Do or Do Not, But There Is Also Try

Andor's season finale evoked the nascent Rebellion manifesto of Nemik to fire a shot off at Yoda's famous mantra–but the two philosophies have plenty in common.

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Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Remember this: Try,” evokes the voice of Karis Nemik in Andor’s incredible finale, the spirited conclusion to the manifesto he’ll never get to see the end result of—a line that, in the moment, feels like a pointed rejoinder to the philosophy of the Jedi that are entirely absent from the show. But for all their literal opposites, maybe there’s more in common between Yoda and Nemik’s beliefs.

On the surface, and with some added background—namely, the Clone Wars and the Prequel Trilogy giving us not-entirely-glowing insight into what Yoda was like before he was a hermit mystic, peacing out of the Empire’s dominance of the galaxy in Empire Strikes Backplacing Nemik’s passionate call for resistance next to the venerable Jedi Master feels like a potent strike in Star Wars’ growing recontextualization of the low the Jedi Order was at when we encounter it in the movies. It’s the idea that everyone taking any act of insurrection is of benefit to a collective rebellion of the whole, even if they don’t know that there are others out there fighting the same fight they are.

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Screenshot: Lucasfilm
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Before its destruction at the hands of Palpatine’s subterfuge as a Sith, we are reminded time and time again of the Jedi’s recalcitrance as arbiters of justice and defenders of the common people, of how spiritual leaders like Yoda and the rest of the Jedi council are clouded by clinging to a hypocritical sense of orthodoxy even as it sets the stage for their inevitable ruin. Even without the influence of their infamous foes—a threat ignored until it was too late—the Jedi Order was in a spiral of decline, as a moralistic entity and as an institutional arm of the Republic, laying the path of their undoing and the rise of Imperial authoritarianism on a road of their own inaction. In this read of the Jedi, the one we are given in the prequels and in material like Clone Wars, Yoda’s words uttered to Luke in Empire Strikes Back feel almost cruel in their hypocrisy—how dare Yoda lecture someone on attempting to do something, when he idly stood by as Anakin was pushed further down a dark path, when in the wake of the Empire’s rise, Yoda decided to run away until a child he could wield as a tool against the Emperor had come of age?

It is against this critical interpretation of Yoda’s platitudes that Nemik’s manifesto in Andor stands most starkly in contrast. Andor is a series that is free of many of the mythical and spiritual trappings of other Star Wars material: the Force is never mentioned and neither are the Jedi, there are no magic powers and laser swords, there are just ordinary beings navigating a galaxy in the grip of overwhelming fascism. Nemik’s words do not implore people to leverage a godlike power they can tap into with enough effort (and, with the context of the prequels, winning a genetic lottery) or do nothing at all, but merely to keep trying, that perseverance in the face of darkness will bring life. Random acts of insurrection are everywhere, he says to us and Cassian alike; everyone involved in them is helping each other even if they don’t know it, and the larger cause is advanced in ways big and small with every act taken against the Empire. It’s beautiful, compared to the unfeeling backhanded advice of Yoda—as long as you try, as long as you are brave enough to take any act of resistance, you are part of something bigger, something spreading across the entire galaxy.

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Image for article titled Do or Do Not, But There Is Also Try
Screenshot: Lucasfilm

But it is possible to also consider Nemik and Yoda’s words in lockstep with each other, in a way, talking about similar goals but with different languages. When Yoda tells Luke—who says in despair that he’ll never be able to use the Force to lift an X-Wing out of Dagobah’s swamp, but at least he’ll try—“Do or do not, there is no ‘try’,” Star Wars’ understanding of the Force was very different to the context in which we understand it today, the ways we have seen it explained and deployed beyond the vague, mystical scope of the original trilogy. What Yoda is saying to him isn’t that there’s no point in trying at all, but that Luke has to overcome his doubt to fully wield the Force as a Jedi should—that there is no difference in terms of impossibility between lifting a rock with your mind to lifting a starfighter. If you can do one, you can do the other, because you are placing your trust in this higher connective power that binds the entire universe together. If you believe in the Force, that every living thing in the natural world is connected by it, that there is a greater magical whole that you too are part of and have learned to accept and call upon, you can achieve the impossible.

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Nemik is talking about much the same thing, he’s just talking about it in a material manner, without the spiritual language of the Force or the Jedi that Yoda and Luke have. Fundamentally, he too is imploring people to overcome doubt; while the power of the Empire’s authority seems all-encompassing and steadfast, as long as people have the faith to try and push back against it, they will aid the larger rebellion’s effort, and that ultimately they will be connected to a cause beyond the personal scope of their own insurrection. Andor, for all the literal absence of Star Wars’ usual mysticism, is still a deeply spiritual show. It just happens to place those ideas in context of human emotion and connection instead of in an exterior energy like the Force.

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Screenshot: Lucasfilm
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We may laugh and joke at The Rise of Skywalker’s opening line (The Dead Speak!”), but in Andor they really do, something more literal than a Force ghost in recorded messages like Nemik’s manifesto or Maarva’s hologram at her own funeral, and something similarly ephemeral in the ways that Cassian recalls the advice of his adoptive father Clem when he brushes his father’s funerary stone upon returning to Ferrix. If the true higher power of the Force is in a shared connection across not just living things but across generations of people who believed in it, passing on to become part of this larger calling but still able to guide those left behind, Andor believes in a similar thing as well, in things like the traditions of Ferrix’s funeral rites, in Nemik’s dying wish to be for Cassian to receive his manifesto manuscript, or even in the idea of Luthen sacrificing his own existence for, as he says almost bitterly, a sunrise he knows he’ll never see.

When it comes to doing or not doing, or remembering to try, in the end Nemik and Yoda want the same thing: for people to realize that they are not alone, and that as long as they believe they can forge a bond with a whole galaxy of existence and face the impossible. And that if they do so, they might just also have the faith to overcome it.

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