Starting The Last Jedi before the end of The Force Awakens creates for an interesting dynamic between the characters. In the original trilogy, as well as in the prequels, our heroes had time off screen to meld and come together. We saw different points of conflict, but those were mostly the high points.
For instance, until The Clone Wars came out, we did not get to see a lot of Anakin’s descent into darkness. In the same way, we did not get to see what drove Luke to become the dark figure we see at the beginning of Return of the Jedi. This is not a good or bad comparison, but it is important to understanding the nuance of The Last Jedi. This film gets us up close and personal with our heroes as they evolve into the “spark that will light the fire that will burn The First Order to the ground.”
Finn and Rose- From a Grander Point of View
Let us not forget that Finn has only been out of the First Order’s mind-washing neo-Naziism for basically a few hours. By leaving The First Order he is reborn but, as we see in Episode VIII, he is still very much in his infancy. As he walks through Canto Bight, he revels in its beauty and allure without considering what it took to make such things a reality. It shows the immaturity that comes with seeing the galaxy only through one point of view.
Rose is the flip side of this coin. She has seen the galaxy, but it is still through the very limited point of view that comes from looking at the world through a set of pipes. When she gets to meet “The Finn” she stumbles, like an infant, when “doing…doing the talking.” She has never thought herself capable of being the heroes she idolizes.
Finn and Rose need each other to grow into the kind of heroes the Resistance needs. Finn shows Rose the hero that is inside of her, one who really can make an impact on the war. Heroes are not only pilots, bombers, or Jedi. Sometimes that hero is a maintenance worker that does not even know she is waiting for an opportunity to shine. By teaming up with Finn, she is given the chance to really see her own value and to become the hero she once idolized.
Finn is a little bit different. Finn has no interest in heroes and legends. He cares about relationships. We see his eyes fill with pain as he watches Han Solo being slain by Kylo Ren, but more importantly we see how much he values Rey. She is the first person to care about him, and thus he would do everything to protect her.This is not a bad thing, just as Rose being a maintenance worker is not a bad thing. Healthy relationships and “grunt” workers are important for any endeavor. But looking at the world only through a limited scope is, well, limiting.
Rose is able to become a hero because she sees the “The Finn” is really just a guy trying to do what is right. Rose’s impact on Finn is a little more complex, because Finn is all about relationship, aka Rey. Rey is the first person to ever care about him, and thus he would do anything to protect her. He goes on the adventure with Rose not for the Resistance’s sake, but so that Rey can find her way back to them far away from the dangers of The First Order.
This is not inherently bad, but it is problematic. When one cares only about their relationships and not the larger picture, one is bound to have a limited point of view. This is why DJ is important. DJ challenges him to look at the galaxy as bigger than black and white. Rose is his beacon to figuring that out; she cares for others, like her sister, but fights for the bigger picture because she knows that will create a galaxy where other people’s sisters don’t have to fight, let alone die, to save what they love.
Only by leaning on and learning from each other are these two truly able to become their truest selves, and thus of true benefit for the Resistance.
Luke and Leia- The Person Behind the Myth
Luke and Leia, even before we knew of their familial connection, were intertwined by fate and the Force. Leia’s message to Ben Kenobi was Luke’s call to adventure. Luke is Leia’s hope that the galaxy her father told her about can come again.
By the time of The Last Jedi their paths have diverged. Both went from simply trying to help the galaxy become a better place into heroes. Myths. Legends.
However, this reality was handled quite differently by each. Leia used her legend to help bring up the next generation, and when it failed she got stronger. The Republic, as detailed in Bloodline, went to poodoo, completely ignoring the threat that The First Order posed. Leia, as she always has, created a new way of doing things. The same princess who blew a whole into a garbage shoot to save a couple of moof milkers who thought they could rescue her is the same general who creates the Resistance with a few thermal detonators and some hope.
Leia used her legend to forge a new path, for she never defined herself by it. She certainly used it to her advantage in terms of recruiting to and growing the Resistance, but it never became her focal point. She didn’t want to be anything more than Leia.
Luke, however, always had grander dreams. He wanted to get off the dust bowl of Tatooine and change the galaxy. Which he did. In doing so, he became a legend. What he did not plan for was what to do once he became that legend. So he lost himself, attaching himself more to the “Legend of Luke Skywalker“ than the person of Luke Skywalker. And thus he fell from the loftiest of lofty thrones.
This is the distinction. Leia never tried to be what others thought she should be, and thus the myth and the woman could co-exist easily with one another. Luke tried to force the two to mix, and it led him to the moment where the man of Luke had to snuff out the darkness in Ben Solo in the name of the “Legend of Luke Skywalker.”
Learning to separate the two completes Luke’s hero’s journey. He learns the lesson that Leia always lived. The person of Luke Skywalker is there for Leia in her lowest moment, when the person who never gave up hope gives it up. He restores in her that hope that made her so special. Leia, conversely, forgives the man for the mistakes of the legend. She provides Luke with that spark he needs, the permission he needs, to allow his legend to spark hope in the Resistance and the man to face a nephew he failed.
When Luke left Tatooine, he had two goals. One was to become a Jedi, a hero, like his father. The second was to figure out who Luke Skywalker really is, not as a hero but as a person. To see more, know more, and be more. That moment on Ach-To, as he looks at the twin suns setting on his life, completes both of these journeys. The events of second Death Star turns him into the hero, the legend, and facing the relationships he broke allows the man to fully realize himself as a person.
Rey and Ben- Dark Rises and Light to Meet It
In the novelization of The Force Awakens, there is a piece of dialogue that is potentially very significant to the overall story of Kylo Ren and Rey’s conjoined arc. During the snow battle on Starkiller Base, right when Rey calls the lightsaber to her, Kylo says, “It is you.” Those three words sent fandom astir theorizing what exactly that meants.
Now we know. Snoke proclaimed that there would be a powerful light to match Kylo Ren’s rising darkness. We now know that that is Rey, thus when Kylo says, “It is you,” he is not speaking of Rey in particular, but of the “you” that Snoke had spent years warning him about.
Quite simply, Kylo Ren and Rey Nobody are intertwined despite the fact of having no familial relationship. It is purely the will of the Force. While that connection was forged in TFA, The Last Jedi takes it on more fully and completely.
When the pair begins their Force-Skype connection, they are diametrically opposite. Slowly, however, the begin to be pulled closer together. The beginning of the film promises this journey, as Kylo smashes his helmet to bits and pieces. He can no longer define himself behind that mask, he must become something more. He does this via his connection with Rey. Juxtaposed to that is Rey handing Luke Skywalker his lightsaber.Just as Ren seeks validation from Snoke, so does Rey seek validation from Skywalker.
The lightsaber is tossed aside. She cannot identify herself purely by what she can achieve. Neither can Kylo.
As the story progresses, we see the two grow closer and closer, until we get to the most important moment of all, when Rey lashes out at Kylo for killing Han Solo. Internet jokes and memes aside, this is a critical point for the characters. Unto this point, Rey’s life has been defined by her search for family; she cannot comprehend that Ben Solo not only doesn’t care about his family, but is willing to commit patricide to break his connection to said family. It reveals the motivation for both individuals. Both are trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in to this story, they are just coming at it from different sides.
Jumping ahead to the scene in Snoke’s throne room, we see solidification of their connection. Both Kylo and Rey have seen a vision of what will happen to the other, yet both have misinterpreted it. The tug of war continues. Rey grabs Kylo’s saber; Kylo kills his master.
Who will join who?
They work together as a seamless team, sharing sabers and a purpose. Yet, when it comes out to it, Rey doesn’t join Kylo and Kylo doesn’t join Rey. Instead, they both reach for Excalibur, desperately trying to capture their belonging. Trying to validate that they belong.
Then it shatters.
Neither Ben Solo nor Rey Nobody can define themselves by their role in the galaxy. That is the mistake Luke Skywalker made. Instead, they must charge forward, creating their own story. A story now so intertwined that it may even balance the Force once and for all…..