Since the first teasers were released for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, fans have noticed that Luke Skywalker is conspicuously absent. We all know that Mark Hamill is back as the hero of the original trilogy. But why haven’t we seen any definitive shots of him in the teasers and trailers? Sure, there’s that shot of a cloaked figure touching R2-D2 with a mechanical right hand. It’s most likely that that’s Luke hand. But why is he wearing a dark cloak? Why does it look like there’s lava bubbling nearby, or at least something burning, reminiscent of Mustafar, where his father made his decisive turn to the Dark Side?
“What does it all mean?” fans have wondered. Could it possibly be that Luke joins the Dark Side? Some have even speculated that he’s Kylo Ren, or perhaps that he’s Kylo Ren’s mentor, an over-arching “big bad” for the new trilogy, like Emperor Palpatine. Here we’ll look at five reasons he might have gone bad, and five reasons he’s still the incorruptible do-gooder we know and love.
So, Does Luke Join the Dark Side?
10 No: He's definitely not Kylo Ren
There's definitely been a lot of speculation that it could be Mark Hamill under that intimidating mask. But there are just so many holes in that theory. The most obvious is that Adam Driver was cast as Kylo Ren. We've seen photos of Adam Driver without a mask wearing clothes that appear to be Kylo Ren's. We've heard Adam Driver's voice in muffled voiceover over images of Kylo Ren, sounding like he's a guy wearing a mask, like Kylo Ren.
And then there's that awesome, but (let's face it) literally rough around the edges lightsaber: sparks fly everywhere, it's got exhaust ports. Luke showed us in Return of the Jedi that he knows how to build a pretty slick lightsaber, with a flawless, smooth blade. Kylo Ren's lightsaber looks like it was made by someone self-taught, who still had some kinks to work out. Even if Luke were not Kylo Ren but perhaps his evil master or mentor, he likely wouldn't have let his protégé be seen with that thing.
9 Yes: He's had a rough life
Put yourself in his shoes. You were raised without your parents. You didn't even really know who they were until you were in your twenties. You lived on a farm with your aunt and uncle, who were pretty strict. They made you do your chores at the expense of going out and having fun with your friends. So right away you might have some trouble with authority. You lived on a desert planet that was simultaneously inherently boring and incredibly dangerous, with shady masked and hooded people lurking in the dunes, ready to attack or rob you at any moment. To you, the world was tough and cruel.
And only as an adult did you learn that you actually had a living sister and father – your sister being your love interest (more on that later) and your father being one of the two most evil dudes in the galaxy. When looking at this case study, any psychologist would say of his chances at a stable life, "I've got a bad feeling about this."
8 No: We've seen him avoid the Dark Side at all costs
Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine couldn't have tried much harder to lure Luke to the Dark Side, and it just didn't work. In The Empire Strikes Back, Vader first used blood ties to try to convince Luke to turn. He dropped a baby-daddy bomb on Luke the likes of which even Maury Povich has never seen. Of course, Luke was hesitant to believe at first that what Vader was saying was true, that Vader was his father. But Luke's gut-wrenching, "Noooooooo," certainly feels like his admission that it's probably true. And he's probably thinking, "If you're my dad and you love me so much you want to rule the galaxy side by side, why did you just cut my bloody hand off?" Even someone who grew up the way Luke did had to know that's not love. So he dropped into the abyss, knowing even if death greeted him at the bottom, at least he didn't turn to the Dark Side.
Again, in Return of the Jedi, he made a similar choice. He had defeated Vader, returned the favor with a severed hand, and along came the Emperor. Just as Palpatine did with Anakin and Count Dooku, the Emperor tried to convince the Jedi to go against his teachings and kill an unarmed foe. Where Anakin gave in, Luke did not, even at the expense of Palpatine trying to kill him.
7 Yes: He's his father's son
Maybe evil is in the Skywalker blood – or midichlorians. The Jedi tried to keep Anakin Skywalker from giving in to his darker instincts. Obi Wan put his life on the line on Mustafar in a last-ditch effort to convince his former Padawan to return to his life with Padme and the Jedi he had suddenly slaughtered and left behind. Yoda always knew there was something amiss with him, even as a young child. Yoda also had concerns about Luke during his training on Dagobah, constantly referring to him as reckless – a quality that definitely could have also applied to his father.
And then there was Luke’s vision on Dagobah. In it, after disobeying Yoda and taking his lightsaber, he walked through the dark jungle into a cave and suddenly came upon Vader, who at that time Luke did not yet know was his father. A short lightsaber battle ensued before Luke slashed Vader’s head clean off. And when Luke looked at the severed head, it exploded to reveal his own head within the mask. Foreshadowing, anyone? Like father, like son.
6 No: He’s the ultimate “white hat”
Luke Skywalker was not one to flaunt a dashing chapeaux, but he was just like any wild-west sheriff dedicated to saving the townspeople’s lives and beating the bad guys. On his list of deeds, there was nary a bad one (aside from disobeying Yoda a couple times). When Anakin’s mother was killed by Tusken Raiders, his response was to ruthlessly murder every man, woman and child of them in their camp. On the other hand, when Luke’s guardians, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, were killed by Stormtroopers, he didn’t want to go slaughter all the Stormtroopers. He wanted to join the rebellion, to help bring justice to the galaxy.
From there, he helped save a princess; blew up the Empire’s horrifying, planet-busting Death Star; put his mind and body on the line to train to become a more powerful tool for good; battled the ultimate bad guy in his first ever lightsaber duel; saved his friends from the clutches of a giant, frog-eating worm; went to be with his mentor on his death bed; battled the ultimate bad guy one last time and ultimately convinced said bad guy to do one final act of good to save Luke and the galaxy from the Emperor. Now that’s a good guy.
5 Yes: He had very limited Jedi training
Maybe Luke’s Jedi training didn’t stick. We saw what happened to Anakin when the Jedi Council decided to bend the rules and let him become a Padawan at an older age, thus truncating his training. The Jedi were all about rules and guidelines, in order to keep their ranks pure and dedicated to the end. Younglings, very young children, first had to undergo Initiate Trials and undergo a rite of passage called The Gathering before they could be declared a Padawan and be teamed with a Jedi Knight or Master. Anakin was thought to be too old and didn’t endure the Youngling stage.
Luke didn’t have any of that. He wasn’t even a child when he first came to Yoda – he was 22, which was about 13 years older than even his father was when he began his training. And Jedi training lasts years before they’re promoted to Knight. Luke had little more than a year between first meeting Yoda and facing his father for the last time. So clearly there were gaps in Luke’s training that could have left plenty of room for the Dark Side to seep in.
4 No: Aftermath hints he’s still good
So what happens to Luke between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens? There are many books that detail this era, along with just about every other era in a galaxy far, far away. But in April 2014, those books were declared non-canon, or “legacy.” So none of that can be trusted so far as the new films go – and some of what didn’t really happen showed Luke going bad and then good again. Now, a new series of books and comics and cartoons (not to mention the original six movies and the slew of films beginning with The Force Awakens) has begun to form a new canon.
In September 2015, a canon novel called Aftermath was released. In it, Luke was not mentioned by name but it did drop hints that he’s a character referred to as “Rebel,” who showed sympathy for kids training to become Imperial soldiers, and he even helped one out with some cash. That doesn’t sound like a bad guy.
3 Yes: The one woman he ever loved turned out to be his sister
By the time Return of the Jedi came to a close and the whole galaxy was celebrating, Luke hadn’t had much time to process the fact that Leia was his sister. It’s a pretty creepy revelation, in light of their history. Throughout The Empire Strikes Back he appeared to be quite smitten with the Princess. They even shared a kiss that is decidedly not the kind of kiss most people share with a sibling. Sure, he gained a sibling and it was someone he already cared for, and that’s great. But losing a love is a whole different game of holochess. It can make people do crazy things.
And that’s one of the reasons the Jedi have rules against personal attachments like that. Luke’s father disobeyed that rule, and look at what happened to him. Of course, not only did the revelation that Leia was his sister force Luke to stash away his romantic feelings, but he also had to let Han have her. In The Force Awakens trailers, we see Han and Leia together after all those years, so maybe Luke was driven mad and toward the Dark Side by decades of heartache.
2 No: He shunned his training to help his friends
In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke was deep into his Jedi training with Yoda. His mentor-protégée relationship with the little green Jedi Master was already strained due to his recklessness and the facts that he was so old for a trainee and there was so little time to cram in all his training. Then Luke sensed that his friends, Han, Leia, Chewbacca and the droids, were in trouble. He decided to drop everything and go try to help them.
Luke knew the ramifications of this and Yoda warned him that his training was incomplete. But he put himself and his training on the backburner and put his friends first. That’s the kind of decision a through-and-through good guy makes, not a guy who’s one day going to turn his back on the galaxy and everyone he loves.
1 Yes: He shunned his training to help his friends
Yes, there are two sides to this galactic credit. The fact that he fled his training to go help his friends is all well and good, it’s totally a good-guy thing to do. But does it also mean that maybe he didn’t take “the Jedi way” as seriously as the Jedi of the past did. Yoda didn’t like him taking off, and surely the Jedi Council of old would have felt the same. And that feeling would have been an all-too familiar one for the Council. After all, Luke’s father, too, shoved aside “the Jedi Way” on a number of occasions, slaughtering Tusken Raiders, marrying Padme, killing Count Dooku when he was unarmed.
Perhaps Luke abandoning his training, albeit temporarily, was an omen of a slippery slope – one that would lead to other post-Return of the Jedi instances of Luke bypassing Jedi principles, ultimately leading to a fall to the Dark Side.
Where do you think he ends up? Let us know in the comments!