Rarely has a fandom been so rabid to see a teacher accept a new pupil than when Star Wars: The Force Awakens concluded with Rey offering Luke Skywalker’s his long lost lightsaber. The teaser trailer for The Last Jedi traded wholesale on this desire, primarily focusing on Luke’s earnest tutelage of Rey, though perhaps not quite in the ways Star Wars fans or Rey herself had anticipated.
Rey’s coming of age as a potential Jedi screamed for someone to teach her how to harness and control her newfound abilities both physically and spiritually. In a post-Return of the Jedi galaxy with no other Jedi, that leaves Luke Skywalker as her only choice to turn to. However, just because Luke, the last Jedi, is Rey’s only option (besides plumbing the depths of the Dark Side with Supreme Leader Snoke), it doesn’t mean Luke isn’t also her best option. In fact, Luke Skywalker is the perfect teacher for Rey.
Rey meeting Luke Skywalker was written in the stars. They possess so many similarities (by design) that one could quip they were made for each other. Both Luke and Rey come from nearly identically humble origins: both grew up orphans on desert worlds (Skywalker on Tattooine, Rey on Jakku). While Luke at least had the benefit of being raised by Owen and Beru Lars, and was watched over by a nearby Obi-Wan Kenobi, Rey was abandoned on Jakku by her mysterious parents to fend for herself. Rey had it much rougher than Luke, though she never complained about her lot in life like he did in his youth. Still, both looked to the horizon and dreamed of something more: Luke wanted adventure, Rey simply wanted her parents to return to her. Even so, adventure did come calling for both of them. When they were each whisked away from their Outer Rim planets – both aboard the Millennium Falcon – they formed friendships with Han Solo and Chewbacca and found themselves embroiled in a great conflict with a powerful master of the dark side of the Force and his evil apprentice for the fate of the galaxy.
The Force called to both Luke and Rey, and it called to them late. In the days of the Old Republic, Force-sensitive potential Jedi were identified very young and indoctrinated into training as children. At ten years old, the Jedi already considered Luke’s father, Anakin Skywalker, too old to be trained. Luke Skywalker and Rey both began their journey to become Jedi at nineteen. However, even as neophytes in the ways of the Force, their latent talents served them well. Luke personally destroyed the first Death Star in the Battle of Yavin. Rey managed to overcome the much more experienced Kylo Ren, Luke’s nephew and former pupil, and defeat him in a lightsaber duel. Luke’s destiny was to face his father, Darth Vader, and defeat the Galactic Empire. Rey’s destiny has yet to be revealed; perhaps it’s one Luke will personally help write.
“Who are you?” is said to be the first phrase spoken by Luke to this stranger bearing his original lightsaber; it’s been reported that when The Last Jedi begins, Luke doesn’t know who Rey is. However, this could merely be a trick. When Luke arrived on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda toyed with Luke, pretending to be a senile old troublemaker to test young Skywalker’s patience and resolve. Perhaps feigning ignorance is the first of the many tests Luke plans for Rey. Indeed, both of Luke’s teachers, Obi-Wan and Yoda, practiced withholding vital information, speaking in cryptic riddles, and even used outright deception when training Luke. It stands to reason that Luke would utilize those same tricks on his new apprentice, for as preternaturally talented and courageous as Rey is, we’ve seen in The Force Awakens she can be headstrong, fearful, and she has a temper – all triggers to the dark side.
No one has a greater understanding of how to overcome impatience, fear, and his own temper than Luke Skywalker. Nor does one learn the most important lessons through victories. Luke is intimately familiar with failure. He failed many of the challenges Yoda placed before him, most famously the dark side cave on Dagobah, but also when he abandoned his training against Yoda and Obi-Wan’s pleas in order to save his friends. Luke’s greatest failure is his nephew Ben Solo/Kylo Ren, who betrayed him and destroyed his burgeoning new Jedi Order. Luke went into self-imposed exile in his grief. All of these life lessons can benefit Rey. Luke’s life isn’t about his victories – his life is defined by learning from failure and rising above defeat. What’s more, with Rey, Luke has a chance to correct the mistakes he made with Kylo Ren and leave the galaxy better than how he found it.
It’s possible Luke’s tutelage of Ben Solo was always doomed to failure. Not that there was another option since Luke was the last Jedi, but it’s unusual for Jedi to train Force-sensitive family members. Jedi tradition was to take a Force sensitive-child and pair him or her as a Padawan learner with a Jedi Master of no relation. Perhaps training family creates unforeseen problems and conflicts, or perhaps the sinister aspects of being genetically a Skywalker did Ben in the way Anakin fell from grace and Luke was similarly tempted. Which means if Rey is somehow revealed to be of Skywalker blood, she has the same darkness inherent in her. However, the popular theory that Rey is from the Kenobi family, if revealed to be accurate, would create a lovely symmetry: Obi-Wan taught Luke who goes on to teach Rey.
Daisy Ridley has indicated that Rey bristles at Luke’s training and methodology in The Last Jedi. Rey grew up believing Luke Skywalker was a myth. Perhaps she even had a mental image of the brash young hero who helped defeat the Empire before she was born. The sullen old man she meets on Ahch-To must disappoint her. As Ridley describes their relationship:
“Rey has a certain expectation as to what she may be getting from Luke and what that might entail and as a lot of people know, it is difficult when you meet your heroes because it might not be what you expect.”
Rey, who desperately desires a father figure and had just lost an ersatz one in Han Solo, likely hoped Luke would fulfill that role. Whatever interpersonal strife emerges between them, however, what Rey finds with Luke might be something even more valuable: someone who can properly prepare her for the unimaginably difficult trials she will soon face.
As to what Luke’s ultimate plans are – why he believes the Jedi must end and how he intends to use Rey – Occam’s razor, that the simplest explanation is the best one, suggests Luke intends to pave a new path beyond the failings of the Jedi. Luke, who has now spent his adult life amassing Jedi lore, may have come to believe that the conflict between the light and dark side is eternally doomed to disaster. The Last Jedi teaser suggests Luke is teaching Rey not to embrace one aspect of the Force and fear the other, but to accept both in unison and emerge as something greater. Perhaps Luke plans for Rey to somehow become a unification of the light and dark side, thereby becoming an embodiment of the balance of the Force.
What Luke Skywalker ultimately offers Rey is an invaluable gatekeeper to her grand destiny. For all of his failures and his lifetime of regret, in his core, Luke is a hero through and through. He has faced and defeated the Dark Side of the Force in the most difficult and intimate of ways. Luke embodies the teachings and philosophies of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, two of the greatest of the Jedi. He redeemed his father, Darth Vader, and helped him rediscover Anakin Skywalker. Luke has saved the Galaxy, and he knows better than anyone else alive the personal cost that entails. What’s more, Luke understands how precious little time you have when forced into your destiny very late. He himself never had the requisite years of being a Padawan learner alongside a Jedi Master; he knows Rey also has much to master in too short a season. Who better to take someone so much like himself and mold her into becoming what she’s meant to become? Luke Skywalker is the last Jedi, but for Rey, no teacher could be more perfect.