A Common Star Wars Mistake Works More Each Time Its Used
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There was a lot to love about the Ahsoka series on Disney+, especially the finale. Ahsoka Tano, Sabine Wren and Ezra Bridger went on a classic Star Wars romp to defeat Thrawn and the Nightsisters. The match ended in a draw, but arguably it should've ended in a clear defeat for the Jedi heroes. In many cases enemies seem to hold back from using lethal force allowing the heroes to win or, at least, survive. Critics of Star Wars call this a mistake, but each time storytellers use that gag it starts to make more sense.
History has proven the cure for "bad" Star Wars is simply more Star Wars. In the 1980s, some fans felt the Ewoks and the happy ending In Return of the Jedi was a cop-out. Yet, by the time the prequels hit theaters, it became part of George Lucas's "Holy Trilogy." When the reception to the prequels wasn't universal acclaim, Lucas doubled down with The Clone Wars. While the kids were always on board, that series helped recontextualize and enrich the prequel films for older, more skeptical fans. Still, if one goes looking for flaws in Star Wars stories, they will find them. Of all the great Star Wars fan debates, one is so old, Princess Leia was the first one to make the argument. When the heroes survive impossible odds, it can be difficult to not dismiss it as "plot armor." However, with repetition and a little bit of the Force, the logic of it all becomes easier to accept.
Ahsoka, Sabine, and Ezra Could've Been Killed in the Finale
The assault on the Nightsisters' tower to get to the Chimera and Thrawn was an impressive action sequence, especially for a television series. Yet, Morgan Elsbeth and her Night Troopers chose a strategy that seemed more cinematic than strategic. Before Sabine arrived to help Ahsoka, the troopers could've easily taken her out while she was fighting Elsbeth one-on-one.
However, these poor battlefield decisions are not unique to Ahsoka. In A New Hope, the Empire could've killed Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca and Princess Leia at any time. They deliberately held back so they would lead the Death Star to the hidden Rebel base on Yavin IV. Instead of assaulting the advancing Jedi as a unit, Elsbeth lets Sabine and Ezra pass, trusting the Night Troopers to do the job.
In fairness, they put up a good fight, but this allowed Ezra to smuggle himself aboard the Chimera. Perhaps taking inspiration from Darth Vader, Thrawn knew his aims would be better served by not prioritizing his enemies' destruction. He merely needed to stall them. Thus, whether by order or instinct, the antagonists' choices served delaying the fight rather than simply ending it.
Instead of 'Plot Armor,' Star Wars Heroes Survive Because of the Force
It's not unreasonable for viewers to expect villains to behave in logical ways. However, complaining that the Night Troopers didn't shoot Ahsoka while she battled Morgan runs the risk of being angry at a story for being a story. If Star Wars did this sparingly, the Plot Armor critics might have a point. Yet, the cure for bad Star Wars is always more Star Wars. In returning to this well, it's not just the "poetry" that George Lucas famously talked about in which the stories "rhyme" with each other. It suggests the Force is at work to influence events.
In the finale, Ahsoka implies to Sabine they remained on Peridea because the Force still has work for them to do. She sees Morai, who animation fans know acts as a guide, leading Ahsoka to her destiny. In The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker's first lesson to Rey nicely explains how the Force touches the living and the dead. Whether it manifests by arrogance or strategy, the poor decisions that allow the heroes to win or fight another day could be the will of the Force.
Again, it might be fair to call this a cheat, but this element has been present in Star Warsstorytelling since the beginning. Jedi can trick people's minds deliberately using the Force, showing it can influence thoughts and actions. It doesn't control people or their actions on the dark side or the light. The role of individual choice is crucial. The Force may have influenced Vader to toy with Luke on Bespin rather than kill him outright. Yet, Luke could still have made the choice to join his father in evil.
The Empire Greatest Flaw Is Repeating Its Mistakes
In both A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader chooses not to kill Luke Skywalker in service of a grander plan. Similarly, Grand Admiral Thrawn executes a strategy to delay rather than destroy the Dark Lord's former padawan. With the Force as his ally, Ezra Bridger is able to stow away and escape the ship to find Hera and the New Republic. In Star Wars: Rebels, the Imperial-aligned Mandalorians allow Sabine and Gar Saxon to fight one-on-one rather than just annihilating the opposition. Sure, the Force may be at play here, but it's also a lesson about the Empire's intransigence.
The Empire, and other agents of the dark side, give into arrogance despite all the evidence they shouldn't. Rather than take accountability and change their ways, they merely blame individuals for their failure. The Star Wars comics reveal the Emperor tried to have Darth Vader killed multiple times after the destruction of the Death Star. Even though the Dark Lord defeated his opponents, he adopted their failed strategies rather than avoided them in the future. Each enemy in service of the dark side thinks they can't possibly fail like the others.
Rather than Plot Armor or a storytelling crutch, the "trope" where Star Wars enemies hold back against the heroes becomes part of its moral. When the heroes choose not to kill, they are trying to spare a life. When the enemy chooses not to kill, it's for ultimately foolish reasons. Whether through the Force or just naked incompetence, the path of selfishness, violence and domination will inevitably lead to becoming the architect of one's own destruction.
Ahsoka Season 1 is currently streaming on Disney+.