Major spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is one of the most shocking entries in the franchise, and that’s only amplified by an ending that sees an evolution of the saga George Lucas started all those years ago.
Running at 150 minutes long, Episode VIII is the closest the saga has come to being a true “epic“. Its story takes place over a tight time period, yet is truly sprawling; along with the primary dichotomy between Rey and Kylo (and the exploration of Force and order that comes with it), there’s a final stand for the Resistance and the First Order fraught with overbearing threat and duplicity, and an undercover mission for Finn and Rose that touches with the dark, opponent truth behind the conflict. It’s a big film, and everything ties together perfectly in the end.
And what an ending it is! There’s no “I am your father” twist at the heart of The Last Jedi – the closest the film gets to it is with the reveal Rey’s parents were nobodies, an essential subversion of the Skywalker Saga’s familial focus – but a lot of shocking things still go down in the finale, rounding off arcs that have been unfolding for forty years and teasing the future of the franchise. Today we’re going to take in what happened and ask what it really means.
Luke’s Death and the End Of the Old (This Page)
Luke Sacrifices Himself To Save The Resistance And Becomes One With The Force
The final act itself follows the Resistance’s last stand on Crait as the First Order slowly closes in. With their skimmers all destroyed, all hope seems lost… until Luke Skywalker turns up, seemingly out of nowhere. The trim Jedi has a heart-aching reunion with Leia where the pair unspokenly acknowledge Han’s death and Skywalker reveals he’s not here to save Kylo. He goes out to face his dark side nephew, who brashly tries to destroy him with firepower: it fails. The pair engages in a tense lightsaber battle without a single clash as it’s slowly revealed Luke isn’t here to kill Ben Solo: he’s distracting so the Resistance can escape. The fight comes to an end when Kylo makes a running swipe at Luke, only to discover his uncle was never there, only projecting himself across the galaxy from Ahch-to.
Back on his cliff in the Jedi Temple, Luke hovers over the meditation rock and slowly descends as his projection vanishes. Exhausted by the efforted of projecting himself across the galaxy, he collapses on the stone. In his final moments, the Ahch-to sunset becomes a blazing twin suns, visually returning the farm boy to his homeworld of Tatooine before he fades away to become one with the Force.
First up, Luke’s death is – like Obi-Wan Kenobi’s and Yoda’s before him – less about his loss than his transcendence into the Force. As Rey says to Leia, “It wasn’t sadness or pain. It was peace and purpose.” The entire fight represents a round-off to Luke’s The Last Jedi arc; he allows the Force back in after blocking it out for years, realizes how he can still help the Resistance, and, following a discussion with Yoda’s Force Ghost, understands that his failures should be used to teach and grow the future Jedi, rather than ending it. As the long-dead Master said, “We are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters“, making Skywalker’s sacrifice an emotionally narrative summary of the sequel trilogy’s passing of the torch.
In terms of Luke’s Saga-wide arc, it’s even more powerful. Him accepting that Kylo Ren is beyond redemption is – regardless of if it’s proven true by Episode IX – a reversal of his attitude towards Darth Vader in the originals, where he (like Rey with Ben) went against his masters’ advice to try and redeem his father. Further, his final moments seeing the twin suns are a return to how we first met him back in 1977. That sunset represented his longing to leave, but was reframed in The Empire Strikes Back by Yoda as him holding back from being in the now (a similar affliction Rey had, just with the past). With his death, Luke is free to return to that, closing his living circle and raising interesting questions of destiny.
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