Shadows of the Empire, Chapter 28

z: Hello, gentlebeings, and welcome to Chapter 28 of Shadows of the Empire, wherein we have to push through just a little bit of the worst and then get a reprieve.

In personal news, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, Editing.

will: Can we just…be done with this year already?

z: First PoV is Xizor–ew. The scene that we quit midway through last chapter is continuing–double ew. Thankfully as he’s getting really handsy there’s a pounding at the door. He wonders who would dare, and Leia pulls away. They hear “braying” outside; it’s the Wookiee, and Xizor wonders how Howzmin had “allowed” him to get there.

will: It’s more of the “this is Bad because the Bad guy does it…but isn’t it also…Bad Ass?”

z: Lesson one about Wookiees, dude: You don’t allow them to get or not get anywhere.

Leia says she’ll get rid of him, and Xizor decides to “let” her. Leia goes unsteadily to the door and Chewie yells at her. Apparently Xizor understands the language a little; Chewie’s telling her to go with him. Leia tries to say no, Chewie insists, and Xizor wonders if Chewie is smarter than he looks, if he’s sensing that she’s in some danger. Oh take you and your condescension and go to hell. Leia says “Maybe I better go and see what he wants?” and Xizor “lets” her because now that she’s “under his control” he thinks there’s no danger of her not coming back. He tells her that he’ll be there “for a little while longer” gah. Leia says she’ll be back quickly, but she’s also hesitating and shaking her head as if she’s trying to get free of the influence. Xizor thinks she won’t succeed and Leia walks out and YAY WE’RE DONE I’m sorry was that a spoiler?

Perspective shift to Leia. Howzmin, to no one’s surprise, is lying on the floor in a heap. She starts ranting at Chewie but he just drags her away to a small alcove, presses a hand over her mouth, and points to the ceiling with the other. Leia looks to see a small parabolic microphone, and oh hang on what’s happening this isn’t Doppelganger Leia, this is Leia herself! She immediately asks, whispering, if they’re being listened–yes–and are they being watched too–no. She realizes that this must be a blind spot and that’s why Chewie brought her there.

will: How Chewie would know that is left as an exercise for the–who cares it’s over.

z: She also realizes that he probably knew what was going on–no, Doppelganger, go away–and that he was protecting her and protecting Han.

And then within a single sentence, and no I’m not exaggerating, she stops feeling any desire, feels ashamed. Within a single paragraph she figures out that this wasn’t how she would behave normally, that is to say, it wasn’t natural. Within another paragraph she’s already jumped to “has he drugged me somehow?”

And you know what? I’m not going to complain because I could not take this any longer, anyway.

will: I’ve been teasing (threatening?) this for two weeks: this is the thing that could have been worse.

According to Steve Perry in interviews, Lucasfilm’s editorial comment here was that they wanted Leia and Xizor to actually have sex, and he pushed back. This was the right call for character reasons, and for contextual reasons; it would have led to massive fan pushback. It would have just been…wrong.

z: [makes a feral sound down in her throat, incapable of actual speech]

will: But I think that contributes to the abruptness of the transition; Perry was bailing out of this scene, maybe not as disgusted as we are, but in a hurry.

z: And then Doppelganger Leia is back: “Could it be that, for whatever reason, he wanted to seduce her?”

Ow my head, and ow my desk.

will: Siiiiigh.

z: She thinks that would be terrible, but if it was drugs, yay, there was an excuse!

Ow my head and ow my desk.

will: And ow my respect.

z: And then within not even a single sentence she jumps to thinking about Luke, and suddenly realizes that it isn’t Vader who wanted Luke dead.

Here’s another one of those dilemmas. If I was willing to credit Perry with this much, I could think that this last is an insight from the Force. But I am not, so we’re chalking this down to clumsy writing with not enough showing and too much telling, and moving on.

will: Agreed.

z: Within not even a single sentence this time, she apparently has made a plan, because she starts telling Chewie about what he should do.

will: I would so much have preferred if she asked Chewie what he thought should be done. Chewie clearly has a better grasp on reality.

z: Scene shift. Vader’s ship is back in the Coruscant system and Vader is impatient to go back and make his case against Xizor. He actually has an interesting internal debate about how much to tell the Emperor: On the one hand the Emperor favors Xizor right now so he might take what Vader says as coming from jealousy; on the other hand the Emperor always wants to be told everything.

We snap ahead and find that Vader has told the Emperor after all and that Palpatine is “not convinced,” and wonders aloud about if this is because of Vader’s personal grudge. Vader tries to say no, it’s because he’s concerned about treachery, if Xizor’s really trying to kill Skywalker… the Emperor cuts him off and says that there should be maybe more than the word of a bounty hunter who himself credited only rumors, and besides, if Skywalker can be destroyed easily, how useful would he be anyway? Vader agrees with that last but doesn’t like it thrown at his teeth.

will: A dilemma the Emperor probably enjoyed feeling. Addict, remember.

z: But the Emperor is magnanimous: Since it seems to matter to Vader, Palpatine will let him search for Luke, for a short while before he has to return to other tasks. Which of course isn’t what exactly Vader wants; he wants to find Luke but he also wants to build a case against Xizor, and both of them simultaneously won’t be easy. But, he reminds himself, he’s a Dark Lord of the Sith and he has the Force, after all.

Point.

Vader continues to be the best-characterized character.

will: The Emperor is not entirely bad either; we have to credit the argument that he’s pretty much always lying, or at least telling partial truths, to everyone, but I can believe that. But it’s reading between the lines at best.

z: Scene shift; back to Leia, who gets back to Xizor. She still “feels the charisma he exuded” ewewewew “but now she could resist it.” She wonders about where this new strength comes from, and once again, I point upwards to the dilemma we talked about. We know, from A New Hope, that she’s got a resistance to mind probes, too, but if you’re referring to that, Perry, actually refer to it!

will: I feel like we’re supposed to get a sort of “scales from eyes” moment, where Leia’s realization of the artificiality makes it powerless, but it just does not fit with what we’ve learned.

z: Anyway, from her thoughts we garner that she’s trying to buy time for Chewie to escape and bring help.

…….wait what why didn’t you both get away together what help–

will: I will give it this: if Leia and Chewie had both just vanished, that would have raised alarms across the planet. The idea that Leia is buying time? Not insane. The specifics? Underjustified.

z: Xizor, still thinking that he’s controlling her, commands her to come sit next to him. She says she’s thirsty and goes to the bar to make some tea instead, and notices that his face very quickly displays anger and confusion. With the tea ready, she starts drinking it at the bar, and this time he definitely commands her to “Come here.” She puts the tea down and makes as if to obey and he smiles again and she reads that correctly. He tells her to ewewewew take off her clothes. I’m going to skip right ahead past the part where she takes off her dress while making sure that the reader remembers that she is wearing a bodysuit underneath so he hasn’t seen anything, thus gaining Chewie a few more minutes, then refuses to take off the bodysuit when Xizor tells her to.

skree-whoosh

will: A thousand apologies, that noise you heard was Z pulling the eject lever. I’ll get us through the rest of this…

Xizor pushes her, she pretends to have an issue with the fastener, then she says no, and Xizor is shocked. She goes for a line that should be clever, but just isn’t, about propriety concerning removing clothing in front of a stranger; he moves in, she feels the same pull coming off of him (but knowing what it is, she can resist it; “she was a civilized woman and her mind was what controlled her, not her hormones,” I really feel like the “appearance of power versus actual power” theme was something Perry was trying to do and didn’t have the chops for), and when he bends to kiss her, she knees him between the legs.

She smiles sweetly, but when he recovers, he has gone cold again, green, and passionless.

He determines that “it was something the Wookiee said,” which makes me think that everything we got from Xizor about how irresistible Falleen pheromones are was all Xizor bigging himself up, which would have worked as a dodge but for how the entire book was bigging him up–and then comments that sometimes, “bright and strong women…are bright and strong when you least want them to be.” He calls her a “worthy adversary,” summons Guri from the side room she was hiding in, and has her lock Leia up. He makes noises about how he’s not all that bad as company–Leia isn’t playing along–and they leave.

Leia hopes that Chewie has had enough time, and we’re out.

Ladies, gentlemen, and those who do not ascribe to the gender binary: we are officially past the nadir.

And there was much rejoicing.

Yay.

z: Yay.

Except I literally did not know that bit about what Lucasfilm wanted, and that almost cost me a TV remote that I happened to be holding when I read Will’s remark. I… I don’t even want to talk about it.

will: Better if you don’t research the conversation that Lucas, Spielberg, and Kasdan had about Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood, also. For all love, the shit we don’t confront…

z: No power on Earth. No power in the Universe.

will: Vader continues to be the best characterized of them all, but it feels like a mistake.

z: Or coincidence.

I would like to take this moment to formally thank Will for taking over for the bits that I literally could not handle writing about. He’s the best blog partner anyone can have.

will: I wouldn’t be doing this if I couldn’t do it with you, so fair’s fair.

Come back next week for…oh, come on.

Until then, may the Force be with you.

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