Before I can analyze the ending of this game, I need to step back to the point when Cal exited his vision of the Sith conquering his Jedi school. The holocron then appeared and Trilla entered the sceneIf you don’t remember, I covered this back in Part 19 and 20..
This is a very vulnerable moment. He’s finally fulfilled his quest, but his enemy is here to snatch it away from him.
Even if Cal is 99% sure that he can beat TrillaNot that he has any REASON for such confidence at this point in the story, but let’s humor him., that 1% chance of failure is so bad that he can’t possibly afford to risk it. Having an entire generation of Force users rounded up when they’re young, brainwashed through ghastly and ruthless techniques, and then unleashed on the galaxy as a legion of dangerously powerful agents of evil and oppression is an outcome so dire that nothing is worth the risk. Maybe we have a dozen active Sith nowOkay, actually we have “as many as we need to keep the Expanded Universe properties going”, but I think it’s an unspoken rule among SW writers that you should at least pretend the numbers are low to avoid flagrantly contradicting the movies., but what happens if there are hundreds of them? What happens when we effectively have a government of super-powered beings ruling over a helpless galaxy? What happens when their ruthless ideals permeate the galactic culture?
(I mean, aside from the fact that it might make for some really cool “What If?” style spinoff stories.)
Whenever you Gamble my Friend, Eventually You Lose
To the people within the story, that outcome is basically apocalyptic. If anything, I think the game actually downplays how serious this risk is. It would take generations to dislodge such a strong and deeply entrenched power structure.
The moment Trilla walks in, the only responsible move for Cal is to obliterate the holocron.
The same holds true when he recovers it in the Sith fortress. Yes, he’s just defeated Trilla, but he’s in the heart of the Sith base and a million things could go wrong between here and the exit. And When Vader shows up, destroying the holocron should take precedence over every other concern, including saving his own life. Destroy it by any means necessary. Eat the fucking thing if you have to.
Of course, he doesn’t do this, and it’s understandable why: It would make for a stupid and boring story.
Cal has just escaped the strange Force vision that foretold the Sith capturing all of the young future Jedi. Shaking his head, he steps forward into the light to see the long-sought holocron hovering in the air in front of him.
He reaches out to take it, when he hears a lightsaber IGNITE. He turns to see Trilla, helmet off, glaring at him from the shadows.
Had a bad feeling I’d see you here.
(Mocking tone.) Oh? How uncharacteristically prescient of you.
Cal pulls out his lightsaber, bisects the holocron, and puts it away again before the pieces strike the floor and scatter in all directions.
The two Jedi stare at each other awkwardly for a few seconds, trying to figure out if they still have any reason to bother fighting.
Trilla lowers her lightsaber. She goes to say something, stops, then shrugs. She figures she should probably murder this Jedi, but her heart really isn’t in it anymore.
That’s what common sense says should have happened, but it makes for a lousyActually I find it sort of awkwardly amusing. Maybe the movie can end here with the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme and “Directed by Larry David”. Star Wars story.
This is something that drama-first stories can get away with much more easily than details first. When a story mostly runs on emotions and we don’t know how the magic or the technology works, then we can give lots of leeway to the characters as long as their decisions make sense to us on an emotional level. The audience doesn’t want to see the holocron destroyed, even though that’s basically the only reasonable thing to do. We want to see the good guys achieve their goal, and we can overlook the unreasonable levels of risk as long as the writer doesn’t make us think about it too hard. This is particularly true if you’re using the “Love and Hope conquer all” angle from the original trilogy.
And now we come to the ending…
The Responsible Thing
Here is the final time the game surprised me. Cal considers the holocron, the names it contains, and the ordeal they’ve all just been through. He realizes that gathering up a bunch of kids would make this new order an easy target for the ever-present Empire. Beyond that, he doesn’t have the right to pull these kids into this dangerous world. This is something that the kids should choose for themselves.
He destroys the holocron, entrusting the kids and the future of the Jedi order to the will of the Force.
I love this. This is perfect. This is exactly what I’m looking for in my Jedi stories.
I really did expect this game to end the same way Borderlands 2 ended: We open up the magical gizmo and are treated to a fantastical starmap being projected all around us. Little points of light are scattered among the stars, indicating our future adventures. The game designer is telling us, “More adventures await! Endless sequels! Look at all of this cool stuff we’re going to do!” But instead the writer closes that door. No, we’re not going to round up these kids. At least, not all at once, and not guided by this map.
I realize this was probably annoying to a lot of players. We just spent the entire game trying to get this thing. We went through all of this hardship and death to obtain our goal, and now we’re going to throw it all away? Does that mean it was all for nothing?
I would say that it wasn’t “all for nothing”. We didn’t go on this journey to learn the secrets of the map, we went on this journey to learn why the map should be destroyed. This adventure wasn’t to rebuild the Jedi order, but for the wisdom to learn how to rebuild that order. And that process should not start with this map.
The Old Ways
Using the map is what the Jedi of the prequel trilogy would do. When confronted with a military threat, they would employ military thinking. “Let’s round up kids and balloon our ranks to become a stronger army!” This is the clumsy, violent, ineffectual, arrogant thinking that not only destroyed the Jedi order, but made it deserving of destructionEr. I’m not suggesting that all the Jedi really deserved to die, and the younglings CERTAINLY didn’t deserve what they got. But the order itself DID deserve to be dissolved or experience some sort of drastic reform..
Cal is showing the sort of mystical thinking that I’ve always wanted to see from the Jedi. He’s not thinking about how many guys we have versus how many guys they have. He’s not thinking of the order as a military force to defeat the enemy. He doesn’t have a plan to beat the Empire, and that’s okay. I faulted Commander Shepard for not having a coherent plan in Mass Effect 3, but the Jedi are a quasi-religious order and it’s not clear that their primary purpose should be the enforcement of law and order. Perhaps their proper purpose is simply to study the Force and defend that fragile knowledge from abuse or corruption.
Yoda’s dialog in Empire Strikes Back always hinted at a wiser, gentler Jedi order that we never got to see in the movies. A Jedi order filled not with warriorsWars not make one great!, but scholars and teachers. One that shied away from politics and positions of power.
The True Jedi
In Return of the Jedi, Luke’s decision to spare his father and then throw away his lightsaber was the first time I saw a Jedi actually do something that squared with the ideas that Yoda professed. It was a bad move in a tactical senseAre you sure Palpatine isn’t going to take a swing at you? He might call the guards, you know. Are you sure your dad isn’t going to jump up and fight you left-handed? He’s apparently killed a lot of Jedi in his day and this is clearly not the first time the old geezer lost that hand., but it was the correct move as a follower of the Force: Idealistic, trusting, and fearless. To me, this made the Jedi feel more like an actual religion and not just a set of fighting techniques. You could argue that Luke wasn’t just a return of the Jedi as they’d existed 20 years prior, but perhaps Luke was the first true Jedi in centuries.
Even Yoda himself was a little too bellicose in his thinking. Despite his disdain for war, his plea to Luke at the end of Empire Strikes Back boiled down to “No, let your friends be tortured to death so you can train hard enough to defeat Vader and the Emperor in martial combat! You must be willing to sacrifice them in order to win!” That’s a reasonable way of thinking for the trillions of muggles trying to run the galaxy and win wars, but maybe that’s not the sort of calculus that should guide an order of incredibly powerful scholars that wield a power they don’t fully understand. Maybe following the Light Side of the Force means more than just avoiding the Dark Side.
Yoda was the wisest of the Old Jedi, but the prequels made it clear that “wisest among Jedi” was an incredibly low bar.
I’ve been wanting to see a return of that idealism and trust that Luke showed at the end of Return of the Jedi. Cal’s decision to destroy the holocron is the first hint of that sort of idealism that Luke showed when he threw away his lightsaber.
But What About Cordova?
This reading of the material comes with the unfortunate implication that maybe Cordova knew what he was doing. If you gave the holocron to any of the other dimwits in the prequels, they would have announced, “Good news everyone! I have a list of fresh recruits. Let’s round up these kids so we have the numbers to win this war!” Cordova didn’t do that. But perhaps he also sensed that he didn’t have the right to destroy it. That decision should be left to the Jedi who were to face the coming darkness. Cordova didn’t know what the new Jedi would do with the holocron, but he trusted in them. He trusted in the Force.
If this is true, then the scavenger hunt wasn’t a game to amuse an old man who wanted to share his love of archaeology with the younger demo. It was an ordeal to make sure that they had the wisdom to make this decision for themselves by observing the fall of the Zeffo. If Cordova left the holocron in his workshop on Bogano, then the Jedi would have used it the moment they found it. The adventure gave them the wisdom and perspective to understand the magnitude of the decision they were about to make. It would give them the chance to repent from the militaristic thinking of the prequel Jedi.
He didn’t know what they would choose, but he trusted in the Force rather than trying to control everything himself.
(Although the quest for a series of TikTok videos to obtain an object to open a door to see a vision is still a needlessly convoluted scenario.)
The adventure wasn’t all for nothing, because our heroes weren’t fighting to gain the holocron, they were fighting to gain the wisdom to destroy it. I spent most of this game arguing with the author about how the Light Side and Dark Side work. We have irreconcilable differences about the vague hokey space majicks that run this universe. But they won me over with this ending, and I’m here for whatever they do next.
We’re not quite done with this game. Next time I’m going to look at… uh. It’s hard to explain. You’ll see.
 If you don’t remember, I covered this back in Part 19 and 20.
 Not that he has any REASON for such confidence at this point in the story, but let’s humor him.
 Okay, actually we have “as many as we need to keep the Expanded Universe properties going”, but I think it’s an unspoken rule among SW writers that you should at least pretend the numbers are low to avoid flagrantly contradicting the movies.
 Actually I find it sort of awkwardly amusing. Maybe the movie can end here with the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme and “Directed by Larry David”.
 Er. I’m not suggesting that all the Jedi really deserved to die, and the younglings CERTAINLY didn’t deserve what they got. But the order itself DID deserve to be dissolved or experience some sort of drastic reform.
 Wars not make one great!
 Are you sure Palpatine isn’t going to take a swing at you? He might call the guards, you know. Are you sure your dad isn’t going to jump up and fight you left-handed? He’s apparently killed a lot of Jedi in his day and this is clearly not the first time the old geezer lost that hand.
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