There’s never a bad time to rewatch The Force Awakens. Despite criticisms that it drew too heavily from its predecessors, it was full of the familiar action that makes a Star Wars movie, from epic lightsaber duels, witty dialogue (A droid…stole a freighter?) and the continued struggle between good and evil. But what form does that evil take? As Maz Kanata explained, it first took the shape of the Sith, before growing into the Empire and now the First Order. Still, no matter what the evil, we always know that the Jedi are going to be around to save the day.
Or are they?
There are few Jedi left. We know that due to recent episodes of Star Wars Rebels and the last Vader comic that more Jedi survived the purge than we think, but how many are out there? It’s hard to say, but while watching TFA, Snoke seems pretty convinced that Luke is the last one.
“The droid will soon be delivered to the Resistance, leading them to the last Jedi. If Skywalker returns, the new Jedi will rise.”
So did Snoke just read the opening crawl, or does he have some knowledge that the rest of us don’t know about yet? I’m sure that The Last Jedi will reveal more answers to this enigmatic character, but what can we figure out in the mean time?
For one, it seems that the nature of the Jedi mentality is shifting. We know from the prequels that part of Anakin’s descent to the dark side was due to his suppression of his human emotions and his fruitless endeavor to cast his feelings aside and reach a state that he deemed more in compliance with the Jedi Code. Granted, Luke seemed to be spared this lesson as he rushed off to Cloud City to save his friends, but he seemed to find his own relationship with the Force regardless.
But what did that look like? Although the book The Legends of Luke Skywalker attempted to answer at least some of these mysteries, most of the information that we learned about Luke came from second-hand sources, and thus most of the information could have been exaggerated, or just fabricated, so much of it is much for debate. However, I think it’s already been clearly established that Luke was eager to pass on his teachings to others.
He was training a new generation of Jedi. One boy, an apprentice, turned against him, destroyed it all. Luke felt responsible. He just walked away from everything.
Do you know what happened to him?
A lot of rumors. Stories. People that knew him best think he went looking for the first Jedi temple.
We know that Luke tried to train a new generation of Jedi, but what we don’t know is how. Did he try to draw on his own relationship with the Force, or did he try to go back to the flawed Jedi way that had failed his father? If he did, it might be a little more understandable why Kylo Ren turned to the dark side. It must take some serious mental fortitude to try to put up with that Skywalker angst pumping through his blood.
But from what we’ve seen so far of Luke looming over the background in the posters to The Last Jedi and appearing on the “dark side” IMAX standees, it seems that we may be entering a morally gray area, perhaps in regard to his training. If Han was correct in saying that Luke was seeking the first Jedi temple, is it possible that he found something that steered him away from the established Jedi path for good?
We know that Luke was good friends with Lor San Tekka, and their relationship was strong enough that he gave him the only map piece that could reveal his whereabouts. This was someone that he trusted and respected, and so it’s interesting to consider one of the very few lines of the film.
Lor San Tekka: Without the Jedi, there can be no balance in the Force.
It’s interesting that Lor San Tekka seems to think that the Jedi are required to bring balance to the Force, when we know now that, due to The Last Jedi trailer, Luke seems to think that it’s time for the Jedi to end. Does he think that the Force can keep the balance on its own? Or does he believe that the Jedi are doing more harm than good?
It’s hard to speculate, but the biggest question that we should be asking now is how is this going to affect Rey going forward? When The Force Awakens first debuted, they were quick to squash the rumors that Kylo Ren was a Sith. So far no one seems willing to answer if Rey will be training to be a Jedi which only prompts the question, what if we are entering a new generation of Force wielders that draw on both the dark side and light side capabilities in order to try to make themselves whole?
Star Wars Rebels has also made us consider some of these questions with the character of the Bendu, especially in last year’s episode Steps Into Shadow, 3.01.
The Bendu: Your imbalance woke me from a deep slumber.
Kanan Jarrus: Imbalance?
The Bendu: Your presence is like a violent storm in this quiet world.
Kanan Jarrus: You’re a Force wielder… but you’re not a Jedi.
The Bendu: Wielder? The Jedi and Sith wield the Ashla and the Bogan, the light and the dark. I’m the one in the middle, the Bendu.
Bendu constantly asserts himself as a presence in the Force, neither a Jedi or a Sith, but some creature that exists between. When Kanan approaches Bendu when concerned about how the Sith holocron may be affecting Ezra, the Bendu sheds some knowledge on this as well.
Kanan Jarrus: It’s a Sith holocron, it’s a source of evil. My student’s been using it and I’m afraid it’s changing him.
The Bendu: An object cannot make you good, or evil. The temptation of power, forbidden knowledge, even the desire to do good can lead some down that path. But only you can change yourself.
It seems that at the core of the Bendu’s message is the idea that the Jedi and Sith can wield the light and dark sides respectively, treating them as distinct objects, rather than the unified whole of the Force that the Bendu himself experiences. When Kanan gets frustrated that the Bendu won’t help aid them in the struggle against the Empire, what he regards as the ultimate struggle between good and evil, the Bendu dismisses his concerns as “mindless quarrelling” and suggests, “Perhaps it is the will of the Force that the Jedi and all your kind perish.”
It seems like a frightening prospect to Kanan, but is it possible that we are now headed down the path where we’ll eventually regard the Jedi teachings to be just as flawed as those of the Sith?
It’s an interesting question, because the duality of the light and the dark side is one that seems fundamental to the Force as we’ve always known it. From the initial red vs blue lightsabers to the Jedi and the Sith mentality, Star Wars has survived for years on the impression that you could either be one or the other. But if they can change the way we view the Force and explore a new “grey” path, what will that mean for the next generation? Will the Jedi be born again in a whole new way, or will that term be lost to the ages?
Hopefully we only have one month left until we can find out!