– Written by Han Spinel, The Mandalorian Wolf, and Conn8d
Several threads surrounding Finn’s story remain unaddressed – Why was he able to break free from his conditioning and escape the First Order? Why does Kylo Ren know Finn’s trooper number by heart? Where and who was he kidnapped from, and what is his birth name?
The link to many of these questions may be tied to a simple revisiting of The Force Awakens. Here, we build on the recent analysis by The Mandalorian Wolf, who points out TWO awakenings happened in The Force Awakens – Finn and Rey. So what happens if Finn is Force sensitive? Here, we place Finn’s awakening into the narrative and thematic arguments discussed previously, and also supporting pieces of symbolism. We also argue this establishes Finn alongside Rey as dual protagonists vs. a dualistic antagonist in Kylo Ren.
There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?
The Mandalorian Wolf recently pointed out that there were TWO awakenings in The Force Awakens – both Rey AND Finn! A quick review below:
“There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?” – Snoke
Along with The Force Awakens marketing portraying Finn as the new Jedi character, many fans initially assumed that Snoke was referencing Finn. However, after Rey was revealed to be the Jedi, Finn’s Jedi marketing was perceived as a “bait and switch.” Thus, the “awakening” has since become more so associated with Rey. Indeed, Rey’s dialogue in The Last Jedi, “something inside me has always been there. But now it’s awake,” certainly seems to clarify an awakening has happened inside of Rey. However….
First, note that a preview image of the upcoming Ultimate Star Wars, New Edition: The Definitive Guide to the Star Wars Universe clearly states that Finn, in fact, did have “an awakening on Jakku” (second sentence of his primary description under FINN).
Second, note that the TFA script indicates that Kylo Ren “feels something” as he walks past Finn right after his awakening! It stops Ren dead in his tracks.
Third, and as The Mandalorian Wolf also points out, at the time of Finn’s awakening and Kylo Ren “feeling something” – Rey has yet to be even introduced to the story. Mando points out that the Force doesn’t awaken in Rey until Maz’s castle; which occurs after Ren has already confirmed he’s felt an awakening.
So, consider the timeline of events here:
- Finn has “an awakening on Jakku.”
- Kylo Ren immediately “feels something” just after it.
- Snoke asks Ren if he’s “felt” “an awakening,” Ren confirms that he has
Occam’s Razor suggests Snoke and Ren are referencing Finn specifically – in other words, it requires no narrative leaps or large assumptions to link to Finn specifically.
Moreover, it is extremely significant that Finn has an awakening, that this awakening is sensed by the two most powerful dark side Force users known to us, and all within the movie entitled The Force Awakens. This strongly supports the premise to this series – the delayed reveal of Force sensitive Finn will be following a “bait and wait” technique in storytelling. In retrospect, what are some of the canonical pieces of evidence supporting this theory?
A Retrospective of the Sequel Trilogy through the lens of Finn’s Awakening
Snoke’s line was actually the very first revealed dialogue from the Sequel Trilogy when it was included as the opening and introductory line of the first teaser trailer of The Force Awakens. The trailer opens on a desert planet, narrated with Snoke speaking the very same line, “There has been an awakening. Have you felt it? (0:00:14)” And as a visual answer to this narrative question, immediately up pops Finn (0:00:22)!
It would appear then that the original teaser trailer was hitting the plot point of Finn having an awakening (and therefore implicating his Force sensitivity) directly over the head.
Note, too, The Force Awakens junior novelization makes a point to emphasize that Maz Kanata, a Force-sensitive being, entrusted Finn specifically with Luke’s lightsaber while Luke’s best friend (Han Solo) and Maz’s long-time acquaintance stands right next to him. Maz then encourages Finn to use it in battle. Finn has never even held a lightsaber much less wielded one before this moment, and he even questions himself before ultimately finding confidence in the fact that Maz Kanata believes in him for some reason….
Further along in this same passage above, Finn, Han, and Chewbacca are being attacked by stormtroopers. The novelization emphasizes and singles out an interesting fact –
“No one noticed the troopers who had come up behind them — except Finn.” – The Force Awakens Junior Novelization
It is curious that the story was intentionally written to emphasize that no one else noticed the troopers “– except Finn” with a two-dash pause before revealing the exception. This is narratively similar to another moment in The Force Awakens when Finn appears to be the only one who immediately notices the oncoming destruction of the Hosnian System. And as The Mandalorian Wolf points out, Finn even appears to hear the screams of the inhabitants in the Hosnian System similar to Obi-Wan Kenobi sensing the destruction of Alderaan….
And, as covered in our Symbolism article, FN-2187 is a direct reference to Princess Leia’s prison cell on the first Death Star – cell 2187. Leia obviously learns of a certain Force sensitivity of her own in the third act of the original trilogy. But does this narratively fit into the Skywalker Saga?
As we discussed in our theory for how Force sensitive Finn could fit within established themes and narratives of the Sequel Trilogy and overall Skywalker Saga, FN-2187 discovering a long-lost sister (e.g., Jannah?) would parallel nicely with Leia (cell 2187) discovering a long-lost brother. Potential supporting spoilers associated with Jannah’s character in The Rise of Skywalker are found here – read at your own risk.
Now, some may argue that if Finn is positioned to be revealed as Force sensitive in the final act of the Sequel Trilogy, why wasn’t he featured more as a prominent co-protagonist in the prior films? But wasn’t he? Here, we review Finn’s trajectory and story arc in The Force Awakens, which garners just as much attention from Ren, if not more, as Rey does….
Finn & Rey as two halves of our Protagonist
Many have argued that the Sequel Trilogy centers on the conflict between Rey and Ren, and they certainly have a mysterious connection though the Force. When asked during an interview with the New York times “what inspiration did you draw from the raw footage of “The Force Awakens”? Rian Johnson answered: “Rey and Kylo are almost two halves of our protagonist.”
“Almost,” indeed. This answer appears to be given in isolation from several intentional narrative foils Finn presents to Kylo Ren, particularly through their choices in the films. Rian’s answer also appears out of narrative context, and without consideration of the script and directorial cues highlighting an equally substantive connection between Finn and Ren (as described below). Further, this also doesn’t take into account that Finn did have an awakening, positioning himself alongside Rey as dual-protagonists each on their own hero’s journey. So, let’s begin by revisiting Ren “feeling something” as he walks past Finn:
It’s narratively important to highlight that Kylo Ren “feels something” about Finn without *physically* interacting with him. This follows a common theme in the Skywalker Saga films in that Force sensitive characters typically sense or feel other Force sensitive characters (Darth Sidious slipping in the Prequel Trilogy back door notwithstanding). Is it simply coincidence that Finn had an awakening in the film entitled The Force Awakens and that Kylo Ren felt it through the Force?
Visually, an ESTABLISHING SHOT is used, which frames and introduces a spatial relationship between key characters in a film (see the gif above), and also sets the tone for the story about to take place. In this case, it’s a literal visual showdown: Finn vs. Kylo Ren, and mono-e-mono. This is the initial conflict between central characters of the film, and one that sees a face-to-face duel at the climax of the movie. But is this supported throughout the film?
Take note this isn’t the first time Kylo Ren has sensed or felt Finn. Recently, the Age of Resistance comic series released “Finn #1” and doubles down on Kylo’s mysterious fixation on Finn. Kylo Ren stops dead in his tracks to specifically stare down Finn, and Finn alone, in the presence of both Capt. Phasma and another FO trooper. Canonically, Kylo had taken an interest and sensed something in Finn long before Jakku.
In retrospect, this opening sequence of The Force Awakens, along with the now known second encounter in Age of Resistance, were mere introductions for much more to come. Following Finn and Poe’s escape from the Finalizer, Kylo Ren somehow senses that the trooper helping Poe escape was the exact one he felt from the village, and recites Finn’s First Order trooper number as though he is intimately familiar with it and has said it several times before….
The script appears to go out of its way to state that “Hux is unnerved,” and “chalks it up to Ren’s Force ability.” This is a technique used in storytelling to often foreshadow events to come or characteristics of protagonists that are yet to be revealed. If it truly were nothing, writing or emphasizing Hux’s “chalking-it-up” reaction or self-explanation as to why it occurred is meaningless – Hux’s reaction would then serve no purpose to the story. If, on the other hand, the writer has chosen for Hux to specifically “chalk-it-up” to a mysterious power, and there is something mysterious inside of Finn (see the awakening above), it would serve the purpose of underscoring the fact that there more to the story existing between Kylo Ren and Finn. Further, the latter also supports the ESTABLISHING SHOT used on Jakku (which – spoiler alert – comes up again during the climax of TFA).
Most people remember the scene where Kylo Ren slashes the computers in front of him, and associate his temper with finding out that a girl accompanied the droid – “What girl?!” In fact, this isn’t the case at all, and “the girl” is only an afterthought to Ren’s hulk-out session.
No, it is not the droid escaping with the plans to Luke Skywalker that sends Ren into a fury. And it is certainly not Rey, she’s the last bit of information provided in the scene. The fact that sends Kylo Ren over the top and into a fury is that the droid had help; specifically that it had Finn’s help. The script paints a vivid picture in that the mere suggestion that Finn was involved nearly sends Ren over the edge.
Ren says nothing, which narratively says everything.
Lieutenant Mitaka finally ignites Kylo Ren’s fury by confirming Finn’s trooper number, FN-2187 out loud – sending Ren overboard:
The death of Han Solo has a deep impact on the characters in The Force Awakens as well as the audience. What often goes unnoticed is that after Ren is shot by Chewbacca, the camera unsurprisingly revisits the ESTABLISHING SHOT…. established…. back on Jakku. See, they told us it was coming. The camera focuses on Kylo as he lifts his gaze up to both Finn and Rey. But is it Rey he focuses on? Nope. The camera doesn’t lie and focuses specifically on Finn. Just like their showdown back on Jakku, the camera frames Finn’s now unmasked face, which cuts back to see Kylo Ren’s responsive unmasked face erupt in hatred toward Finn’s presence.
Considering the ESTABLISHING SHOT used to set up this confrontation on Jakku, this is quite the narrative foil between Kylo Ren and Finn. Since that last time on Jakku, each character has removed their mask and made their respective choices. Finn has had an awakening and chooses not to kill for the First Order, he is listening to the light inside and accepts his call to the hero’s journey. Kylo Ren instead chooses fight his pull to the light, and cements his status as an antithesis and villain of the Sequel Trilogy by severing(literally) the bond with his father and family by committing patricide. Finn has chosen to become the man Kylo Ren can no longer return to.
Kylo Ren finally gets to meet Finn face to face in the snowy forest of Starkiller Base, and confront the man who continues to literally foil his plans and narratively foil his choices – it’s personal by design (see: the ESTABLISHING SHOT on Jakku). Kylo Ren first knocks out Rey by Force throwing her into a tree. Finn rushes to Rey’s aid while Kylo Ren stalks behind, screaming out, “TRAITOR!” which ignites Finn’s warrior heart that Maz sees back on Takodana.
However, Finn doesn’t respond with words. He stands up to turn around, and responds by igniting Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber.
Finn says nothing, but narratively says everything by igniting the blade.
Kylo is forced to bear witness to Finn carrying, defending, and fighting for the very Family Legacy that he has just severed(literally) himself from – the Skywalker Legacy. Kylo Ren is shocked, and proclaims that he is entitled to the Skywalker Saber:
“That Lightsaber. It belongs to me.” – Kylo Ren
Finn proves his mettle by standing up to the evil Dark Side Warrior:
“Come get it.” – Finn
During the battle, the script also indicates that Finn’s skills impress Ren. Finn even scores a hit to the right arm of the villain with the exact same blade that Luke used to strike Vader’s right arm on Cloud City. And as The Mandalorian Wolf points out, just like Luke Skywalker and Anakin Skywalker’s first duels with a dark sider, they too are severely wounded. The Force Awakens IMAX posters were also keen to highlight this confrontation between Finn and Kylo Ren:
Unlike on Cloud City however, the Skywalker Lightsaber is not lost this time – it is Rey that pulls the “sword from the stone” after Ren repeatedly attempts and fails.
Yes, Finn returning for Rey on Starkiller Base has satisfied her deepest desire for “anyone” to return for her. Finn has also returned the family legacy that calls out to Rey, and Rey alone. Seeing her dearest friend put his life on the line for the very thing she runs from causes Rey to accept her call to the hero’s journey. And she, like Finn before her, defends him with her own life. In doing so, an unbreakable bond of friendship and love is formed between Finn and Rey.
This could mean that we will once again see Finn and Rey face off against Kylo Ren in The Rise of Skywalker, or it may mean that Finn’s hero’s journey has led him to help Rey accept her place in the Family Saga (and also possibly what Rian Johnson was alluding to when he said Rey and Ren are almost two halves of “our protagonist”). If the latter, perhaps what’s coming for Finn in The Rise of Skywalker is bigger than any of us could possibly imagine, extending beyond the current Galaxy Far, Far Away and world-building into something truly unique. And perhaps as Luke narrates over the close up of Finn in The Last Jedi – “The War is just beginning….”
The War is Just Beginning….
In parsing Snoke’s phrase, “an awakening,” as opposed to “the awakening,” leaves open the possibility that several awakenings could occur, and only one of which has. Whereas, “the awakening” would implicate one such anticipated awakening. So how was Finn able to break First Order conditioning in the first place? Certainly his awakening in The Force Awakens suggests a buried sensitivity to the Force. But was Finn the only Force-sensitive stormtrooper, particularly when considering that Snoke implies several awakenings could occur?
Interestingly, the desire to kidnap Force-sensitive children, and potentially form an army of them, is repeatedly shown in Canon, including The Clone Wars, Rebels, Ahsoka, and Vader 2017. Positing that more Force sensitive children were kidnapped along with Finn and conditioned at an early age to serve among the First Order ranks would therefore add:
- Significant narrative weight to the origins of the First Order.
- Enticing context as to the narrative reason why Kylo Ren and Snoke feel Finn’s awakening
- An Explanation as to why Kylo Ren knows/recites Finn’s trooper number by heart
- A possible connection to Palpatine, who wished to form an army of kidnapped FS Children
Thus, is it coincidence that Vanity Fair recently revealed that The Rise of Skywalker would be exploring the origins of the First Order? Or, is it surprising that the recent San Diego Comic Conn featured not only a new “Sith Trooper,” but First Order troopers and troopers of all kind front and center in promotional material?
Or, does it all fit neatly within the framework that Finn indeed had an awakening on Jakku, the two most powerful dark side users at the time felt it, and that EU stories have establishing a long history of desiring to kidnap Force sensitive children in order to assemble an army?
Finn inspiring a stormtrooper rebellion may narratively satisfy the innocent vision little Anakin Skywalker had as a child – Ani dreamt that he would one day return to free all of the slaves. Will Finn inspire other Force Sensitive Troopers to experience their own awakening? The Last Jedi deleted scene seems to hint at such an outcome, where Finn calls Phasma out for squealing like a whoop hog after shutting down Starkiller Base’s shields. A group of First Order Troopers stands by listening to Finn’s story, and hesitates to fire on Finn, forcing Phasma to kill them all until she is taken down by Finn in hand-to-hand combat….
From commentary at Star Wars Celebration, it’s clear that the Resistance hangs by a thread in The Rise of Skywalker. Will the Resistance find the help they need through common allies, such as a potential reconnection with Finn’s long lost past, and sister Jannah? Or might the Resistance find some help in the most unlikeliest place through a Civil War within the First Order?