Finn Appreciation: The Caring Spark
Another year brings more Star Wars. The premiere can only prove exciting. I know I can’t wait to see more Finn, the defected Stormtrooper that gave the Resistance a fighting chance. Rey was awesome, and she, Poe and Finn are the trio for our generation, the heroes that we need. Finn, however, remains my favorite. He is the spark that lights the flame of rebellion, to paraphrase Poe from The Last Jedi.
Finn is a black protagonist, who is undoubtedly heroic. The only other huge black protagonist in Star Wars is Lando Carillisian, who was known for betraying Luke and Leia to save his people. Even Billy Dee Williams’ daughter refused to see the grey of the situation when she was a kid. We also have black guys that die or are shunted to the side: Mace Windu, who dies defending an imperfect Jedi Order against the rise of the Sith, and Captain Quarsh Panaka, who dies offscreen as discussed before.
We can’t ignore Finn. The soldier first appears by refusing to fire on innocent villagers when Kylo Ren demands a map, and when his squadmate dies in combat. Traumatized by the loss of his friend, the soldier decides to bust out a semiconscious Poe Dameron to escape, since he needs a pilot. He also knows it’s the only thing to do when you want to fight the empire that took you away from your family.
Previous black characters in Star Wars canon made their mark by refusing to take risks until cornered, or taking them under protest. They included Lando Carlisian, Mace Windu, Jango Fett, Bobba Fett by proxy, and Captain Quarsh Panaka. In another world they each could have been a protagonist. As it is, they stand to the side, aloof and remote.
Our John Boyega character isn’t physically cornered, but he is emotionally. He doesn’t find himself faced with the choice to rebel or let his people die; the choice is he has to rebel, so that he can protect the people he loves. Finn decides he can’t be cautious in the face of being ordered to fire on villagers and watch his friends die. The easier choice would be to stay a mindless Stormtrooper, to march and die in various galaxies. At least if you die in battle as a Stormtrooper, you have your honor intact.
Finn is allowed to do the right thing for selfish reasons. The right thing yields results, and selfishness is a legitimate reason when you want to only protect your loved ones and try not to die. According to the extra material, Finn tried to be a good squad leader while a Stormtroooper. He bonds with Poe, who treats him with kindness and gratitude for saving him, and goes to help Rey when men try to steal BB8 from her. This pays off, because he bonds with them and wins their friendship.
Finn loses his squadmate, Poe, and Rey in varying circumstances. His squadmate dies in battle. Poe seemingly dies in a TIE fighter crash. Kylo Ren knocks out Rey and captures her. Each of these decisions sparks character growth in Finn: he chooses the battles to fight.
Finn grows by facing his fears to protect loved ones. Despite being terrified of what the First Order will do, he returns to battle when he realizes that Rey and Hans Solo are in danger. Finn also allies with Hans to take down the Starkiller Base and save Rey, because he doesn’t want to lose her again. He saw Poe alive, which means he saved one person. Now he can save another, by lying through his teeth and taking his former boss hostage.
The climax comes for Finn’s arc when he fights Kylo Ren to save Rey. Finn does not have Jedi training, practice in the Force, or even a good track record of fighting with a lightsaber. Even so, he charges at the Sith, buying time for Rey to revive and get to the ship. He helped save Rey, and she saves him by fighting Ren and getting him to a flying Falcon.
We need to see films where Finn gets to flourish. The spark for the resistance deserves the screen-time and love. He has saved two people he cares about, and who care about him. Despite not having Rey’s propensity with the Force, or Poe’s piloting skills, he matters as much. We’ve asked for a black protagonist for ages, who makes it to the end. Thank goodness we have gotten our wish.