When personal convictions clashed with prescribed duty, these characters made the difficult decision to trust their instincts and switch sides.
If Star Wars has taught us anything, it’s that there is an ambiguity to good and evil and the lines between what is right and wrong are often muddied. Each side in a conflict has their own idea of a moral code and what is considered ethical. But our ideas, and sometimes our allegiance, can shift as we grow and learn more.
Star Wars is about hope for the future and that future is often shaped by people who have the courage to choose a different path and fight for what they believe in. In fact, several important characters who were vital to critical victories started out working for the opposing side.
Anakin Skywalker’s transition from Jedi Knight to Darth Vader was marked by pain, manipulation, and the failures of the Jedi Order. His deception was the final key to turning the Galactic Republic into the Empire and eliminating the majority of the Jedi -- making it easier for Darth Sidious to push his false narrative to the senate and the people and reign supreme. Anakin's drastic change was the result of smaller moments that led him to the dark side and defined his character: being ripped away from his mother, forbidden to love Padmé and manipulated by Darth Sidious to believe that the Jedi were holding him back and hiding secrets from him. Darth Vader became one of the most feared people in the galaxy and spearheaded the Emperor’s plans with an iron fist.
Vader was able to redeem himself and turn from the dark side in the end. With his son, Luke, reminding him of compassion and the ways of the Jedi, he destroyed Darth Sidious and helped the Rebellion gain a monumental victory to turn the tide of the war. Because of Anakin’s final sacrifice, he was able to fulfill a long-held prophecy.
If it was not for Bodhi Rook leaving the Empire and carrying Galen Erso’s message, the Rebellion would not have even known of the Death Star until it was too late. Bodhi was able to deliver the message to Saw Gerrera and, when he joined the rag-tag team of Rogue One, opened up communications to the Rebel Alliance from Scarif’s surface so the Death Star plans could be transmitted.
When Bodhi served as an Imperial cargo pilot, Galen Erso was able to convince him that the Empire he was serving was corrupt. He later told Jyn that her father said he could get right by himself if he was brave enough and listened to what was in his heart, and he made a difference in the future of the Rebel Alliance.
While both Ahsoka and Anakin left the Jedi Order, Ahsoka believed the Order had failed her after she was falsely framed for murder. After nearly everyone turned against her only to invite her back, she abandoned the role of Jedi to find her own path.
By walking away, she was able to survive the events of Order 66 and go undercover to help the fledgling Rebel Alliance. Ahsoka became a vital figure in the Rebellion and helped Bail Organa open communications between various rebel factions throughout the galaxy. Later, she was in a position to help the Ghost crew and search for Ezra after he disappeared with Thrawn. While Ahsoka lost her faith in the Jedi Order, she still always believed in the Force and how it balanced the galaxy.
Seeing the First Order’s brutality up close on Jakku was enough for Finn to realize that he didn’t want to serve them. While he did not immediately join the Resistance, his defection led him to Poe and Rey -- two important relationships for the lone Imperial deserter. In the First Order, Finn was little more than a number and completely replaceable. Taken from his family at a young age, he never knew companionship or compassion. Poe was the first one to give him an actual name and make him feel valued as a person. Rey helped save his life on Starkiller Base. And when he chose his path, gave himself over to the Resistance and prepared to sacrifice himself for their safety, Rose was there to save him and remind him that he wasn't fighting against hate, he was trying to save what he loved.
Much like Finn, seeing the Empire’s brutality during Operation: Cinder spurred Iden to leave the Empire and help the Rebellion. But her desire to save innocent people on Vardos went against Admiral Versio’s orders to leave them behind and her conviction to do the right thing meant she had to leave her father, the only family she had ever known.
But after Iden joined the Rebel Alliance, she created her own Inferno Squad that helped people rather than harmed them. Iden became a critical member of the Alliance and fought off the last remnants of the old Empire. After the Battle of Jakku, Iden stayed on as a Resistance leader and fought against the First Order. She passed on her morals to Zay, her daughter, and taught her how to be a good person and a strong fighter. And Iden’s final mission for the Resistance gave them a chance to discover the First Order’s Dreadnought and evacuate D’Qar.
Ben’s transformation into Kylo Ren started through manipulation by Supreme Leader Snoke but, ultimately, was a decision he made willingly. As Kylo Ren, Ben was able to hide behind a mask and separate himself from his family, tormenting the galaxy and doing Snoke’s bidding. He drew his inspiration from Darth Vader and left the new Jedi in order to fulfill Vader’s destiny of eradicating the Jedi. And after he killed his own father, Ben fully embraced his new identity.
Born into the Nightsister clan and raised as a slave, Asajj led a life filled with anger and hate, abandonment and loss. Rather than confront her emotions, she embraced her rage and let it consume her until she fell to the dark side -- where she served as Count Dooku’s apprentice.
After fleeing from the Separatists and Count Dooku, Asajj was able to save Obi-Wan Kenobi -- her long-time enemy -- from Darth Maul and Savage Opress. By letting go of her hatred, Ventress was able to fall in love with Quinlan Vos and help Ahsoka Tano when she was trying to prove her innocence to the Jedi Council. Much like Ahsoka, Asajj did not convert from Sith to Jedi, but rather made a choice to love rather than hate and firmly remained on her own path.
These characters remind us that sometimes our convictions will clash with our duty, like Iden Versio and Ahsoka Tano, and we must decide what path to follow. There is always a choice. And even if you choose the wrong path, like Darth Vader and Asajj Ventress, there is always hope of redemption.
Kristen Bates is flying by the seat of her pants and doing the best she can. Slow walker. Spends too much time on the internet. Season ticket holder for the Boonta Eve Classic. Aspiring smuggler. Find her on the interwebs @kristenkbates.