The next step in our exploration of the power known as Force Lightning, a lightning storm summoned by Dark Side users and directed through their fingertips is to examine how demonstrably lethal it is. If this is your first stop on this grand journey, I invite you to read the first two posts in this series before reading further.
- Exploring Force Lightning, Part I: Surge Protection
- Exploring Force Lightning, Part II: Personal Insulation
Beyond the Extension Cord
Since this series was born out of thoughts while handling an outdoor extension cord, and how its shielding was a flexible barrier between me and death, it’s only logical to explore the specific lethality of Force Lightning.
As we’ve established that Force Lightning is some form of mystical electrical energy, we can still tell clearly that it isn’t immediately deadly; Mace Windu gets jolted for quite some time before being blown out the window, Luke is in agony but recuperates fairly quickly, and Snoke (ugh) zaps Kylo Ren from a distance like anyone who figures out dragging their footy pajamas on shag carpet lets you shock someone.
Expanding to the animated stories (as anyone with sense should), Tyranus (Count Dooku) straight up tortures Savage Opress with Force Lightning, as does Sidious torture Maul on Mandalore.
The stunning thing that all these examples highlight is that we don’t really see Force Lightning kill anyone.
Maybe It Doesn’t Kill
Given the fact that we don’t see it actually kill someone onscreen, maybe there’s an argument that it doesn’t. Maybe Force Lightning is simply a tool by which to torture someone into submission.
After all, if we see all of these examples of its use but never a conclusive evidence of it being deadly, maybe it’s simply meant to break someone effectively enough to make them unable to resist the coup de grâce. Torturing someone until they’re unable to fight back certainly seems like a thing that Dark Side users would do.
If we go with story chronology, the first use of Force Lightning we see is Dooku’s simple blast of Anakin at the opening of the duel on Geonosis. That left Anakin weak enough that, if Obi-Wan hadn’t been there, Dooku would have been able to kill him. Anakin was in no shape to fight back. And that blast only lasted a moment.
If we go with release chronology, though, the first time we see Force Lightning used we also encounter an interesting line of dialogue that may speak to Force Lightning actually being deadly. When Luke is laying helpless before the Emperor, Sidious smiles and says, “Now, young Skywalker…you will die.”
A Certain Point of View
The line, as it stands, indicates that the Emperor was about to kill Luke outright with the power of Force Lightning. He smiles, the music starts its crescendo, and Luke wails as Sidious pours his malice into purple-white bolts of manic energy.
If not for Vader’s intervention, Luke presumably would have been fried like chicken.
But this is Star Wars. There is a lot of room for interpretation. Since we don’t see Luke die at that moment, we could even presume that Sidious was just torturing Luke to the point of senselessness, after which he could just push him over the edge and watch him fall to his death.
Heck, we could imagine even that the Emperor would impale Luke with his hidden lightsaber after enjoying the torture. He might even summon Luke’s own saber and kill him with it just for the poetic flair.
After all, this boy – this child who should never have been – caused great grief for Sidious. After destroying the first Death Star, then helping the Rebellion survive Hoth, then proving that Vader was an even bigger disappointment than he thought, this boy had the gall not to turn to the Dark Side when offered the power of the galaxy.
I could absolutely see him torturing Luke until he could move in for an easy kill. The Force Lightning was the fun, the kill was the business.
Some might say I’m just stretching at this stage to hold onto the idea that Force Lightning itself doesn’t kill. And I concede that possibly, for someone with a weaker connection to the Force or already injured, Force Lightning could be a killer.
While you may argue that it killed Vader, he was already beaten down pretty hard by Luke. It’s possible that Force Lightning was just the final push like the flu for someone whose heart was already on the verge of failure. (In fact, there’s a pretty interesting argument about this that, as I write this, just inspired another blog. I’ll leave it at that for now.)
Given the examples onscreen, it seems like I’ve got a pretty solid case that Force Lightning is not deadly in and of itself.
So now that we’ve covered Surge Protection, Personal Insulation, and Questions of Lethality, I think we’re done with this for now. Tomorrow will lead to a new topic, and since I know some people don’t want to read just Star Wars related stuff (what?) I’ll choose something that’s not in that galaxy far, far away.
Also, if you like what you’re reading, maybe give me a break and leave a comment or send me a cup of coffee. Usually sites charge you for entertainment like this.