^But, that’s not Luke’s arc in TLJ. That’s the moment it starts, but the overall journey isn’t about Luke overcoming his darkness. In fact, the arc itself is very specifically about why his failures aren’t a regression. I don’t know what to tell you.
I don’t know what to tell you, either. I saw Luke’s failure with Ben as a clear regression. Yoda supports that, saying “young Skywalker, still looking to the horizon.” This implies that Luke hasn’t evolved at all since the beginning of ESB, which seems like the definition of a regression.
When I say “needed to be told this way” I just mean that it’s clearly relevant. A logical next step to take from the OT that is more meaningful than Luke “finding the first Jedi temple” or something. This actually expands upon the themes introduced in those films. TROS is the film that rehashes.
Luke trying to kill Ben isn’t a “logical next step.” Like I said, there are a thousand ways TLJ could have expanded Luke’s character that wouldn’t feel like a regression. He could be tired of the endless cycle of war, and want the conflict to resolve itself. Or he could be scared of Snoke’s power, and worried that he wouldn’t be able to handle the situation. That would be a true evolution of Luke’s character. Instead, Rian chose to repeat a conflict that Luke has already faced.
For starters, Luke is not conflicted at all in this film about what he did to Ben. Hence, not the conflict. Not rehashed. (he even says this to ben: “you here to save my soul?” “nope”)
It’s all about the aftermath of that failure. And it’s about how failure doesn’t define you. How what you’ve done doesn’t dictate what you can do, how you aren’t your past, you’re your future. It stops relegating responsibility for heroism on a character arc or bloodline or the light side or the dark - and on people. Their choices and their actions. Luke Skywalker as the son who loved his father, not a heroic Jedi who defeated Vader and the Emperor.
Luke taking responsibility as who he was, the boy looking out at the horizon, and not the pretty story he became as Luke the Legend - reinforces those ideals. Are there other things they could have done? Of course, but this isn’t bad at all. It’s an idealistic human message that I think we missed out on when Vader died. Redemption is about moving on with every mistake as a part of yourself. Not atoning for or running away from your past. Moving forward. Star Wars isn’t the superhero story TROS seems to think it was; it was always the little guys standing up to the big impossible odds, thrust into a world larger than themselves. Luke’s arc here reinforces that spirit. Making him a superhero wouldn’t not work, but it’s cheaper than understanding the humanity behind his actions.
I guess, if anything TLJ says “regression doesn’t exist” and holding the world to that standard is what leads to disappointment and cynicism. That’s a mature take on heroic idealism that I’m glad Star Wars grappled with at least once before becoming mindless nonsense. That even if you and everything you’re fighting against lets you down or becomes harder to fight, doesn’t mean you should give up. In fact, that’s why you should continue. And you will have to, because there is no happily ever after.