Yeah, I know, I’m writing about Star Wars, which is probably the most played out topic for geek discussion since Kevin Smith started beating it to death with a shovel in 1994. That said, the much-maligned prequels did bring up a few new avenues of discussion given certain aspects left intentionally ambiguous (as opposed to all the stuff left ambiguous due to shaky storytelling). One of these was the idea of the Chosen One, prophesied to bring balance to the Force, and generally considered to be Anakin Skywalker. The generally accepted rationale behind this is that in the start, there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of Jedi, while there are only ever two Sith, and that Anakin’s treachery reduced the number of Jedi to two, thus balancing out the Light and Dark Sides of the Force. However, I think this is a faulty reading, and honestly, if accepted as fact, a rather weak prophecy as well as a problematic understanding of the concept of balance. Hence, I will explain why Luke Skywalker fits the prophecy of balancing the Force far better than his father.
The fact that the Force needs balancing implies that it is out of balance, and given a critical look, I would have to say I agree. Ignoring the idea of balance equating to numbers of agents, which seems a rather insignificant model on which to judge the Force itself, we must look inward. The Jedi, masters of using the power of this cosmic energy field for good, are forced to forgo most emotion and all worldly attachment, leaving behind their families and not being allowed to love. If they waver, or tread too close to any sort of powerful emotional state, they shortly thereafter fall to the Dark Side, which on paper is about embracing passion, but in reality turns people into monstrously evil sociopaths or psychopaths. I imagine the idea here is that being swept up in the life force of the universe itself is highly risky, and as such, one must be extremely careful and judicious in its use, but at the same time, why is it impossible to use such power without falling to extremes? A lack of balance is the logical explanation.
The truth is, this lack of balance is what drives Anakin to the Dark Side in the first place. He is a troubled young man, to be sure, especially after his mother’s death, but if the Jedi had not been so adamantly against personal attachment, he would never have lost his mother in the first place, and he would never have had to hide his fears about Padme’s death and turn to Palpatine. And of course Palpatine, the only alternative to the Jedi, is as evil as they come. Hence, rather than being the one who brings balance, one could hold up Anakin as the poster child for the Force’s imbalance, which led to the near-annihilation of the Jedi and the draping of the entire galaxy under the brutal tyranny of a Sith Lord for nearly thirty years.
Luke, on the other hand, does not have nearly as much Jedi dogma weighing him down from the start. He is briefly trained by Obi-Wan, one of the most kind-hearted and tolerant of the Jedi, and the one who saw the folly of how his order failed Anakin and drove him to the Dark Side. Still, given Obi-Wan’s death, this training is brief, and he spends much more time cultivating friendships with Leia, Han, Chewie, and the droids. Hence, Luke is filled with attachments to the material world. When he goes to train with Yoda, he is therefore not fully suited to it and rebels, which comes to a head when he is forced to decide between saving his friends from Vader and finishing his training. Given the Jedi philosophy, it makes sense that they suggest he sacrifice his friends for the sake of the galaxy, and a normal Jedi would likely have done so. Luke, however, chooses to walk into Vader’s trap, choosing compassion over caution. It is true that Vader defeats him and he is too late to save Han, but thanks to Luke and R2, the rest of his comrades are able to escape with their lives.
So did Luke do the right thing? Should he have stayed and let his friends die? In the short term it’s easy to see why that might be the more appealing path, but Luke’s choice bears out in the long term. Had Luke left his friends to die, much would have transpired differently. Without Han, Chewie, and Leia, the shield generator on Endor might not have fallen. Without C3P0, the Ewoks would not have joined the fight, and without Lando, the second Death Star might not have been destroyed. All of this means the Rebellion would have been crushed at Endor. Also, in the end, it isn’t Luke who defeats the Emperor, but Vader. Had Luke stuck to the Jedi path, he would likely have coolly killed his father and never been so much as tempted by the Dark Side, this is true. But then the Emperor, who fought Yoda himself to a standstill, would have killed him. No, Luke had to walk his own path, one which balanced serenity with passion. He had to taste the Dark Side, and he had to risk falling under the Emperor’s power to show his father that it was possible to turn back. In the end, this was the right choice, and it not only led to the Emperor’s death, but allowed Vader to find some small measure of redemption for his crimes, at the very least assuring a better galaxy than the one he helped the Emperor build. It was that balanced approach of Luke’s which made this possible.
And so, by the end of the trilogy, the four surviving Force-wielders, Jedi and Sith, are dead, with only Luke Skywalker remaining. It seems inevitable that Luke would rebuild the Jedi Order, but the Jedi of the past, while of noble intent, were hidebound and dogmatic, and as vulnerable to the imbalance of the Force as anyone. For all Anakin’s power, for all Yoda’s wisdom, for all the Emperor’s scheming, none of them had ever managed to touch both sides of the Force and come away themselves. It was Luke, and only Luke, who managed this, to balance them, and create a better order, one where the mistakes of the past were unlikely to be repeated.
I’ll admit I know little of the Expanded Universe, but based on the films themselves, it seems as though, as much as anything, they are the story of how the Force became balanced. Although it was Anakin who was believed to be the Chosen One, he was either a failure or a red herring, and Luke had to learn from his father’s mistakes, break the cycle, and put the Force right.