“Legacy of the Force” and Making a Sith

So last time I suggested that if “Legacy of the Force” had had a structure more like “New Jedi Order” it would not only have allowed them to develop the side stories more and made them seem more interesting and less intrusive, but would have given them room to better develop Jacen Solo’s fall to the dark side, which I argue they desperately needed.  This might seem odd since my assessment of the series has always been that it was an attempt to do the prequel trilogy right and that it mostly succeeded at that.  However, that doesn’t mean that the fall doesn’t seem rushed at times, and that it could have benefited from having more room to make it work.

The biggest problem that I noticed on this re-read is Jacen Solo’s intellectual acceptance of the Sith philosophy and committing himself to it.  It’s in something like the second book that he accepts that, with rather minimal prodding from Lumiya about its benefits and nature.  The first problem with this is that Jacen is the wrong Solo sibling to be so quickly convinced.  He had always been very questioning and had multiple character arcs where he was examining all things in — sometimes obsessive — detail, and surely he would have done the same to Lumiya’s words about the Sith.  This is only compounded by the second problem, which is that Jacen would have certainly wanted to question it in detail given how everything he had been taught as a Jedi and from his uncle went against what Lumiya was saying about the Sith.  While it still would have been a stretch, Anakin or Jaina might have been influenced by their feelings (assuming they trusted her at all, which none of them had any reason to trust) and not examined the intellectual details of the code that carefully, but Jacen surely would have and wouldn’t have bought the rather shaky arguments that quickly.

What really makes this problematic, though, is that we could indeed seen Jacen going along with it and could even seen him rationalizing himself into it by providing the better arguments (or at least by filling them in for Lumiya) if he was properly motivated, but at the time he has to accept the arguments those motivations aren’t yet present.  Jacen really, really needed to be leaning Sith already so that Lumiya could be doing nothing more than providing confirmation of what he already believed or, at most, identifying the conclusions that he had already been driving towards as being Sith ones.  So, intellectually, he needed to have rejected or had good reasons to reject the Jedi teachings so that he could be seduced with an argument of “If you don’t have the Jedi, doesn’t that mean that all you have left is the Sith?”.

This also aligns with how quickly the tensions between the Corellia-led Confederation and Coruscant-centred GA develop.  The same thing pretty much applies:  even though there was some Force-manipulation involved, things go south in a big hurry despite the connections that many of the heroes have to both sides (which is important because those are famous and influential people with diplomatic training or access to it that could calm things down).  More importantly for Jacen’s development, things develop so quickly on their own that he never really needs to take drastic measures or be pushed into them by changing conditions.  Which not only makes his escalating them later a bit unconvincing, but it also doesn’t give us a progression where Jacen is pushed towards the dark side because those options were working where the other ones failed, giving him reasons to reject Luke’s vision and a reason to think that Lumiya isn’t just lying to him about the Sith.  It also would have given more time to develop that conflict which would have made it more interesting.

I really think they should have taken advantage of Tenel Ka and Allana, who are the main emotional reasons he turns Sith, to give him a reason to adopt Sith tactics and the Sith mindset before Lumiya ever approaches him.  With the conflict escalating, Jacen could have already been straddling the line and wondering if the Jedi taking a more passive approach was the right one to take.  Then there could have been a threat to Tenel Ka’s leadership in Hapes, due to her support of the GA (which was already in the series).  But the threat wouldn’t have been directly physical, but would have been political, and while the Jedi might have wanted to help her out the Chief of State at the time Cal Omas could have prevailed upon them to stay out of it because it would look like the GA was directly interfering and that would cause even more tensions and more planets to split with the GA.  Jacen wouldn’t be able to tolerate that threat to his lover and his daughter and would take it upon himself to interfere.  Ideally, it would also involve him breaking the rules as a reaction to the other side breaking the rules, while Luke would point out that breaking the rules isn’t the way to go (at least because getting caught would be worse, see the DS9 episode “In the Pale Moonlight” for that idea).  But following the rules would clearly not be working while breaking the rules would clearly work, and the seed would be planted for the three most important ideas in Jacen’s fall:

1) The GA political situation is getting in the way of doing what’s right, whereas a strong individual wouldn’t have those issues (setting up for him wanting political power).

2) The Jedi approach doesn’t work either, because they were willing to stay out of it for political reasons instead of ensuring that the right thing is done.

3) Breaking the rules is sometimes the right way to do things.

So Jacen feels the need to be in political control, feels that the Jedi approach is flawed, and accepts that breaking the rules might be the only way to do the right thing.  He’s pretty close, then, to the Sith approach that Lumiya spins for him.

And one of the worst rushes of Jacen Solo was his adopting of the Vader approach to minion management by Force-choking Tebut to death on the bridge.  I do like it as an example of his really becoming Vader, but the way it was done was lacking.  First, he moves from praising her for her ability to killing her and screaming that she’s a traitor in the span of a few pages of one book.  It seems way too quick.  Second, he does it in a fairly deranged manner, lashing out at her because his daughter has been taken because … she followed procedure and allowed a shuttle to dock that had all the proper codes.  While his emotional connection to his daughter makes that marginally justifiable, it comes across as totally deranged at the same time as they should be building him up as a cold and ruthless Sith (and were trying to do that, at least in his own mind).  So what they really needed, in my opinion, was not that sort of lashing out, but instead the cold “You have failed me for the last time!” approach, where he really does do it only because he sees it as a colossal failure and wants to motivate everyone else to ensure that they don’t fail him again.  Even better, her apologizing for the failure instead of defending herself and him doing that with the standard “Apology accepted (but it won’t spare you)” line would have really worked to cement in our minds the idea that he was indeed really a Sith in the vein of Vader.  As it is, he is portrayed as someone who is losing it while things that are coming up require him to be more in control.

I still do like the series, and next time I’ll talk a bit more about why I like these two series before I dive into re-reading the one megaseries that I actively dislike.

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