Another May the 4th has come and gone. During this year’s “Star Wars Day”, fans were treated to the end of the beloved series The Clone Wars. Again. For the third time. Yes, for those unaware, the show had three series finales, as two additional seasons were released following the Disney buyout of Star Wars and the cancelation of Clone Wars. But now, we as a fandom were treated to “The Siege of Mandalore,” and as somber and tragic as this ending was, the gaps between Clone Wars and Rebels were finally filled.
With another chapter of the Star Wars saga closed, it seems fitting to talk about the idea of endings in the stories we love, the power endings have, and where I would argue endings have lost some of their magic in our current age of sequel and reboot storytelling.… suddenly, this victory felt less and less like the true victory Yoda had hoped for.
More so, I want to explore why the idea of a true and final ending is something I believe humans seek and hope for. Personally, I believe God has designed us to place our hope in a final victory against the forces of evil, and that makes us desire conclusive endings to the stories we love.
Hope in a Victory for All Time
The date is March 7th, 2014. What was thought to have been the last episode of Clone Wars, aired a full year ago. In a new, final episode, and what for a time was the new final scene of the series, Yoda shares these words to masters Kenobi and Windu, reflecting on what he learned on his most recent journey:
No longer certain, that one ever does win a war, I am… Yet, open to us a path remains. That unknown to the Sith is. Through this path, victory we may yet find. Not victory in the Clone Wars, but victory for all time.
As an ending, there’s a strong promise of hope, and one that fans of Star Wars could latch onto. Yes, we knew the Clone Wars itself would ultimately end in tragedy. But we also knew it wasn’t the end of the story.
With the knowledge of how to preserve their consciousness after death, and that there will be another Skywalker, Yoda sees this new path that the Sith, who desperately cling to life, never could. When Obi-Wan eventually becomes one with the force, his guiding voice helps Luke destroy the Death Star, giving the Empire one of their first crushing defeats. In Return of the Jedi, Luke finally reaches through to his father, Anakin Skywalker, proudly telling the Emperor, “You failed your highness.” Though Anakin dies, what once ended in tragedy, now ends in triumph, as he dies as himself and vanquishes the Sith once and for all. A victory for all time.
The episode quoted above, “Sacrifice,” is one of, if not the last, episodes made under the guidance of George Lucas himself. As such, we get an interesting time capsule of how this Star Wars story was constructed. At this point, the connected stories of Star Wars were all leading to the grand finale that was Return of the Jedi. The ending George Lucas himself left us with.
But not long after Yoda’s words were written and recorded, Disney would come to own the franchise and put Episode 7 right into production. And suddenly, this victory felt less and less like the true victory Yoda had hoped for.
When the Story Doesn’t End
In The Force Awakens, the First Order, led by a pair of Sith-like figures, use Starkiller Base to wipe out a system of planets. In The Last Jedi, we see a rebellion crumbling to near extinction, and in The Rise of Skywalker, we find out that Darth Sidious was not quite dead. Over the course of three movies, much of where Return of the Jedi left fans was seemingly undone.
In fairness, The Rise of Skywalker does end in what we could consider a “victory for all time” scenario, as with before, the emperor is defeated (again), Kylo Ren is redeemed, and the First Order defeated. But at what point does another Star Wars film unravel that?
Why I believe this deserves mention is that Star Wars demonstrates a larger issue in our modern day story telling being built around franchises. The modern myths being created in this day and age now rarely see a true, final victory. Rather, we see a villain defeated, but the evil in question isn’t fully remedied. In the case of Star Wars, the dark side doesn’t go away, hence after some time passes we have new dark side users trying to control the galaxy. It becomes a never ending battle of good and evil. And, of course, this is not limited to Star Wars.He was playing the long game, creating a path to “a victory for all time.”
In the Avengers: Endgame, we see Thanos defeated once and for all, but fans know plenty of more movies are still on the way, and plenty of supervillains small and big (looking at you Galactus), have yet to take center stage. In anime, we saw warring nations brought to unity and peace in the final arc of Naruto, only for a new batch of villains to take center stage in the sequel Boruto. And after the defeat of Ansem, we’re still not done with the story of Kingdom Hearts.
Now, the obvious driving force behind this cycle is money. To keep making money, the story keeps going so the money keeps flowing. And I would say while that’s true, I’m not sure it’s the only factor.
Perhaps we as a culture have found it difficult to view something like evil as something that can be defeated once and for all. After all, the 20th century alone has been filled with wars, dictators, terrorists to name a few. The idea that it could all just go away may feel impossible. And that’s why we have story universes, like the one presented in Star Wars, where light never conquers the dark, the best we can hope for is “balance.”
But what if I told you a “victory for all time” isn’t a far fetched idea at all, and may even be baked to who we are as people? Where we are looking for a victory for all time, because such a victory has been promised and foretold by the God who made us.
And Death Shall be No More
The book of Revelation can feel intimidating to new readers. Heck, it can feel scary, as it deals with the apocalypse. As a culture, many of us are taught to worry about the end of the world.
But much like Star Wars, while it does tell of bad things to come, it also tells of how evil won’t prevail. Jesus’ death on the cross was the Death Star being blown up. All of a sudden, Satan, who like the Emperor believed this world to be his, lost his grip on it. And soon, like the Emperor, he too will be vanquished. Except in the bible’s case, he won’t come back.
Revelation 20 tells of Jesus taking the devil and throwing him into fire and sulfur for all time, where he will be trapped forever. And then in Chapter 21, we’re shown a picture of what a restored world looks like as God comes to renew our broken world.We can believe in a true, final ending. And as such, the promise of a true victory …
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4).
As it stands, as pillar of the Disney media empire, Yoda’s words may never truly come to pass in the world of Star Wars. If the movies can still make billions, expect to see an Episode 10 somewhere down the road. And, that may be true for many other stories that have become franchises, or show worlds where evil as a force can never be conquered.
But we can take comfort knowing that this is not the story God wrote. We can believe in a true, final ending. And as such, the promise of a true victory, either from Yoda’s mouth, God’s mouth, or any sage type character in the stories we love, is something that gives us a sense of hope that evil, no matter how strong, can be vanquished. And we can place our hope in the idea that it can be evil as the force itself, not just a string of Sith Lords to be taken out one after the other with no real end to them.
When he came down to earth to do battle with the sin of the world, he didn’t come to defeat one devil, only for another to take its place. He was playing the long game, creating a path to “a victory for all time.”
Perhaps this means there is room for stories to be told that don’t stop with just the Sith Lord being vanquished, but the darkness itself vanquished as well. Because maybe that kind of story is written into our very being.