Star Wars Jedi: Survivor reignites the debate about the myth of the 'Gray Jedi'
The idea of a 'Gray Jedi' – a Force user who lies somewhere between the light and the dark, tapping into the Dark Side but never fully succumbing to it – is one that's fascinated Star Wars fans for more than two decades. With the events of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, some fans are now turning the label onto Cal Kestis – and it's reigniting a fierce argument that strikes at the heart of the fandom.
This article contains significant story spoilers for Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
The tragedy of Jedi: Survivor's second act sends Cal, broken and betrayed, to the midst of an Imperial Base. Surrounded by stormtroopers, you're eventually encouraged to embrace the darkness, boosting Cal's slow-mo ability into a devastating barrage of hits that draws on the Dark Side. That momentary turn to the dark is something we see Cere do in Fallen Order, and it's hardly a new phenomenon: Luke skirts the darkness to defeat Vader in Return of the Jedi; Anakin spends pretty much all of Attack of the Clones ignoring the teaching of the Jedi order; Rey must confront the darkness in herself throughout the sequel trilogy.
Cal is dragged back to the light pretty quickly, but maintains his ability to draw on his new power through the end of the story and into any endgame activities players might choose to undertake. That's led to plenty of chatter on the Fallen Order subreddit about whether this makes him a Gray Jedi. Problem is, Star Wars fans aren't really sure what that means, let alone if it's actually a real thing.
The first time the idea of a Gray Jedi was floated was in a 2001 comic, about Qui-Gon Jinn. In that description, it was Qui-Gon's lack of desire to go along with the verdicts of the Jedi Council that earned him that title. Other high profile examples include Knights of the Old Republic's Jolee Bindo, who said that he saw the world in shades of gray, rather than walking a fine line between light and dark, and Ahsoka Tano, one of several Jedi to be described as Gray due to her decision to distance herself from the Order.
Jedi: Survivor proves Star Wars has an increasing problem with Order-66
Essentially, the idea of a 'Gray Jedi' is inherently uncertain. The criteria that might make a Jedi gray varies from their relationship with the Jedi Council to their relationship with the Jedi Order, to their relationship with the Force itself. The idea has also been long-since purged from Canon, and has even been decried by George Lucas himself. But the idea of the morally gray Star Wars Ronin is an enticing one, and it's little surprise that Cal – a Jedi who inherently resides outside the Order and has been known to draw from the Dark Side – might attract that mantle.
It's an exciting idea for some people. The Fallen Order subreddit has seen multiple fans question whether Cal fits the bill, and others outlining what Gray Cal might look like. Discussion has turned to a potential third game, and how Cal's growth through Fallen Order and Survivor would set him down the path to becoming a full-fledged Gray Jedi.
But other fans are dead set against the idea. Some posts point out Lucas' aversion to the idea, and that a moment of weakness doesn't translate to a full-fledged descent to the Dark Side, highlighting more than anything that "Cal is a good person." Others suggest that a pivot to the dark "runs so completely counter to everything established about his character thus far." Enthusiastic posts about Gray Cal are regularly met with the suggestion that Gray Jedi aren't real, never have been, and that people who want to see them play a bigger role in the franchise should feel bad.
For what it's worth, in my Star Wars Jedi: Survivor review, I spoke about a story that shows the crew of the Mantis growing up, learning to explore more about themselves and their galaxy. A huge part of that stems from Merrin, who spends much of the game calling to the best and brightest parts of Cal, turning him away from the anger and obsession that has shaped him since Fallen Order. Blind devotion to the Jedi Order won't prop up an entire Star Wars series, but even if a third game seems likely, a trilogy that turns its back on its protagonists growth isn't likely to end on a particularly high note.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor's best cutscene is hidden behind its worst quest.