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In the run-up to The Force Awakens, the teasers led people to believe Finn, not Rey was the Jedi character of the Sequel Trilogy. When it turned out the the new Jedi character was Rey, quite a few people felt misled into thinking they were about to see the first Force sensitive black main character. While The Last Jedi did nothing to suggest Finn’s story would go that direction, there are reasons to think The Rise of Skywalker may finally make good on The Force Awakens’ marketing.
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The Force Awakens gave audiences plenty of reason to speculate about Finn’s force abilities. As a hero, a Force sensitive Finn would align well with not only the apparent narrative of the Sequel Trilogy but also many of the central themes of the entire 9 film Skywalker Saga. The pause in the middle chapter threw many viewers for a loop, snuffing out most speculation about Finn as a possible force user. But The Last Jedi did not actually negate any of the seeds sown in Episode VII, rather it puts the narrative and themes on pause.
While there is indeed some evidence in favor of Finn’s Force sensitivity, the biggest obstacle facing speculation is defining how it would enhance both Finn’s arc and the themes of the Sequel Trilogy itself. The Force Awakens seemed to present Finn as a hero from nowhere rising above his circumstances and upbringing choosing to do the right thing. The message seemed clear – anyone, anywhere, could make the right choice. If Finn is Force sensitive, then this message is lost as it wasn’t simply his moral character, but special powers that preserved his conscience.
A further strike against it has been that it appears superfluous to his story. His arc across two movies has been realizing his place is fighting against the First Order alongside his friends.
Against this, it seems as though there is no room in the story for a discovery of special gifts, certainly not with one movie to go. These narrative issues are formidable challenges and have even kept some of SWSC’s authors from getting on board with the idea Finn may be Force sensitive after all. However…
(WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS/LEAKS)
The introduction of a new character for The Rise of Skywalker has changed this calculus. In August of 2018 it was reported Episode IX was looking to cast a new female main character. What’s notable about this call was how specific it was. They preferred someone 18-26 and ethnic preferably African-American. This role would go on to be filled by Naomi Ackie.
At the time, many, SWSC included, thought she’d be Lando’s daughter as Billie D Williams had been announced to be in the film (and Last Shot seemed to hint at Lando settling down).
While we did discuss whether Naomi could be playing Finn’s sister, it seemed like a significant stretch and rather orthogonal for Finn’s story (not to mention, it was difficult to see how they would learn it). Thus, it was a bit of a surprise when Star Wars Leaks reported her to be playing Finn’s sister after all, though it cautioned to take it with a grain of salt. For the aforementioned reasons, we approached the leak with considerable skepticism. That is until what appears to have been an accidental report by SlashFilm (I know! I know!):
Our sources have told us that Jannah was kidnapped as a child to be turned into a Stormtrooper. We’re not sure if she ever became one, but it looks like maybe she escaped and has been living on her own, not unlike Rey. Another image of the character features her holding a bow and arrow. We’re not sure how handy that’s going to be in a fight against laser blasts, but she looks like a badass warrior.
Ignore the providence of this or it’s status as a rumor and consider this possible backstory in conjunction with the idea Jannah is Finn’s sister. In this scenario, it’s likely Finn and Jannah were kidnapped at the same time. It’s apparent she must have either been resistant to First Order conditioning or escaped before she could be subject to it.
An enduring question from The Force Awakens is why Finn was resistant to conditioning despite being brought in as a toddler. While we don’t know exactly what conditioning entails in the Galaxy Far Far Away, the evidence we have pre-Finn indicates it is typically effective. None of the other troopers we’ve seen have shown any capacity for rebellion and Before the Awakening reveals Finn’s compassion had long kept him apart from the other troopers. Indeed, Phasma and Hux discuss the issue at one point:
“FN-2187,” Phasma said, “has the potential to be one of the finest stormtroopers I have ever seen.”
“From what I just observed, Captain, I agree.”
“But his decision to split the fire-team and return for FN-2003 is problematic. It speaks to a potentially…dangerous level of empathy. You heard him.”
“‘You’re one of us’?”
“Yes, sir. While I am entirely in support of unit cohesion, General, a stormtrooper’s loyalty must be higher, as you know. It must be to the First Order, not to one’s comrades.”
Hux glanced back at the window, surveying the empty simulation room.
“I trust you to remove any impurities from the group, Captain,” Hux said. “Wherever they may be found.”
Thus, it’s clear Finn is an anomaly. The question is, why? To explore a possible answer let’s look at a recurring theme in the Saga – family.
A major plot element of the Sequel Trilogy is how the Skywalker family are all connected by the Force. In turn, this element is an expansion of what was introduced in the Original Trilogy. Luke was able to sense the good in his father and realized Leia was his sister via their shared connection. In the Sequel Trilogy, Kylo kills his father to sever his links to his family which he perceives as weakness. Luke cutting himself off from the Force also cuts him off from his sister. Rey spends much of The Last Jedi yearning to connect, first with her father and, when Luke keeps himself closed off, is driven to the side of her dark cousin, Kylo Ren. When Luke reconnects with the Force, he immediately reconnects with Leia and finally connects with Rey in the film’s climax. (The script notes for The Last Jedi state that Luke and Rey see each other right after Luke says “I will not be the last Jedi” in much the same way that Rey and Kylo have been connecting throughout the movie.)
Yet, familial connections are not the sole province of the Skywalkers in Canon. Dooku and his sister sense a shared connection before they know they’re related in Dooku: Jedi Lost. Their relationship serves to drive the story. Force connections are a strong metaphor for the connections we share with those we came from. With this, we begin to see how Force sensitivity could serve Finn’s story.
If Jannah is indeed Finn’s sister, a strong familial Force bond between them would reinforce the main themes of the Sequel Trilogy. Where Kylo seeks to destroy his connections to descend completely into darkness, Finn’s connection to his sister allows him to resist the darkness and ascend into the light. Through the Force, Finn finds the family that was denied him and he believes he would never know.