Spoilers for The Last Jedi
The discourse about Star Wars: The Last Jedi has, if nothing else, revealed the toxicity of fandom. It is either man babies crying over the various strong women who dominate the movie or Star Wars mega-nerds saying the movie does not understand Luke Skywalker and everything else in between. While I do believe the hate for this movie is mostly just a very vocal minority, there has been a common complaint about the movie even from those who say they enjoyed it: Canto Bight.
“It’s pointless,” some say. “It doesn’t feel like Star Wars,” others cry out into the void. “It slows the movie down,” more thoughtful people might complain.
I am going to make an argument for it. One that may cause you to not continue reading, but I hope you’ll hear me out. It might just change your mind. Might. I don’t expect it to as I don’t expect you to change mine. Canto Bight along with the rest of Finn’s storyline in The Last Jedi is not only the most pivotal part of the saga for Finn so far but it is the most consequential storyline for the new trilogy.
The Force Awakens introduces us to storm trooper FN-2817 during a raid on a village. This is his first battle and after the First Order quarters the village, he can’t bring himself to pull the trigger on the defenseless. At best, Finn is a character made with high moral fiber; however, it turns out that is not the case. He can’t bring himself to kill and he can’t bring himself to save. He may not pull the trigger but he lets the villagers die. He is a afraid. He doesn’t want to follow orders; he wants to run. He doesn’t want to fight; he wants to hide. He wants to remove himself from the equation.
During his escape, he begins to strip the monotonous identity of a storm trooper and he is given the name of Finn. He belongs to no one now and though he attempts to honor someone who helped him, he only goes halfway. When the opportunity arises, he will leave. It is the one thing at which he is truly skilled.
He has his opportunity when he gets to Maz Kanata’s castle. Except there is one thing he has come to care for, a friendship he hadn’t thought possible. Someone who sees him and sees a hero, sees his potential. (Part of what makes Rey so amazing is her ability to see others as they could be despite her inability to see her own strength). It is not until Rey is captured that Finn decides to face something. However, his actions are driven to help his friend even if it puts others in danger. He lies about his knowledge the shields on Starkiller Base to have a chance to save her. His struggle is not meant for the resistance or a greater good. Finn’s identity is almost entirely tied up in Rey and thus, the loss of her is too great a cost of something he finally gained. If he has learned anything from the beginning of The Force Awakens is that sometimes facing your fears is necessary.
In The Last Jedi, Finn awakes and his first and only concern is Rey’s safety. He could care less that he is on board a Resistance ship or where they are going. Once the First Order is hot on their tail, his first move is to get as far away from the Resistance so Rey can be safe if/when she decides to head back to them. Finn’s identity is still wrapped up entirely in her. This is where Rose comes into play.
Rose just lost her sister and it is evident by the way she first interacts with Finn that they were close. They were so close in fact that Rose does not even hesitate in electrocuting Finn, a hero she looked up to, once she learns he plans on deserting. The two end up going on an audacious, dangerous mission (that inevitably fails and costs the Resistance) and their first stop is the casino city of Canto Bight.
Canto Bight on the surface represents everything of which Finn could have ever dreamed. Glamorous, safe, playful, and as far away from any seeming violence as one could imagine. In a way, the locale is not typical Star Wars because if Finn does not want to be a part of the war, it does need to feel somewhat removed (and personally, I think it does feel just enough like Star Wars). It is the perfect place for a character who wants to hide to rest his weary soul. Rose, ironically, does not see through the same rose tinted glasses. She lifts the veil for Finn and exposes the corrupt nature of such a place, that to ignore the fight usually means you are either gaining from the systematic war (profiting from weapon sales) or being oppressed by it (the slave children of Canto Bight).
They fail at every aspect of their mission. They don’t get the right code breaker; they get arrested; they almost get killed and they lose their ship. They manage to free the Falthiers, a weird cat-like deer creature that seems to come straight from a Studio Ghibli classic, and also show kindness to the enslaved children. This is where they succeed. After their animal rescue, Finn boldly claims that it was worth causing so much damage to that town. Rose responds by releasing the last Falthier while stating, “Now it is worth it.” The act of kindness mixed with their rescue of the Falthiers is a spark to the children of Canto Bight. They will become the face of the Resistance in the years to come. This echoes her final line in the film that it is not fighting what we hate but saving what we love.
If Rose clears Finn’s vision, Benicio Del Toro’s DJ muddles it. The slicer tells Finn that both sides have their evils and that not joining is the only way. Ultimately, it is DJ’s lack of loyalty to anyone that costs so many Resistance soldiers their lives and pushes Finn to make a decision of who he is in the fight. If he were to continue to run, he could sooner or later be the one selling out others to continue a false sense of security.
Finn now has gone from a coward to someone who would willingly sacrifice himself for a cause. Though he might have found his courage and fortitude to fight, he still hadn’t learned what it means to save others. His sacrifice would have been in vain; a minor inconvenience for the First Order. (Holdo’s sacrifice was already in motion and Luke’s was an act of embracing the legend he became, lighting a spark across the galaxy.) This brings me to what I believe will be Finn’s role in Episode IX. This, of course, is speculation; however, the I believe the lesson Finn learns in The Last Jedi may lead him to become…
III. A Savior
Finn is the first storm trooper we have seen (in the films, at least) defect. I believe it is without question that the lesson Finn learned about what it means to save is a set up. In Episode IX, we will see Finn lead Storm Troopers out of the First Order and into the fight for the Resistance. He may have ran, he may have not followed orders but now he will become the face of a hope for those forced to do evil. He will save many from themselves and this will be how the Resistance wins. Rey may be the key to Kylo’s fate but Finn is the one who will take the First Order down from the inside out.