Jedi Pride

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.

10 thoughts on “Jedi Pride

  1. I haven’t watched Menace in a long time, so I’m commenting from memory, without your advantage of having just seen the movie.

    I definitely see pride and hubris as a factor in the fall of the Jedi. I also have no reason to doubt that Qui-Gon was guilty of it. I think he could well have been the poster boy for hubris. I don’t know that the moment in question was an example or not.

    It felt more to me like a tactical decision. He was separated from Maul by only one barrier, from Obi Wan by several. Maul was eager to press the attack. Better to fight in the more open space then to try to fight between two barriers in Maul presses forward. Fight in the open and hopefully draw it out long enough for Obi Wan to join. Dutifully, selflessly, press forward against the darkness.

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    1. The only point of order to your response is that when the energy barriers released, Qui-Gon is the one who pressed the attack – so much so that Maul fell back until they were in the dead-end room, at which point he fought back and took out QG as OW watched. In essence, Maul did exactly what Qui-Gon should have done.

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        1. Far be it from me to disagree with my first officer, but actually I think he was agreeing with my point that Qui-Gon would have been at an advantage since “staff fighting” would be more of a hindrance in the enclosed hallway, forcing Maul to switch to a single blade (which we knew he could do from earlier in the film) and engage two opponents.

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  2. decent point holmes, however, imo, following the protocol you laid out has less to do with hubris as it does lack of cowardice. goes against the warrior code, and if you ask me, the jedi way had he hightailed it til obi-wan could come to the rescue. but interesting observation.

    it’s elementary.

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    1. He didn’t have to high-tail it, as you would say. He just had to draw back and follow Yoda’s own wisdom as we learned it/would learn it in Empire Strikes Back – that a Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack. He could have easily kept Maul contained and simply refused to let Maul draw him into “his kind of battle.”

      Once again, Moriarty, you have opened a door to a room you cannot escape.

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  3. Meh. Interesting theory, but the Jedi master/padawan relationship is more that of father/son then of equals. As such, the instinct to fight and protect the student overrides logic. In essence, love, not hubris, is what leads QuiGon to his death, as it does Anakin.

    @moriarty, the phase “warrior code” has no place is Jedi lore. #logicfail

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    1. 1. Obi-Wan was, in Qui-Gon’s own words from earlier in the film, “ready to face the trials” – as in, almost a Knight.

      2. It doesn’t matter the type of *emotional* relationship that exists, there is strength in numbers. If I’m fighting alongside my older brother – who has been my mentor and a sort of father figure through my life – and he’s unquestionably better, but he’s got me as a resource, then it only makes sense for him to use that resource.

      3. OF COURSE there’s a ‘warrior code’ for Jedi. They’re modeled after the Samurai (at least the popular folklore expression of them). SImply looking at the way this specific battle is first engaged underlines that there is a ‘way’ for them to follow.

      So, using your hashtag method of discount: #observancefail

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      1. the way this thread has worked out, it proves your point. jar jar hater (darth maul) tried to go on the offensive, only to be taken care of by my padawan, kessel junkie. indeed, maybe qui-gon should have waited.

        winner: @moriarty

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