While The Rise of Skywalker may not be the most heavily debated Star Wars film to ever stir up discourse on the internet, it prompted a plethora of questions and concerns when one of its main characters, Ben Solo, failed to survive to the end of the story.
Regardless of fans’ varying reactions to the outcome, Ben’s death left many fans feeling dissatisfied. Star Wars and overall pop culture have an unflattering history of only depicting the ultimate sacrifice through a deadly frame. If a character doesn’t die at the end, are they really a true hero?
Stories set in the Star Wars universe seem to be taking a fresh, much more satisfying approach to how major sacrifices are shown. This week alone, both The Bad Batch and Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars had the perfect opportunity to choose death as the proper sacrifice for their main heroes. Neither took the bait — and that’s a good thing.
In this week’s episode of The Bad Batch, Crosshair ends the episode as broken and worn down as he’s ever been. After shooting an Imperial officer in the chest out of desperation and frustration at the treatment of him and his brothers, he collapses — and it seemed, for a moment, the show might actually let that be his final breath.
This wasn’t the case, though. And his actions now have even greater consequences than his death ever would have. Now he’s trapped and under the complete control of the Empire, and getting out is now harder than it was before.
His effort to stand up for clone rights is going to have a huge ripple effect down the road. If he had died, the Empire would have just covered it up, and his sacrifice would have meant nothing. This is a much more powerful story — some of the best we’ve seen in Star Wars animation in a long time.
Sam Maggs took a similar approach with Merrin in Battle Scars. The fierce Nightsister risked her life to save the galaxy and protect her friends, and that could have been the end of it — and she wasn’t even the only character who danced with death but survived the story.
Ending Merrin’s story would have had the same effect Ben Solo’s death had on many fans of the franchise. It would have felt perhaps unnecessary or unfair.
Instead, Merrin’s sacrifice was made all the more meaningful thanks to her survival. She gets to live on. She gets to use that experience as a strength as her story continues moving forward.
Not all Star Wars characters get the luxury of surviving as heroes. Ben Solo, Asajj Ventress, and many others never got the second chances they deserved.
Perhaps this is a sign storytelling is evolving — and for Star Wars, that’s a pretty big deal.
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