One Small Scene: “A Quiet Thing”
“It is such a quiet thing.
But far more terrible, is to admit it.”
Kreia, Darth Traya, possibly Arren Kae are all names belonging to a unique Star Wars character. Perhaps the most fleshed out mentor in all of the Expanded Universe; and also an utter inversion. Among many of her schemes, lies, and arguments are the confrontation with the ‘last Jedi’ of KOTOR II, Atris. And after exposing her fallen nature and probing at the nature of this corruption, these lines are spoken from one antagonist to in one of her last scenes ending charades, bringing many realisations and mysteries to light.
This simple philosophical statement delivered with potency has led to it being quoted and remembered as one line of many, coming from a thespian, grandiose character imposing opinion and will. It is worth noting as much as the speaker whom Kreia is speaking to, facing the now revealed to be open antagonist Atris with her hypocritical notions of purity and light laid bare, meditating among screaming artefacts and rotted in corruption from the inside. The contrast of age and youth, white and brown, a deliberate veneer of open villainy against the false idol.
The delivery Sara Kestelman exudes is the female counterpart to Ian McDiarmid, and I am perfectly aware of what I suggest with the comparison. Her delivery exceeds that of most voice actors or actresses, a frankly fantastic ability which brings out every single word on her script. A lot of the script is layered with the emotive talent that she brings. This is achieved perhaps ironically by the same versatility in her tone as Palpatine. Mutable. Informative, authoritative, with the ability to argue, challenge, and turn from harsh tutor to malicious villain.
Both characters are betrayers, who are written to be unlikeable -or at least argumentative and combative with the protagonist- and the interesting parallels between them. Kreia is a teacher, one of the series’ most detailed examples of actually providing verbal training in-universe. She is also the primary antagonist. The other woman within this scene, Atris is an interesting example of how this story plays with the emotions and assumptions of antagonization, not simply being an antagonist, but the emotions and obstruction an opponent creates.
Atris is objectively, in the sense of her plans and the plot, a side villain. Not a Sith Lord, and not the final boss. However, she is also easily the most antagonistic, patronising, and difficult to like characters by merit of her condescension and hypocrisy. She elicits more distain than the egomaniac Kreia so certain of herself that she could destroy the energy binding life together in her attempt to harness Malachor V, because Atris’s plan is blanketed by her intentions, the utility of her philosophy, and a probably non-existent ‘openness’. Kreia is uncompromising, confident, and prone to violence or manipulation to force her will. And yet here, she provides the element which makes her character enjoyable to so many people; her sense of neutrality and rumination.
At its core, the statement is made one villain to another, but it speaks to a common element within all Star Wars stories, and to all tragedies. The fall. And within KOTOR II, it’s one of the more famous sayings of a villain comfortable in the role of a malevolent advisor. A teacher who enjoys mentioning contrasts or evaluating manipulation and deviousness, as part of imparting wisdom, as part of a greater scheme to make her disciples tenacious leaders or weapons.
The scene is a direct reveal of one antagonist, and a rare opportunity of seeing one villain speaking to another. it is also a case of seeing very similar characters divided by time, taking Kreia at her word she was like Atris, so watching her interact with this haughty, spiteful authority and strike at her self-righteousness, arguing with her as you do and moving her to be openly malevolent -a tool- is both cathartic in the sense of seeing an open enemy and an arrogance humbled, and sad as such a figure is robbed of justification and self-delusion, every Jedi in the game’s story being a disappointment and a failure. Never in the game is there a dramatic reveal with the ceremony, sound and pomp the films do so well. KOTOR II’s story is purposefully antithetical, its weight in the absence of an orchestral score or spectacle. Like the philosophies of Tao that inspired it, this quiet moment of revelation has a power not unlike the Jungian quest into the ‘shadow self’, and power gained through riddle and realisation. The quest is apparent in the main characters of the story, the player (represented in the level-up system) and as a source of entertainment and philosophical discourse for the player-audience.
The statement is about truth, like many of her greatest quotes given to the darker individuals, or about the more ruthless actions in life. While spoken in a quiet place, far from the player protagonist; the scene, insight, and wisdom is present for the audience invited to judge, players who will confront both of these antagonists and pass judgement upon them, as they have judged, frustrated and presented opposition to you.
At its core, these moments of realisation are pivotal to critical character decisions. Both because they are beats of tragedy and emotional conflict and these self-affirmations and shifts in psyche directly change their relationship with the force and those they love.
Kreia’s observation made from experience sheds light on a decline made by herself, and many others in the dark and light cycle. Ulic Qel-Droma, Revan, Atris, and in the future Anakin and many more fall in increments. I wonder if Lucas himself drew some inspiration from these stories, given some of the best Revenge Of The Sith scenes come from exactly this kind of quiet fall; namely Anakin’s sitting in the council chamber and weeping at the choice, his vigil over the eclipse after ending the war, and the final scene of him folding his arms with nothing but The Emperor and machines to sustain him. Moments of personal quiet, and beneath it the tragedy and horror of what happens when a failing or tapping into darker powers is unveiled.
A few short lines of dialogue. That stab in a sensitive area, regret, and moral lesson is conveyed within a short sentence. Perhaps four seconds.
One small scene. With a lot to ponder.
If you are interested in viewing the entire scene, enclosed within is a link covering it by Papito Qinn (a content creator’s channel I find highly enjoyable): here.
All the best, thank you very much for reading.