The Jedi Order is a flawed organized religion like any other, but it’s not beyond saving, and Star Wars: Episode IX seems all set to introduce a new Jedi Order.
"For over a thousand generations," Obi-Wan tells Luke Skywalker in A New Hope, "The Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic." However, despite their forward-thinking intentions, their motivation was sometimes a bit backwards - shoehorning themselves into imperfection. Not unlike other deep-seated institutions, the Jedi Order had trouble keeping up with the times. Instead of evolving, it anchored its faith in a dated belief system and, as a result, New Age ideals got the better of them. Not only did the Empire rise, the Jedi themselves fell. The remaining few fled throughout the galaxy into exile, and the new hope that was meant to instill balance in the Force (and by extension, the galaxy) died.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the tables have turned. Despite colossal failures stampeding their way through flawed ambitions, Luke has inadvertently set the course for something different; for what will inevitably become a new Jedi Order. So, to understand where the future of the Jedi (and the franchise) may go, let's look to the past.
The original Jedi Order (or Je'daii) revolved around balance and instilling that balance into individuals throughout the galaxy. Naturally, some swayed closer to the Light, and some swayed closer to the Dark, thus dividing the two and creating the Jedi and Sith respectively. This was the beginning of war between the Light and Dark Sides of the Force, encapsulating the very theme of Star Wars in a nutshell.
Now, unless you were to dig into Star Wars lore yourself, you might have missed this information. You'd have also missed all of the details following; the evolution of the Jedi Order, the members of the Jedi Order, the falling and rising of the Jedi Order, etc. That said, The Last Jedi offers a unique setup in order to give audiences something they've never seen before: the beginning of a new Jedi Order. In the prequel trilogy, the Jedi Order is on its way out of the door. We see them prepping for war, and then we see them fall; but never in their prime. In the events between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, Luke has initiated the beginning of a new Jedi Order, but fails. Surely, there would have been plenty of exciting content to keep devoted fans entertained, but it inevitably served its purpose through flashbacks and an audience's imagination. The gears start moving in The Empire Strikes Back with Luke training under Yoda, but this was nothing more than the setup to what audiences would miss out on post-Return of the Jedi.
With everything that's happened in The Last Jedi, gears are turning. The same "spark that will light the fire that'll burn the First Order down" relates to the Jedi just as much as it is does the Resistance, and Rey is at the forefront. Where Luke may have been the titular "Last Jedi," Rey is the first of something new; and there are hints as to where this new order might be headed.
This Page: The Force Awakens & The Jedi Order's Missed Potential
The Force Awakens
The title for The Force Awakens wasn't random. It was informing the audience that something is changing within in the galaxy; the Force is growing. What's more, it's growing among the most unlikely of people. Assuming what Kylo Ren said was true, Rey is nothing more than the daughter of "filthy junk traders" who sold her off to Unkar Plutt for quick dough. Not exactly the most romantic revelation, but a fitting one all the same. It's symbolic of potential; that anyone—anyone—has the potential to become something great.
This concept isn't just a major theme in The Last Jedi, but also something that gets a literal nod in the The Force Awakens. The title itself hints at things to come; that "there has been an awakening," as Snoke says. Whether you want to look at it from the narrative angle or the studio's angle, themes are shifting. Narratively, this awakening hints at a new wave of Force-sensitive individuals, starting with Rey, but not ending with Rey. She represents imminent change and the inevitability of a new Jedi Order, led by Rey, which will take inspiration from Luke Skywalker himself. It will reflect on the old ways, but will also take into account more "balance" than "light." Wasting time fighting the natural darkness within has only ever led to eventual defeat (see: Anakin Skywalker).
From the studio angle, Disney and Lucasfilm are clearly trying to tell audiences not to worry. Yes, Episode IX will signify the end of the Skywalker Saga, but by extension, it also signifies where the extended cinematic universe will be headed. In fact, don't be surprised when Episode IX gets a title that revolves around something like A New Order, referring to the next generation, while also tying into the literal reference.
The Jedi Order's Missed Potential
So, having touched on why and how a new Jedi Order will come to be, it'll help going backwards to learn from past mistakes—what with history tending to repeat itself. Instead of being representative of the people they were protecting, the Jedi appointed themselves as meddling outsiders - including themselves in moments of peril, but otherwise standing on the sidelines. They were more interested in unnecessary ideals (often part of dated tradition) than ones that would serve to actually push the galaxy towards balance. Where the original Je'daii focused on balance, the Jedi pivoted too closely to one extreme, putting all of their eggs into one basket and never reflecting on/learning from inherent darkness.
In fact, part of the Je'daii Code reads: "I am the revealing fire of light. I am the mystery of darkness, in balance with chaos and harmony." Yielding to one extreme denied them balance, and even Luke struggles with this in The Last Jedi, leading to an all-out suppression of his powers. The mere sight of darkness in Rey terrifies him, and subsequently scares him away from training her. On the plus side, though, this fear ultimately led to Luke and Rey understanding the importance of darkness, nodding to the past, but also hinting at what Rey might introduce to a new generation of Jedi Padawans.
Ultimately, though, the Jedi became out of touch with people in the Republic (a.k.a during the prequels), leading to collective ignorance. This resulted in their destruction, focusing so much on salvaging the Light Side of the Force that they were blinded by the Dark Side taking them over from the inside. They were incapable of transcending their stubborn, ancient M.O., and they withered away as a result.
Now, if you want to expand the Jedi influence on elements outside of the actual Jedi Order, just look to the Rebels. The Rebels represented a desperate undercurrent of possibility, but without a defined center to keep them grounded (and strong). The odds were rarely in their favor. Sure, the Empire eventually fell, but considering its indirect comeback with the First Order, the lack of stability within the Jedi Order really left the Resistance vulnerable. You can even argue that the Rebel Alliance/Resistance represented balance in the Force more than the Jedi Order ever did. They were flawed, but their ultimate goal was to take down oppression. The Jedi, on the other hand, took unrealistic measures to maintain what they believed to be balance. Which brings us to our next point...
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017