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My thoughts on The Force Awakens crossguard lightsaber
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My thoughts on The Force Awakens crossguard lightsaber
 PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 4:14 am Reply with quote  
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  DarthMRN
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I've seen so much debate around that crossguard saber, and for the first time I wish I had a blog or something where I could write an article exploring the topic and its validity for as many people as possible to see. Consider this thread me getting things out of my system.





1) "It looks impractical".
Most common complaint I hear. My retort: Have you seen Star Wars before? Specifically its combat? Did it look realistic? Practical? Did it look like people were regular mortals concerned with life and limb, and took appropriate precautions?




Hand millimeters from the blade.




Ridiculously risky spinning for no good reason.




Guns akimbo.




Hand-held Gatling gun.


And for good measure, a small article pointing out the, erm, safety concerns in SW.

Practicality towards danger, you say? What have you been smoking, I say.


2) "The crossguard can be used to protect the hands".
Let's assume for a moment that point 1 was void. That practicality mattered in the slightest. Would the crossguard have some worth? Sure, maybe. Having something protecting your hands is still better than nothing. But everything about the thing belies that possibility. If the emitter studs were lightsaber resistant, having actual blades as well would make little sense, you could just make a sword-shaped handle and be done with it. If they aren't, they are vulnerable to attack. By a weapon that slices through heavy battle droids like butter.

Speaking of vulnerability, real swords have crossguards in large part to protect against one blade sliding down the other. With lightsabers, that never happens. I haven't seen that happen once. The blades just seem to clash and stick toghether. The only case where it may have happened was when Anakin was scissoring Dooku's head in RotS, and even then it happened just offscreen, and thus might as well have been him separating them before attacking. If someone can think of a blatant example of lightsabers sliding on one another, I'm interested.
In any case, sliding clearly isn't a viable tactic even in a pulpy cinematic universe full of Rule of Cool like SW, so crossguards on a lightsaber would offer minimal protection in the first place.


3) "The extra blades can be used for attack"
This one I agree with. Having extra blades on your weapon in a universe where you are more or less guaranteed to never hit yourself no matter how unsafely you fight would make perfect sense. There is a question of precedence, though, which I will get into below.


4) "There are examples in Star Wars of this sort of thing already".
True, the Legends universe did feature some wacky lightsaber designs. But seeing as it has been swept out of canon for the sake of this very movie, these prior designs don't really provide precedence for anything anymore.





On a personal note, I always hated these deviations from the movies, and saw them as one of the best reasons for disregarding the EU. When an EU creator takes such liberties with iconic weapon designs from the primary media, with weapons that are supposed to be traditional even, he is going too far off the reservation. Not least cause he opens the can of worms of why other lightsabers don't feature such practical features if this is possible. He should have simply taken his cue from the movies and assumed that it wasn't possible, or else lightsabers would have featured crossguards already. But I am getting ahead of myself.


5) "Besides, it's the future, and we don't know who this villain is. Maybe his "people" figured out a better way to build a lightsaber."
A thousand generations of Jedi and the biggest design deviation we've seen from the Lucasverse is the Darksaber. The Sith are gone in accordance with the prophesy of the Chosen One. Yet this new Kylo Ren and whatever nobodies trained him have managed to evolve the design beyond its Jedi and Sith roots? The Jedi knowingly used an inferior weapon out of tradition? And the Sith chose to do the same? But in reality there were improvements to be made, so glaringly obvious that some unknown engineers arriving on the scene after their fall were able to evolve a design unchanged for who knows how many centuries in the span of just 30 years? Even the radical differences between PT and OT tech level knew to leave lightsabers well enough alone.
I don't think this particular piece of technology should be subject to whatever crazy backwards technological development the GFFA operates by. Particularly now that we know for certain it is a weapon primarily mystical in nature, not technological.


6) "Real swords have crossguards. What is wrong with adding them to lightsabers?"
This is the question I am personally most concerned with, and which the above is merely a preamble for. What indeed?

In a universe where Rule of Cool dictates that as long as the action looks fun and swashbuckling in an Errol Flynn manner, anything goes, reality and practicality be damned, what exactly is wrong with making a space opera lazer sword look like a real one? Shouldn't that be entirely appropriate, even?
From a purely OOU design perspective, I can agree with such a sentiment. Making a fictional sword that looks like a real one makes sense, and I can only assume that is what the TFA production crew is going for with the crossguard saber, unless the whole thing is just a PR stunt with no basis in the actual film.

The real problem to my mind is one of lore and precedent. As much as SW is just lighthearted, over-the-top fun, with according combat, it is also a cultural treasure of the Western world, with too many fanatical fans globally. You don't take liberties with such a property lightly. Even Lucas himself found that out when the PT didn't align with the OT. Newcomers like Disney and JJ, who not only have to prove their worthiness as stewards of SW, but also that they will use the property better than Lucas last did, can't afford to take risks like this. Risks of disrespecting the holy cow they are now in charge of, at least not on their first try.
What that amounts to in practice IMO is to be extremely mindful of the existing lore and precedent set by the still canon Lucas productions. To look carefully at what came before and build upon that. Rather than looking at practicality as the litmus test of this new lightsaber's validity, existing lore and precedent is what we should really be looking at.
And per my understanding, this crossguard saber falls completely flat on that point.





The above image comes from a prop made for the PT, showing what Anakin's lightsaber looks like on the inside. The component names may or may not be canon, originating from the Visual Dictonaries, but there is every reason to believe the picture is, even if it doesn't feature in a movie. In the old Holocron canon system, notes sent to Leland Chee from the film production team -not just GL himself- were entered into the database as G-canon, showing that even lesser details from the production counted as the highest canon. It thus stands to reason that an elaborate prop like this would still hold the same value.

The prop shows components arranged in a straight line from battery at the bottom, focusing crystal in the middle and emitter at the top, with the implication being that the battery produces energy, which is then channeled through the crystal for some sort of critical change in nature, and finally emitted as a weapon potent enough to slice through virtually anything in the setting. The implied component logic speaks against the crossguard saber, in that a piece of tech which produces a blade in a straight line from bottom to top like this wouldn't be able to just divert the energy into several emitters at will.
And if this was indeed always possible, why on earth would every previously seen lightsaber only have one emitter? The Clone Wars season 5 episodes 6-9 feature the Jedi droid Huyang who claims to have taught Jedi to construct lightsabers for a thousand generations, aka the Order's entire existence as per Obi-Wan in ANH. He offers them several holographic examples of previous lightsabers, and they all follow the same formula of the simple cylinder with one emitter:





Further precedent is provided when looking at Darth Maul's ligthsaber:





The thing is twice as long as the standard variant, in fitting with it being able to produce two blades. When cut in two by Obi-Wan one piece even works like a normal ligthsaber, overwhelmingly suggesting that this two-bladed variant is simply two standard lightsabers grafted together at the bottom, with the same exact components within.

From all of this the Lucasverse precedent seems clear: One hilt in a straight configuration is able to produce one blade. Not several. Such a thing would be a blatant retcon, ignoring implications by abusing the fact that nothing explicit has been said on the topic.


6) "So what if the crossguard studs are simply additional tiny lightsabers grafted onto the end of a regular one?"
Admittedly, this is supported by looking at Yoda's ligthsaber:





Clearly smaller than the standard variant, it proves that the required components can be miniaturized at least somewhat, at the cost of blade length. On its face this would open up for the crossguards being merely additional mini-ligthsabers grafted onto the standard one, with their own components and greatly reduced blade length.
The biggest barrier in such use of precedent is the lightsaber crystal. From the same TCW arc mentioned above we finally learn from a Lucasverse source that lightsabers are basically magical swords through their crystals. Crystals the Force pairs with individual Jedi, who have to undergo a vision quest to attain them, and then attune them to the Force before insertion in the hilt. Clearly the crystal is the most critical component of the weapon, and looking at the cross-section of Anakin's lightsaber again, there just doesn't seem to be space enough for two extra crystals in the studs of the crossguard, let alone the rest of the components, no matter how miniaturized. Even a pulpy universe like SW should respect conservation of mass.
So if this is supposed to be the logic behind the crossguard, it isn't very convincing.


To conclude, for these reasons I just don't think the crossguard lightsaber fits with Lucasverse precedent, no matter how you look at it. And Disney's first foray into the universe after the PT really shouldn't be characterized by such sloppy and lazy adherence to the rules and precedent established by George. Especially when the result is of questionable practical value, and seems mostly geared at appealing to the Game of Thrones crowd by abusing the fact that SW is pulpy and cinematic enough to allow it. That is just poor stewardship of Star Wars IMO.
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Last edited by DarthMRN on Mon Jan 05, 2015 9:27 am; edited 2 times in total


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 PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 8:43 am Reply with quote  
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  Reepicheep
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I am largely in agreement with you. The crossguard lightsaber doesn't make any sense.

Honestly, though, I think the EU design was way better even if it didn't look as cool. Having only one guard pointing away from the user, and also pointing up, seems like it would be a lot safer for the user. It looks like it would also eliminate the problem of a lightsaber cutting off the emitter of the guard blade, because it looks like a lightsaber blade would get caught between the two blades before the opponent's lightsaber reached the emitter. There's still the problem of how a single, standard-sized lightsaber can produce two blades, but that can be explained away and doesn't bother me as much as battle practicality.

Win for the EU. Cool
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 PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 9:02 am Reply with quote  
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  Taral-DLOS
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I'm not going to worry about it too much.

I believe that the EU has spoiled us into expecting that things should look like they work, because we've been told how they work. But SW is on the Sci-Fi/Fantasy spectrum (I daresay closer to the Fantasy edge than the Sci-Fi edge). I can suspend my disbelief, and assume that what I've been "told" about how lightsabers work is fluid.

Besides, it's the future, and we don't know who this villain is. Maybe his "people" figured out a better way to build a lightsaber.

Besides, it made for a great visual and it got people talking. That's a win.
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 PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 9:15 am Reply with quote  
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  DarthMRN
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Taral-DLOS wrote:
Besides, it's the future, and we don't know who this villain is. Maybe his "people" figured out a better way to build a lightsaber.

I forgot this one. Thanks.
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 PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 10:22 am Reply with quote  
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  Mara Jade Skywalker
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I agree with all your points, for the most part. I don't really like the new saber, but I will reserve severe judgment for post-viewing. Still...we have seen this before:



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 PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 2:01 pm Reply with quote  
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  GrandMaster
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I have no problems with the crossguard lightsaber, but the best explanation I've seen comes courtesy of Stephen Colbert.

Starting at about the 3-minute mark:
http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/umsrnb/lightsaber-controversy
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 PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 2:18 pm Reply with quote  
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  DarthMRN
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Laughing

I can only bow before the awesomeness of Luke's never-ending tri-bladed lightsaber.

It even has that foggy effect the crossguard saber does. Clearly there must be a relation. Smile
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 PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 8:12 pm Reply with quote  
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  Darth Skuldren
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Well, doesn't Count Dooku have a bent handle on his lightsaber? That kind of detracts from the whole straight line design.

Plus, I agree with the people speculating that the cross-guard lightsaber is not an improvement on lightsaber design, but something ancient and unstable. A design no longer used because it's inferior to the standard design we see in the movies. That would coincide with why the the blade flickers and looks flame like, why it almost kicks when it ignites, and why the side blades come out as an after effect, like a power source bleeding off extra charge to keep from blowing up. It could be a transitionary sword succeeding the Force-imbued blades the ancient Force users used or the lightsabers that had power cables.
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 PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:43 am Reply with quote  
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  DarthMRN
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Now, that is a damn good point. About the curved handle. Not quite enough to justify diverting power onto three beams, but enough to open up for at least the power cell being possible to place outside the line of the blade itself. Such as the L-shape required for a crossguard. And once the straight line requirement has been lifted, the ability to bend whatever comes out of the crystal any which way doesn't seem so far fetched any more, up to and including a three-way split.

I also like the inferior lightsaber explanation. It seems more plausible as something an outsider could do. But the blade would have to be quite weak to make up for the obvious advantage of just splitting the thing, enough so to justify no other lightsaber having the feature.

It still stinks that Disney would deviate from the traditional design in a movie as important as this one, but if their justification turns out to be that it is some obsolete protosaber, that will be the most acceptable explanation I can think of. Looks like an outdated weapon, seems advantageous but really isn't, and underscores the loss of Force lore following the Lucas movies by requiring the bad guys to depend on caveman tech.
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 PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2015 8:17 am Reply with quote  
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  Taral-DLOS
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DarthMRN wrote:


It still stinks that Disney would deviate from the traditional design in a movie as important as this one


Now this is a point that I would contend. Would you have said this exact same sentiment to GL before Episode I came out? The Darth Maul lightsaber is not the least it a "traditional design." And Dooku's aforementioned curbed hilt would be the same.

Episode VII is at least as important as Episode I (less so, I might say, since everyone expected Episode I but nobody expected VII). I don't see "deviation from tradition" as being a thing that is bad, nor do I see it as being unprecedented in an important film. If anything, such deviation is more important, if only for the Rule of Cool requiring some amazing lightsaber visual in this new one.
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 PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2015 12:36 pm Reply with quote  
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  Reepicheep
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I have no issues with deviating from the traditional lightsaber design. I don't think it's necessary - lightsabers are cool enough - but I certainly don't mind it. I also don't have any issues with the internal workings of a lightsaber. Like I've said before, unless its absurd, I typically just go with fictional technology. There are a million possible ways of explaining it.

That leaves the one problem that bugged me the second I laid eyes on this new saber: the battle practicality. I'll wait until I see how he actually fights with it, but right now, I don't see how it could possibly be safe or effective.
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 PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2015 7:44 pm Reply with quote  
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  Dog-Poop_Walker
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I think it looks kind of dumb... and the problem, if there is one, is that they know it or they don't. That's the whole point of the way it was shown in the teaser, to get people talking. And it did.

It's a new Star Wars, they have to introduce new things and put their own mark on it. It was always a question of balancing that with keeping tradition.

One thing I do now understand is your remark, "they are just trying to appeal to Game Of Thrones fans" How so? Because you think that a triple laser sword is somehow more reminiscent of a Medieval sword hilt, as opposed to a science fiction design?
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 PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2015 2:27 am Reply with quote  
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Taral-DLOS wrote:
Now this is a point that I would contend. Would you have said this exact same sentiment to GL before Episode I came out? The Darth Maul lightsaber is not the least it a "traditional design." And Dooku's aforementioned curbed hilt would be the same.

Episode VII is at least as important as Episode I (less so, I might say, since everyone expected Episode I but nobody expected VII). I don't see "deviation from tradition" as being a thing that is bad, nor do I see it as being unprecedented in an important film. If anything, such deviation is more important, if only for the Rule of Cool requiring some amazing lightsaber visual in this new one.

I have a couple of thoughts about this.


1) The difference between Disney and GL. Prior to TPM Lucas was an infallible god, and even after that he was still the original creator. For him to innovate his own long-established universe would always be infinitely more acceptable than someone else entering the scene and doing the same.
Plus, one of the most enduring PT criticisms has been how different everything is. Not just aesthetically, but seeming more technologically advanced in the PT past than the OT future. This in spite of Lucas being behind it, showing that he went beyond what even he could get away with.

So what then of Disney, who are in practice glorified EU creators? Whatever logic created EU-dismissers and a canonical hierarchy of authoritativeness should play in here as well, in that newcomers cannot be trusted to have the same sense of consistency, the same sense of what is appropriate for the universe as the original creator. At least not without proving it first.


2) Personally, I still feel like the double-bladed lightsaber is somewhat off. It smacks of this mentality I last saw in TCW and Rebels, that when one guy is supposed to fight two guys, he has to have an equal number of lightsaber blades as them. See Asajj Ventress vs Obi & Ani, or Ahsoka vs Obi & Ani. Or the most blatant example, friggin' Palpatine vs Maul & Savage. You can bet your favorite novel that the Inquisitor's double-blader coincides with Ezra getting his lightsaber this soon in Rebels too. This mentality of two blades being twice as good is one is yet another example of Hollywood swordfighting Rule of Cool, and one I hate, not least cause TCW, AotC and RotS showed us plenty of examples that a single blade can fend off several opponents when the user is as agile as a Jedi.

Maul was cool in spite of his lightsaber, and my favourite parts of the TPM saber fights is when he goes one-bladed apesith on the Jedi. His lightsaber design also had the smallest possible deviation imaginable = gluing two traditional lightsabers to each other. Even Dooku was a bigger sinner than that.
If your point was that his saber was so awesome that it somehow contradicts my feelings in this case, I'm sorry to disappoint. Maul was speed and tattooes for me. And I indeed remember viewing the two-blader as motivated by OOU shock/innovation value, even as a kid.


3) So my conclusion would be something I touched upon earlier. Disney are still proving to us that they can take better care of SW than Lucas. I don't think that is achieved by taking the same approach many EU creators did, putting their mark on the universe by reinterpreting old implications in a radical new way of their own devising. The EU decided darksiders could come back scot free, in spite of ESB. The EU made Qui-Gon as powerful as Mace Windu, in spite of one losing to Maul while the other fought Sheev to a standstill. The EU brought back Boba Fett, cause he was too cool to die like a chump. The EU made Force-users so powerful it made the OT powerhouses look incompetent by comparison. And now Disney comes and makes a lightsaber with three blades shooting from a single normal-sized hilt, in a universe where number of blades = how many people you can engage at once. They are taking a poodoo on implied lightsaber logic of one blade per hilt, seemingly just to make things more awesome for a modern audience and ride on current trends.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCQCKsTQkMY#t=0m11s

Disney is here doing worse than Lucas, and they don't have the goodwill required to take that sort of liberties with the source material, especially not when the item in question is that iconic, with precedent speaking against this degree of variation. Think about it: If we accept this, we will be implicitly condoning a lightsaber producing several blades at once by the same logic, whether in-universe or out. Two blades? Four? Ten? Which then raises the question of why we only ever saw one per saber before. It throws the internal logic of lightsabers completely out of whack. Done by people who are as creatively authoritative over SW as EU creators.

I see a problem with that.


Dog-Poop_Walker wrote:
One thing I do now understand is your remark, "they are just trying to appeal to Game Of Thrones fans" How so? Because you think that a triple laser sword is somehow more reminiscent of a Medieval sword hilt, as opposed to a science fiction design?

Yes. I thought that was obvious.

I can't think of a medieval sword property with greater mass market penetration at this point in time than Game of Thrones. And by complete coincidence the greedy megacorp who just aquired SW suddenly redesigns its native laser sword to look like a more medieval variant, and makes that a priority to show off during a 88-second teaser that is otherwise devoted to the Falcon and main characters.

Yeah, not much of a coincidence IMO. As you said, it was done for PR reasons. Now take that to its logical conclusion: Universe integrity sacrificed for PR.
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 PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2015 3:22 pm Reply with quote  
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  Reepicheep
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I have to say, when I first saw the shot of Kylo Ren taking out his lightsaber, I immediately thought of Game of Thrones because of the medieval-style sword and the Winterfell-like background.

I don't have any problem with innovating/changing existing designs in principle. It keeps things fresh. Spectacle has always been a significant part of Star Wars, and a good part I might add.
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 PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2015 5:07 pm Reply with quote  
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  Dog-Poop_Walker
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DarthMRN wrote:
Yes. I thought that was obvious.

I can't think of a medieval sword property with greater mass market penetration at this point in time than Game of Thrones.


No, it wasn't obvious, hence the repeated references to lasers and sci fi in my post. I don't see anything Medieval about the lightsaber. It's also a point of contention just how Medieval Game of thrones swords are, but that's a nitpick issue.

I think the issue of mechanics does come into play with perception. You're saying that the addition of the dual lasers at the "hilt" is in imitation of a broadswords cross guard. I'm not convinced that is the intention or the first impression. You've covered the mechanics, but I think it is a distinction to say that an imitation of the lightsaber "blades" serving an offensive means, instead of just the cross guard which is purely for defense, could be inferred to serve a dual purpose that is completely sci fi and not historical or fantasy genre rooted.

I'll agree with Reep that sword + snow may bring to mind GoT, but doesn't it bring to mind at least as much if not more, Empire Strikes Back? Just as the Desert was a call back to traditional Star Wars elements.
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