know this ends much better than Anakin going to his mother.)
K: (Or trying to save Padme.) Before we really get into Yoda and Obi-Wan’s freak out about this situation, I have to make a quick aside about Vader. Embarrassingly, it took me the LONGEST time to figure out why he tortures Han on Cloud City. Because, as Han himself says, “they never even asked me any questions.” But getting information was never Vader’s goal–he wants Luke. And as the son of Anakin Skywalker, it is more than likely that Luke has an affinity for terribly upsetting Force premonitions. Vader just needs to create the scenario of danger and pain that will bring Luke to him.
M: And Vader also knows from experience that loved ones– and wanting power to save them– will likely be a terrible temptation to the Dark Side.
K: It’s so smart and so creepy. I love it. But the Jedi do not. Because they are worried, justifiably, that Luke is going to make all of Anakin’s mistakes if he attempts to save Han and Leia.
M: Cue the freak out. Yoda takes a “go big or go home” approach to his warning: “If you leave now, help them you could… but you will destroy all for which they have fought.” Harsh.
K: But it could be true. And it’s a risk Yoda is not willing to take with someone as important as Luke.
M: I love how for once Obi-Wan just comes straight out and explains why they’re worried: “This is a dangerous time… You’ll be tempted by the Dark Side… I don’t want to lose you to the Emperor the same way I lost Vader.” (cue tears)
K: Gah, we don’t want you to lose Luke the way you lost Anakin either, Obi-Wan!
M: But back to the action–this is the Star Wars, and limb loss is imminent. A mistake on Vader’s part. One I’m sure he regrets later bahahaha.
K: Yeah, nothing gets a person on your side like cutting off their hand. Immediately after this obviously painful moment, when he’s been utterly beaten, Luke faces the same offer that Anakin gets from Palpatine: “Join me.” He’s offered a chance to overthrow the Emperor and have unimaginable power at Vader’s side.
M: But darling Luke rejects the Dark Side, despite that tempting power.
K: And parallels his other parent by refusing to join Vader in evil.
M: So, Luke refuses the offer for power, but after losing his hand and having a traumatic encounter with a parent… has some angst. Similar to Anakin’s situation at the end of AotC.
K: It’s not an exact parallel of course–Obi-Wan is the one Dooku offers a partnership to in AotC, and Anakin’s mother is dead not a supervillain, but the trauma and the clothing choices these separate experiences lead to are undoubtedly similar.
M: And that brings us to the beginning of RotJ when Luke arrives at Jabba’s palace. Which, admittedly, is my *favorite* Luke entrance EVER. Boy knows drama, like his father before him.
K: And fashion, like his mother before him.
M: 10 points to Hufflepuff for Jedi threads.
K: That scene where Luke comes to Jabba’s palace sets the mood for the rest of Luke’s journey in RotJ. Yes he’s our hero, but he’s a little…ambiguous.
M: He’s wearing all black, very Vader, hood up in a way that would make my suburban mother call him a drug dealer, and he freaking Force-chokes some Gamorreans.
K: It’s understandable if the audience is a little worried about Luke going forward. He’s in more danger from the Dark Side than he’s ever been before this point. Which is important from a plot standpoint–if we didn’t believe there was a chance Luke could fall, we wouldn’t be so afraid of him facing the Emperor.
M: I also want to point out that RotJ was originally titled Revenge of the Jedi. Obviously, George eventually changed his mind about that, but I think that title makes it even more clear that this isn’t the same innocent Luke who wanted to go to the Tosche station and pick up some power converters.
K: In the novelization of RotJ, there’s a ton of commentary throughout the Tatooine section about Luke struggling not to *enjoy* killing all of Jabba’s minions and blowing up the sailbarge. He knows that’s the wrong way to approach it, but he can’t deny that revenge is sweet. He’s rescuing his friend and getting rid of an awful criminal, which are good things, but he’s still feeling that pull to the Dark Side.
M: I can understand Luke’s struggle not to enjoy it, because I sure enjoy watching it. The skiff scene is the best. But he does keep his promise and go back to Yoda. And I love Yoda’s subsequent warning: Luke is in danger of suffering the same fate as his father.
K: Yoda’s right–Luke very nearly does suffer the same fate (presumably minus the horrific injuries though).
M: Backing up though, I want to briefly mention Obi-Wan’s conversation with Luke prior to the Endor sequence.
K: Oh yes, please. Especially because Luke’s angry at him–very Anakin.
M: And Obi-Wan responds in his typical roundabout way as well. But also, Obi-Wan (probably unintentionally) piles on Luke the same pressures Anakin faced. Obi-Wan tells Luke that he is their only hope, that he has an important destiny, and that if he doesn’t face that destiny then the Emperor wins.
K: Yes, Luke is facing a lot of pressure in that scene with Obi-Wan, and he’s feeling more alone than ever after watching Yoda die. Like, jeez, poor kid.
M: And so he goes to face his father.
K: His first tactic? Trying to talk Vader out of being evil. Gotta love Luke. He really is determined not to turn to the Dark Side. And he does a good job initially, even when they get to the throne room and the Emperor is there egging him on.
M: But, like Anakin does and Yoda warns against, he underestimates the Emperor, as his focus is on Vader. (Luckily, Vader finally doesn’t underestimate the Emperor.)
K: The fact that Luke tries SO HARD to do the right thing over and over (“I will not fight you, father”), and that he finally does tap into the Dark Side out of desperation to save someone he loves–can we say “Anakin in RotS”?
M: Again, like Anakin it looks like his fear is what will weaken him.
K: But instead, his compassion for his father coupled with his realization (thanks, robot hand) that he’s in real danger of becoming the very thing he hates saves him.
M: Meanwhile, Vader watches the Emperor hurt Luke, in a way that reminds me of the scene where Mace Windu confronts Palpatine…the very night that Anakin turned to the Dark Side himself. And just like on that night, he has a decision to make.
K: Only this time Anakin gets it right! He stops the Emperor! And I get super emotional about it!
M: And Luke does what Anakin wanted to do all along– save a loved one from a terrible fate.
K: Well, and Anakin gets to save a loved one too. Win-win.
M: And the Force ghosts can finally stop worrying. Until Kylo shows up… *grumble*
K: But that’s a topic for a whole different post.