Before The Last Jedi no one seemed to know what it really meant to bring balance to the Force. There were two sides to consider – the light and the dark. The light side favored peace, tranquility, and logic. The dark side instead sought power, strength, and emotion. Each side believed the other one had to become extinct.
It never really made sense to, well anyone, who stopped to think about it. How does putting all the weight to one side balance the scales? Luckily, The Last Jedi shows us what a balanced Force truly looks like.
To understand where we find the perfect middle ground, we need to look at the extremism on both sides. The light side, or Jedi, believed in throwing emotion and attachment aside. They even say in their code that there is no emotion and no passion. They believed this was best not only for their survival, but would be in the best interest of the galaxy they wanted to protect. We even learn how dangerous fear was. It lead to anger, hate, and eventually suffering. Ironically, the only thing Jedi seemed to be afraid of was fear.
By contrast, the dark side, or Sith, drew their strength from raw emotion. They let their hate and anger fuel their power. Instead of closing themselves off from it, they leaned into it every step of the way.
It used to be that these two sides were against each other, but The Last Jedi uses Kylo Ren and Rey to prove that the light and dark are simply two sides of one coin.
Kylo Ren should represent the dark side. He desires power and seems to be willing to do some pretty terrible things for it. Killing his own father doesn’t exactly make him hero material. However, Kylo understands and practices cutting oneself off from all attachments. He believes he needs to pick off the people and things that may still tie him to his old life, just like the Jedi would.
Kylo’s weakest moments are when he doesn’t act like a Jedi – when he can’t send the shot that would kill his mother, when he begins to regret killing his master, or when he’s told to take off his mask to show his true self. The weakest moment of all is when he completely gives in to his emotions in an attempt to kill his uncle. He’s so consumed by his own chaos he doesn’t see the giveaways that Luke wasn’t even there.
It’s easy to see how he represents what a true balance would look like. Kylo seems to go back and forth with what side he even wants to be on in a pretty obvious way. He draws strength from both sides of himself. He uses his anger of being manipulated to kill his master. He also draws from his desire to “let the past die” to move forward in creating his own order.
In any other movie, Rey would have been Kylo’s foil. However, because he’s such a round, complete character, she doesn’t need to be. Instead, she’s a mirror image of him. Rey uses dark side practices to help the “good guys.”
One of the most striking moments in her journey is when she tells Luke Skywalker why she came to Ahch-To to find him. He keeps pressing her until she gets to the heart of the matter. She isn’t driven there by some kind of higher desire or principle. Getting him back to the Resistance is almost a side mission for her. Instead, she fully admits she’s there because she’s “afraid.”
She’s using the exact thing the Jedi were terrified of to become a Jedi.
After her fear leads her to Luke, she runs almost completely on anger to find her way back to the Resistance. At first, it’s anger from Kylo killing his father. As she learns the truth, she becomes angry with Luke, and finally Snoke. Her anger is the base of every decision she makes afterwords, like finding Kylo or trying to kill Snoke. It makes her impulsive and sometimes even a little reckless. Despite her Sith-like way of acting, she has the best intentions. She is even able to walk that path while still accomplishing those good intentions.
Both Kylo Ren and Rey are truly the perfect middle ground we’ve been looking for. When at his most effective, Kylo acts deliberately and free of emotion. He’s strongest when he thinks things through with logic and sets attachments aside. It would have been impossible to kill Snoke if Kylo hadn’t abandoned that relationship and thought clearly about how to play into his master’s hubris. Regardless of this Jedi-like practice, he seeks to bring the dark side back to prominence.
Rey, on the other hand, is strongest when she gives in to anger or fear. She is able to recognize these emotions and plays into them. She knows it is the only way to bring the light side back.
These perfect balances are the new, far more accurate, messages of the sequel trilogy. While Return of the Jedi gave us the fairy tale ending, Episode IX promises to look less like what we see in a story book and more like what we see in the mirror.