Most people thought Revenge of the Sith, would be the last time a new Star Wars movie was seen on the big screen, even though big franchise moviemaking of the kind created by George Lucas was becoming more popular than ever at the time. Less than a decade later, the Disney purchase changed everything.
The Force Awakens takes place 35 years after the Battle of Endor, the same amount of time that had passed in the real world since the release of Return of the Jedi. That area of the timeline used to be densely populated by the Expanded Universe, but with the post-Disney changes to canon, there was no way of knowing what happened un that universe during the intervening years, but new stories have slowly begun to fill in the gaps, revealing a cohesive and expansive story leading up to the most recent part of the Star Wars canon timeline.
This marks the final installment of our four part history of the Star Wars galaxy, so be sure to brush up on the events that lead here in Part I, Part II, and Part III, and enjoy this conclusion to A Complete History of the Star Wars Universe.
In the celebration following the destruction of the second Death Star and the death of the Emperor, Han Solo and Leia Organa hold an impromptu wedding, but the celebrations are short lived, because a large remnant of the Empire remains to be subdued.
Almost immediately after the Battle of Endor, a series of pre-prepared contingency plans established by Palpatine in case of his death, Operation Cinder, is put into effect. Operation Cinder calls for massive attacks on multiple planets of interest to the Emperor, including his homeworld of Naboo. Not every planet makes it through unscathed, but the efforts of Rebel pilots were able to save countless lives on the targeted worlds.
Luke Skywalker recovers the coordinates of one of Palpatines former research stations where he expects to find Jedi relics. When he arrives, he discovers that the Emperor had two saplings grown from the remnants of the ancient tree that used to be planted in the courtyard of the Jedi temple. Luke gives one of the trees to the Dameron family to plant near their home on Yavin IV and keeps the other for his own use in his efforts to restore the Jedi.
15 A Galaxy Renewed
The Empire isn’t dead, but it’s a splintered husk of its former self, lacking a figurehead to unite all the former Imperials once again. Many Governors lock down their territories, claiming power for themselves, but Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, in command of the Ravager, one of the Empire’s few remaining Super Star Destroyers, manages to rally large portion of the remaining Imperial Navy to her command. While she is the highest known ranking officer in the Imperial remnant, she’s secretly taking guidance from Gallius Rax, who has promoted himself to Fleet Admiral.
Finally holding the upper hand for the first time since the start of the war against the Empire, the Rebel Alliance reforms itself as the New Republic. Coruscant is still under Imperial rule and torn apart in its own civil war as the citizens reject the remaining Imperial troops, so the Galactic Senate is initially established on Chandrila, the homeworld of Mon Mothma, who serves as the first Chancellor. The capital of the New Republic is set to rotate to a new planet on a regular basis to avoid consolidating the power of the new government as the Galactic Republic had done with Coruscant during its thousand year rule.
14 The Fall of the Empire
Many high ranking representatives from the various fractured cells of the Imperial remnant are summoned to an emergency summit called the Future Council on the planet Akiva. In attendance are: Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, the self-proclaimed Grand Moff Valco Pandion, General Jylia Shale, Emperor Palpatine’s former advisor Yupe Tashu, and Arsin Crassus, the former Imperial financier. Each attendant has a differing opinion on the proper course to ensure the survival of the Empire, ranging from a direct show of force against the New Republic to complete surrender to simply save their heads. Yupe Tashu, a bit of a Sith fanatic, thinks the Empire should embrace the dark power Palpatine wielded, leaving the known galaxy all together in search of the origins of the dark side.
In the end, none of their schemes matter. Gallius Rax had been the one to call the meeting, and he also tipped off the New Republic, resulting in the death or capture of all in attendance except Rae Sloane, effectively solidifying Sloan - under Rax’s guidance - as the primary Imperial figurehead.
13 An Empire in the Shadows
Rax manipulates Imperial records to misrepresent the destruction of vast amounts of Imperial resources, siphoning hundreds of Star Destroyers and thousands of additional ships into hidden fleets that exist entirely outside of the purview of the Imperial remnant, and thus, well outside the growing sight of the New Republic.
A multitude of worlds are liberated from the fading clutches of the Imperial remnant, including Kashyyyk, Akiva, Arkanis, and many others. The Empire’s infrastructure is also decimated as the New Republic obliterates the ship docks at Kuat, forcing Rax to secretly establish new Imperial production facilities along the Outer Rim.
Eventually, Rax calls a large Imperial fleet, including the Ravager, to his homeworld of Jakku to protect an Imperial weapons factory, and a secret research base. As the New Republic gains the upper hand, Imperial ships begin dropping into Jakku’s atmosphere, using their tractor beams to pull New Republic vessels crashing into the planet's surface. When it becomes apparent that the New Republic forces will not be repelled, the remaining Imperial ships destroy the research facility and jump into the Unknown Regions, withdrawing completely from the known galaxy.
The remaining Imperials, lead by Mas Amedda, sign the Galactic Concordance with the New Republic, stipulating the complete disarmament of the known Empire, restricting additional recruitment and construction efforts, the transfer of Coruscant to New Republic authority, and a complete halt to hostilities. The Empire is done.
12 A New Generation of Jedi
Leia Organa and Han Solo have a son, giving him the name Ben, the same name Obi-Wan Kenobi went by while in exile on Tatooine. At a fairly young age, Luke Skywalker takes his nephew on as an apprentice, and the two travel the galaxy in an effort to rebuild the Jedi Order, gathering new acolytes as they progress. Their travels take them to various worlds, including Gatalenta, where many Jedi Legends had survived through the reign of the Emperor. An integral figure in aiding this effort is Lor San Tekka, who served to maintain the Jedi heritage as a part of the Church of the Force during the reign of the Empire.
Despite her sensitivity to the Force, Leia doesn’t join her brother due to the need for her to stay with the New Republic to serve as a figurehead as the new government begins to rebuild the galaxy. Leia does maintain a connection to the Force, though, regularly practicing meditation and relaxation techniques taught to her by her twin brother.
11 A Girl Named Rey
A young Force-sensitive girl named Rey is abandoned on Jakku. Growing up without a family, Rey survives by scavenging scraps of technology she’s able to recover from the remaining debris of the Battle of Jakku, which she trades for rations at a nearby outpost, learning to defend herself and her salvage hauls by fending off competing scavengers.
Through her scavenging, she develops a strong affinity for technology. Functioning tech is more valuable than scraps, so she becomes an adept at making repairs, particularly to Imperial equipment, which comprises much of the wreckage.
During her scavenging, she discovers an old Imperial flight simulator. Eventually she successfully locates the parts necessary to get the unit back in working condition. Living in near complete isolation, she devours all training in the simulator, learning to fly any craft in any condition, although her only real non-simulator experience is limited to her single person landspeeder.
10 Political Division
The idealism of the New Republic initially leads the galaxy to a long period of peace, but over time, many no longer remember the horrors of Imperial rule, looking more to the advances in infrastructure, the charting of new trade routes, and the lack of gridlock experienced under the rule of the Emperor - an issue becoming more and more prominent in the divided New Republic Senate.
The Senate is split into two factions: the Centrists, who desire a return to a more consolidated power structure as seen under the Empire, believing a benevolent leader could lead such a government to see the same prosperity as the galaxy saw under the Empire, and the Populists, who believed that power should be decentralized, leaving each individual system under it’s own sovereignty, preventing the rise of any tyrannical power as was seen when Palpatine leveraged his influence as a simple senator to eventually become the Emperor of the entire galaxy.
9 The Daughter of Darth Vader
A Centrist proposal to cut down on gridlock by replacing the chancellor with a more powerful First Senator passes, and Leia Organa is nominated to represent the Populist faction. When an attempted bombing is averted due to a last minute warning passed to Leia on a napkin - giving the event the title of “the Napkin Bombing” - the Centrists use this opportunity to galvanize the senate to be more sympathetic to its cause. Leia opposes the existence of the First Senator position, but the Populists know that if the position is to exist, they don’t want it to be held by a Centrist.
During the campaign, her political opponents are able to dig up information revealing that her father was Darth Vader - information that was not publicly disseminated previously. Even though Leia had clearly spent the majority of her life fighting directly against Vader’s aggression, even getting tortured by him aboard the Death Star, this revelation sinks her campaign.
8 The Resistance
After the napkin bombing, Leia partners with Centrist Senator Ransolm Casterfo to uncover the re-emergence of the Amaxine Warriors, who hadn’t been seen since they left the known galaxy at the founding of the Galactic Republic over a thousand years earlier. Their investigation finds that the Amaxines have been building a military presence, including a massive fleet, weapons store, and troop presence in a hidden base beneath a subaquatic city on the planet Sibensko. During the skirmish following this discovery, the entire city is sunk, destroying all evidence of the uprising and preventing Leia from proving the threat to the Senate, who already see her as a warmonger.
Many Centrist governments have secretly been funding groups such as the Amaxines to prepare for a resurgent Imperial faction now called the First Order. In preparation for the First Order to reveal itself, the Centrists plan to instigate a mass secession from the New Republic.
Without support from the Republic, who doesn’t have a standing military, Leia turns to former Rebel allies Admiral Gial Ackbar and Major Caluan Ematt to form The Resistance. The organization is small, Leia recruits top New Republic pilot Poe Dameron to lead Black Squadron, a team of crack pilots such as Temmin “Snap” Wexley, Karé Kun, Jessika Pava, the Duros L’ulo, and the Abednado Ello Asty in order to prepare a response to the coming threat of the First Order.
7 The Fall of the Jedi
Ben Solo was never told by his mother that his grandfather was Darth Vader. When this secret is revealed to the galaxy, he grows distrustful of his parents and his uncle, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, for not trusting him with this information sooner. Ben begins to study more about his grandfather, becoming obsessed with the fallen Jedi. He eventually gives in to the dark side, allying with Supreme Leader Snoke of the First Order, and taking the new name Kylo Ren to serve as the master of the Knighs of Ren. He turns on Luke Skywalker’s new Jedi Order, massacring its members, earning himself the title "Jedi Killer," and causing Luke to flee into exile where he seeks out the very first Jedi temple.
Mourning the descent of his son, Han Solo becomes estranged from his wife and the New Republic, returning to the life of a smuggler with Chewbacca. Having lost the Millennium Falcon, the two acquire a heavy freighter, the Eravana, from which they conduct their operations, continuing to scour the galaxy for their lost ship.
6 The Search for Skywalker
Luke Skywalker has vanished from the galaxy, but Leia sees his presence as essential if the fledgling Resistance is to have any hope against the growing might of the First Order. While The First Order is not yet in open conflict with the New Republic (or The Resistance for that matter), tensions are high and there are rumors that the First Order is building a massive military presence in secret.
General Organa tasks Poe Dameron to track down Lor San Tekka, whom she hopes will be able to help find Luke so he can aid in the impending war. Unfortunately, the old member of the Church of the Force is nowhere to be found, but it becomes obvious fairly early on that Poe's not the only only one interested in the location of the last Jedi - the First Order is also urgently seeking Skywalker in hopes of preventing him from ever reuniting with his sister as a part of her Resistance.
5 The Awakening
Supreme Leader Snoke knows that Skywalker’s eventual return could potentially pose the biggest threat to the dominance of the First Order, so he tasks his new enforcer, Kylo Ren, with tracking down the last Jedi. His search leads him to the village of Tuanul on Jakku, where Lor San Tekka, a member of the Church of the Force, has a piece of the galactic map leading to Skywalker. Before Ren can collect the map, Poe Dameron locates Lor San Tekka and sends his astromech droid, BB-8, away with the map data before getting captured and interrogated by Kylo Ren aboard Ren’s Star Destroyer, the Finalizer.
Poe doesn’t remain in First Order custody for long. After Ren is unable to get the information he needs from the Resistance pilot, a renegade stormtrooper, FN-2187, frees Dameron, who gives him the name Finn. Stealing a TIE fighter, the two fugitives are shot down, crash landing on Jakku’s surface, getting separated in the process. Unable to find Poe, Finn wanders to a nearby village, where he encounters both BB-8 and the scavenger Rey, who had saved the small droid from another scavenger out in the desert. Stealing a ship, which just so happens to the the Millennium Falcon, Rey and Finn flee Jakku, which immediately allows Han Solo and Chewbacca to get a trace on the location of their long lost love. Taking the ship into the cargo hold of the Eravana, Han and Chewie revel in the reclaiming of their true home.
4 First Steps into a Larger World
When Rey and Finn reveal that BB-8 is in possession of a map leading to the location of Luke Skywalker, Han takes them to Takodana to meet with Maz Kanata, a thousand year old Force user. Hearing a voice coming from Maz’s basement, Rey ventures down to discover a box containing Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber, the same saber Luke lost on Bespin. Upon touching the hilt, Rey is immediately sent into a vision from the Force. She sees Luke’s duel with Vader on Cloud City, she hears the voice of Yoda, and sees Luke after the destruction of his new Jedi Order. The next thing revealed to her is the Knights of Ren lead by Kylo Ren, before she sees herself as a child screaming “come back!” as she’s abandoned on Jakku. The vision ends when the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi calls her name and she finds herself in a snowy forest, pursued by Kylo Ren. She comes back to reality with the words of Kenobi echoing “these are your first steps.”
Astonished that the lightsaber that belonged to both Luke and Anakin Skywalker is calling to Rey, Maz, a Force wielder herself, tells Rey she needs to learn to let the Force in, take the lightsaber, and find Luke. Overwhelmed by the vision, Rey doesn’t want anything to do with it and flees.
BB-8 and the map to Luke Skywalker have evaded First Order retrieval, so Supreme Leader Snoke sees a need to act before the opposition to the First Order can be united. He instructs General Armitage Hux, commander of the First Order’s secret superweapon, Starkiller Base, to demonstrate the weapon's power. Drawing energy from a nearby star, Starkiller Base rips a hole through hyperspace, sending massive energy waves across the galaxy to destroy the entire Hosnian system, including Hosnian Prime, the current capital of the New Republic.
Having also tracked the Milenium Falcon upon its departure from Jakku, the First Order arrives on Takodana where Kylo Ren captures Rey before the Resistance shows up. He takes her to Starkiller Base with plans to extract information regarding Luke Skywalker’s location.
Ren tries to force his way into Rey’s head with the dark side to retrieve her knowledge of Luke’s location, but Rey resists, realizing she’s drawing on the Force to thwart his intrusions. She later leverages this newfound ability to convince her stormtrooper guard to release her from her cell and begins seeking a way to escape Starkiller Base.
Mounting a counter-attack on Starkiller Base, the Resistance sends Han, Chewie, and Finn - who intends to also rescue Rey - to bring down the base’s shield. Finding Rey already out of captivity, they begin planting explosives until Kylo Ren shows up. Approaching his son, Han tells him that Snoke is only using him and pleads with him to leave the First Order and come home. Ren sees the truth in his father’s words, but he thinks he’s already past the point of no return, even though he’s still torn between the dark side and the light. Hoping to decisively end his struggle, he stabs Han through the chest with his lightsaber. Han has time to affectionately touch his son’s face one last time before his body falls limp into the depths of Starkiller Base.
Leading a squadron of Resistance X-Wings, Poe Dameron launches an attack on the First Order superweapon, striking a critical blow and initiating a chain reaction, causing the planet to begin pulling apart.
1 Hope Again
As they flee the destruction of Starkiller base, Rey and Finn encounter Kylo Ren. Finn, wielding the Skywalker saber, faces off against the disgraced Jedi, but Snoke’s apprentice quickly dispatches the former stormtrooper, critically injuring him. He calls the lightsaber - a weapon he believes is rightfully his - to him through the Force, but the blade evades his grasp, flying instead to the hands of Rey. In the ensuing duel, he implores Rey to join him. He says he can show her the ways of the Force. Instead, Rey pushes back, letting the Force in as she was told by Maz Kanata, surprising Ren enough with her surge in strength to strike a critical blow before the two are separated by the ground splitting between them.
After returning to the Resistance base on D’Qar, Rey and Chewbacca leave Finn in Resistance medical care and take the Falcon to resume the search for Luke Skywalker. Arriving on the watery planet of Ahch-To, she climbs the steps to the peak of an island, finding the Jedi temple and weathered Jedi Master at the top. Reaching into her bag, she removes the lightsaber originally presented to him long ago and far away by his own master, Obi-Wan Kenobi. His father’s lightsaber.
With more Star Wars stories coming out on a nearly weekly basis, this universe is only going to grow bigger and bigger. Do you have a favorite Star Wars story told in this history, or have any ideas for where the franchise should go from here? Let us hear about it in the comments!