Recently I was watching The Phantom Menace again and in particular (as everyone does) took special notice of the lightsaber battle at the end. That’s not really a revelation; even the haters love the lightsaber battle in this one. But I gleaned a new insight to the film I think.

I don’t know if it was my mood, that I was looking at things from a different perspective, or what, but I took notice of something that drastically echoes as a theme through the prequels; previously it didn’t seem to be a real factor until Attack of the Clones, but it jumped out at me this time.

I don’t think I’ll be able to watch the final duel in quite the same way again.

Jedi Pride

In this expression of it, Jedi Pride (hubris actually) is what got Qui-Gon Jinn killed. Throughout the rest of the series, it’s clear that it left the Sith in a position to ruin the galaxy and inevitably placed Anakin on the path of his downfall.

It also evolves some theories about his character that I’ve had.

What led to this thought was that, while watching, I noticed that Qui-Gon’s death was eminently avoidable in the final battle if he did only one thing.

It’s something that he espouses (albeit most strongly in a cut scene) but like the rest of the Jedi fails to practice.

Restraint

Yes, restraint.

At a very specific point in the battle with Darth Maul, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are separated from him by the plot devices energy doors. They are likewise separated from each other; Obi-Wan is too far (too young? too untrained?) to cover the distance necessary to be physically next to Qui-Gon, which leads to Maul being able to face the older Jedi alone.

But Qui-Gon had the opportunity during the fight to step back, draw Maul toward Obi-Wan, and tip the balance of the fight back in their favor.

I grant that Qui-Gon is established as one of the pre-eminent Jedi swordsman. But he was fighting a warrior younger and fresher, with a weapon specifically crafted to give an advantage in one-to-one combat. Qui-Gon should have had the wisdom to fall back and give Maul no choice but to fight both he and Obi-Wan together.

Had he not taken it upon himself (pridefully) to think he could single-handedly defeat such a young, energetic and obviously-skilled opponent, the story has a different ending. One with potential implications not just for Qui-Gon but Anakin and the galaxy at large.

Further Support from the Text

The prequels, more than the original trilogy, tend to function as one “text.” As a result, more than the others, material across all three supports previous episodes much more robustly. I point this out because the quote I’m using in support of this blog is actually from Episode II.

Obi-Wan: But he still has much to learn, Master. His abilities have made him… well arrogant.

Yoda: Yes. Yes. A flaw more and more common among Jedi. Too sure of themselves they are. Even the older, more experienced ones.

—Episode II

What turns it on its head, though, is that previously I approached Qui-Gon’s character as somehow “above” the pride argument about the Jedi. In some way, that he was “The Last Samurai.” But now I’m starting to see his death at Maul’s hands to be the first example of the pride that leads to the Jedi downfall.

Kinda depressing, really. It speaks to earlier arguments that “had Qui-Gon lived” Anakin would have fulfilled his destiny in a much less tragic way.

Now I wonder.