I think what annoys me most about Mara’s death is that it wasn’t about her. Karen Traviss literally sat down and said “I need a catalyst to make Jacen a full-fledged Sith. He needs to kill something he loves.” But in the end, it wasn’t Mara - it was about killing Ben’s love for him. This is despite:
Mara saving Jacen’s life when he was just a baby and countless times after that; and
Mara being his loving aunt through marriage for over twenty years.
Look, I’ll admit that the fight scene between Mara and Jacen and him realising what a powerhouse/force of nature she is, and that she just won’t stop until he’s dead is kind of badass. But pitting them against each other in that fight required Mara to act extremely out of character and not take Luke for backup. Yes, she’d been hard on him earlier about not killing Lumiya when he’d had the chance and she knew Luke wouldn’t be on board with assassinating Jacen so she thought she was sparing him that. That’s fine, I buy TTT-era Mara thinking that way - I’d even be okay with newly-married or Survivor’s Quest Mara making that decision.
But fifty-odd Mara, who of all people has learned the value of forgiveness, who knows Jacen’s mind was warped by the Vong war, who remembers the sweet little boy he was? I don’t buy it. But she was protecting Ben, I hear you thinking - yes of course she hated Jacen for corrupting her son, and of course her first thought was he must die, but that wouldn’t have been her only thought. She’s a fierce mama bear, but she’s not stupid. At this point in her life she’s been a Jedi longer than she was an assassin, and she would have known better. She’s no longer the lone wolf of her early years, she has learnt the value of being part of a team and the ultimate partnership with Luke.
I feel like Traviss made a huge deal about Mara reverting back to her assassin instincts, but it’s misplaced in that time period. There is literally a line which reads “Sometimes he caught a glimpse of the woman she had once been, and she was a stranger for a second or two.” ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME?!?
This is the woman who despite the Last Command from the Emperor and desire to avenge his death, didn’t track down Luke asap to complete the task despite how seriously she took it, and how deeply she’d been indoctrinated by Palpatine. Yes, she was on the run from Isard for a bit, but she had plenty of opportunities to do the deed but she didn’t (for example how easy would it have been for her to show up at Han and Leia’s wedding with a long-range rifle and take him out?). But she waited until Luke literally fell into her lap before attempting to go through with it, and this was when she hated him with the fire of a thousand suns. Don’t tell me she’s quick to act on her anger, if anything she’s the opposite - she’s a strategiser, a planner. Luke’s the reckless one - Mara is more controlled.
And Luke is a man who saw Mara at her worst, full of hatred and anger and spite - but even then she was never a stranger, and to have him think this when Mara says you have to “kill cold” is a slap in the face to the deep understanding they have for one another.
As is her taking off while Luke’s asleep to go after Jacen. Mara stands in their bedroom and watches him sleep, kisses him goodbye and makes sure he doesn’t wake up, because she knows that he’ll talk her out of it. She KNOWS going after Jacen is a bad idea, because she knows Luke will convince her it is. And he can’t convince her of anything she doesn’t already believe. So her charcaterisation absolutely falls apart and it can’t be handwaved by the fact that she went into overdrive to protect Ben. It would have been more in character for her to wake Luke, tell him everything, go get Ben and lock his teenage ass up for his own protection, then work out a plan to deal with Jacen.
Instead she goes after Jacen alone and doesn’t even leave anything helpful in her note. I mean, how easy would this have been:
Gone hunting for a few days - don’t be mad Farmboy… (btw Jacen is the Sith TELL EVERYONE)
It’s one thing for a character to be brought down by their own flaws, but those flaws have to make sense for the character in the first place (and lets face it with Mara there’s plenty to choose from.) But no, her stupidity was required for the plot to go on for another book or two, to kill off Lumiya and set up why Luke wouldn’t just wipe the floor with Jacen’s punk ass. It was needed to make Jacen into Caedus, this badass who would kill his own aunt and shrug it off without any guilt whatsoever.
Mara’s death required the regression of her character, in order to advance Jacen’s.
And that’s terrible. Objectively terrible. Ultimately, Mara’s death served the purpose of:
Being Jacen’s literal “sacrifice” to become a Sith.
She didn’t go out in a blaze of glory, sacrificing herself for the greater good, nor did her death signify the brutality and random nature of war. It was to create conflict between the male characters, so they could respectively gloat/emote about her death. It was a plot device, rather than a natural progression of the characters and the situation - the knots Jacen had to twist himself into to justify Mara being his “sacrifice” were ridiculous and a disservice to everyone involved. it was a cheap trick, the literal sacrifice of an awesome female charactar (two if you count Lumiya, and her shrug of the shoulders “well Jacen is a Sith now I guess I need to commit suicide-by Skywalker” is a rant for another day) in order to serve three male characters and their arcs.
“That’s really a friend. She supports me, man. She’s bringing me out, she ain’t have to do that. That girl came to my Coachella a year ago. I got nothing but love for Rih Rih; that’s the homey right there” - A$AP Rocky about Rihanna