Luke Goes Gray?
One of the first major hints at the darker path Episode VIII will tread came from the first teaser/trailer. In it, Luke philosophizes about balance and the Force. More importantly, for some reason, he believes it’s “time for the Jedi to end.” The eighth film will likely detail (at least in part) the horrors that befell Luke’s Jedi school at the hands of his nephew, something which shook his confidence enough to leave the galaxy Jedi-less for over half a decade. He’s also reportedly standoffish towards Rey and reluctant to tutor her potent Force abilities, even frightened of her abilities, noting: “I’ve seen this raw strength only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.”
Powerful or not, after his failure with his nephew resulted in the destruction of his Jedi academy, Luke's hesitancy is understandable (much like Yoda’s own concerns about him). Also, his final comment, juxtaposed with his sister’s face, claims that something “is not going to go the way you think.” Whether he’s speaking to Leia about the Resistance's chances, Rey about her desire to hone her skills, or members of the First Order is unclear.
Either way, expect a grayer world overall, as well as the unexpected from Luke come December.
Rey’s Path Remains Murky
Speaking of Rey, she’s clearly the key component in the third trilogy, much less the overall franchise. The second trailer either offers up some very well-edited misdirection or a disturbing glimpse at her training gone awry. It’s difficult to determine who Snoke is speaking to in the trailer, possibly Ren, Rey, or both young Force users simultaneously. However, two clips point to a startling possibility: fed up with Luke’s waffling, Rey may walk down a more dangerous path.
One sequence suggests that Rey takes Kylo Ren’s hand for guidance. While she did watch Ren kill her own surrogate father figure, and hence is unlikely to trust or not try to kill him, it’s possible Luke has abandoned her, fearing another Ren. On the other hand, maybe Snoke’s mental manipulation is stronger than before (he did warp Ben to his will right under Luke's nose), or she recognizes the “mysterious connection” between her and Kylo and wants to explore it further. Her actions could also be a ploy to gain access to Snoke or the First Order in a valiant, if sacrificial, bid to wipe them out.
The quicker, yet equally unsettling, moment arrives at the tail-end of the trailer, when Snoke literally bends Rey to his will, emphatically persuading her to join him. Thanks to the rapid-fire edits and likely misdirected voiceover, it's difficult to tell. Rey may have been captured while on Crait, or perhaps she barters herself for the lives of her friends (ask Lando how well those deals turn out) – to repay Finn for coming after her in The Force Awakens.
Either way, if Rey is detained by the First Order or even tempted by the dark side, the middle chapter to the sequel trilogy could challenge the very tenets of the Resistance and the Jedi.
The true measure of a grim middle episode is the lengths to which it challenges each character. At Empire’s conclusion, Leia and Chewie watched Han frozen in carbonite and whisked away to Jabba the Hutt. More so, Luke's watches entire worldview shatters, as he loses a hand to Darth Vader, as well as his perspective-padded view of history.
For The Last Jedi to end in a similar, dark fashion to Empire, it will have to utterly shake up the galaxy once more. Sure, the all-powerful Jedi savior probably won't turn to the dark side. But Luke’s wishy-washy nature could push Rey into the arms of Snoke and the dark side, reinforcing his failings. Also, if Kylo Ren kills his mother, destroying his past and becoming who he’s “meant to be,” his journey towards the dark side may become irreversible. In an absolute worst-case scenario, Rey and Ren could both fall under Snoke’s spell, forcing Luke out of retirement.
For Episode VIII to outshine (or out-gloom) Empire, it must scatter the Resistance across the quadrant and give the First Order their first taste of true hubris. All the better to watch them fall, in theory, come next film. If the title truly indicates the death knell of the Jedi Order; and if Luke Skywalker fails to rise to the occasion and loses yet another pupil to the dark side, then Rian Johnson’s film might just out-Empire Empire Strikes Back.
Even if it doesn't, The Last Jedi should prove the depths to which the First Order is will go to close their fist around the galaxy and set up the Resistance to win it back at all costs.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017