Luke Skywalker and the End of the Jedi

“I know only one truth: It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

The first trailer for The Last Jedi ends with Luke’s shocking declaration about the future of the Jedi Order – that there is no future. After all his explorations of the galaxy, all the knowledge he’s gained about the Force, he’s concluded that the Jedi must die out. This is a result of Kylo Ren’s fall to the dark side and Luke’s subsequent hermitage/depression. He blames himself for what happened, and believes the Jedi Order will keep on destroying itself if it continues. He has become jaded, cynical, and fatalistic.

Or so some people believe. I, on the other hand, have much different thoughts. Luke isn’t calling for an end to the Order because he’s given up. On the contrary, he knows exactly what he needs to do now, and Rey is the only person who can help him.

I’ve read and heard many, many opinions about The Last Jedi trailer since it was released a week ago. Being at Celebration, it was impossible not to hear one of the following statements around the convention center: “Luke is depressed.” “Luke is emo.” “Luke is going dark.” “Luke is going to die.” “Luke is going to kill himself.” “Luke will refuse to train Rey.”

Every time someone said something like that to me, I cocked my head and had to restrain myself from asking, “What trailer did YOU watch?” Because – and I say this knowing I’m the biggest Luke fan there is – I saw nothing in the trailer that would indicate any of those things.

First, believing the Force isn’t inherently light or dark doesn’t mean Luke is now going to be evil. The Force just is; it’s people themselves that choose to be light or dark.

Second, Luke saying “it’s time for the Jedi to end” doesn’t mean he’s going to end with them. He can become something else, and start a new order of Force users. Or he can remain the titular “Last JedI” until his natural death many years later. There’s no reason for him to die so soon; Rey already lost her first mentor, and having Luke around gives more storytelling opportunities in the future. Plus, if he were to die in the Sequel Trilogy, why not save it for Episode IX?

Third, Luke may refuse to train Rey initially, but that refusal obviously doesn’t stick. I mean, it’s right there in the trailer. He’s training her. Whether or not he’s training her to be a Jedi or another kind of Force user remains to be seen.

Finally – and this is the most important point – Luke is not depressed or emo; he is determined.

Luke Skywalker may be the most determined person in the Galaxy Far, Far Away. He starts his life as a moisture farmer, determined to leave Tatooine and become a part of something bigger. When he finally leaves Tatooine with Obi-Wan Kenobi, he becomes determined to complete the mission to bring the Death Star plans to Alderaan, and then to save Leia. His mission changes to blowing up the Death Star – and he succeeds in taking the kill shot.

This determination continues throughout the Original Trilogy. We see him struggling to fight the Empire on Hoth; training as a Jedi on Dabogah despite Yoda’s initial refusal; and then his fight against Darth Vader, the ultimate evil in the galaxy as far as Luke is concerned. That fight ends with another shocking declaration.

No. I am your father.

For some people, that might break them. But not Luke. He would rather die than join the dark side. When he survives, he reaches out to Leia for help and receives it. Along with his friends, he formulates a plan to rescue Han from Jabba the Hutt. Remember that Luke is from Tatooine and knows all the stories about Jabba’s vileness. He would know how hard it is to infiltrate Jabba’s Palace. But he doesn’t care. The plan might not go 100 percent according to plan, but the results are the same. Jabba dies, his palace is destroyed, and Han is rescued.

Then it’s time to fight against yet another Death Star. But when Luke realizes that Vader is nearby, and that Vader can sense him, he decides to surrender himself for the good of the mission. Not only that, but he’s determined to turn Vader from the dark side. Everyone tells him this is impossible: Yoda, Obi-Wan, even Leia. Luke refuses to believe them. Like his mother, he will continue to believe in his father, even if nobody else will. Even if it results in his death.

And in the end, the love Luke has for his father is what brings Anakin Skywalker back from the dark side.

We don’t know much about what Luke did after the events of Return of the Jedi. We know that he spent time exploring the galaxy, looking for artifacts related to the Force and the Jedi. We know he rescued Force trees in Shattered Empire. From The Weapon of a Jedi, we know he returned to the temple on Devaron at some point. From The Force Awakens, we know Luke began training a new generation of Jedi before Ben Solo became Kylo Ren and helped destroy the new Order. Around the time of Bloodline, we know Luke and Ben Solo are somewhere in the galaxy where they cannot be contacted.

Luke’s progression post Original Trilogy seems fitting with what we know of his character. He declares himself a Jedi in Return of the Jedi, but he’s not yet ready to teach others. In order to pass on what he’s learned, as Yoda entrusted him, he must first enhance his own knowledge. Only when he feels ready does he begin training new Jedi.

But then everything goes horribly wrong. Many people say that Luke “gave up” or “ran away” once Kylo Ren joined the First Order. I don’t see it that way at all. Han even says that people think Luke was looking for the first Jedi Temple. Presumably, the temple is something Luke went searching for many years ago but was unable to find. Why would it be so important to find now, while the galaxy descends into war? What did he expect to learn there? What did he learn there?

We’ll have to wait until Episode VIII to find out for sure, but the trailer gives us hints. Rey starts out the trailer presumably shocked by something. Could it have been another Force vision? If so, what did she see? Luke then tells her to “Breathe, just breathe. Now, reach out. What do you see?” His words are smooth and calming, not at all like someone who has given up hope. Not at all like someone who is reluctant to teach. Rey responds that she sees, “Light. Darkness. A balance,” over a shot of her examining ancient books with the Jedi symbol emblazoned on the front. Luke informs her, “It’s so much bigger,” and he speaks like someone who is excited about the future. Then we are treated to an amazing wide shot of Rey training with her lightsaber while Luke looks on. This shot is a metaphor for the movie as a whole: the story is bigger than what we see in the trailer; the Force is bigger than what we previously believed; throw out all expectations and prepare to have our minds blown.

“I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

Listen to those lines again. Look at Luke’s body posture as he speaks. Do you see someone who’s given up hope? Or do you see someone who’s about to bring hope to the galaxy for the dozenth time?

Luke Skywalker has seen some things. He’s experienced things that would break other Jedi. He’s just lost his best friend at the hands of the boy he once trained – his own nephew. But Luke doesn’t break, nor does he run away. He knows what has to be done — create something new – and he is the only Jedi willing to do it.

There is one other option here, that can be described as Occam’s Razor: this is all a huge misdirection. Like the “who are you? I’m no one” exchange from The Force Awakens, or huge portions of the Rogue One trailers, these lines and shots might not even be in the movie. Or the trailer could be cut so we believe Luke is saying the Jedi must end, but that happens at the beginning of the movie, before Rey changes his mind. Or he could continue speaking, and the line really is, “It’s time for the Jedi to end this war.”

I do agree that certain shots and voiceover work probably won’t be in the movie. But personally, I don’t believe there’s much misdirect going on here, at least as far as the plot of the movie goes. I honestly think Luke is going to retire the Jedi Order and build something bigger. Specific voiceover lines from The Force Awakens trailers might not have made the final cut, but the sentiment of the trailers was present in the film. I think that trend will continue with The Last Jedi, and that we won’t have another Rogue One instance where so much of the trailers went missing.

We’ll find out for certain in December.

As a long time Legends reader, the idea of Jedi Master Luke has been ingrained in my mind for a long time. I loved reading about him as a Jedi Master, and would sometimes be sad that Mark Hamill couldn’t play the character after he became a Jedi. I’d heard interviews where he talked about playing the Obi-Wan role and I couldn’t help but imagine how amazing that would be.

Now, I don’t have to imagine any longer. It’s actually happening.

My first few viewings of The Last Jedi trailer were not in a good place. But once I got over the disappointment and frustration of terrible convention management, it hit me – I was seeing (and hearing!) Jedi Master Luke Skywalker in action. And it was everything I’d ever wanted. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to make it through the movie without completely freaking out. Watching The Last Jedi panel only made my anticipation worse. The Dagobah training scenes are some of my favorites in the saga, and to get to see them in reverse, with Luke as the teacher? My heart is racing just thinking about it.

Luke Skywalker is the new hope. He is the last Jedi.

And we get to see what he has planned for the future very, very soon.

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