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At the very beginning of The Phantom Menace then Senator Palpatine’s hologram blinks out unexpectedly in the middle of his briefing to Queen Amidala from Coruscant. This prompts Governor Sio Bibble to say with foreboding,

“A communications disruption can mean only one thing: invasion.”

The Phantom Menace

For years I would misquote Bibble when recalling this scene, even immediately after watching the film. The version is my head substituted “breakdown” for “disruption”. In context to the sentence this makes less sense — a breakdown could mean faulty wires or other mechanical failure. Only disruption would indicate invasion. But in context to the saga it is a succinct summary of the plot.

Communication in the Republic

“This war represents a failure to listen.”

Revenge of the Sith

The above is Padmé’s commentary to Anakin when he accuses her of sounding like a Separatist when she wonders aloud if they are on the wrong side of the war. In fairness to Anakin, she absolutely sounds like a Separatist. In fairness to Padmé, she is absolutely correct. The Republic falls due to a lack of communication.

And not only between the Loyalists and Separatists. The Jedi and the Senate keep secrets from each other. The Jedi even keep secrets within their own ranks. Anakin and Padmé keep their relationship hidden and no one ever brings it up despite evidence that practically everyone knew about them. The Council of Neutral Systems hides layers of corruption. The Trade Federation keeps deals from their allies. Kamino is a hot bed of lies and misdirection. None of the Sith trust any of the others. And there are hundreds of pirates, smugglers, bounty hunters and rogue agents who deal in secrets and lies and — disruption.

In the end the Republic is replaced by an Empire loyal to the only person who was in communication with all those disparate and distrustful groups. Palpatine played every side and he won.

Communication After the Republic

A lack of consistent communication and an abundance of secrecy is to be expected in the Rebellion. Their safety and security depends on discretion. And systemically the Rebels are shown to be far better at communicating than their predecessors. The entire series is built on the foundation of a communique passed from rebel to rebel. But as individuals they remain tightlipped and dishonest. Most notably Obi-Wan and Yoda fail to tell Luke the truth about Vader until they are caught in the lie. The Lars and Organa families are also complicit in keeping that secret.

And then, finally, Luke and Leia continue the tradition of nondisclosure and it infects everything and drags them all back into the war they thought they’d won. The truth about Vader, about Anakin Skywalker, remains concealed, even from Leia’s son. And when that blows up in their (and everyone’s) face they run right back into the shadow reality of the Rebellion. Luke hides away and refuses to communicate with anyone, even the Force. Leia throws herself back into leading a secret society united against an authoritarian government and gives up on the still legitimate New Republic. The cycle repeats.

Go Out and Tell the Story

At the end of the final book of T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, Arthur tells a young page to leave his losing battle and survive to tell the story of Camelot. The page is named for Sir Thomas Malory, the presumed author of Le Morte d’Arthur, which tells the reader Arthur’s wish was fulfilled. We are reading the book (or watching the musical) and therefore Tom succeeded.

It is perhaps easier for Arthur to tell the story of Camelot than for Obi-Wan, Yoda, Luke, or Leia to tell the story of Vader. But if The Rise of Skywalker is the end of the story, Rey-as-Tom is the only way I can reconcile it. The Skywalker Saga, like Camelot, is a tragedy about people who believed too blindly and loved too much and whose secrets destroyed their kingdom. We’re watching this story from a long time ago and far, far away because one young knight lived long enough to tell it.

This post is a part of PadMay. Follow along this whole month on twitter.

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