August 21st 2022, 3:29 pm
Dissecting Legacy #3: Cade Skywalker vs Darth Krayt
Part 3 of my somewhat-informal blog series explaining why I don't think Darth Krayt is omnipotent.
PART I: DARTH TALON'S ASSESSMENT
Darth Talon has perhaps the best understanding of Darth Krayt’s power-level of any character.
- The “purpose of her existence is to execute Krayt's will” (Legacy 0) and she herself is “an extension of the Dark Lord’s personal will” (Galactic Files).
- Talon witnessed and felt Krayt telekinetically dominate Darth Nihl.
- Talon witnessed and felt Krayt reach out telepathically to all dark siders. The telepathic call broadcasted “Darth Krayt’s will -- alive, dominant, and seductive" and “his presence.” Darth Havok said it was “the mind of Lord Krayt reverberating through” all dark siders. Vul Isen said that he “felt the power of the living lord Krayt.”
- Talon witnessed and felt Krayt’s “firestorm of raw emotion and cold rage" toward his betrayer, Darth Wyyrlok.
- Talon witnessed and felt Krayt’s battle against Wyyrok, including Krayt usurping Wyyrlok’s illusions.
- Talon knows that Krayt’s “powers have multiplied” and that he has “become so much more than [Wyyrlok] can know.”
- Talon knows Krayt’s military plans and the reach and power of his armies.
Nevertheless, after brutally losing to Cade in battle:
Talon wants to “warn” Krayt about Cade being “stronger” and that he has “new mastery of the Force.” And it’s not just that she wants to warn Krayt but thinks she “must” warn him. Why?
[Proposal 1: Talon is worried that Cade may ambush and kill Krayt.]
(A) Talon knows that Krayt wants Cade to come confront him:
(B) Krayt would be already alerted after Cade and his Jedi strike team made ample commotion fighting through the Sith Temple.
(C) The unprecedented air battle across Coruscant, which Krayt is witnessing, is only possible because Cade and co. disabled the planetary shields.
So, there’s no chance that Cade can sneak around Krayt and gut him.
[Proposal 2: Talon is worried that Krayt may underestimate Cade and lose.]
Depends on what you mean. The One Sith already know that Cade can have “flashes of brilliance.”
(A) Talon knows of the implications of being a Skywalker, with even Krayt saying mid-battle in their first fight that the only thing that has “saved” Cade thus far is “the blood of Vader that runs through” his veins
(B) Talon witnessed explosions of Cade’s power before -- when he threw a giant shuttle at her, when he gutted her in front of Krayt, whenever he uses Dark Transfer
(C) Talon knows that Krayt wants Cade by his side due to his Force potential, with a long precedent of high Force potential bubbling and bursting to the surface in important moments
If the idea is Krayt will fight Cade assuming X power-level but suddenly Cade will suddenly jump to X+10 power-level, there’s already that threat. That’s baked into fighting Skywalkers. Cade has already shown immense dormant power that has trashed her before and performed miraculous feats.
Talon would have to be concerned that Cade will suddenly jump to, say, X+20 power-level this time -- a much higher expected power-level, even for a Skywalker. Even then, Cade’s not exactly hiding anything. Talon immediately senses his intentions burn brightly with the desire to kill Krayt. Cade unveils his new powers onto Talon, which risks Krayt sensing it. And Cade as a character is not much for subterfuge.
But it’s a definite possibility. Krayt goes in underestimating Cade then BAM! Cade blasts him with his new powers. If true, then it still follows that Krayt cannot “easily” defeat Cade. How do you define “easily”? Well, if a Krayt not-particularly-trying could wave his hand this way and that and force Cade to his knees, then what is she warning Krayt for? Cade has to be powerful enough that, at a minimum, a not-particularly-trying Krayt is in danger. Is it possible that Krayt, upon invoking much of his full power, could still readily force Cade to his knees? Yeah. The point being made is that Talon does not think a finger gesture win or anything close is realistic here.
[Proposal 3: Talon wants Krayt to take Cade very seriously.]
This is also possible! With the difference being the emphasis isn’t that Cade will trick Krayt, but rather Krayt not taking Cade that seriously from the start may make him unable to assert the advantage later on once he finds himself pressed against Cade’s newfound powers.
PART II: DARTH KRAYT’S INTENTIONS
Krayt plans to “kill” Cade and wants him to “experience” “death.” He monologues that he has had a vision that reveals even before Cade “bends” and “breaks” that “first” he “must die.” So, Krayt’s plan sequence is: “kill” Cade -> bend Cade -> break Cade -> join with Cade.
What does “kill” mean? Krayt wants Cade to experience what he did. Krayt says he remembers the “yawning abyss of the grave waiting to suck me all the way in,” which taken literally is likely referencing the pull of Chaos against Krayt’s spirit. Krayt says at this pivotal juncture, he found a “secret” that allowed him to “astride” (or straddle) the grave. From there, Krayt fought his way back to life. So, by “kill,” Krayt means he plans to send Cade as close to death as possible. And the more pain, the merrier, since then it should be more reflective of Krayt’s own death experience, in which he remembers “every nerve fiber ablaze.”
Thus, it’s not just permissible but rather goal optimizing for Krayt to unload everything on Cade. (Goal optimizing simply means if Krayt has explicit goal X, what are the actions that he should be taking to maximize the odds X succeeds?) Blast him with lethal Force lightning. Slam him against pillars as hard as possible. Lightsaber him in the gut. Doing these actions will send Cade to the brink—which Krayt will then pull him back from via Dark Transfer. This idea of goal optimizing is built on across the blog.
Krayt is aware that Darth Maladi’s Omega Red virus is about to drop onto Coruscant. Omega Red will kill trillions “within a matter of breaths” besides Sith, which are immune. And Maladi presumably did not personally encode every individual One Sith’s DNA into the virus to exempt them from aboard Roan Fel’s Star Destroyer, so it must detect some considerable threshold of dark side energy. Cade at the start of the fight is explicitly still “on the edge of light and dark” per Krayt during the final battle. And, as discussed in “Dissecting Legacy #1: Cade Skywalker's Ending Growth,” Cade has already moved quite to the light side and purged much of his darkness. It’s certainly uncertain if Cade would survive the toxin unless he’s fully converted to a Sith. Ergo, it serves Krayt’s interests to “kill”, bend, and break Cade as quickly as possible as Krayt is expecting the toxin to drop effectively any minute.
Moreover, if not for Antares Draco stopping the virus, which Krayt did not foresee or anticipate, Fel would have unleashed the virus before Krayt had actually defeated Cade in their battle. Again, Krayt likely did not expect or want Cade to still be fighting for this long. Krayt has all the reason to unleash his full power -- every second the battle continues, Krayt risks losing his prized pupil within a few seconds. Put another way, if Krayt could readily defeat Cade, he would have. The fact he didn’t reveals he couldn’t.
That is unless Krayt plans to pit his Dark Transfer against the Omega Red virus. But why? It’s possible, but that’s not a goal optimizing strategy. Far from it! Omega Red could kill Cade within seconds. Dark Transfer is powerful, but it’s certainly uncertain whether it would win in a race of effectiveness against the ultimate Force bioweapon. And even if the Dark Transfer prevailed, Cade would continue to inhale the near-instant-kill fumes, so Krayt would have to work overtime. There’s no reason why Krayt would take on that risk. No explicit or implicit reason is provided for why Krayt would prolong the fight. But here's a reason why Krayt should bring much of his power to bear quickly—doing so avoids the risk of losing Cade and not doing so increases the risk of losing Cade.
Krayt repeatedly demands Cade to “surrender” as they fight, but there is no indication Krayt believes Cade will just drop his sabers to the ground. Krayt himself says Cade will only bend and break after he dies. Krayt is likely aware of Talon offering Cade to join them and Cade refusing minutes earlier. And Cade’s desire to kill Krayt is said to burn hotly in the Force. Accordingly, Krayt adamantly saying “surrender” makes more sense within the context of (A) simple Dun Moch and/or (B) someone wanting to beat someone down while saying, “Just give up.” Put another way, there is a difference in kind between Cade just giving up and Cade being forced to surrender. Krayt has no delusions about the former but may think the latter is possible. After all, all the Sith underestimate Cade’s willpower -- and if Krayt’s defeat says anything about it, Krayt especially does.
(Fun fact: Krayt brandishes for this duel a new lightsaber that loosely resembles his Jedi lightsaber but with subtly different markings and a red hilt. It’s hard to say what the implications of that are besides the fact he’s going into this fight with some consideration.)
(3) FIGHT BREAKDOWN
Krayt opens the fight with a Force blast. Given Cade is about six feet off the ground while being thrown backwards and slightly upwards, it follows that Cade jumped at Krayt and Krayt caught him in mid-air. Krayt says that Cade should surrender because Cade “fled our last fight” and that he is “so much more now than” he was then.
It’s probable that Krayt is chaining to this statement an attack that reflects or substantiates his claim of newfound powers Necessarily? No. But it’s strange to say, “Surrender. I am much more powerful now. Behold a burst of power that either meets or is lower than your standing expectations of me!” Such serves to undermine all of Krayt’s known intentions:
- “Kill” Cade -> Krayt would not be optimizing his goal of killing Cade
- Cade “surrenders” to him (what that means aforementioned) -> Cade would be less likely to surrender if he believes Krayt is not as powerful as he claims and more likely to surrender if he thought he was going to fight a Krayt at X power-level and now realizes he is fighting Krayt at X+10 power-level
- Cade recognizes dark side power -> Cade would more likely embrace the dark side if he sees he cannot stand against his power, sees how powerful Krayt truly is
- Avoid Omega Red risk -> Krayt beating Cade ASAP makes sure he doesn’t have to race his Dark Transfer against the toxin
Again, Krayt isn't necessarily invoking greater power than Vong Krayt or even his full power. But doing so helps his goals and not doing so imperils his goals. Could Krayt think victory is assured, have total confidence in his Dark Transfer, and so be willing to slightly derail his goals for fun or indifference? Sure. Except Krayt’s never shown character tendencies like that before, nor is he indicated to be in that mindset now. It follows that Krayt's emotions should be that of one in anticipation of ultimate triumph but with the final verdict outstanding. When people feel that way, seldom do they loosen up and begin creating additional issues. They double-down and see it through. Krayt is even pulling out a new lightsaber for this battle!
Believe what you want as it’s ultimately ambiguous, but it’s a contest of “here’s multiple reasons why Krayt should go all out versus here’s zero reasons why Krayt should not go all out.” Is it possible he does not anyway? Yeah. But it’s not probable. Everything the comic itself writes or implies about what Krayt wants to do is best addressed by him bringing out his fist.
The most disputed panel illustration in Star Wars history! Some say it’s Krayt “dragging Cade through the air.” I say it’s Krayt breaking rocks as Cade jumps and pivots along them. When in doubt, look to the text accompanying the illustration. It’s Cade retorting Krayt’s claim of greater power by saying that he, too, has grown since their last encounter. He says he now has dark side tricks (even mockingly calling Darth Talon as Darth Schutta) and is a fast learner and that he even will “make things up” as he fights Krayt now.
“I’ve learned a lot too, loser!” Cade says as he is hurled across the room? That’d be a bit odd. The scene makes more sense if Cade is doing something positive -- dodging Krayt’s telekinetic rock breaks -- rather than flaunting he’s more powerful while that demonstrably being all for naught and that he is actually helpless and fucked. Indeed, just as Krayt flaunts he is more powerful as he does something positive against Cade, Cade flaunts he is more powerful as he does something positive against Krayt.
Not convinced? In the next panel, Krayt changes to Force lightning and again tells Cade to surrender. Why would Krayt need to do this if he already had Cade in a telekinetic hold? That’d be an instant submission if it were Dooku grabbing Cade… look at what he did to Kenobi, who thought he was effectively helpless once Dooku held him there. Sure, Starkiller broke out of Vader’s telekinetic holds… by breaking out of the lock with overwhelming power. Is the idea that Cade broke Krayt’s telekinetic hold? That’d be more generous to Cade than I’m willing to be…
And so Krayt says Cade’s newfound powers “don’t matter,” that he “lost before you arrived” and that he must “surrender.” Important to note that even after both combatants claim newfound powers -- and after both combatants presumably displayed their newfound powers -- both still think they will win. The fight is on!
What are the implications that Krayt switched to Force lightning when his last two attacks were with telekinesis? If you believe that Krayt is doing anything resembling goal optimizing and so must be invoking much of his power, it’s fair to say Krayt’s two telekinetic attacks failed. He blasted Cade with a Force wave demonstrative of his newfound power but Cade persisted. He blasted rocks as Cade bounced around mocking him. If you believe Krayt is treating this all as a joke and goals be damned, he’s now visibly grimacing and raising his voice (indicated by the bolding of “surrender,” which wasn’t done the prior time).
This is not the face of indifference.
It’s been pointed out how oddly drawn Krayt’s lightning is here. Why is it spiraling in every direction? Sidious’ erratic Force lightning at the end of Return of the Jedi is attributed to him losing control of his powers after subsuming into infinite rage. Krayt certainly looks angry. Maybe Krayt is losing it, too. (Option 1) If so, then that absolutely supports the idea of Krayt bringing his full power to bear. He's so angry at Cade he can't even fire straight point-blank!
Option 2 is that Cade is bending away Krayt's lightning with his own powers. This is supported by the lightning visibly arching around and away from Cade.
This matches how the artist Jan Duursema has depicted lightning bending before. Check out Shado Vao vs Darth Maladi:
Shado bends the lightning around him and into his saber. Here, Cade seems to be bending it mostly around him, but notice some of the lightning does go around/behind Cade's lightsaber.
Option 3 is that Krayt doesn’t want to shoot Cade with Force lightning... but he does later! That's how he wins! He pummels Cade with Force lightning through his fist. Force lightning is a key component in Dark Transfer. So, no, Krayt is absolutely wiling to use this power.
Option 3 is that Krayt is just readying his Force lightning and about to fire. But again notice that some of the lightning is around around/behind Cade's lightsaber. Unless he's preparing his attack by shooting everywhere but at Cade, no.
Option 5 is that it's a badly drawn comic panel. But it's still canon! And Jan Duuresma is a professional artist drawing the ultimate fight of the series. The chance of blatant errors is incredibly unlikely.
Thus, either Krayt has sunken into infinite rage, or Cade is bending Krayt's powers away from him. Either angle looks great for Cade!
Also note that Cade gets out of this attack unscathed. The comic cuts away, but when we see them again, they are fighting a distance away in a lightsaber duel with Cade visibly unharmed. What are the implications of Krayt's lightning attack also failing and Krayt having to pull out his lightsaber?
Cade goes down! And unceremoniously! Does this mean Krayt is 9.78 giga-tiers above Cade? … No. It's simultaneously possible for Cade to legitimately threaten Krayt in some way (per Talon) and persist admirably through three Force attacks (Force attacks that should reflect Krayt's full power if Krayt is goal optimizing) yet still be defeated in a lightsaber duel.
The manner by which Cade is defeated -- being shown to be in a very vulnerable position, then Krayt pummeling his fist into Cade's chest -- in itself does not even imply that Krayt is a far superior lightsaber duelist. Lightsaber duels customarily end by one combatant baiting, drawing in, or orchestrating an opening in their opponent. Krayt does that here. Krayt forces Cade into a position in which Cade's chest is exposed, and so Krayt strikes with his other hand, ending the fight. Nothing eminent from the panel itself suggests that Krayt was dominant over Cade even eight seconds prior.
You may say, "But DarthAnt66. That is the only panel provided for the lightsaber duel. We should assume Krayt is far superior in the absence of other evidence!" Firstly, that is untrue. Notice they are fighting outside. They moved locations from the interior of the Sith Temple. They must have been fighting for at least some time prior, meaning Krayt could not just readily outduel Cade. Secondly, consider the following:
This The Phantom Menace comic mock-up example is same in kind to the Krayt vs Cade duel. (And it's actually quite similar to how they depicted the fight in the comic: click). That is, the comic doesn't actually show the duel, just the duel's end. And so a reader may erroneously go, "Aha! Look at how open Qui-Gon is in that panel. Maul's hilt can clearly slam against his head and win! Maul is so superior to Qui-Gon!" But that fails to take into consideration we are seeing the moment directly proceeding defeat -- the moment the vulnerability manifests. In actuality, Jinn performed incredibly against Maul for most of the fight. Alternatively, imagine watching a chess match between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi or an MMA fight between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington. If you tuned in one moment away from Ian being check-mated, or one moment before Colby fell prey to a headlock, you would be unable to extrapolate backwards how well the fight had been going up to that point. Knowing how the fight ends isn't the same as knowing how the fight went. That is not to say Cade was likely putting up a great fight. It's to say there is insufficient evidence to claim Krayt was dominant in the lightsaber duel.
There's also this strange idea that if Krayt dominated Cade in the lightsaber duel, he must be way better overall. Where is this idea coming from? Cade has always been a far greater Force user than lightsaber combatant. Cade is raw emotion -- he has little formal training, little discipline. He defeats most of his combatants through the Force. Even minutes before he fights Krayt here, Cade is shown pressed against Talon in battle, with Talon even smiling. Then Cade unleashes the Force on her and flattens her. Talon doesn't realize Cade's powers are greater until after being hit with his Force attack, meaning it’s not evident from just his swordsman abilities. So, Krayt being way better than Cade in sabers doesn't comment on any of the aforementioned Force battle commentary anyway.
Finally, concerning Krayt only using one lightsaber against Cade: Krayt is a long-standing and famous master of Teräs Käsi, a fighting style that revolves around fists. And now, with the power of Dark Transfer, Krayt can demonstrably immobilize or kill people with a punch. It's not just conceivable but readily plausible that Krayt judges his fighting abilities with one lightsaber and a Dark Transfer-imbued fist as comparably proficient to fighting with two lightsabers, especially considering the surprise advantage (Cade is unaware that Krayt's flying fists alone can send him to the afterlife!) and the control advantage (this is the most controlled way Krayt can send Cade to the gates of hell and back).
(And two final side-points to this. (A) Krayt is listed with "Dual Weapon Mastery II" in the era Legacy Era Campaign Guide, meaning there is some trade-off in effectiveness when he chooses to use two lightsabers instead of one. This is in contrast to "Dual Weapon Mastery III," in which there is no trade-off and using two lightsabers is unconditionally more advantageous. Asajj Ventress, Grievous, and Darth Maul have Dual Weapon Mastery III, reflecting statements they fight better when using all their lightsabers. (B) There is precedent for dual weapon fighters of the Krayt aesthetic to be comparably proficient with one lightsaber, namely Revan and Palpatine. Whether they use one or two in a given battle is more of a tactical decision rather than a "how hard am I going to try this time" decision.)
PART IV: CONCLUSIONS
I'm not a big fan of conclusions. Read what I wrote for my thoughts on why Cade put up a good fight against Krayt. Does this mean Cade ever had a real shot at winning? Not necessarily. He never pressed Krayt offensively. But he certainly didn't go down without making Krayt work for it. That's what I want the takeaway to be.
Once again, I look forward to follow-up posts and may respond if the points are worthwhile.
Other blogs in the series:
- Dissecting Legacy #1: Cade Skywalker's Ending Growth
- Dissecting Legacy #2: Darth Krayt vs Darth Wyyrlok
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