Star Wars and the Lightsabers of Storytelling

kylo ren vs reyPerhaps better than any other Star Wars film so far, the lightsaber duels in The Force Awakens tell a story and establish who the characters are in that moment. Only the duel between Luke and Vader in Return of the Jedi even comes close to telling this sort of tale via clashing blades. At first glance, the duel between first Kylo Ren and Finn and then Kylo Ren and Rey is brutal and it doesn’t get any less brutal after repeat viewings. Gone is the elegance of the Prequel Trilogy and with good reason. Kylo Ren doesn’t have the benefit of training with a Jedi Order who has perfected the weapon over millennia and Finn and Rey have never even held a lightsaber before that day. Every swing of a saber has meaning and you don’t need to have seen a single other frame of the film to get what sort of people these three characters are.

Finn has the least training with these sorts of weapons and it shows. He gets in a few good blows but it comes off as more beginner’s luck combined with a Kylo who is far from being at his best. (More on that last part later.) With any sort of sword fighting, a raw beginning can sometimes have more luck than someone who has trained, as they do not react in a way that is expected. In other words, someone who has even basic training will be more likely to attack and block in a way that utilizes more standard stances and responses that will be easier for someone else with even more training to counter. Unfortunately, it’s just not quite enough to help Finn last more than a few minutes despite his determination to help his friend.

Kylo Ren’s responding actions speak louder than any words could. He doesn’t take Finn as a serious threat. A traitor? Sure but he’s clearly familiar enough with Hux’s training program to know that there’s no way FN-2187 knows enough to be more than a nuisance and it shows. He toys with Finn especially at the start, dodging some of Finn’s more wild swings with a distinctive ease and even knocking him to the ground and turning away instead of pressing his advantage and ending it. Turning your back to an enemy is an insult. It’s not until Finn lands a blow that actually hurts him that Kylo steps up his game and decides to end the fight now. This time, he’s not content with disarming Finn and follows it up with an injury that ensures the former stormtrooper will stay down.

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Global Game Jam: A Newbie’s POV

GGJ round logo

Making a game in 48 hours seems a massive task, yet it’s something tens of thousands of people do every year at Global Game Jam, an international game jam for developers of any type and skill level to come together and create something new.

Though game jams—gatherings of game devs to create games in short spans of time—can vary in size and the given amount of time, Global Game Jam is the world’s largest physical jam event, this year taking place in 78 countries.

This was my first year doing GGJ, and my first year doing a game jam in general (I have since done one more, where I co-created a card game!), and I was honestly hesitant about the whole thing, because what am I, but a writer? I thought there was nothing I could possibly contribute to such a short game. Turns out narrative can be pretty important to even a game made in 48 hours, who knew?

Okay, yeah. Everyone knew.
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Millicent the Cat Has a Secret

Millicent the Cat

Despite dozens of people saying otherwise, the theory that Snoke is actually Darth Plagueis continues to live on even though so many of us wish it would just die. Fear not! I come before you with a new theory… one far younger and more powerful. Per interviews with Andy Serkis, we know that Snoke is actually a brand new character for the Sequel Trilogy. Thus far, most of the Snoke Theories have ignored this.

Star Wars fans were recently alerted to the existence of a new character this weekend… Millicent the Cat. Millicent is a bit of an oddity. Not only does she belong to General Hux but she also has a litter box in Kylo Ren’s torture room. This is no mere kitty. She is Millicent, Daughter of… some other cat. You owe her your allegiance. Therefore, I feel that it is my obligation and my sworn duty to present to you a theory backed by what I consider to be irrefutable evidence: Snoke is actually Millicent the Cat.

Fact: No one has ever seen Millicent and Snoke in the same room.
This is indisputable. Throughout the entire film, Snoke and Millicent the Cat never appear in frame together. Now, of course, one might argue that Millicent never appears in The Force Awakens period but that certainly does not take away from the fact that you never see them together. There’s definitely a reason why.

Fact: We’ve only see Snoke as a hologram.
Millicent is one smart kitty. She knew that she’d never have a chance for galactic domination as herself so she found another plan of action. The giant Snoke hologram on a throne is merely a digital projection created entirely by computers that Millicent is clearly controlling. (Pay no attention to the cat behind the curtain.)

Fact: Cats are assholes. Just like Snoke.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a cat, when given the opportunity, must be in want of being an asshole. What could be more asshole-ish than corrupting a kid to the dark side and encouraging him to kill his father?

Fact: Kylo Ren puts his helmet in Millicent’s litterbox.
Do you think the Master of the Knights of Ren would put his helmet just anywhere? Of course not. Obviously Millicent is no mere cat and Kylo should feel lucky to temporarily place his helmet where Millicent’s *ahem* business also goes. And honestly, do you think that any mere cat, even one owned by General Hux, would have a litterbox in such an important place?  (Although I suppose there’s room for an argument that this is just another way for Millicent-Snoke to exert her dominance over Kylo.)

Fact: Neither Hux nor Kylo appear to have any cat hair on them.
As anyone who owns a pet or has spent any time around hairy mammals can tell you, this is impossible. I don’t care how many lint rollers you have or how religiously you use one, some hair will always escape your efforts. Millicent must have supernatural powers if she’s able to keep her two humans and their very dark clothing from perpetually having orange hair on it.

Fact: Snoke intends to complete Kylo Ren’s training.
This entire line is a bit of misdirection on Millicent’s part. She orders Hux to go collect Ren from the blood and snow heap because she wants her humans in one piece but she also tells them to come to her. She doesn’t want to let them on the secret just yet so this is her keeping up the charade. The hologram can still be used wherever Hux and Ren have to go. She’s clearly very serious about training Ren though. His temper tantrums keep destroying computer consoles and do you know what warm and lovely spots those are for sleeping? Especially in freezing cold space? He must be trained to stop such destruction. Plus, every credit redirected towards repairs is another credit that won’t be buying her treats or catnip which is just rude.

Fact: Supreme Leader is exactly the smug sort of title a cat would come up with.
“Emperor” is just so three decades ago. Also, Supreme Leader is gender neutral and Millicent is all about gender equality. Species equality will be at the top of her list once she achieves galactic domination.

You may laugh but prepare yourself to be astounded and amazed when this theory is revealed as fact in Episode VIII or Episode IX. Or perhaps Pablo’s Twitter. The ramifications of something like this may be too dangerous and blow theatregoers’ minds if seen on the big screen. Just wait.

Hail Supreme Leader Millicent!

Art by coattailsofdoom on tumblr. That is the face of a cat with an evil plan and a mission.

There is Peace: Anakin, Ezra and Emotional Support

Yoda: Inside you much anger, much fear.

Ezra: I just want to protect myself and my friends.

Yoda: And this is why you must be Jedi?

Ezra: Yes, and not just them. Everyone. I’ll protect everyone. Before I met Kanan, I only ever thought of myself, but Kanan and the rest, they don’t think like that. They help people, they give everything away, and I see it. I see how it makes people feel.

Yoda: Feel, yes. How?

Ezra: Alive. They feel alive, like I do now.

Rebels S01E09, Path of the Jedi

Anakin at nine: The golden child of the twin suns, given the choice to leave his hard but love-filled slave life behind to become a champion of the galaxy. He is warm, talented, and compassionate, but fear and anger already have firm footholds in his heart.

Ezra at fourteen: A street rat who will help others subjugated by the Empire, as long as it suits him. Trust doesn’t come easy after years of being alone and he is afraid, though he’ll never admit it. Still, there is goodness deep inside him, and Hera and Kanan encourage the light inside him.

Both of these young boys are taken in by a new family at the start of their respective stories, the promise of becoming a Jedi dangled before them. We know where Anakin’s journey takes him—his fall, his redemption at the end—but we don’t know where Ezra’s heading yet. His future is totally open.

star_wars_rebels_ezra_jedi

Source: Lucasfilm.

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The Fan Awakens

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by our friend Shannon Donahue, who created our Tosche Station logo!

I’m hooked. I’m a fan. I’m a Star Wars fan. I am a science fiction fan. It’s a big deal you guys.

Confession… I hated science fiction.

Like, I really hated it. It only took one (kind of awful) person I knew as a child to ruin an entire genre for me. I was sure that I could never have anything in common with that person so I sure as hell wasn’t going to like “stupid space stuff”. Nope, not me.

To me, science fiction had nothing at all to do with my life. I couldn’t see how these people in weird costumes or freaky alien makeup had anything to do with me. How on earth could I have anything in common with these people/things? Not only that, but I failed all my science and math classes in school.  My brain just doesn’t think like that. I like music and art and historical costume dramas. I hung on to this as a part of my personality for a really, really long time. It was just a part of who I was. I didn’t like Sci Fi. I was NEVER going to like Sci Fi.

The problem with that was my best friend was a HUGE Star Wars fan. Growing up she had all the books, she had the posters, she had the 3 ft Darth Vader statue that she hand made. She made a fan video complete with costumes. I didn’t get it. I was never going to get it and I didn’t want to. But when you love someone, you pay attention to the things they love. As we grew up and changed I learned a few things along the way. I might not have seen any of the Star Wars movies, but I knew enough about them to understand and play along. I knew the characters. I had a basic understanding of the plots. Slowly I had more and more friends who were HUGE Star Wars fans. In my group of friends I was the weirdo that didn’t like this stuff. I slowly began to realize that maybe, just maybe I was holding on to hating something for no good reason. I found myself painting Star Wars art for friends all the time. It was beginning to feel like every day I was having another conversation about Star Wars.

So, before I attended my first DragonCon four years ago, I sat down and watched the original trilogy. Dude, I didn’t hate it. Okay, I didn’t love it either, but I didn’t hate it. This was groundbreaking psychological shit for me. I felt free somehow. I realized I didn’t have to know space or science stuff. This was mystical, not scientific. I could get on board with this. But I still wasn’t really a fan.

Then I saw the first trailer for The Force Awakens. I thought I was just excited for my friends. Then the second and the third trailer. Oh Boy! As each trailer was released and then finally the movie, I fell more and more in love and here’s why…

Rey

I am so in love with her. Rey is exactly what I want in a female character. She’s soft and she’s hard. She does what has to be done with strength and determination. It seems to me that she has every reason to trust no one, but she flies into a terrifying new direction with new people and places and she does it with such amazing grace. I am in love with the fact that I can turn to my nine year old niece watching the movie and know that she is seeing herself and seeing a woman full of strength and kindness.

Finn

There is so much to love!  He’s funny!  He’s interesting! I love that this movie made you rethink good and bad and black and white. Finn helps us do that. He is a stormtrooper; we are supposed to pull against this guy, but somehow from the very beginning we don’t. We want him to succeed. We want him to find himself away from The First Order. The moment that Poe renames him is brilliant to me. I love that Finn is scared and silly and that he has what seems to be a limitless kindness.

Kylo Ren

Adam Driver does something with his presence and his voice that is both completely and totally terrifying and also completely vulnerable and broken. We know nothing about his story except who his parents are. That revelation breaks us. It breaks us for Han and Leia, but also for Kylo. What sort of hurt, what sort of lies must he be holding on to for him to turn so dark when he came from such love? This doesn’t feel forced or contrived to me but very, very real. Our parents are a part of who we are, but more than that our perception of our parents is a part of who we are. I still find myself wondering about Kylo Ren and who he must think his parents are if he feels he must turn from them so violently.

Family

I was going to write about Han and Leia and what I loved about them. I was going to write about Luke. But what I loved about them and every character in this movie is this: it’s a movie about family, not just the family of your birth but the family of your choice. You can choose to walk away from the family of your birth. You can choose to find a new family with your friends. I felt this so strongly throughout the movie. Obviously the other movies have been about family, but that always felt like it was just the Skywalker family.

I connected so strongly with this movie because I felt the bonds of family in almost every scene. The family that is forged between lifelong friends like Han and Chewie. The family that can be instantly created between new friends as we see with Finn and Poe and then again with Finn and Rey. Our families, no matter how they are created, are our strength and our weakness.

The Look

I loved the look of the movie. I’m a visual person and this kind of stuff is important to me.  

  • BB8 is not only the most charming thing I’ve ever seen outside of a Pixar film, it’s also genius in its simplicity. It’s nothing but circles and a few rectangles and somehow it emotes better than most humans I know.
  • Maz Kanata’s Palace is another example of the look that I love. Flying into that land and walking up to the front doors felt real and magical. Then you find yourself in a dive bar! I loved it. Lupita Nyong’o was perfection as Maz. I want to sit and have shots with her, I want her to look into my eyes and see more than I see. I want her to teach classes at my local metaphysical book store.
  • The dreaded catwalk scene with Kylo and Han is pure lighting genius.
  • The last 5 minutes of the movie on Skellig Michael. Your heart is in your throat, your eyes are burning with hope and the unbelievable beauty of that place. Then your eyes are burning because of the unbelievable acting from Daisy Ridley and especially Mark Hamill.

I could never put my finger on what didn’t capture my interest in the original trilogy. It took this movie to show me. Just as a Jedi must not deal in absolutes, why must these movies? The Jedi and the Rebellion are good and everyone else is bad. The universe that has been expanded by The Force Awakens feels more real to me because there are no absolutes. A stormtrooper can be the hero. The villain can be a Skywalker/Solo. There is Darkness in the Light. There is light in the darkness. This movie perfectly captured that to me and I hope that it is indicative of how the rest of these movies will go.

What I learned about Star Wars and about science fiction is this: it isn’t necessarily about space. It isn’t necessarily about war. It isn’t about science and it doesn’t feel like fiction. These stories are about people dealing with life. Life with some crazy shit going down. Just like my life, minus the hyperdrive.

** edited to leave out the three pages of POE IS HOT! SNAP IS THE BEST! X-WINGS, YAY!

Our 2015 Superlatives – Comics Edition

It’s the end of 2015, which means it’s time for Best of Lists! Here at Tosche Station, we thought we’d break up our lists into categories, and post a different topic per day.

In this installment, we discuss our favorite comics of 2015.

Shoshana: There were a lot of comics I really enjoyed this year, many of which are aimed at younger audiences. As far as continuing traditionally published comics go, Lumberjanes continues to be one of the most fun and diverse adventure comics around and Ms. Marvel is still as great as ever. There were a lot of great new comics, too, with the magical girl series Zodiac Starforce really standing out with its fun writing and art and memorable characters. Other new comics I had a blast with this year include Squirrel Girl, a very fun and wonderfully silly comic following the exploits of a superhero who can talk to squirrels and who absolutely beat Doctor Doom in her first appearance, Jem and the Holograms, the comic reimagining of the 1980s cartoon, and Raven: Pirate Princess, a spin-off of the also wonderful comic Princeless that follows Raven, a lesbian pirate princess seeking to build a crew and reclaim the fleet that her brothers stole from her.

On the webcomics front, this year I discovered the joy of Band Vs Band, about the two very different lead singers of two very different bands, neither of whom seems to have quite figured out that they’re totally into each other, and the wonderful pain of Witchy, following a young witch who tries to hide her long hair in a magical kingdom where hair length equals magical power and too much power equals a potential threat to authorities.

Bria: I could talk about Ms. Marvel or Saga (which are both fantastic) but those are on everyone’s best of lists.  So instead, let me just put in some applause of Sam Humphries’ Planet Hulk which featured GLADIATOR CAPTAIN AMERICA RIDING A T-REX and also the newly started Doctor Strange by Jason Aaron.  I’m also mourning the loss of the fantastic Elektra which lasted only a dozen or so issues.  2015 was the year when I finally got to start reading Gillen and McKelvie’s Wicked + Divine and it blew me away.  Also on the indie front, Monstress and Invisible Republic rock my socks more than I could possibly say.

What It’s Like to Watch All 7 Star Wars Films in a Row

When you first buy a ticket for the Star Wars marathon that leads up to The Force Awakens, you’re probably on an adrenaline high and thinking how incredibly awesome it will be and how you can’t wait for December.  And then you realize that you’ve just agreed to sit in a movie theatre with a hundred other nerds for 21 hours.  Twenty. One. Hours.

Uh-oh.

12:20 AM: Your alarm goes off and you roll out of bed, somehow putting on the clothes you laid out the night before.  You’ve had about 3.5 hours of sleep but it’s going to have to do.

12:50 AM: You arrive at the theatre, armed with your supplies for the day.  The pillow is useful.  The blanket remains shoved in the bag and your ‘I Survived the Battle of Jakku’ sweatshirt is quickly ditched because it is hot as hell already.

1:00 AM: The Phantom Menace starts!  You roll your eyes as people start mocking trade negotiations.

1:02 AM: You down your first frappachino of the day.

Somewhere between 1:10 and 3:10 AM: You’re stupidly happy because you forgot how much you love TPM.  People make Jar Jar jokes but that’s nothing new because you’ve been on the Internet.  Padmé Amidala is the Queen of the Galaxy and holy crap, that freaking Duel of the Fates!  You also roll your eyes and glare at the people who laugh when Anakin is sad as he leaves his mom and contemplate punching the guy next to you for being a dick.  It’s okay though.  They won’t drag you down!

3:12 AM: The credits roll and you make a desperate dash for the bathroom but then realize that there was no need because for once, the line for the ladies room is the short one.  This is going to be good.

3:18 AM: You try and offer the folks running this thing a smile and a kind word and let them know that you appreciate that they are doing everything they can to fix the air issue since you’ve just witnessed them have the same conversation 10 times in a row with everyone complaining, Continue reading

I want to fall in love again.

poeAll I want from The Force Awakens is to fall in love again.

The first time I saw A New Hope, I fell in love. Not with the film itself, or the Star Wars universe, or even the Battle of Yavin. I fell in love with the characters. I wanted to be like Princess Leia. I loved Han and Chewie’s friendship. I loved the bickering droids. I even loved how evil Vader and Tarkin were. Most of all, I loved Luke Skywalker.

I still love Luke, and the promise of Luke in TFA, even the most miniscule appearance, has me absolutely giddy. I have my theories about what he’s been up to in the galaxy, but I’m trying to go into the film with a clean slate. I’m not expecting him to have children, or to have trained Jedi, or to still be in contact with his friends and family. Basically, all of my worst fears about TFA. However, I have hope that J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan will give us a more interesting story for Luke than Obi-Wan 2.0.

But this column isn’t about Luke Skywalker. This column is about falling in love with a new set of characters. I already have attachments Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron, and I don’t even know them yet. I already want to give Kylo Ren a big noogie. Captain Phasma already scares the bejeesus out of me. I want to know more about Maz Kanata and Supreme Leader Snoke. And General Hux gives me very confusing feelings. All in all, I’m already way more invested in these characters than I was during the prequels–and I like the prequels.

I’m excited to meet all the new characters, yes, but one of them stands above the rest: Poe Dameron. Yes, I find Oscar Isaac painfully attractive. Yes, I have a thing for X-wing pilots. Yes, I loved seeing his parents in Shattered Empire. It was kind of inevitable that I’d fall in love with Poe before even seeing TFA.

Everything we learn about Poe makes me like him more and more. He’s got a cocky streak to him, which is typical for pilots in the Star Wars universe. Unlike Han he’s extremely dedicated to the Resistance, and he’s served the Republic his entire life. I find that sort of dedication extremely appealing in characters–probably one of the reasons I love Wedge Antilles so much. We know Poe is so dedicated to the Resistance that General Organa herself chose to send him on some important mission. From the trailers, we also know that things don’t go so well for him, but I’m hoping his resilience sees him through, just like with Leia.

I relate to entertainment most when there’s a character I really connect with. In the Original Trilogy, it’s Luke Skywalker. In The Hunger Games, it’s Peeta. In Mageworlds, it’s Beka and Jessan. In Legends, it’s Mara Jade. I’m hoping that, with the Sequel Trilogy, my love affair with Poe Dameron is solidified. Not only Poe, but I’m hoping to meet a whole bunch of new characters I fall in love with.

And if Luke Skywalker swoops in and saves the day, well, I’ll be the happiest girl in the world.

Star Wars: Return of the Badass Normal

There’s a reason my original VHS copy of Return of the Jedi pretty much has a hole burned through the Battle of Endor. I watched that starfighter battle on repeat so many times our VHS player eventually ripped the cassette to shreds. The Falcon, X-wings, Y-wings, A-wings, and B-wings flying through capital ships in a massive fight to end the second Death Star and the Empire.

And not a single Jedi among them.

The pilots and soldiers of the Rebellion have always held a special place in my heart. For me, they were the most relatable. They were the heroes I pretended to be when I was running around on the playground or was playing with Action Fleet toys. I didn’t want to be the magical and mystical Jedi. I wanted to be the unassuming hero behind the flightstick and navigating through a starfield. My favorite video games growing up were the ones that put me behind the controls of a starfighter: X-Wing, TIE Fighter, Rogue Squadron, X-Wing Alliance. My favorite books were the X-Wing novels by Mike Stackpole and (the late, wonderful, superb) Aaron Allston.

All of these things- the games, the books, the scenes in the movie- had one thing in common. They all featured the Badass Normal.

The Badass Normal is a character or characters who stand out despite no special powers or destiny. They show up, they kick ass, they get the job done, all in the shadow of the Big Damn Heroes. No one exemplifies this more than the illustrious Wedge Antilles. Shows up in the original three films, is always calm and collected, and understands that his mission is to just get the job done. I want to see that in Star Wars again. I want to see the normal character who goes to work that I can relate to.

Maybe in this film, that Badass Normal is Poe Dameron. If not him, perhaps it’s Jessika Pava. How great would a gender-swapped Wedge-type character be? If nothing else, I want to see a return of the kind of character that was missed in the Prequel Trilogy. Not a Jedi, or a Queen, or a genetically engineered super soldier clone. I want to see someone like me, that feels so passionately for a cause they volunteer and put their lives on the line with nothing more than a blaster or an X-wing to keep them safe.

These Badass Normal characters are what keep Star Wars grounded for me. The first time I see a squadron of pilots in X-wings in this film, I know I’m going to get emotional.

Star Wars: Unafraid and Lady Lovin’

Here’s the thing: I am not a movie buff, I am not a film student (anymore), and I almost never have strong feelings about anything. I go into everything with no expectations except cool women and pretty cinematography. You can imagine that a lot of recent films have disappointed me.

The Force Awakens has already given me everything I want, just in the trailers and teasers and TV spots. A female lead, gorgeous shots that are a blend of old and new, and Leia. My God, do I love Leia. I am perfectly content with just the teasers and trailer, and the thought that there is an actual whole movie coming out next week is so overwhelming I can’t even directly acknowledge the thought lest I explode. Or cry. I can’t look directly at the idea, I must tip-toe by the realization that this is actually happening.

But I have no fear (and really, do I ever?) I’m not known for my good taste in films, I unabashedly love terrible or unpopular movies. Can I count the number of times I’ve watched the Prequels? No, but it’s probably a higher number than the OT. The only thing that could legitimately make me dislike The Force Awakens would be awful treatment of the lady characters, but I have such utter faith in the team at Lucasfilm I hardly believe that will happen.

I do have hopes, though. Hopes that Rey and Finn will shine, and will inspire other films to cast women and people of colour in starring roles. Hopes that I will want to watch this movie as often as I crave watching The Hunger Games. I want to fall in love with Rey and Finn and the other characters the same way I have so fallen for their actors, so funny and charming and kind. I want this film to give me feelings so strong I realize I can never love any person as much as I love TFA. Finally, I desperately want to see Han and Leia have sweet moments. I will ship them till my dying breath.

Star Wars has always been an innovator, a leader, an inspirer. As long as I can remember, Star Wars has been in my life—from babysitting me when my parents didn’t want to deal with a bored toddler, to me wanting to be Obi-Wan’s sister with a pink lightsaber when we were pretending to be in Lord of the Rings back in primary. Those orcs didn’t stand a chance.

The OT showed me that I could be a princess and still be in space with cool ships and guns. The PT inspired me in part to take up politics so I could be like Padme, inspiring change in a country I felt so strongly for (a failed venture, that in part lead me back to falling in love with Star Wars.) The Clone Wars gave me Ahsoka, who I love so dearly I am actually astounded by the depths of my feelings. Abrams is wrong, Star Wars has always been for everyone.

I want the new films to give me, and all young girls coming into this fandom, women (note the plural) to look up to and give us hope for our futures, or inspiration for our present. This is really all I am hoping for: a positive force for women and girls of all ages. I don’t care if Rey is a Skywalker or a Solo, I only care that she is everything Star Wars has been needing for over thirty years, and that she’ll be someone for little girls to look up to and love.

I also really want Finn and Rey to hold hands. Romantically. Oh God, please don’t be related.