Shadows of the Empire, Chapter 27

will: Welcome back, all, as we continue through the Worst.

As this goes up, yesterday was American Thanksgiving, but with this year as it is, well, just surviving is something to be thankful for. Hope you all can look forward to better than that in the future, though.

z: Same.

And in the middle of all this, perhaps even more fiercely because it’s in the middle of all this, I am thankful for my friends, as ever.

Content Warning!

will: Continuing on from last week, this week also has discussion of sexual assault and sexual violence.

will: The Falcon exits the asteroid field on the other side from the Executor, Luke sees three squadrons of TIE fighters, and Lando says “if you believe in luck, wish for the good version” as he pulls the hyperspace levers.

Nothing happens, Lando curses a blue streak, and Luke starts to head for the gunwell. Lando, though, makes a quick adjustment, and it works. As they calm down from the adrenaline, Luke glares at Lando for cutting it close. Lando is still being characterized well; now that it’s worked, he’s in a smug “I knew I could do it” mode.

He tells Luke, “if you wanted a boring life, you should have stayed on Tatooine,” and Luke smiles back, drawn into it. They survived. “Almost” disaster isn’t actually disaster.

z: For all that “I could have written this scene out almost verbatim if I hadn’t read it”ness, it still kinda works.

will: Lando says they’re heading back to Tatooine, and Leia and Chewie will catch up. Luke knows that there’s something Lando isn’t telling him about their “detour,” but he’s tired now that they’re safe, and heads for rack time, then food. Then he’ll get the story from Lando.

z: And this is very real–I imagine his heart rate is slowing down for the first time since he stepped out of his cell downplanet, after all.

will: Scene shift. The captain nervously comes up to him, but Vader just says “you lost them.” The captain confirms, and confirms it was a Corellian freighter (Vader knows which for sure). Vader tells the captain to set course back to Imperial Center, but the captain reminds him that the Emperor ordered Executor there for other reasons.

Vader cuts the man off, but he’s right, and Vader orders a pinpoint bombing on the “suspected Rebel base” on one of the “Kothlisian” moons. (Remember, the other reason they came here was to do a “show of force” to convince the Rebellion that the Death Star II plans were accidentally lost.)

z: He actually thinks “I’m angry but the captain is right.” He is still my favorite character.

will: Vader doesn’t knows where Luke is, and Xizor is still on Imperial Center, so Vader is reminded of a “Sithian” proverb (and I thought “Kothlisian” was bad!) about how snakes can kill as well as mountain lions (basically).

Scene shiftian.

z: ………………………………………

will: Oh, no, it’s got me too!

z: If you’re asking for my sympathy, you’re approximately 91723987 puns too late.

I don’t blame you too much for delaying for at least one sentence before we have to go on though. I mean, in responding to this, I paused here and petted my cat a bit (and got the “i sleep no bug me” look in return) because I Really Don’t Wanna.

will: Leia puts on a dark green bodysuit under the transparent green dress, which even I think will be a color clash, and what the hell do I know from color, but it’ll stop the green dress from being so transparent; she hasn’t been wearing thousands of credits of clothes since she was a girl. She puts on a bit of makeup, and plaits and pins her hair, thinking Chewie should be there by now.

The doors, of course, are locked, but Chewie and Howzmin arrive just then, and Leia wants to talk to Chewie alone first. He’s a bit put off by her clothes, and Leia feels a stab of guilt–Han and Chewie were “like brothers,” which doesn’t nearly describe it.

z: Oh like that was the thing Perry got most wrong around here.

will: She feels a sudden urge to explain herself, while knowing she hasn’t done anything wrong, but still, gives the “throw Xizor off guard” excuse, and Chewie doesn’t even say anything; but Leia is flustered and tells him not to tell her how to be a diplomat.

Finally, Chewie grumbles something that Leia can tell is his disapproval. Leia knows Han wouldn’t approve either, and snaps, it’s none of Chewie’s business how she dresses. She starts to apologize, stops, has a fairly bullshit and ridiculous (and repetitive!) internal monologue about how Han didn’t even say he loved her, and the only excuse I can give for this whole thing is that Leia is being mind-controlled here, so the awfulness is just what I was talking about last week.

z: ….so about that mind-controlling thing. I waffled a lot about whether to write about this here, or ahead where it’ll get much, much worse. I think here is better, though, when I’m still comparatively calmer.

What Perry does wrong here… okay, okay, what Perry does the most wrong here… is that he’s giving no indications in Leia’s inner monologue that she is being mind-controlled. No blanking out moments, no logical inconsistencies or leaps that she can’t explain, not even an “I don’t know what’s happening to me.” Come to this from not knowing who these characters are, and all you’ll get is that Leia is a hormonal teenager. All the excuses she’s throwing at herself are lampshaded as excuses. You could say that the narrative means to imply that’s how strong the mind-controlling pheromones are, but you know what? There’s an other-side-of-the-coin thing of the whole “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…” principle too; if it looks and quacks absolutely nothing like a duck? It ain’t one. If you meant to make it one you failed majorly.

This is failing majorly.

will: Yeah, I agree. There isn’t enough being done to make this excuse okay.

Leia tells herself she has nothing to be ashamed of.

And that voice asks her, if that’s so, why is she.

Quick scene shift. Xizor meditates, and builds up his pheromones, which will “carry a compulsion stronger than a hypnotic command.” It makes his skin shift to red from his usual green, but that’s hardly a problem. “Soon, soon.” Blah blah blah this is literally rape.

Scene shift, thank the Force.

z: What Will said.

Another pause in the typing for cat-petting.

will: Artoo and Threepio are talking in the lounge as Luke goes to the galley, and Threepio explains that Artoo is worried about Leia. But Threepio is sure she’ll be all right.

Luke, no longer hungry, buttonholes Lando, but Lando is tight-lipped. Leia’s in charge, she said stay quiet, Lando will.

Luke feels like something is wrong.

Scene shift, to something wrong.

The short form: Leia arrives, Xizor is attractive, he convinces her to dismiss Chewie, they “dispense with titles,” skin contact is overwhelming, she gets a stab of sanity but can’t remember what Han’s face looks like, there is some double entendre about the word “liaison,” ditto for “strange bedfellows,” internal voice goes “what the hell is wrong with you, get out of here,” but she doesn’t want to.

Scene shift while I want yet another shower.

z: I would like to point out here that Will is abridging like there’s no tomorrow, and I am immensely glad that he is doing so. I can’t bring myself to read the scene in the “read every word” sentence; I’ve skimmed to the point where I saw maybe one word per three lines. I was talking about this last week–I really can’t deal with this.

will: Back to Vader. He has at least blown up a spaceport, so that should convince the Rebels that the Empire is worried about the theft of the plans, and it’s time to deal with Xizor.

Why did we need this miniscene? What did it add that we didn’t already know?

Well, I guess it added a moment where I didn’t want to stab someone, because we scene shift back to Leia.

z: Sorry to actively un-help, but I think the point of this scene was to have a mini-cliffhanger in the middle of the other scene, to build up the “tension” that WE DID REALLY NOT WANT BUILT UP.

Excuse me while I go get some antacid.

will: Xizor kisses her lightly, she responds, but then she breaks off and says this isn’t right. He pushed back. Leia spends a moment thinking, this is what she’ll do to get his help to save Luke, but then, she admits that she has other motives. She wants this. No she doesn’t. Yes she does.

And we’re out, before I vomit.

One more chapter, then the worst is over. The thing I said last week that I would say this week is actually better placed next week.

But there’s little else I want to address here. There’s really no part of this I’m interested in looking at too closely, and some parts I’m not interested in looking at, period.

Z?

z: yay luke escaped millennium falcon is working again

What, did anything else happen this chapter?

If you feel I’m being flippant about this, I’m sorry, but I really am not. Will talked last week in detail about how this is rape and its presentation in here is very Nineties–it’s the bad guy’s action, so it’s bad, and that makes it okay to write about–and that is right on the nose. But for me there’s an element that’s made it worse–that the method is mind-control.

It makes Leia an active participant in her own violation.

Not enough “NO” in the world.

And I react to thinking about especially that sort of narrative the same way I would react to plunging my hand into a bonfire up to the elbow. “The mind recoils” is almost a physical, literal description here, not the metaphor it usually is.

So: I’m going to go take a little walk and get a drink, and join us next week to tear ourselves out of this dumpster fire. Until then, may the Force be with you.

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