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Sunday, October 2, 2022

What’s Your Favorite Redemption Story?

Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, using his Force powers on a captured Clone Trooper.

Image: Lucasfilm

Peacemaker came to an end this week, and with it, the redemption story of John Cena’s DC antihero has come to a close. (Well, for now.) With this and The Suicide Squad, director/writer James Gunn has done for DC what he did for Marvel back in 2014 with the Guardians of the Galaxy: focus on one or more unlikable jerks (at best), peel back some layers on what makes them tick, and hopefully give them something of a redemption story, or at least a second act wherein they can do better.

Geek media loves themselves some redemption stories. Superhero comics are filled to the brim with them, offering villains a chance to be a good guy (even if it ultimately gets undone), and they’re all over shonen manga to one degree or another. In gaming, it’s a well worn trope narratively, but can also metatextually be about the developers behind the game and a chance to rehabilitate their image. It’s perhaps most common in fantasy and sci-fi: be it a criminal haunted by the things they had to do to survive, or a drifter shaken by their past and getting utterly wasted, we do love seeing people rise to the occasion and try to eke out a win.

On paper, these redemption arcs can work fairly well, but it’s the execution that can always trip folks up. It’s fairly easy to see how Zuko from Avatar or Star Wars’ Ahsoka Tano can redeem themselves, but other characters receive deeper scrutiny. The shadow of creating the Krogan genophage looms over Mass Effect’s Mordin Solus and how you perceive him, and the way Star Wars was fairly inconsistent with how conflicted or villainous Kylo Ren was has been the source of much ire and debate. (To be extremely generous about it.)

For this week’s Open Channel, we want to know about some of your favorite comebacks or redemption stories. (Other than Final Fantasy XIV, if you’re a gamer.) What makes a good redemption story, what makes them hard pills to swallow? Let us know in the comments below.

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