Saving Luke: Part II

Luke is not perfect.  Shocking, though it may be, he is also human.  And, on the heels of barely surviving his adventures in Return of the Jedi, he struggled to even maintain that humanity.  Yet part of the essence of humanity is how we share that humanity with others, both in personal and broader relationships.  Now that we have considered the psychological and mental status of Luke as of the conclusion of ROTJ, how does that inform our understanding of his actions within the context of the Sequel Trilogy?  What are the accusations against the character as portrayed and how do those accusations hold up in light of what we have already understood?

To complete this analysis, we must look at how Luke behaves in three different relationships:

  1. In relation to his nephew, the Jedi Knight formerly known as Ben Solo who would be responsible for the destruction of the newly formed Jedi academy and adopting the moniker Kylo Ren;
  2. In relation to the orphan Rey, tasked by General Leia Organa Solo with finding Luke and convincing him to join the Resistance’s cause against the First Order; and
  3. In relation to the Force and, ultimately, himself, as he weighs the responsibility to the galaxy, to the Resistance, to his family, and to himself.

Each of these aspects can focus on specific criticisms of Luke as portrayed within The Last Jedi since that is the source material for much of our understanding of Luke at all post-Battle of Endor.


Ben – Ain’t Nothing But a Family Thing
Criticism: Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master, would never take up his lightsaber against his own nephew in order to stop him from turning to the dark side, that simply is not his nature.  

Ben Solo trained with Luke as part of the inaugural class of Jedi Knights.  However, through the machinations of Snoke, Ben’s heart was turned to the dark side even while still under Luke’s tutelage.  Rey, as surrogate for the audience, learns that Luke sensed the welling darkness within his nephew and went to confront him about it.  Finding him asleep, Luke probes the young man’s spirit and senses he has been lost already. In a moment of instinct, emotion, and protectionism, Luke ignites his lightsaber to kill Ben before he can cause the same sort of destruction that a Dark Jedi caused decades before.  However, seeing his nephew bathed in the green glow, Luke realizes his mistake but a moment too late: Ben has awoken, seen the intent in his uncle, and retaliates with extreme prejudice.  

The criticism facing Luke here is that Luke’s character, as depicted in the Original Trilogy would not line up with a teacher murdering not just a student but a family member in cold blood.  The issue with this criticism is that it fails to understand the basic lessons learned from Part I about how Luke solves his problems when he responds with the emotional side of his brain.  

In that moment, Luke commits several errors in a matter of sheer seconds.  First, he invades the privacy of Ben’s mind at a moment when he was most vulnerable.  There can be no mistake that Ben was violated at that moment; he was asleep and unaware to not only the simple presence of his uncle in the room but also unaware of the exercise of Force detection and interrogation that Luke was committing.  Ben never had a chance to defend or argue his case against Luke’s unilateral and manipulative approach to investigation. He looked into the future of this boy and found the type of darkness and destruction he feared.  

The problematic approach taken here has its echoes, though, in the Jedi Order of the Old Republic.  We must remember that Luke became a student of history (as evidenced by his awareness of Darth Sidious’ name and role in the downfall of the entire system of government) and the Jedi Order itself (likely due to his proximal relationship to two of its highest members).  And, while we may not have exact confirmation that Luke was aware of the process used by the Jedi Order to identify qualified candidates for its indoctrination training, the audience can remember how Anakin Skywalker was similar interrogated and probed by the Jedi Council after Qui-Gon Jinn offered him as the Chosen One of prophecy.  Young Anakin, at the tender age of nine, had his heart and mind searched and analyzed without any advocate there to defend him or assist him. “See through you, we can,” Yoda commented, proven by Ki-Adi-Mundi’s declaration that Anakin’s, “thoughts dwell on [his] mother.”  It seems that while the Force grants great powers of insight into the hearts of individuals, those who have learned to wield have failed to properly consider the impact of such power on the victims they afflict. Force-psychoanalyzing Anakin established mistrust, fear, and offense in Anakin, pushing him further down the dark path that the Council feared he would walk on his own.  Similarly, Luke’s under-the-cover-of-darkness mental assault showed him exactly what he was afraid of, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps, when Luke and the Council were busy probing the minds of these students, the Force was less showing them what was to be in the future but rather the dangers of trying to invade the privacy of the mind. So, in the end, Luke’s lack of concern for Ben’s autonomy is perfectly in line with established Jedi habits.

Anakin before the council.jpg

The second error committed is the classic snap-hiss of his lightsaber.  What could he possibly have been thinking? How was killing his nephew an acceptable action, and what did Luke expect that it would accomplish?  As it turns out, there is indeed precedent that would lead Luke to exactly this point which we covered back in Part I, again. Luke’s confrontation with Jabba the Hutt provides us much of the type of logical connection needed to understand Luke’s logic train.  We have seen how Luke believed that the Force empowered him to overpower his perceived enemies. He makes a plan to sneak in (through the front door?) and attempt an assassination right then and there. The plan involves the total destruction of Jabba’s entourage.  Similarly, when Luke is captive onboard the Death Star II, the actions which delighted the Emperor the most were the ones that demonstrated Luke believed that violence was the solution to the problem, that heroism required destruction, and that it was either kill or be killed.  That is exactly where the Emperor wanted Luke because it meant he was losing the fight against the dark side.  

Luke learned, in the last moments of the Death Star II, that there was another way out, an alternative to fighting (as Obi-Wan Kenobi mentioned in the halls of the Millennium Falcon four years prior).  However, and again as we pointed out in Part 1, Luke’s moral victory was hampered by his continuing the Vader-esque garb and lightsaber-on-hip accessorizing at the Endor celebration. While violence may have not been the answer on-board the Death Star II, Luke believed that violence may still have some role to play in the life of the Jedi and it should remain as a tool with which to solve problems in the future.  The inability to discard violence to solve problems is what leads Luke to the moment in Ben’s hut: I can stop him before he can stop me. It may have been due to the legend-status that he achieved post-Battle of Endor that contributed to this mentality the most. In fact, he comments on that himself to Rey when he regrets the public elevation of his persona and his willingness to believe and indulge that. Luke believed, in that moment in the hut, “I alone can save the galaxy from Ben’s inevitable domination, I have to act and I have to act now.”  However, in starting down that path, he pushed Ben further down his own dark path, just as the Jedi Order did to Anakin.  

Luke’s strengths cannot be ignored; he was aware of Snoke’s influence over Ben.  He knew that the dark side would lead the galaxy towards additional and potentially greater destruction.  He knew what the call of the Dark Side felt, and he knew the challenge to resist it personally. He knew what it was like to be manipulated by a master of the dark side.  Luke knew what he had been through and how he had come out the other side; that had even made it into the public consciousness which elevated him to that legend-status. After a certain amount of time, perhaps Luke even came to believe the stories rather than his own experiences.  He felt the need to reestablish the Jedi Order, likely with the most noble of intentions; however, he would end up repeating the same mistakes the Order did, following in the footsteps of great masters with great intentions yielding tragic results.  


There is one more possible bit of motivation that may or may not have sufficient support.  Because it is not the strongest element, we should not rely on it solely to resolve the charge that Luke would never take up arms against his nephew as TLJ would have us believe.  However, due to the fact that there are other elements that do indeed provide enough contextual understanding of how Luke got to that point, we can include the last one here as more circumstantial than anything else.  Luke, when he strikes up his saber, may have been a bit more blind to what he was doing than either he or Ben truly understood. It is not a leap in logic to think that Luke was attacking the very essence of the dark side as he stepped into that hut.  He could conceivably convince himself that Ben was already lost just as Obi-Wan and Yoda believed that Anakin was destroyed and that only Vader remained. When Obi-Wan and Yoda had written off Anakin as no longer existing, that allowed them to instruct a younger Luke to confront and defeat Vader.  However, because Luke saw that there was still some hope for Anakin to overcome the grip of the dark side, he found the way out of the cycle of violence, vengeance, and self-destruction. Here, when confronting Ben, he had lost sight of that option. He looked into Ben’s heart and also into his future, saw that the dark side would rise again, and went to stop it.  Because he no longer saw the person of Ben Solo there, he was only striking down the darkness instead.  He wasn’t killing Ben; he was killing Snoke.  

None of this is to say that Luke was right for what he did.  Rather, it proves the opposite: Luke was quite wrong to enter Ben’s hut, invade his mind, cast judgment upon him immediately, and seek to execute justice then and there.  Only in the moment where he raised his lightsaber to kill did he finally realize that he was wrong and deactivated the blade.  Fatefully though, it was too late, and the damage had been done, the die cast, the future doomed. The charge against Luke that “he would never have gone into that hut to kill him,” thus stands as dead as a porg on a stick.  

Snoke, through Ben, is executing a type of fulfillment of Palpatine’s plan for Luke.  The trust between Luke and Ben had been broken before the encounter in Ben’s sleeping quarters.  Luke had already seen the evidence of the dark side during Ben’s training, prompting him to find a way to resolve it.  The moment of violence was not the breaking of that trust; rather, it was the confirmation that the trust was already broken. Luke saw all that darkness coming and it scared him. He jeopardized the life of his nephew and murdered the trust that they once shared all by committing the gravest of all sins: being human.

Luke’s failure was dictated by his past, sadly.  We should not say it was inevitable since we know that Luke also has a past that includes deviating from the conventional wisdom, in a positive sense.  That deviation led to the redemption of Anakin Skywalker, the overthrow of Emperor Palpatine, and the saving of Luke’s own skin. Should not have Luke known better, then?  Is it truly possible for someone to go through what Luke went through, space battles and all, and not be able to remember these types of life lessons? Is it truly within Luke’s character to try and murder his nephew in order to prevent the galaxy slipping into darkness again?

Based on the evidence, yes, it certainly is within his character.  His flawed, perfectly imperfect humanity to do exactly that.  

Rey – Gene Replacement Therapy

Criticism: Luke would know better than to ignore her pleas for training, her powers develop drastically without sufficient rationale on-screen, Luke would not remain on Ahch-To simply to die for the Resistance.


After having experienced the failure that was his Jedi Academy, Luke drastically changed his course.  Instead of working to spread the gospel of the Light Side of the Force, he instead locks it away in a box, mails the box to himself, and smashes it with a hammer.  Again, not straying too far from the pattern established by other Jedi Masters, Luke exiles himself to the furthest corner of the galaxy he can find: the ancestral home of the Jedi religion, the first Jedi Temple.  He cuts himself off from his family, from the galaxy, and from the very Force itself.  Luke decided that he must atone for his failure by making sure no one can ever make the same mistake again.  His conclusion is that the nature of the Force is not one that the Jedi have a right to anymore and that the entirety of the Order, including himself as the last real member thereof, must be burned to the ground.  

This is a dangerous step to take, especially considering how much evil has been unleashed in the galaxy at that very moment.  Luke knows that Ben, now Kylo Ren, orchestrated the razing of the academy and he also knows that Kylo was led down the path of the Dark Side by Snoke.  That makes two powerful Dark Side users out and about in a galaxy that has a poor reputation for handling Sith Lords. Yet Luke, the only one capable of stopping them (at that moment) and the only one with a resume that includes confronting masters of the Dark Side, has exiled himself.  Perhaps Luke, while waiting to die himself and take the legacy of the Jedi with him, was secretly (or even subconsciously) hoping for the rise of a new protege as Yoda and Obi-Wan had with regards to Luke and Leia’s aging. There does not seem to be anything explicit on-screen that establishes that on its own, but we do have an established pattern of the mentors-in-exile-until-just-the-right-moment trope.  

Enter Rey.

Rey is a new opportunity for Luke that he cannot disregard fast enough.  He has no interest in revitalizing the Jedi arts, regardless of how desperately the rest of the galaxy is asking for exactly that.  But what in Luke’s past drives him to first ignore and discourage Rey, second begin the training process, but third ultimately give his life while maintaining his vows of exile?

Rey with saber.jpeg

Whether the audience buys Luke’s excuses for resisting Rey’s entreaties rests entirely on whether or not they understand Luke and Ben’s relationship.  Without that original relationship properly established and relied upon, Luke’s character would fall apart. Since we can see, based on above-connections from ROTJ to  TLJ, Luke’s attitude is consistent while remaining immature. Keep in mind, the argument pursued here is not “Luke was right,” but rather “Luke was himself.”  

With that, Luke’s resistance is clearly modeled after the exile his own masters employed.  Obi-Wan went into hiding in order to maintain a watchful eye over Luke while Yoda went into exile to atone for his mistakes and await some future time when he could reemerge.  The difference between these two examples and Luke’s actions is that Luke exiles himself without conditions by which to trigger his return: his goal is death, not biding time for rebirth.  Rey, however, is on a journey for her very own rebirth and looks to Luke for that, an inverse of the Masters that trained Luke. Rey has been told, “The belonging you seek is not behind you, it is ahead.”  She confesses, “I need someone to show me my place in all of this.” She is relying on Luke as a replacement father figure (lost in Han Solo’s death) and the small twinge of truth in Kylo’s last words to her: “you need a teacher.”  Her character is defined by her emotional (and/or spiritual) dependence.

A quick aside: this is not to demean or diminish Rey.  This part of her journey, part of her coming-of-age. Her character arc for TLJ requires her to transcend emotional dependence into emotional independence.  The Resistance needs her to take on the mantle of inspiration and hero; however, she is (at the beginning of the film) asking Luke to take up that mantle.  Luke knows he cannot do that for her, although the reasons why change for Luke over the course of the film; this echoes Obi-Wan’s warning in Empire Strikes Back, where, upon experiencing a brief glimpse of the future at Cloud City, Luke is warned that Obi-Wan cannot intervene in the coming conflict with Vader.  Our heroes must find a time to step up and grab destiny by the throat, and that is what Rey’s journey is (at least, in part) about in this movie. 

So what changes Luke’s mind to begin Rey’s training?  It comes after visiting the Millennium Falcon under the cover of darkness and encountering R2-D2 again.  Perhaps Luke sees that, even despite his death, Han’s legacy continues beyond himself.  The Falcon flies, with Chewbacca at the helm, under the control of a young gear-head looking to do what is right for the galaxy.  Maybe, just maybe, Luke begins to see an opportunity for him to overcome not just the failure of Ben Solo’s fall to the dark side, but the failure of the Jedi Order as a whole.  He can see how the Old Republic’s Jedi lost their way, and he can also see how his own academy lost its way. Rey may be his one last chance to do something right. And he steps up to that challenge. 

Luke and Rey.jpg

However, there is a bit of danger in this approach.  Luke suffers from the danger of living vicariously through his students, and Rey is no exception.  Her successes will be his successes; her failures will be his failures; he is still looking forward to the horizon instead on where he was, what he was doin’.  This is akin to parents living through their children, expecting them to be Perfect, when they themselves never were.  It is psychologically damaging to put that much responsibility on any child, and here in the film (as well as in The Force Awakens), Rey is presented as child-like.  She bears the innocence of genuine naivete, the wonder of exploration, and warmth of friendship all as a child would.  Luke, in this moment, while now willing to give Rey the training that she “needs,” also attaches to her his own personal atonement journey rather than a more pure motive of simply equipping her for what comes at her next.  Rey is not looking for just answers on how to use the Force, but also for “her place in all of this.” Rey wants the best parts of the Jedi Order which Luke has already thrown out and buried.  

Rey’s powers, then.  This will be succinct.  Luke went from not knowing which end of the lightsaber is the hurty part to using the Force to destroy the Death Star.  His training consisted of blindfolded target practice and then PT with a Muppet in his backpack. After those two exercises, he was equipped to take on the Dark Lord of the Sith.  I don’t think I ever want to hear another complaint about Rey getting too powerful in the Force too quickly.  

Luke’s final actions are a return to his heroic triumph aboard the DSII.  Rey and the Resistance want Luke to return to fight alongside of them to stop the tyranny of the First Order.  Kylo, Snoke, and the First Order are afraid that Luke’s return would be the singular greatest threat to complete galactic domination.  However, Luke, in returning fashion, finds a third way. And in that third way is all the difference.

Using the Force to summon a projection of himself inspires the Resistance in the way that they needed; it also scared the First Order enough to call off the pursuit on Crait momentarily.  Lastly, it provided one more confrontation between Master and Apprentice, where they could air the outstanding issues that haunted both of them. Luke apologized for his failure as a teacher but refused to back down from the threat that Kylo posed.  The largest difference between this and his self-imposed exile is that he recognizes the situation differently. Previously, Luke’s fear was that if the galaxy relied on the legend of Luke Skywalker to save them, things would never change and the cycle of rising darkness and corresponding death would spin onward and, as a result, he must break the chain of training Force-users.  Now, he recognizes that the dark side does not simply rise out of the light Side and poison the students of the Force; rather, the dark side corrupts all on its own and it is the responsibility of the light side to meet it. If he fails to give the Resistance the chance to escape, then all hope would truly go out of the galaxy and the First Order’s march would continue across the stars unimpeded.  

But it cannot be Luke that saves the Resistance, ultimately.  Yes, the Resistance needs to make it off of Crait in order to catch its breath.  They need a window of escape so that they can regroup and marshal their strengths.  Now, that is something Luke can do for them: buy them the time they need, similar to his actions on Endor.  By presenting himself to the enemy, he hopes to take their eyes off of the actual Resistance members they have been hunting.  Luke believed he was endangering the mission on Endor, the mission of deactivating the shield generator. So, by turning himself in, he took Vader off of Endor where he surely would have stopped the Rebels in their tracks, trapping the fleet against the Death Squadron, and ending the Rebellion.  The Battle of Crait culminates similarly: Luke’s presenting of himself is that of the scapegoat.  

Luke not the last jedi.jpg

Return of the Jedi does a lot of work setting up Luke’s characteristics and, it turns out, takes Luke on a new journey of discovery.  He goes from ballistic weapon lightly brushing with the tendrils of the dark side to pacifistic, self-sacrificing, master of the Force.  However, we see that heroic shine wear off as he buys into his own legend and tragic misreaction to terrible events. He follows the example of his own masters rather than charting his own course.  But, in Rey, he is reminded that the Jedi are perhaps specially equipped to find that third way, that which is not apparent in a one-or-the-other decision. In understanding how Luke, as a character, has been established in ROTJ helps us contextualize his decisions in TLJ and even provide a concrete foundation for his actions.  This by no means excuses his bad decisions but it helps understand his logic behind those decisions. Thus, Luke becomes a fully-realized person, consistent in his thought pattern and relatable as a person.  

Turns out, he’s our Luke after all. 

Luke – Fly You Fools!

Criticism: Luke’s Force projection should not have killed him; his death in that moment is unworthy of the character who should have gone out in some sort of blaze of glory.

Death is no easy thing to tackle.  We’ve no comprehensive answers, save  but  a  few  thoughts.  Our real world experiences start to color what we see on screen and we suddenly cannot allow the characters in a movie to play by the rules within the movie rather than the rules in our world.  Is that a fair criticism, though?  Should we be allowed to apply certain rules inherent to life on Earth to life on film?  Or are we brave enough to entrust characters that we have come to know, appreciate, and perhaps even identify with to the hands of filmmakers that we’ve no role in approving or selecting?

If we are able to block out our personal expectations and associations with characters, we become free to review and analyze the story itself and understand what is being conveyed through that story.  We can understand how Luke is properly set up by earlier events not just in TLJ but in other films to come to such a death and we can understand, from a meta-understanding of the film, “why” Luke had to die.

The Last Jedi makes much of the connection between Kylo Ren and Rey.  Snoke admits to being the one who bridged their minds and stoked the conflict between them because it would inevitably culminate in Kylo bringing Rey before Snoke’s throne.  Snoke’s goal, if we are to take him at his spoken word, was to eliminate Rey as a threat, considering her to be the powerful light that would rise to meet the powerful dark in Kylo Ren.  With Rey out of the way, then Snoke and Kylo would be unimpeded in their march across the galaxy.

When Kylo first becomes aware of their connection, he spends the initial moments trying to understand the nature of the connection.  He is not immediately interested in interacting with Rey; that will come later.  He asks aloud, “Can you see my surroundings?  I can’t see yours.”  He also muses, “You can’t be doing this, the effort would kill you.”  This is the first block laid in the events to come: extreme Force application can result in physical harm.  There is a toll levied on the body when it tries to exert the Force in a way that perhaps either the person is unskilled in or prepared for, or that the application thereof is so intense in nature that the human form simply cannot withstand it.  The dark side is especially good at this, being at its nature cold, greedy, and manipulative.  The dark side offers a host of powers (“some might consider unnatural”) at the expense of the well-being of the user itself.  Rey is deemed too inexperienced to maintain such a bridged connection.

Kylo can you see.gif

Whether Luke was aware of the taxation maintaining a Force Projection would cost him is unclear.  However, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Luke would be willing to give his life up in order to save others.  Therefore, if we know he would be willing, it is similarly reasonable to conclude that he would find a way to be able.  That is to say, he would be less encumbered by the risks and fears of death if he was already established as a self-sacrificing person of character.

Fortunately for us, we have seen him demonstrate such tendencies in ROTJ and we have also seen his masters do so.  Luke watched Obi-Wan be struck down on the Death Star so that he, Leia, and Han could escape Vader.  Also, Luke would encounter the very ghost of Obi-Wan, confirming the ability to maintain one’s identity and individuality even after death.  Imagine the freeing aspect it would have on one’s self to have concrete and definitive assurance that death was not the end and that your spirit could continue on.  Luke has seen masters reappear to him from beyond the shadowy veil, separating him from the Netherworld of the Force.

Luke death.jpeg

There is still a shock to the system when we see Luke release his grip on life and allow himself to be absorbed into the Force under the twilight rays on Ahch-To.  Why did Luke, greatest of all masters of the Force, singular surviving teacher of Jedi, and true and rightful legend, succumb to the strains of the Force projection?  To reconcile this, we must take Kylo’s musing about the effort killing Rey and combine it with another line of dialogue and apply some real-world logic, with not so much as a “leap” but more like a “bunny hop.”  Rey admits that she could not see Luke in the Force when she first expanded her senses around the island monastery.  Luke, ashamedly, confirms that he cut himself off from the Force and only opens himself back to it in order to find Leia.  Once he is reconnected to the Force, we see him use the Force to control and move objects including himself.  But now we must combine the strain of master-level Force application to the body of one who had, essentially, detoxed from the Force.

The body is a funny thing.  Overtime, it can build up immunities and resistances to all sorts of chemical (and even emotional, spiritual, and physical) assault.  If we poison it just a little, and then a little again, and then a little again, the body starts to handle and adapt to the changing of conditions.  Suddenly, the induced highs do not feel as high because the body has become used to it and now requires a harder hit to achieve a new level of affectation.  One cigarette, one drink, one line, one rock is no longer enough.  It needs more.  Eventually, we hope, the cycle of escalation can be broken and the body can be retrained to live without the chemical dependency that it had accumulated.  This takes years to break and only moves in very small increments.  It requires tremendous effort, patience, and support.  And while addiction itself may be more of a disease than a condition, the body can recover (to a certain degree, though rarely return to a state of perfection) from some deleterious effects.  We get better, we heal, we grow.  Help can be found, hope can be cultivated.

Now consider Luke: after years of building up a dependence on the Force, after decades of training and experience, he suffers a traumatic loss that convinces him to quit cold turkey.  We do not know the length of time that elapses between unplugging from the Force to Rey’s visit on Ahch-To, but it would certainly be measured in years as opposed to months.  Upon reengaging with the Force, Luke’s initial applications seem mundane and elementary, sort of the “lifting rocks” training that Yoda put him through on Dagobah.  However, he then attempts a feat of exertion that would kill someone new to the Force and requires a greater indwelling of the light side.  He wants to project an image of himself that can interact with its environment and even with other people.  It must be convincing to the Resistance as well as the First Order  and must not actually come into contact with anything so as to not betray the subterfuge.

Luke on Crait.jpg

One of the problems addicts encounter is the relapse.  Getting clean is such a difficult journey to begin with, it seems that a relapse episode is like a bandit laying in wait.  Forty to sixty percent of addicts suffer relapses.When an addict gives in to that temptation (“just this once,” “it can’t hurt that bad again”), it typically causes a catastrophic failure.  One of the greatest fears with a relapse is the potential for an overdose.  Because the body had been on the road to recovery, a relapse can result in an overdose because it no longer has the resistance and immunity built up anymore.  And, to the great tragedy of many families, overdoses can be lethal.

This is not to accuse Luke Skywalker of being an addict; however, the consequences of withdrawal from a substance (like the Force) upon which a person’s life had been built around and upon and then the immediate high concentration and exertion of that substance again without the proper reestablishment of metaphysical calluses and constitution perhaps led to an overdose of the Force.

To sum it all up in one big depressing ball, Kylo knew that Force connection over long distance was difficult and dangerous and Luke simply was not up for the strain that such an act would put on his body.  It is sad, and difficult, and painful to watch, but that is the story being told on screen.

December wraps up the Skywalker saga with Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.  While speculating about what happens in the film not released for another three weeks or so may be reckless and ultimately fruitless, this last thing stood out to me while watching another seminal film series: The Lord of the Rings.

Luke, in TLJ, is playing the role of mentor, giving Rey the tools she needs in order to find her place in, “all of this.”  He is the guiding light (albeit quite reluctantly), the hope for the future (temporarily), and the inspiration that spurs on the next generation (caveat-less, look at that!).  He is filling some of the same role that Gandalf the Grey did for the Fellowship, Sirius Black for Harry Potter, Obi-wan Kenobi for himself as a younger man.  And not to flog the dead horse of Joseph Campbell, but the hero has to kill their gods at some point, achieving that inspiration and confidence of taking things on their own rather than allow the mentor to rule the day.  Luke is sacrificed in the way Gandalf and Sirius are, giving Rey (and correspondingly, the Resistance) the real hope for the future: themselves.


Does this open up the possibility for some sort of glorious, burst-of-light at Helm’s Deep return for Luke?  Well, in a universe where the dead Jedi seem to keep cropping up in cast listings, it does not seem too far-fetched.  Maybe Luke’s sacrifice will come to mean something more in the future, something only completed and fulfilled within the context of TROS.  We may not know that for certain, and in fact there is no guarantee that TROS will provide definitive answers of any kinds.  Therefore, it may be best to rely simply on the totality of the information available us today when we consider the questions of Luke’s actions within the context of TLJ until such time as new information becomes available.

We must be willing to evaluate what is in front of us without the bias of hopes and dreams regarding what comes next.  We can use the past to interpret today and set expectations for the future, but our own limited viewpoints restrict us from being able to predict the future with the type of certainty that seems all the rage on Twitter and Reddit.

And despite all our rage, we are still just a murder of porgs in a cage.

Drew Brett

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