The ending of The Last Jedi brings the sequel trilogy’s three main characters to the end of the quests for identity and belonging they began in The Force Awakens. Finn has learned to fight for a cause (Phasma’s death bookending his refusal to execute the Jakku villagers), while Rey has found her place as heir to the Jedi and beacon of hope for her new family in the Resistance.
Kylo Ren, meanwhile, ascends from the conflicted former Ben Solo, eager to conclude his grandfather’s work and destroy the Jedi, to a status Vader never achieved – dictator of the galaxy. Twisted with hatred, as TLJ closes he seems more consumed by the dark side than ever, having now refused two golden opportunities to save himself. The response of many viewers is that he is now irredeemable.
Rian Johnson believes Kylo can still be redeemed, that he “isn’t as bad as Vader”, while acknowledging that this decision is for JJ Abrams to make. The comparison to Vader, though, is more complicated than Johnson suggests, and if TLJ tells us anything, it is that different rules apply to Kylo Ren, and we should not expect him to follow the same path.
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Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting older pieces. In recognition of Luke Skywalker’s electrifying return to the saga in The Last Jedi, this time around we’ve declared it Luke Week! Every day this week you’ll find a different piece taking a closer look at Luke’s character and legacy—some recent, some less so—back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC
It’s been lurking in the fandom subconscious for some time; we’re just afraid to confront it. Surely they would never kill Luke Skywalker in the very next film after offing Han Solo? The childhood hero for millions, forced by his own guilt into a lonely, tortured exile, returns to the galactic stage only to shuffle off its mortal coil for good? That would be absurd, wouldn’t it?
Lisa Schap already speculated, long before details of the story were known, about the necessity for Luke to be written out of the sequel trilogy. Didn’t everything change, though, with The Force Awakens? Didn’t Han’s unexpected (yet quite wonderful) role as Rey’s mentor/father figure, and his tragic death, mean Luke dodged this particular bullet?
I’ve felt that way for a long time. I’ve lived happily in denial. I’m sorry to say, though, that knowing what we now know about Luke, I can no longer deny the truth. TFA only prolonged the inevitable. Luke dying in The Last Jedi is not just a very real possibility – it might also be best not just for the story of the trilogy as a whole, but also for Luke himself.
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—this piece contains major spoilers from The Last Jedi—
“Light … darkness … a balance.”
“It’s so much bigger.”
Those lines, in the first teaser for The Last Jedi, led to a mountain of speculation about just how far the film would go in terms of challenging and changing our understanding of the Force and the Jedi Order. Could it herald the beginning of “grey Jedi,” or Rey and Kylo Ren starting a new order of “balanced Force users” (whatever that is supposed to mean)? As it turned out, those lines were not in the film, and far from reinventing or even re-framing our understanding of the Force, TLJ reinforced it.
The entire film is ambitious in its attempts to cram in as many classic Star Wars themes and values as possible: the danger of impulsive, reckless heroism and the importance of patience; that staying neutral in the fight against evil makes you complicit; and the notion that the younger generation will redeem the mistakes of the old. It is in its exploration of the Force, though, that TLJ covers the most ground, and makes old Star Wars values more explicit in the text than ever.
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Twenty-three long, speculation-fueled months ago, in the immediate aftermath of The Force Awakens, I asked the staff for their best early guesses and hopes as to the origin of Rey. Jay Shah was Team Solo, mostly out of affection for the legacy of the Expanded Universe’s Jaina Solo and a desire to see Rey channel that role in the new canon. David Schwarz was Team, ah, Durron—his point being that Rey should be the child of new characters, preferably a promising student or students from Luke’s first crop of trainees. Rocky Blonshine was Team Skywalker for all the familiar evidentiary and legacy reasons, and Ben Wahrman, while preferring “that she not be related to anyone”, chose Team Kenobi as a poetic way of splitting the difference between a protagonist coming out of nowhere and one forced to deal with all the story baggage of the Skywalker/Solo family.
I myself was Team Snoke. I go into detail in the original piece but my basic idea was that Snoke was once similar to Aftermath‘s Yupe Tashu—an adviser to Palpatine who gained access to a mysterious source of dark side power and ultimately intended his powerful child to lead the First Order on his behalf, only to have Luke Skywalker steal her away and hide her. TFA, therefore, was not about Snoke looking for Luke as much as Snoke looking for Rey, who he assumes is with Luke. As an aside I mentioned the possibility that she wasn’t his biological daughter, but rather a second attempt at the same experiment that created Anakin Skywalker; thus Snoke would be her figurative father and her actual lineage would be the Force itself—what better birthright with which to claim the mantle of Supreme Leader?
Fast forward a couple years, and that aside is looking much more likely. At nine feet tall, Snoke is pretty definitely an alien, and Rey is pretty definitely a human, meaning a biological relationship seems pretty implausible. I stand by the rest of the theory though—if we meet Rey’s biological parents at all, they could even be First Order loyalists who volunteered for Snoke’s experiments rather than having a baby just pop up randomly in the galaxy. Thematically, what appealed to me about it was the question “what would Luke have done if his father has been Palpatine rather than Vader?” If Rey owes her existence not to some conflicted underling but to the devil himself, what would that mean for her destiny, her “place in all this”? I’m still hoping to find out. » Read more..
“The Mentor believes that Rebellions are built on hope, but I don’t believe it. Rebellions are built on hate” – Staven, Battlefront II: Inferno Squad
Last year I wrote about the ways in which the value system of Star Wars as defined by the Force apply not just to the journeys of its Force-sensitive characters, but also to its politics. Movements of power and self-interest – whether the greedy exploitation of the Trade Federation or the militaristic authoritarianism of the Empire – represent the fear, hatred and selfishness of the dark side, while peace is found in the compassion, harmony and symbiosis of the light.
With Rogue One as its centerpiece, Lucasfilm’s recent work has largely focused on the build-up to the Galactic Civil War, adding new political context to the iconic conflict that defines the original trilogy. Yet for all the talk of new “shades of grey”, the core values of Star Wars have ultimately been reinforced rather than subverted.
With Saw Gerrera’s return to Star Wars Rebels in “In the Name of the Rebellion,” his conflicts with Mon Mothma and with Jedi philosophy were brought to the forefront. This article will look at why, in the moral universe of Star Wars, his conduct and motivations are such a problem, and the wider dilemma of understanding a story that teaches us both that evil must be fought, while also warning that violence is the path to evil.
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