43 Years Later, Star Wars Canon Rebooted a Brilliant Idea — Then Dropped It Again
Who needs a lightsaber when you have the power of the mind?
In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda unequivocally told Luke that the young Jedi didn’t need his weapons when entering a spooky Force cave. Notably, Yoda lumped Luke’s blaster and lightsaber into the same category: weapons unnecessary to those with a certain mastery of the Force. Yoda then demonstrated to Luke just how powerful he was by effortlessly lifting Luke’s X-wing out of the Dagobah swamp, to which Luke said, “I don’t believe it.” Now, 43 years later, what’s unbelievable is that Star Wars would ever let us have a Jedi who doesn’t wield weapons of any kind.
1980 and 2023 represent two instances where Star Wars floated the idea of a Jedi exclusively using the Force for self-defense, unaided by lightsabers or any other weapons. By the end of Ahsoka, this resurrected idea was abruptly dropped, but future Star Wars projects should bring it back. Here’s why.
For a moment, it seemed like Ahsoka was bringing back Yoda’s Empire style. In the series’ penultimate episode, “Dreams and Madness,” Ezra shrugs when Sabine tries to give him his old lightsaber back, saying, “No, the Force is my ally.” This was an understated moment, but in context, it was thrilling. With armed baddies closing in, Ezra became an all-out space wizard. A lightsaber is cool, but if you’re strong enough with the Force, you don’t necessarily need one.
This moment reminded us that the Force is bigger than the visual nomenclature of Star Wars canon. Ezra isn’t dressed in old-school Jedi robes, he isn’t worried about reclaiming his old lightsaber, and he’s strong enough in the Force to hold his ground. However, Ahsoka dropped this idea in the following episode, which undercut the scene’s power.
While largely forgotten now, Yoda fighting with a lightsaber in Attack of the Clones was controversial. Prior to the 2002 prequel, the idea that Yoda even needed a lightsaber felt superfluous. What he hinted at to Luke in Empire was that at a certain point, master Jedi can put aside even their “elegant” weapons. That made Yoda’s message somewhat contradictory. Yoda’s duel with Cout Dooku looks neat, but it also involved a fair amount of Force powers. The Sith shoot lightning, while Jedi push objects and people around. Why not lean into that?
In the Ahsoka finale, Ezra quickly gets a new lightsaber for... reasons. His rush to build a new blade is in such direct contrast with his earlier attitude that it feels like everyone involved just thought it wouldn’t look cool enough for him to fight in the final battle without one. It’s the same reason the wise Yoda suddenly started kicking butt in the prequels. Surely there was a way to write the scenes without lightsabers, but the allure of a flashy battle was just too strong.
Giving Ezra a lightsaber in the Ahsoka finale wasn’t a huge mistake, but it did seem like a missed opportunity. In The Last Jedi, the older and wiser Luke Skywalker never picked up an actual lightsaber, only creating an ersatz one in a Force projection to goad Kylo Ren. He didn’t fight back, either, but only avoided Kylo’s blows, another approach we rarely see in Star Wars. When Ahsoka presented the idea that Ezra might not use lightsabers anymore, it briefly showed us a different, more aspirational idea of the Force. Then it threw that thoughtful, peaceful idea aside so Ezra could slice and dice a few dozen stormtroopers.
Ancient weapons are neat, especially when they look and sound like lightsabers. But if the Force is really as powerful as we’re meant to think it is, it would be nice to see a Jedi put one of their sabers down for longer than 40 minutes. Hopefully a future series will finally follow through on one of Star Wars’ most tantalizing and underexplored ideas.