The final events of The Day of Reckoning genuinely took me by surprise. The 8th book in the Jedi Apprentice series took a dark turn, and it will be interesting to see what ramifications the final standoff on Telos will have for Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
I’m referring, of course, to the death of Xanatos.
I am also very suspicious of his death. This is the fault of the many comic books I read as a kid. I have trust issues surrounding the death of a villain. In comic books the villain rarely ever stayed dead, so although I’d like to believe our heroes are out of the woods, I hardly think this is the end of Qui-Gon’s former apprentice. With that being said though, I’d like Xanatos to be dead – not because I disliked him as a villain (quite the opposite) but because I want to believe Watson has the gumption to kill her villain off and provide other obstacles and challenges for our intrepid knights.
I think that from a writer’s perspective the death of their villain is difficult to handle. Fans have a peculiar relationship to their villains. We love the villain, yet we want the hero to win and kill him, but when they are dead, we’re like ‘what the hell?!? That guy was cool, why did you (the author) kill him?!?’ Star Wars is full of examples like this. Boba Fett, Darth Maul, and General Grievous are three examples of what I mean.
Take Boba Fett for example: he “died” in the Sarlacc pit, but was later written back into the Star Wars mythos by Tom Vietch in the Dark Empire comics released in 1991. Tom Bissel, a journalist and critic, says that Fett is a character who is “too big” for his original presentation and lends himself for continued development in other stories. Boba Fett is a character who can’t, and perhaps shouldn’t, stay dead.
I think the same could be argued for Darth Maul. His death on Naboo seemed quite clear, yet he’s arrived in the Star Wars mythos again through the CGI TV show The Clone Wars. Though the details of his return are still very unclear, it seems that Lucas (or perhaps some other invested party) is interested in bringing him back to influence the continuation of Galactic history. It’s understandable that good villains are hard to let go.
General Grievous is an interesting example as well. He’s not reappeared in Star Wars history after the events of ROTS, but it may only be a matter of time before someone decides he’s too good to keep dead.
I understand why author’s keep bringing their villains back – it’s the sentiment behind Bissel’s words – these characters are too big for their original presentation. Authors want to continue to explore these characters. They’re interesting, 3-dimentional, and complicated. I myself am in the process of mapping out my own Star Wars narrative and I’ve spent more time figuring out the villain than I have the hero. In my opinion my villain is much cooler than the hero I’ve developed, yet at the end of the day the hero will have to dispatch the villain for order to be restored, but I’m loathe to let him go.
I know much ink has been spilled on the nature of the villain in literature, and I’m not adding anything new to the discussion here, but it will be interesting to see where Xanatos ends up from this point on. Does he stay dead, or was his death a ruse to have Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan believe he was dead. Such a scenario is fitting with his character.
Besides the magnitude of Xanatos’ death, the other aspect I enjoyed in this book was the way Watson presented evil. “Evil” is always confounded by the motivations of “good”, and can never come to an understanding of good’s altruistic purposes. In the final duel between the Jedi, Xanatos says to Obi-Wan: “’The noble Jedi try to pretend they only come for justice when actually they come for blood. Remember Obi-Wan? You took off after a thirteen-year-old boy and then he turned up dead. Do you remember the look in Bruck’s eyes when you killed him? Are you trying to tell yourself that you’re sorry your rival is dead? Admit the feeling in your heart. Admit your gladness! Admit your thirst for revenge.’” (124). I think in this scene there is more than Dun Moch going on here, I think that “evil” really can’t believe “good” is not feeling the emotions it would in a similar circumstance. I think Xanatos really does believe what he’s saying here, and does not believe for one second that perhaps Obi-Wan did not have these feelings. “Evil” really doesn’t believe good exists because it fails to understand that “it” is not the only motivations in a beings heart. Evil, like a psychopathic killer, is unable to understand that not everyone in the world is feeling the same emotions as it. Such is the nature of the good-evil dichotomy: each fail to understand the other.
For my next post I’m going to complete the last third of Legacy of the Jedi. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.