Although Finn and Rey were initially billed as the two leads of the new Star Wars trilogy, it feels to many as though Finn’s storyline has fallen to the wayside. Here we offer an interpretation of how Finn’s character is still central to the story of the Skywalker Saga, and a prediction for his role in relation to the family moving forward.
In our interpretation of the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, which focuses so heavily on the Skywalker family and legacy, it is easy to assume that the character of Finn is by default a secondary hero. And while the original concept for the trilogy was indeed “the story of a female Jedi,” Finn quickly became a second pillar of the narrative, serving as the military and political figurehead to Rey’s mythical and spiritual. However, we would like to argue that Finn’s story is not simply parallel to that of Rey and her family, but deeply intertwined with it. While many walked away from The Last Jedi assuming that Rey was meant to be proof that legacies are determined by merit and not blood, it is in fact Finn whose story can prove this point far more satisfyingly, and reinforce rather than undercut ongoing themes of the importance of family in the saga. (Note: this interpretation relies on the assumption that Rey is biologically a Skywalker, a defense of which you can read here)
Let’s begin with how the character of Finn is set up in contrast to Rey. Though he is, like Rey, a nameless “nobody,” stolen from his family at a young age, the story does not focus in on the ways in which this affects his viewpoint and motivations in the way it does with Rey. In other words, we are not made to see how Finn desperately needs to reunite with his biological family, even though we can naturally presume it is a source of pain for him. He states that he was taken from a family he will “never know,” implying that he has, in some way, come to terms with his alienation from his biological family, in contrast to Rey’s fixation on them. But more importantly, Finn openly expresses that the friendship and companionship he finds with Rey, in part, ameliorates that pain:
“Like all of them, I was taken from a family I’ll never know. And raised to do one thing. But my first battle, I made a choice. I wasn’t gonna kill for them. So I ran. Right into you. And you looked at me like no one ever had.”
Statements like these suggest that what he is seeking most of all is the support and affection a family provides, rather than the sense of origins and identity that Rey so desperately desires (and that knowledge of his biological family would bring to him). After all, when Finn is “reborn” as a free individual by escaping the First Order, the first thing that happens to him is a friend giving him a name, just in the way a family would to one of its newest members. We are setting Finn up to be a character who benefits from and finds meaning in “found family” from the very beginning of the story.
Finn’s relationship with Rey is another clue to how his story could unfold in relation to the central story of the Skywalkers. Though there is obvious romantic attraction between the two, it is rooted in friendship and not infatuation. We as an audience are led to see them as partners, not just young lovers. Much in the way that Han and Leia’s relationship was forged through shared adventures in The Empire Strikes Back, Finn and Rey’s romantic bond develops through the discovery of how well they work in tandem. Put simply, Finn and Rey’s relationship foretells something deeper and longer lasting than simply two kids with a crush on each other. Regardless of whether this relationship actually turns into a romantic life partnership, we can see that Rey and Finn are not just pals, they are characters who have chosen the other as a cohort and counterpart, in the same way that people choose life partners. And, at least in most societies, choosing a life partner means incorporating them into your family. Rey and Finn, romantic or not, have chosen each other as partners, and thus, they can be seen to belong to each other’s families as much as their own.
Which brings us to the Skywalker family as the narrative heart of the 9-part saga. As vivid and lovable as the series’ supporting characters are, it is the Skywalkers whose story the films follow, and whose viewpoints we understand them through. And, as we’ve written before, much of the Skywalker identity and legacy is embodied in the imagery of Anakin Skywalker’s blue lightsaber. Throughout the saga films, few characters have wielded it; most notable among them, Anakin, Luke, and Rey, as well as Padme in the Clone Wars TV series Characters who bear (or in Rey’s case, are theorized to bear) the name Skywalker are usually given the saber, or else have it fall into their hands, just as their family name is given to them by birth. Luke has it bestowed on him by Obi Wan in A New Hope, Rey is inexorably drawn to it in The Force Awakens, and Padme is given it as a gift from Anakin. However, two other thematically very significant characters have wielded the saber: Han and Finn. In ESB, Han, who is not yet a Skywalker, grabs it instinctively to cut open Luke’s tauntaun and save his life. And Finn brandishes it twice in The Force Awakens, both times to aid and protect members of the Skywalker family (Han and Rey). While Skywalkers, by blood or marriage, receive the saber, Han and Finn both take it up willingly in service of members of the Skywalker family they care about. Later, as we know, Han becomes a Skywalker by marriage–a reflection of how his own merits and character give him a place in the central family storyline. It stands to reason that Finn taking up the legacy saber foretells that he, too, has a place the family, whether it’s through a relationship with Rey or a symbolic adoption into their ranks as another type of “found family.” Notably, in spite of claiming the weapon belongs to him, Kylo is unable to physically get his hands on the Skywalker saber–further evidence that a non-Skywalker who embodies the positive traits of that family has a greater right to that identity than a biological Skywalker who has rejected his family.
So what would “Finn as Skywalker” do for the character and storyline? Well, for one thing, Finn would be re-centered as a core character to the trilogy, as opposed to simply a support and companion for Rey. He represents the part of the Skywalker family that is not rooted in biology, but rooted instead in bravery, love and devotion, in contrast to Kylo who obsesses over his biological heritage but rejects the love of his flesh-and-blood relatives. In doing so, Finn counterbalances the perceived negative aspects of a Rey Skywalker story arc, namely the idea that positive qualities are a product of genetics and not character. It also keeps Finn’s own connection to family at the forefront, as opposed to brushing his losses aside and expecting the audience to forget their effect on him. By framing Finn as a non-biological heir to the Skywalker legacy, the story acknowledges that he too has suffered from being separated from his parents, and that he, like Rey, deserves to have a home and family, even among people he is not genetically related to (though it would, of course, be even more satisfying to have Finn reconnect in some way with his biological family, at the very least learning who they were and that they loved him). Put simply, in reading Finn as a spiritual heir to the Skywalker legacy, just as Rey is its biological heir, we deepen both his own character and the story as a whole.
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