Star Wars always manages to enthral through a large range of compelling characters, and what more fitting example than Qui-Gon is there to be offered? Qui-Gon’s first and, for quite a time, only appearance is in Episode I, where he is also doomed to die at the hands of Maul by the end of the film. Yet the character is remembered and appreciated in various ways and forms by the whole fandom. Arguably, the general pattern is that fans either praise or blame him, but nonetheless there is one thing we can say for sure about him: he was a Jedi like no other.
While I’ve seen people stating that Qui-Gon might even be the ultimate Jedi, or what the Jedi should have been, my opinion is inclined to differ; Qui-Gon is probably the Jedi that failed the least, but he has failed as well.
Still, his wisdom and perceptiveness cannot be doubted even from the first moments of the film. Posing as ambassadors on a Trade Federation ship, we have an image of Qui-Gon and his apprentice, Obi-Wan waiting to be received. “Is it in their nature to make us wait this long?” Obi -Wan asks, to which Qui-Gon replies: “I sense an unusual amount of fear for something as trivial as this trade dispute.” The difference is striking, while Obi-Wan can only see the apparent, Qui-Gon looks beyond, envelops himself into the very life force of everyone on the ship, remains mindful and senses danger; all of that without as much as the slightest display of strain.
Further, he shows compassion for Jar Jar, and chooses to save him from punishment – and this is where the gray area shall begin – although he does so in the hopes that the Gungan might prove of help. Does saving a life depend on how helpful they can be to you? It may be a small detail, but it’s one we often forget, especially as it plays into what will happen later in Anakin and Shmi’s case. The motivating factor for Qui-Gon speaking up to Boss Nass about Jar Jar is: “We need a navigator to get us through the planet’s core. This Gungan may be of help.” Arguably, Qui-Gon has no business in the affairs of the Gungans so perhaps it wasn’t even his duty to speak up for Jar Jar, but if you want to save a life you should be able to do it without looking to fulfil a purpose with it.
As aforementioned, there is one more example of displayed ignorance from Qui-Gon. As much as his image is painted as a rogue Jedi, and as much as he defies the Council and the creed, he still isn’t that far from it. When asked if he came to free the slaves, he replies: “No, I’m afraid not.” His mission was another, but his answer is that of someone who hasn’t even considered it. For a Jedi, whether rogue or not, saving lives that cannot save themselves and doing good is what makes them what they are -for it is the reason why they put on their mantles and walk on their high horses in the first place – and yet, ironically, they all give up on the life around them in face of a higher purpose.
“Can you help him?”-Shmi
“I don’t know…I didn’t actually come here to free slaves.”-Qui-Gon
If freeing slaves is not the order of the day, then no freeing slaves and innocent lives, I suppose. Of course, what actually drives Qui-Gon to save Anakin in the end is his Force sensitivity and potential; not his value as a human or his natural right to a life but his value as a potential Jedi.
I may already be nitpicking, and my bitterness is palpable, but Qui-Gon taking a sample of Anakin’s blood never sits well with me. He takes is without consent of any sort, and lies to tell that he’s “checking for infections” when really, he wants to see his midichlorian count. As Anakin has a higher-than-any-Jedi-even-Yoda midichlorian count, suddenly he’s valuable, and not only that, he ceases to be a person and transcends into becoming “The Chosen One”. Same thing with bargaining, or buying him out; it makes little sense to say he offered him freedom, when really he won him in a bet for the sole purpose of taking him into an Order that will keep him in a cage and enslave him just the same.
As someone who has grown into the Jedi Order, and disagrees, even defies the headmasters of it, you’d think sending anyone to the same people is unthinkable, but somehow Qui-Gon does not compute. Remember the Obi-Wan and Anakin comic? Let’s recall Anakin’s brilliant lines:
“Do you know how I joined the Order? I’ve never forgotten. My mother asked Qui-Gon if he would take me away, if I would become a Jedi. He said yes and, that was all. My entire life decided right then. I was nine years old. Qui-Gon said Jedi training was difficult. That it would be a hard life. I saw a magic man, with a sword made of light and a starship. I was a slave, on a world made of dust. What was I going to say? No?”
This treachery, of continuing to decide for Anakin about Anakin, continues. Qui-Gon completely disregards Obi-Wan in order to take Anakin as his own apprentice. I wonder what Obi-Wan thought in that moment. Sure Qui-Gon does bring him praise, saying he’s more than ready for his Trials, but still the two never consulted each other or had a mutual understanding of the situation. My favorite Qui-Gon moment, weirdly enough, has to be his death – the sheer certainty with which he says that Anakin is the Chosen One and that he will be the one to bring balance to the Force always makes me wonder if he knows, if he has seen perhaps ahead…
Of course, this all brings me back to Anakin “the Sacrifice of the Force” Skywalker because, it seems the Force itself set up this poor soul for a life of suffering and pain in the name of bringing balance. As the Father, during the Mortis arc of The Clone Wars, erases all memory of the future the Son had shown, his words remain embedded: “If there is to be balance, what you have seen must be forgotten. (…) Stay on this path and you will do it again for the galaxy.” – the path Anakin is forced to forget is the same one he will have to keep on, the inevitability of him becoming Vader is eternally dictated by the same Force that conceived him. In those last moments, does Qui-Gon somehow see it too?
In the last episode of the Mortis arc, named “Ghosts of Mortis”, Qui-Gon appears before us again as an older Anakin seeks answers: “I can tell you what I believe. I believe you will bring balance to the Force That you will face your demons and save the universe.” It’s heartbreaking to see Anakin throughout this whole arc looking up to everyone for answers, and never looking towards himself, and it’s not hard to see why; being thrust into a role that you never wanted to carry upon your shoulders, being stripped of being someone in favor of becoming something, something that will help the galaxy in turn putting you at its disposal. I can’t imagine coping with such a reality.
It’s unjust to see it as Qui-Gon’s fault because, if anything, for once he is correct in saying that the will of the Force is the one pulling all the stops, but nonetheless he has accepted dehumanizing Anakin in favor of saving the galaxy; one would argue that a single life is worth saving the others, but why cease the fight there and not save all of them, especially since it was very possible to do so. How did Qui-Gon decide that it would be a good idea to bring a former slave, stripped away from his loving mother, into a space cult that enforces detachment and disregard of feelings?
One last appearance occurs in season 6. It works to solidify Qui-Gon’s place as a spiritual sage; his concern with the Force and his personal perception of it is probably what sets him apart from the rest of the Jedi who choose to collectively adhere to their own conception more so than anything else. But did he sacrifice life for the sake of communion with the Force? We see this line of thought reoccur with the Jedi, the idea that death is not a finality, but rather everything takes on a new form within the Force; but does that mean one shouldn’t oppose death, just because there is a promise of existing beyond?
Qui-Gon’s devotion to something greater, i.e the Force and its will, is, however, a strong point in his character and it emphasizes his stance as a rebel Jedi. Where Obi-Wan comments: “If you would just follow the Code, you would be on the Council.”,Qui-Gon remains immovable in face of any sort of personal gain or ambition. But from where I stand, all his other choices remain questionable at best. As much as we want to idealize Qui-Gon, it really seems as if, in a lot of areas, he wasn’t that much different from the others after all.