Written by: robotical712, Josey, Needs_More_Sprinkles, HypersonicHarpist
In this section, we examine The Last Jedi itself in light of the ideas developed in the previous section. We think that not only is our suggested interpretation fully compatible, but a more resonant and coherent read of the movie than the surface read. For a full explanation of the interpretation, go here.
And here we go!
Luke takes the saber and stares at it for several seconds and then stares at Rey for several more before tossing it over his shoulder and walking away.
Robotical712: This scene is edited to avoid overwriting Luke’s expression from TFA. We don’t see his face until after he’s holding the saber. It does, however, change Rey’s expression and move her to where Luke can physically reach the saber.
The pauses are interesting and give the impression that Luke is trying to make up his mind about something. For our proposed interpretation, he likely knows or strongly suspects who she is immediately (HypersonicHarpist has also come up with a variant where he doesn’t recognize her immediately and will be presenting it soon), but the appearance of the Skywalker legacy saber reminds him of how much he and the rest of the family have suffered from their legacy. Not wanting that for his daughter, he decides it’s best if she doesn’t learn who he is, her heritage or to pursue the Jedi path that he thinks led the family to ruin (he’s about to perform the rite to end the Jedi Order per the Visual Dictionary). From his perspective, she has the chance to live a life free of the pain the rest of the family has suffered. So, Luke initially tries to get her to leave by being incredibly rude.
Josey: The shot of Luke’s hands – including his bare mechanical hand – taking the saber from Rey’s is, we argue, profoundly symbolic. You might recall that the originally-conceived opening shot of TFA was of Luke’s severed hand, legacy saber in its grasp, floating through space. That saber represents not just the Skywalker family but a part of Luke, himself. Moreover, Luke’s uncovered (and damaged) mechanical hand represents the severe damage to his psyche Luke has experienced. The saber handoff, we argue, symbolizes the return of the missing Skywalker child, Luke’s daughter.
Sprinkles: As will probably come up in a number of our writings, close ups of hands in TLJ only occur between characters with long-standing, intimate existing relationships–except for those between Rey and Kylo, and Rey and Luke. The close-ups are unusual for the cinematographic style of Star Wars, and occur noticeably frequently throughout the film, indicating that they are meant to stand out and be meaningful. We later find out that Rey and Kylo’s connection can be explained by a Force bond (or can it?), but are granted no description of a close relationship existing between Luke and Rey. So why the two close-ups of their hands at significant moments in the plot?
Rey: Master Skywalker?
Master Skywalker? I’m from the Resistance. Your sister Leia sent me. We need your help. Hello?
Luke: Go away.
Chewie, what are you doing here?
Rey: He said you’re coming back with us.
Luke: How did you find me?
Rey: Long story. We’ll tell you on the Falcon.
(CHEWIE GROWLS SOFTLY)
Luke: Wait. Where’s Han?
R: Luke’s interaction with Chewie and reaction to hearing about the Falcon is our first major cue that his treatment of Rey is unique. Rey’s invocation of Leia’s name doesn’t move him, but the appearance of Chewie does (along with the mention of the Falcon).
S: I also recall the trailer with Luke’s “hey, watch the language” line spurring a lot of excitement leading up to TLJ because of how much it sounded like “the old Luke.” In fact, in his interactions with just about everybody but Rey, he talks more or less like he did at 23. His behavior around Rey is conspicuously an act (just look at how he tries to gross her out with that green milk!), which could be attributed to her being a stranger, but is also clearly targeted specifically at scaring her, and only her, away.
(Hux and Snoke talk.)
Snoke: You wonder why I keep a rabid cur in such a place of power? A cur’s weakness, properly manipulated, can be a sharp tool. How’s your wound?
R: In both villains’ very first scene we see Snoke telling Kylo to find a person’s weakness and use it against them. This is crucial, as it’s the backdrop of everything both do throughout the rest of the movie. Snoke even ruthlessly demonstrates its use against Kylo in the rest of the scene.
S: The interesting thing about this line is that Hux’s supposed “weakness” is never really addressed or explored beyond its mention here. What exactly is Snoke referring to, and why? The line only makes sense if it’s meant to refer to something else in the film’s plot.
Kylo: It’s nothing.
Snoke: Hmm. The mighty Kylo Ren. When I found you, I saw what all masters live to see. Raw, untamed power. And beyond that, something truly special. The potential of your bloodline. A new Vader. Now I fear I was mistaken.
R: Snoke specifically targeted the grandson of Vader for his heritage (the Visual Dictionary mentions Snoke believed only someone from the Skywalker bloodline could challenge Luke). The movie makes a point of it being more of a curse than a gift. Anakin and Ben were respectively targeted because of who they were by masters of the dark side while Leia lost everything after her parentage became public (as shown in Bloodline). Everyone hates or wants to use the Skywalkers and it destroyed the family over three generations.
R: Side notes: Snoke’s mention of the Skywalker bloodline alongside the raw power, suggests there is something particularly unique about it. We also know Snoke went after Ben early, indicating he knew the Skywalker relationship with Vader long before it became public.
J: Note how Snoke speaks of “the potential of [Kylo’s] bloodline” versus Kylo’s “raw power.” The “raw power” is great, but something “all masters live to see. Kylo’s bloodline is “beyond” “raw power” – indeed, it is “something truly special.” So it appears that what makes Kylo valued by Snoke is not primarily Kylo’s power but specifically something about his bloodline distinct from power. Indeed, this is touched on in Snoke’s dialogue with Kylo in a scene in the TFA adult novelization: Snoke values Kylo particularly because of “what [he’s] made of, where [he] come[s] from.”
Kylo: I’ve given everything I have to you. To the dark side.
Snoke: Take that ridiculous thing off. Yes, there it is. You have too much of your father’s heart in you, young Solo.
R: Note the idea of Kylo having ‘too much of his father in him’. Keep that in mind during Rey’s storyline in the second half of the film (and the first part really).
Kylo: I killed Han Solo. When the moment came, I didn’t hesitate.
J: Oh, Kylo hesitated alright. The bridge scene and JJ’s Blu-Ray commentary on same made this clear. And yet Kylo appears to believe that what he’s telling Snoke is true. This disparity between what Kylo perceived and the reality of the event signals that Kylo’s perceptions cannot be trusted.
S: Even if Kylo is lying, and knows in reality he did hesitate, this is yet another example of Kylo saying one thing when another thing is true. He is set up as an unreliable source of information from the very beginning.
Snoke: And look at you, the deed split your spirit to the bone. You were unbalanced, bested by a girl who had never held a lightsaber! You failed! Skywalker lives. The seed of the Jedi Order lives. And as long as it does, hope lives in the galaxy. I thought you would be the one to snuff it out. Alas, you’re no Vader. You’re just a child in a mask.
R: The consistent use of ‘Skywalker’ throughout the film is interesting. While Snoke is obviously referring to Luke here, the scene can also be interpreted as referring to Rey at the same time. So long as the Skywalkers live, the Jedi Order could return.
As a side note, Snoke’s manipulation backfires here. He likely intends it to encourage Kylo to prove him wrong (this comes up later), but instead, Kylo appears to abandon taking up his grandfather’s legacy as a goal.
J: “Seed of the Jedi Order” is an unusual phrasing. “Seed” is also an archaic term for “biological child.”
Snoke equates Kylo’s loss to Rey and inability to kill her to a failure to “snuff [hope] out” – Luke Skywalker lives, as does Rey.
Rey: There’s no light left in Kylo Ren. He’s only getting stronger. The First Order will control all the major systems within weeks. We need your help. We need the Jedi Order back. We need Luke Skywalker.
Luke: You don’t need Luke Skywalker.
Rey: Did you hear a word I just said?
Luke: You think what? I’m gonna walk out with a laser sword and face down the whole First Order? What did you think was going to happen here? You think that I came to the most unfindable place in the galaxy for no reason at all? Go away.
R: Luke continues to blow off Rey. His last comment is amusing considering how many of us wanted him to do just that.
J: Luke’s words appear to be meta commentary on the common post-TFA belief that Luke’s situation and Rey’s task to bring him back are straightforward propositions.
Rey refuses to give up and we see him doing various daily activities while he ignores her.
R: Luke pointedly refuses to acknowledge Rey in these scenes, but he does give her occasional glances. It’s also amusing they’re trying to out-stubborn each other.
Rey is drawn to the Jedi texts by the Force.
R: Again we see Luke isn’t completely ignoring her and turns to watch what she does as soon as he realizes she is no longer following him.
S: He wants to get her off his trail–to keep her from getting close to him–but is still curious who she is. He’s clearly been waiting for a chance to have a better look at her, and the observation makes him compelled to approach and interrogate her as to who she really is, and why she’s really there. Any chance she reminds him of someone…?
Luke: Who are you?
Rey: I know this place.
Luke: Built a thousand generations ago to keep these. The original Jedi texts. Just like me, they’re the last of the Jedi religion. You’ve seen this place. You’ve seen this island.
Rey: (WHISPERING) Only in dreams.
Luke: Who are you?
Rey: The Resistance sent me.
Luke: They sent you? What’s special about you? Where are you from?
Luke: No one’s from nowhere.
Luke: All right, that is pretty much nowhere. Why are you here, Rey, from nowhere?
R: This is the first time either Luke or Rey has mentioned Rey’s name on-screen. It’s impossible to tell if Luke stating it first is accidental or deliberate. If we assume Rey told him it offscreen, then Luke’s questions are obviously far more personal.
J: Luke is asking the same questions RJ knows the audience has been asking about Rey since TFA. Rey’s evasiveness may, in part, be meta as well.
S: Another callback to TFA–Rey has seen the island in dreams before. Prior to TLJ, Rey Skywalker skeptics argued that this was simply the Force giving her a premonition of where her journey would one day take her. But little actually happens to Rey on the island. She receives no real training, learns no answers about her family, and does nothing of consequence but saving the books (which wouldn’t have been in danger if her departure hadn’t made Luke decide to destroy them). The dreams also parallel Luke’s vision in ESB of a “city in the clouds,” the sight of which leads him to realize that Han and Leia are there, and in danger. Based on narrative logic and canonical precedent, it makes most sense that Rey is drawn to the island because Luke is there.
Rey: The Resistance sent me. We need your help. The First Order’s become unstoppable.
Luke: Why are you here?
Rey: Something inside me has always been there. But now it’s awake. And I’m afraid. I don’t know what it is or what to do with it. And I need help.
R: And here we see our first real exchange between Luke and Rey. Luke asks all sorts of questions about Rey personally, even when she tries evade and steer the conversation to the Resistance. Luke’s swing from indifference to taking a strong interest in her personally is strange on the surface. However, it does make sense from the standpoint Luke knows or strongly suspects he knows who she is and is trying to figure out what she knows about herself. He intervenes here because he’s concerned about what she might learn from the Force itself or if she stays too long.
J: Rey is essentially describing the confusion of adolescence (which period of life RJ has expressly compared TLJ to). More than a Jedi Master, Rey needs a parental figure to help her figure out how to navigate this part of growing up.
Note the use and repetition of the word “need” in TLJ’s dialogue. It appears to be used with both positive and negative connotations. Rey, we are told repeatedly, needs her parents. This need is, in a way, a crutch that she must learn to do without. But this need is also a perfectly legitimate desire.
HypersonicHarpist: This scene is also particularly important because it divorces Rey’s needs from the needs of the Resistance. The Resistance needs Luke Skywalker to come back and help them in their fight against the First Order. Rey wants to help them because they are her friends, but ultimately she needs something more than that from Luke.
Luke: You need a teacher. I can’t teach you.
Rey: Why not? I’ve seen your daily routine. You’re not busy.
Luke: I will never train another generation of Jedi. I came to this island to die. It’s time for the Jedi to end.
Rey: Why? Leia sent me here with hope. If she was wrong, she deserves to know why. We all do.
R: His curiosity satisfied, Luke redirects the conversation away from Rey personally. He may well know what she’s really after, but steers the conversation to the obvious topic and dismisses it.
J: Luke’s reaction is oddly indifferent to Rey’s emotional plea.
S: Given Yoda’s admonition to Luke–that he has missed “the need under his nose”–one would think that any declaration Luke makes about what Rey “needs” or “doesn’t need” should be taken with a grain of salt.
Luke goes to the Falcon and meets Artoo where they have a short conversation – alone.
R: This conversation makes Luke’s treatment of Rey even starker. He sounds exactly like the Luke we remember from the OT, if a bit mopey.
Artoo replays Leia’s message from A New Hope.
R: Luke is reminded of how his path towards the Jedi started. Based on our interpretation, it’s possible he realized she’s going to explore her powers one way or another and tries to dissuade her from pursuing the Jedi as he did.
Another key point here is Rey herself did not convince him of anything, Artoo did – on the surface.
J: One of the TLJ children’s books suggests that Luke changes his mind for Leia’s sake
Luke: Tomorrow at dawn. Three lessons. I will teach you the ways of the Jedi and why they need to end.
R: Even after Luke agrees to help Rey a little, his interactions are brusque and impersonal – as though he’s keeping both of them from getting attached. The scene transition serves to maximize the contrast in behavior.
J: In the Star Wars movies, “learning the ways of the Force” has always been a metaphor for growing up and maturing. However, Luke tells Rey that he will teach her “the ways of the Jedi.” Luke appears to be deliberately remaining emotionally distant, but – as Yoda later points out – he doesn’t appear to understand the role Rey needs him to play in her life.
Finn meets Rose and Poe sends them to disable the hyperspace tracker.
Rey and Kylo’s first ‘Force Skype’ session. Rey ‘shoots’ Kylo.
Kylo: You’ll bring Luke Skywalker to me. You’re not doing this. The effort would kill you. Can you see my surroundings?
Rey: You’re gonna pay for what you did!
Kylo: I can’t see yours. Just you. So, no. This is something else.
R: Snoke claims this connection is his doing, but the final session takes place after his death which rather suggests it isn’t.
J: “I can’t see yours. Just you.” may be subtle meta regarding Kylo’s focus shifting from Luke to Rey.
S: Remember that the “mysterious bond” between Rey and Kylo was first discovered (not formed, discovered) in a scene where both of them were at their most hostile towards each other. In other words, not only does the bond exist before Snoke’s meddling, it’s also a bond that exists even in the face of mutual hatred. Rey and Kylo are attached by something that has nothing to do with their personal feelings towards each other, positive or negative, and it’s something that existed before they (ostensibly) ever met each other. Sounds an awful lot like family to me.
Rey: Master Skywalker, we need you to bring the Jedi back because Kylo Ren is strong with the dark side of the Force. Without the Jedi, we won’t stand a chance against him.
Luke: What do you know about the Force?
Rey: It’s a power that Jedi have that lets them control people and make things float.
Luke: Impressive. Every word in that sentence was wrong. Lesson one, sit here, legs crossed. The Force is not a power you have. It’s not about lifting rocks. It’s the energy between all things, a tension, a balance, that binds the universe together.
R: Sidenote: I’ve noticed people saying this is a new interpretation. It isn’t. This has been what ‘balance’ has meant since the prequels. This is just the first time the equivalence between it and the Force itself was made explicit.
J: The apparently deliberate irony is that, at the end, it is in part about “lifting rocks.”
Luke’s words give us what may be our first real insight into what “balance” means in the GFFA – a “tension,” likely between light and dark. At first blush, this is reminiscent of the Hindu Trinity of the Creator, the Destroyer, and the Preserver.
Luke gives lesson 1.
Rey: Can you feel that? There’s something else beneath the island. A place. A dark place.
Luke: Balance. Powerful light, powerful darkness.
Rey: It’s cold. It’s calling me.
Luke: Resist it, Rey. Rey? Rey!
Rey breaks the rock they’re on and snaps out of it.
Luke: You went straight to the dark.
Rey: That place was trying to show me something.
Luke: It offered something you needed. And you didn’t even try to stop yourself.
R: If Luke wasn’t sure of who she was before, he should be now. Incidentally, if Luke is closed off from the Force, how does he know Rey went straight to the dark?
J: “It offered something you needed” – apparently, the identity of her parents, but also, possibly, her “place in all this.” R: The dark side: quicker, easier, more seductive.
S: Every source of information about Rey’s parentage in this film is somehow corrupted by the Dark side. The mirror cave that dashes her hopes of finding them is a center of Dark side energy, according to the Visual Dictionary, and of course, Kylo Ren’s ties to the Dark side go without saying. Remember that in RotJ, Lucas had Yoda confirm that Vader was Luke’s father, because he felt that otherwise the audience (especially children) wouldn’t have believed it coming from a villain. Perhaps he was onto something.
Rey: But I didn’t see you. Nothing from you. You’ve closed yourself off from the Force. Of course you have.
HypersonicHarpist: The Force is often connected to feelings (“reach out with your feelings.” “search your feelings.”) Luke isn’t letting himself feel with the Force, this is likely emblematic of him cutting himself off emotionally as well. Rey senses nothing from him and he behaves in a callous way toward her because he is deliberately keeping his emotions walled off.
J: Rey’s words are also meta commentary on how Luke has walled himself off from her (R: and everything else) emotionally (“Nothing from you”).
Luke: I’ve seen this raw strength only once before, in Ben Solo. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.
R: Luke’s response here is important. Every time his resolve starts to weaken and he gets closer to Rey, something happens that reinforces it. Here it’s seeing his daughter has inherited the full power of the Skywalker bloodline and it terrifies it.
Love it or hate it, the Prequel Trilogy established the Skywalkers are descended from the Force itself and therefore have a unique position in the setting and narrative justification for their powers. If we assume the surface read, Rey has the equivalent powers of someone descended from the Force itself without any justification within the lore.
S: And Rey being Kylo’s counterpart in the Light doesn’t cut it–if every powerful Dark sider has a Light sider custom-made to counterbalance them, who was Vader’s? Luke? Strange coincidence that his equal just happened to be his own son. And when Vader died, was Kylo born to counteract Luke inversely? The whole thing opens up a confusing, inconsistent can of worms that would be far more easily and satisfyingly solved by just saying “Rey and Ben are the only two grandchildren of Anakin Skywalker, and they share the power he passed down to them, Rey in the Light side and Ben in the Dark.”
Finn and Rose on Canto Bight.
Rey practices with the staff and then the lightsaber.
R: He watches her for a few seconds with a sad expression and then turns just before Rey notices him and watches him leave with a puzzled expression.
J: Throughout their scenes together, Rey often seems confused by Luke’s actions and reactions. In this way, she is an audience proxy – If Luke’s behavior and attitude in TLJ feel a bit odd, even considering what happened with Ben, it probably should.
Luke: Lesson two. Now that they’re extinct, the Jedi are romanticized, deified. But if you strip away the myth and look at their deeds, the legacy of the Jedi is failure. Hypocrisy, hubris.
Rey: That’s not true.
Luke: At the height of their powers, they allowed Darth Sidious to rise, create the Empire, and wipe them out. It was a Jedi Master who was responsible for the training and creation of Darth Vader.
Rey: And a Jedi who saved him. Yes, the most hated man in the galaxy. But you saw there was conflict inside him. You believed that he wasn’t gone. That he could be turned.
R: Luke’s bitterness is palpable and very personal. He blames the ways of the Jedi for leading his family to ruin repeatedly over three generations. By our interpretation, he’s trying to dissuade his daughter from following that path.
Note Rey recounts what made Luke a legend. This sets up her following the same path later in the film (it reminds the audience of what Luke did).
J: The legacy Luke speaks of is, however, not his own, as evidenced by the man we see in Legends of Luke Skywalker.
Luke: And I became a legend. For many years, there was balance and then I saw Ben.
My nephew with that mighty Skywalker blood. And in my hubris, I thought I could train him, I could pass on my strengths. Han was Han about it, but… Leia trusted me with her son. I took him, and a dozen students, and began a training temple. By the time I realized I was no match for the darkness rising in him, it was too late.
R: This entire section of dialog is incredibly loaded. First, note the sarcastic mention of the ‘mighty Skywalker blood’. Again, our attention is drawn to having Skywalker blood being more of a curse than a gift. He also mentions passing on his strengths to Ben, which is also something a parent does for their child (and Rey later demonstrates she inherited all of Luke’s strengths). However, as we learn in Bloodline, Luke and Leia did not pass on the lesson of the failure of Vader, allowing Snoke to capitalize on the family’s weaknesses.
Second, Luke’s timeline is interesting here. What does Luke mean there was balance until he saw Ben? Was balance disrupted before Ben started training? What does ‘Han was Han about it’ mean? We know Leia sent Ben to Luke because Snoke was influencing him early. The passage suggests Luke didn’t know about or sense the rising darkness in Ben until close to his fall. This is odd to say the least and suggests a sort of blindness on Luke’s part by the time he started training.
Third, one of Luke’s defining qualities is his humility. Blaming himself for hubris sounds like self-deprecation and is likely unjustified.
Rey: What happened?
Luke: I went to confront him. And he turned on me.
(Vision where Luke doesn’t have his saber drawn)
Luke: He must have thought I was dead. When I came to, the temple was burning. He had vanished with a handful of my students. And slaughtered the rest. Leia blamed Snoke, but it was me. I failed. Because I was Luke Skywalker. Jedi Master. A legend.
R: It’s subtle, but there is a major indication something was seriously wrong with Luke at this point. Ben wasn’t the only student who turned. Luke had already lost several of his students to the dark side and didn’t notice until they turned on him.
The revelation Luke is deliberately omitting key information later on (J: “lying by omission”) should make the audience wonder what else he’s omitting.
R: Sidenote: Ben looks like he’s in his late teens here, which is younger than Bloodline suggests. (HH: But Ben looks like he’s in his early 20s when he’s 30 in the Sequel trilogy so it could just be that he’s always looked young for his age.)
S: That being said, the Art of TLJ book shows renderings of Ben’s costume in this scene that clearly depict a teenage boy, in the 16-17 range. There could be interesting ramifications to us finding out that one of the most crucial pieces of evidence in all this–the accepted timeline–is incorrect.
R: Keeping Ben’s fall from Leia for years would require the collusion of Luke and Han to keep it from her.
Rey: The galaxy may need a legend. I need someone to show me my place in all this. And you didn’t fail Kylo. Kylo failed you. I won’t.
J: Again, the word “need,” and a distinction between what the galaxy needs and what Rey herself needs. R: Rey isn’t looking for a teacher, she’s looking for a mentor, a parent. J: A father. Recall, from TFA: “Han Solo…you feel he’s the father you never had.”
Rose and Finn find DJ.
Luke reconnects to the Force.
R: The timing of Luke’s reconnection is odd. It doesn’t appear to be precipitated by any of the preceding events. He just reconnects.
S: This also likely originally followed the scene where Rey angrily confronts Luke, telling him how much the legend of Luke Skywalker meant to her. Any way you slice it, the only possible precipitating event you can ascribe this decision to is an interaction with Rey.
Rey: I’d rather not do this now.
Kylo: Yeah, me, too.
Rey: Why did you hate your father? Do you have something, a cowl or something you could put on?
R: I’m honestly curious how people found ‘sexual tension’ in this scene. It just felt uncomfortable and Rey’s reaction reflected that.
J: Shirtless scenes involving a female observer tend to be litmus tests for where the relationship is being taken. Here, Rey’s reaction is more of a ticked-off sibling than that of a prospective love interest (HH: which perhaps explains why many general audience members not steeped in canon left The Last Jedi wondering if Rey and Kylo were in fact siblings).
S: Yeah, as with so much of these moments, I get on paper how people could see sexual tension, but was amazed at how little I perceived watching it myself. To be honest, it felt like a little wink-wink “for the ladies” moment more than anything else. If the novelization gets published and we get three paragraphs describing Rey gazing longingly at Kylo’s weird oily refrigerator body, maybe we can reassess.
Rey: Why did you hate your father? Give me an honest answer. You had a father who loved you, he gave a damn about you.
Kylo: I didn’t hate him.
R: Kylo’s declaration that he didn’t hate his father is a pretty big deal. If his desire to be rid of his past was not antipathy towards his family, then what was it?
S: It’s easy to forget how cryptic Kylo is in many of his lines about himself and his past. His statements in TFA about wanting to be “free of this pain” are especially enigmatic. It really does seem like he’s tap dancing around something bigger that’s going on with him, and a guilt-inducing memory from the past would explain a lot of his words and behavior over both films.
R: Having the root of all of Kylo’s guilt stem from his complicity in Rey’s disappearance would certainly give her leverage no one else has. She would be his first victim and the one most important to unraveling Kylo’s spiral.
Rey: Then why?
Kylo: Why what? Why what? Say it.
Rey: Why did you… Why did you kill him? (SOBS) I don’t understand.
Kylo: No? Your parents threw you away like garbage.
Rey: They didn’t!
Kylo: They did. But you can’t stop needing them. It’s your greatest weakness. Looking for them everywhere, in Han Solo, now in Skywalker. Did he tell you what happened that night?
R: This is an important point, Kylo understands what Rey needs, because he feels the same need. Whereas it’s preventing Rey from finding her own identity, it’s driving Kylo to try to rid himself of it. It’s probable Kylo even did the same thing he says Rey is doing, looked for guidance from his father and then uncle. Under our interpretation, Rey is unknowingly inverting that.
Also note Kylo just told Rey her parents threw her away before the vision where he ostensibly saw it. He knows Rey’s greatest fear is that her parents didn’t love her, and he is exploiting it to the fullest.
S: He also uses the same manipulation tactic in this scene that he does in the parental reveal scene. “Say it! Say it! Go ahead!” This pressure he places upon Rey to say the things he wants to hear does not set up a dynamic of healthy, open, honest communication between the two.
Kylo: No. He had sensed my power, as he senses yours. And he feared it.
R: Side Note: Kylo had no way to know why Luke nearly attacked him.
S: Again, Kylo takes what he knows of a situation and (understandably) spins it into the worst possible interpretation of events. We’ve already seen Rey misinterpret a vision of Kylo in the most optimistic possible way–it would make sense for Kylo to interpret whatever he sees in Rey’s mind in the most painful and discouraging.
Kylo: Let the past die. Kill it if you have to. That’s the only way to become what you were meant to be.
R: While Kylo continues to talk about leaving the past behind, he betrays his utter fixation on it. The only reason to seek out and destroy people and things from one’s past is in the misguided belief that will somehow get rid of emotions associated with them. As he discovers with his father, it only adds more pain and makes the hole even bigger.
J: Interestingly enough, a key message much of the TLJ audience seems to have taken away from TLJ is that RJ followed Kylo’s advice here. But Kylo is both the villain and terribly misguided.
Rey goes down to cave and falls in.
Female Voice: Rey?
R: There are two instances of a woman calling her name, presumably her mother. Their inclusion is important to remember during the ‘reveal’ later in the film. They do not suggest someone who didn’t care about her daughter.
Rey: I should have felt trapped or panicked. But I didn’t. This didn’t go on forever, I knew it was leading somewhere. And that, at the end, it would show me what I came to see.
J: Rey’s voiceover is heavily meta commentary of the ST’s parentage mystery. But it’s also, arguably, commentary on what Rey sees at the end of her mirror “vision.”
Female Voice: Rey.
Rey: Let me see them. My parents, please. I thought I’d find answers here. I was wrong. I’d never felt so alone.
R: The mirror scene is the exact midpoint of the movie and understanding it is crucial to unlocking the rest of the movie. Here, Rey continues to look for someone to tell her who she is, but the mirror, being a mirror, can only reflect what’s inside of her (what she takes with her). J: In this way, the mirror cave is just like the Dagobah cave in ESB.
J: Much has, understandably, been made of the three shadows Rey sees in the mirror. Notably, the two fuzzy walking shadow figures merge into a more distinct (not-Rey) third figure before the image dissolves into Rey herself.
J: Some have suggested that one of the figures is Kylo, but the height differential is too “off,” both with regards to the taller walker shadow vs the (presumably female) shorter walking shadow, and with regards to the third shadow figure vs Rey herself. (R: To me, the shadow on the right before the merge looks and walks like RotJ Luke.)
S: Why did Rey think she’d find answers about her parents on Ahch-To? Weren’t we supposed to take her at face value when she told Luke she was only there to be taught how to handle her newfound powers? Rey’s sudden fixation on finding out her parents’ specific identities only makes sense if something has transpired between the end of TFA and the beginning of TLJ to bring the issue to the forefront of her mind. A shocking rejection by a man she thought was her father might just fit the bill.
Kylo: You’re not alone.
Rey: Neither are you.
R: Pushing Rey away has backfired and Luke pushed her right into the arms of Kylo, the only person who seems to understand what she’s looking for.
J: Kylo removes his glove before reaching out his hand to Rey. Hand symbolism is extremely common in stories, and a character removing his gloves indicates sincerity. The fingers touching represents a moment of genuine connection between Rey and Kylo.
S: The infamous hand scene! Again, I understand why some people saw this as a romantic moment, but the focus for me seemed to be predominantly on how strong their bond, whatever type of bond it may be, was through the Force–almost a simultaneous moment of “let’s see if we’re connected enough to actually make physical contact.” The use of the Force Theme underscores this. Interestingly enough, this theme plays in nearly every scene in the saga where two Skywalkers have important discussions about their family, a nod to how intimately connected their lineage is to the Force itself.
Shot of Luke looking panicked.
R: An important scene. Luke is completely panicked and seems to believe Rey is in trouble. This is the first time we’ve seen concern about her from him.
Rey: It isn’t too late.
R: Luke sees Kylo Ren, destroys the hut and then sees Kylo wasn’t actually there. The scene follows Luke reconnecting and is the first time Luke sees Kylo during one of his and Rey’s sessions. Some of the only times we see Luke lose control is when someone he loves is threatened.
Rey: Is it true? Did you try to murder him?
Luke: Leave this island now!
R: Pay attention to how Luke says that line. Luke immediately switches back to his previous attitude and demeanor towards Rey. The change from extreme concern for Rey to the point of reacting violently to a perceived threat to sounding irritable and impersonal strongly suggests the latter is an act.
The big question here is why Luke now wants her to leave after being terrified for her wellbeing only moments before. Regardless of their relationship, having her leave after seeing she’s getting dangerously close to Kylo makes no rational sense. By our interpretation, it looks as though Luke was losing the ability to maintain his facade, but seeing her with Kylo brings, not only his prior fears of turning his daughter into Vader, but also fears about how she’s affecting him and is making him vulnerable to the dark side. Luke isn’t behaving rationally because he’s in complete emotional turmoil.
S: Yep, a sort of baffling moment. Luke already took the blame for Kylo’s fall, so it’s not as though he would care if Rey, a random girl he’d agreed to teach, blamed him for it. Unless, of course, he felt he was building towards a better relationship with her, and became frightened that this new information would shatter that.
Rey: Stop. Stop!
Rey: Did you do it? Did you create Kylo Ren?
Luke and Rey fight.
Rey: Tell me the truth.
R: For the record, Rey’s violent and righteous anger towards Luke on behalf of a man she’s largely hated up until a few minutes before feels a little forced.
Luke: I saw darkness. I’d sensed it building in him. I’d seen it in moments during his training. But then I looked inside, and it was beyond what I ever imagined.
R: To my ears it sounds like lightsabers clashing, one male warcry and and a single adult female scream.
S: Much has been made of how Luke, a man who forgave even Darth Vader, would never act so violently in response to the darkness he saw in Kylo, but damn, if what he saw made him react like that, I’m inclined to trust his judgment that it was B-A-D.
Luke: Snoke had already turned his heart. He would bring destruction, and pain, and death, and the end of everything I love because of what he will become. And for the briefest moment of pure instinct, I thought I could stop it.
(Flashback with Luke holding an activated saber this time.)
It passed like a fleeting shadow. And I was left with shame, and with consequence.
And the last thing I saw were the eyes of a frightened boy whose master had failed him.
R: Leia intimates the reason she sent Ben to Luke was because of the darkness she sensed in him. Yet Luke, a trained Jedi Master, was largely oblivious to it. The deep familial connection was what allowed Luke to turn Vader, how did he fail to develop one with his nephew? That, coupled with several students joining Ben in the destruction of the temple, suggest something was already very wrong with Luke. We actually see something similar happen in Dark Disciple. Asajj Ventress senses the darkness within Quinlan Vos because of their Force bond born of love when the Jedi who’ve known Vos for years cannot.
J: A key element of the flashback is the prominence of Luke’s bare mechanical hand. This strongly suggests that at the time of this event, Luke was emotionally damaged. Also of note is that what Luke saw, and his reaction, appears to be the inverse of him saving his father at the end of RotJ.
Rey: You failed him by thinking his choice was made. It wasn’t. There’s still conflict in him. If he were turned from the dark side, that could shift the tide. This could be how we win.
Luke: This is not going to go the way you think.
Rey: It is. Just now, when we touched hands, I saw his future. As solid as I’m seeing you.
If I go to him, Ben Solo will turn.
Luke: Rey, don’t do this.
Rey: Then he’s our last hope.
HH: This is a reference to the conversation between Luke, Obi-Wan, and Yoda in Empire Strikes Back where Obi-Wan and Yoda try to persuade Luke not to run off to save Han and Leia. Luke tries to persuade Rey not to go but Rey runs off anyway, just like Luke did. Rey’s line “Then he’s our last hope” should call to mind Obi-Wan’s line “That boy is our only hope” and Yoda’s line that follows directly after “No, there is another.”
R: Note the symbolism of Luke declining the Skywalker saber. He still isn’t ready to accept his family’s legacy. Rey, unknowingly, takes it up when her father won’t.
This is Luke and Rey’s last interaction for the rest of the film and if we look at the surface of the film, their relationship went nowhere and Rey had little direct impact on Luke (who’s been keeping her at arm’s length the entire movie). Rey went from bewildered to alienated and leaves on a bad note.
J: Luke’s second refusal of the saber is also, in essence, his second rejection of her, or, perhaps, his rejection of the role he must play in her life. This idea is later evoked during Luke’s exchange with Yoda.
Luke: Master Yoda.
Yoda: Young Skywalker.
Luke: I’m ending all of this. The tree, the text, the Jedi. I’m gonna burn it down.
Yoda: Hmm. (LAUGHING) Ah, Skywalker. Missed you, have I.
Yoda calls down lightning and ignites the tree when Luke hesitates.
Luke: So it is time for the Jedi Order to end.
Yoda: Time it is. Hmm. For you to look past a pile of old books, hmm?
Luke: The sacred Jedi texts!
Yoda: Oh. Read them, have you?
Luke: Well, I…
Yoda: Page-turners they were not. Yes, yes, yes. Wisdom they held, but that library contained nothing that the girl Rey does not already possess. Skywalker, still looking to the horizon. Never here, now, hmm? The need in front of your nose. Hmm?
R: It’s revealed later that Rey saved the books and this, therefore, marks the first symbolic destruction of the outer trappings of something while preserving what really matters. The library is destroyed, but the books (and knowledge) are saved.
Yoda’s admonition that Skywalker is looking to the horizon and not seeing the need in from of him is telling when you realize Rey is doing the same thing. Luke doesn’t see she needs her father, but Rey doesn’t recognize Luke as her father or that he needs to be a father.
J: Recall that significant line from Lor San Tekka in TFA: “You cannot deny the truth that is your family!”
S: To boil this scene down, Yoda is effectively telling Luke that the things you can learn in books are not the things that Rey needs. Luke has missed what Rey was actually asking of him. (And let’s not forget the context of that famous line: “The Force is strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned. Luke…there is another Skywalker.”)
Luke: I was weak. Unwise.
HH: Luke has spent the entire film trying to keep Rey from learning who she truly is so that she wouldn’t be burdened by the looming shadow of Vader or by feeling the obligation to correct Luke’s failures. In watching her fly off in an attempt to redeem Ben Solo, Luke just watched Rey willingly take up those burdens despite her ignorance about her connection to the family. He now realizes the depth of his folly and that his attempt to protect his daughter has done nothing except deny them the relationship they both want so dearly.
Yoda: Lost Ben Solo, you did. Lose Rey, we must not.
Luke: I can’t be what she needs me to be.
HH: Remember that Rey’s needs have been divorced from the needs of the Resistance. Luke isn’t talking about how he can’t be the Jedi Master that comes back and fights the First Order, because that isn’t what Rey needs. What Rey needs, from the script, is a teacher, her parents, and someone to show her her place in all of this. Luke likely feels that he was a teacher to Rey and likely feels he was teaching her the most important lessons he could teach, the flaws of the Jedi Order. However, he felt he couldn’t be a parent to her and couldn’t show her what her place in the larger story was. Luke was trying to fulfill a greater purpose in trying to teach Rey the errors of the Jedi, but ignored her desperate needs that had nothing to do with her desire to become one. Rey doesn’t need a Jedi master, she needs a father.
R: Yoda tells Luke they can’t lose Rey, but neither one interacts with her for the rest of the film.
J: Luke’s line is incredibly loaded. Luke isn’t saying he can’t be what the galaxy needs him to be (a legend) or what Rey expects or wants him to be (also, a legend). What does Rey need (according to what the narrative has been telling us through use of that word)? She needs her parents. (Rey also says she needs someone “to show me my place in all this,” but that really doesn’t fit the “what” in Luke’s statement, which implies a role rather than an action.) Note that Yoda uses “need” in a positive way – he isn’t implying a “crutch.”
S: In order for this scene to make any sense, Luke needs to have something still to give to Rey. Given that they never interact after this (at least not directly), the thing he “needs her to be” has yet to come to fruition. And given artist statements about Luke’s story “moving in tandem” with Rey’s, it’s clear that their relationship still has miles of room for development.
Yoda: Heeded my words not, did you? Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.
HH: Luke was unwilling to train Rey as a Jedi because he was unwilling to pass on his failures. He didn’t want to burden Rey with the task of correcting his mistakes.
R: Yoda’s point takes on additional meaning when you consider neither Luke nor Leia told Ben about his grandfather. Both attempted to pass on the family legacy’s successes, but did not tell him of its failures. By our interpretation, Luke has decided to withhold her family’s legacy entirely from Rey, strengths and weaknesses.
HH: Instead of correcting the mistake that he made with Ben in not passing on the lessons of Anakin’s failures Luke is now unwilling to pass on not only the lessons of Anakin’s failures, but the lessons of his own failures to Rey. [R: Yoda is telling him he has it completely backwards].
HH: Those that don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. The only way to break the cycle is to learn from the failures of the past. Luke prevents Kylo from learning from the failures of Vader and the result is that Kylo repeats Vader’s story. Luke prevents Rey from learning from his failures and the result is that Rey repeats Luke’s story. Luke should have seen that Kylo had too much of Anakin in him and warned him of the dangers of temptation from the dark side. He also should have seen that Rey has too much of her father in her and warned her not to run off without a plan because she had a vision. In both cases Luke was likely withholding that history of failure so as not to put a burden on the shoulders of the younger generation, but in doing so he inadvertently put a stumbling block in their path.
J: Yoda is talking about parenthood, not mere mentorship. Recall what Snoke told Kylo about having “too much of [his] father’s heart in [him],” not too much of Luke (Kylo’s prior teacher) in him. Likewise, Yoda and Obi-wan cannot be said to have passed down all the traits Yoda lists to Luke, but Anakin sure did (as is remarked upon several times in the OT).
J: The escape pod Rey uses to go to Kylo has a distinctly coffin-esque look to it. It brings to mind Kylo’s abduction of her in TFA, except that, of course, this descent into darkness is voluntary.
Kylo: Almost there.
Rey: You don’t have to do this. I feel the conflict in you. It’s tearing you apart. Ben, when we touched hands, I saw your future. Just the shape of it, but solid and clear. You will not bow before Snoke. You’ll turn. I’ll help you. I saw it.
Kylo: I saw something, too. Because of what I saw, I know when the moment comes, you’ll be the one to turn. You’ll stand with me. Rey, I saw who your parents are.
HH: Note that Rey just saw the shape of Kylo’s future, not specific details. Kylo likely didn’t see specific details either.
This whole conversation also echos the conversation between Vader and Luke when they first meet in Return of the Jedi on Endor.
J: Rey seems to think that compassion alone can save Ben. She appears to think that, perhaps, Kylo doesn’t realize that his conflict allows him a choice that a 100% committed dark sider might not have.
Snoke: Well done, my good and faithful apprentice. My faith in you is restored.
Young Rey. Welcome.
(Finn and Rose captured – Poe’s mutiny fails.)
(HANDCUFFS BEEPING AND FALLING OFF)
HH: A reference to the Emperor removing Luke’s handcuffs in Return of the Jedi
Snoke: Come closer, child. So much strength. Darkness rises, and light to meet it.
I warned my young apprentice that as he grew stronger, his equal in the light would rise.
Skywalker… (CHUCKLING) I assumed. Wrongly. Closer, I said.
Rey: You underestimate Skywalker, and Ben Solo, and me. It will be your downfall.
HH: A reference to Luke telling the Emperor that his overconfidence is his weakness.
R: Snoke’s use of Skywalker is ironic here. He just didn’t get the Skywalker he was expecting.
J: Critics picked up on the meta commentary of “Skywalker…I assumed. Wrongly” but not on the retort: “You underestimate Skywalker […].” RJ’s choice for Rey to repeat “Skywalker,” rather than “Luke” (which would have been standard protagonist recontextualization of the interaction) signals the double-meaning.
Snoke: Oh… Have you seen something? A weakness in my apprentice. Is that why you came? Young fool. It was I who bridged your minds. I stoked Ren’s conflicted soul. I knew he was not strong enough to hide it from you. And you were not wise enough to resist the bait. And now, you will give me Skywalker. Then I will kill you with the cruelest stroke.
HH: A reference to the Emperor revealing to Luke that he allowed the Alliance to know the location of the shield generator to set a trap for them.
R: This scene is even using some of the same dialog from RotJ: “Young fool. It was I who…”
Snoke takes credit for both their connection and respective visions, but is he telling the truth? Rey’s vision did take place after all, she just misinterpreted it. Alternatively, if Snoke is telling the truth, the implication is he may have also planted Kylo’s vision.
J: Snoke’s claim, at this juncture, carries some weight considering that the “Force Skype” sessions were apparently not voluntarily initiated by either Rey or Kylo.
Snoke: Give me everything.
Rey: No! No! No! (SCREAMS)
FO fires on the transports
HH: A reference to the Emperor torturing Luke.
J: …except that this time, the conflicted villain makes no move to stop it
Snoke: Well, well, I did not expect Skywalker to be so wise.
We will give him and the Jedi Order the death he desires. After the Rebels are gone, we will go to his planet and obliterate the entire island.
Snoke: Such spunk. Look here now. The entire Resistance on those transports… Soon they will all be gone. For you, all is lost. Ooh. And still that fiery spit of hope. You have the spirit of a true Jedi! And because of that, you must die. My worthy apprentice, son of darkness, heir apparent to Lord Vader. Where there was conflict, I now sense resolve. Where there was weakness, strength. Complete your training, and fulfill your destiny.
HH: Snoke makes Rey watch the destruction of the Resistance ships just like the Emperor made Luke watch the destruction of the Rebel ships. Also, there’s a reference to the Emperor saying “So be it, Jedi. If you cannot be turned you will be destroyed.”
R: It’s also interesting that Snoke doesn’t make the mistake of trying to turn her and instead tries to have his apprentice kill her (which is different from the Emperor himself doing it). Too bad he forgot about the lightsaber next to him.
S: The blatant RotJ parallels here make it feel like we’re in some sort of rush for Rey to finish reenacting Luke’s story. The next film is the one where she’s going to have to step out from Luke’s shadow–and what will she find there?
Kylo: I know what I have to do.
Snoke: You think you can turn him? Pathetic child. I cannot be betrayed, I cannot be beaten. I see his mind, I see his every intent. Yes. I see him turning the lightsaber to strike true. And now, foolish child, he ignites it, and kills his true enemy!
Kylo uses Rey’s lightsaber lying next to Snoke to kill him.
HH: Kylo can’t bare to have Rey die and so betrays Snoke, just as Vader couldn’t bear to watch Luke die and betrayed the Emperor.
R: Pretty sure Kylo was planning to kill Snoke anyway after Snoke humiliated him earlier in the movie.
J: There appears to be some ambiguity over Kylo’s motives for killing Snoke. While it’s probably mixed at this point, the earlier Kylo/Snoke scene appears to make it more likely that Kylo’s focus was primarily on killing the master who had tormented him.
Finn and Rose confront DJ.
Rey: Ben! The fleet. Order them to stop firing. There’s still time to save the fleet. Ben?
Kylo: It’s time to let old things die. Snoke, Skywalker. The Sith, the Jedi, the Rebels…
Let it all die. Rey. I want you to join me. We can rule together and bring a new order to the galaxy.
R: And Kylo Ren outright states what the movie is doing, at least on the surface. By the end, the movie has killed Snoke and the Sith; is well on its way to eradicating the Skywalkers and their legacy; the knowledge of the Jedi has been destroyed along with its last member and the Resistance has been annihilated. However, if you look again, the movie has been quietly subverting the message. The library is destroyed, but the books and knowledge are saved. The Resistance is gone, but the spark of hope remains (neat Rogue One shoutout). The Sith and Snoke are gone, but the dark remains…
…And the Skywalker legacy is being destroyed, but the family survives through Rey. This is the gift Luke wants to give his daughter.
If the postulate Kylo feels guilt over Rey’s disappearance, one wonders how much he knows in this scene.
J: There are obvious parallels to Vader/Luke in Kylo’s proposition. Note that Kylo’s extended hand is now gloved, signaling that this is not a gesture of sincere desire for connection that the finger-touching was.
S: Something Star Wars does exceptionally well is show the experiences that happen among all types of relationships, and that are shared between interactions with parents, friends, lovers, siblings, children, and so on. Rey has moments with Finn that parallel Luke and Han, moments with Kylo that parallel Luke and Vader, and so on. The same stories play out across all types of relationships, with the unifying factors being, of course, compassion, connection, and family. Just one big, happy, frequently-amputated family.
Rey: Don’t do this, Ben. Please don’t go this way.
Kylo: No, no. You’re still holding on! Let go! Do you wanna know the truth about your parents? Or have you always known? And you’ve just hidden it away. You know the truth. Say it. Say it.
Rey: They were nobody.
Kylo: They were filthy junk traders who sold you off for drinking money.
Kylo: They’re dead in a paupers’ grave in the Jakku desert. You have no place in this story. You come from nothing. You’re nothing. But not to me. Join me.
R: Kylo answers the same questions Luke posed to Rey in the tree scene, but in reverse order.
Also, many people have pointed to Rey saying she was nobody herself and quietly accepting Kylo’s assertions. Think about how Luke treated her all move – like she was nothing to him.
HH: Something interesting to note here is what Rey saw when she touched Kylo’s hand was an incomplete truth. She saw the Kylo would turn and assumed that if she went to him he would return to the light. Kylo did turn on Snoke because she went to him but he is still firmly on the dark side. So what Rey saw was true, but it wasn’t the whole truth. The same is likely true for Kylo. Rey likely was in the custody of junk traders at some point, but the question is still open about whether they were her parents or not.
Also we know that Kylo is trying to manipulate Rey so it is highly likely that he is embellishing upon what he saw for that purpose. The evidence for this is that what he says doesn’t line up with what we are shown in the Force Awakens. In Rey’s vision in the Force Awakens we see Rey being left with Unkar Plutt while a ship flies away and Rey cries “Come back!”. That vision of Rey being left behind doesn’t jive with Kylo telling her that the Junk dealers are dead and buried in the Jakku desert.
R: An even more intriguing possibility arises from the new-EU: In Legends of Luke Skywalker second story, Luke is depicted scavenging parts soon after the Battle of Jakku and in story six is shown piloting a literal junker A-Wing he maintains. Luke Skywalker himself may well have been the junk trader Kylo saw!
HH: Bloodline and Legends of Luke Skywalker have both confirmed that post Return of the Jedi Luke lived a private, low profile life. He was the most famous man in the galaxy and yet he could walk into any cantina he wanted and not be recognized (even when the patrons of the Cantina were talking about him!). Rey believing that her parents were “nobodies” doesn’t disqualify Luke. (R: What’s the difference between a somebody and nobody anyway? How would a five year old know her parents were famous or important?)
R: Further, recall the mirror showed only shadows to Rey, likely because that’s all she could remember of her parents. If that’s all Rey can remember of her parents, then that’s all Kylo would be able to see from her mind too.
Rey and Kylo contest with the Force over the Skywalker saber. They’re perfectly matched and the saber shatters under the stress.
R: A very important piece of symbolism. First, unlike TFA, the two are pulling in opposite directions and wind up in a stalemate – suggesting both have equal claim to the saber. The saber itself is destroyed in the process, but the heart of a lightsaber – the Kyber crystal – is not and Rey takes it. Let’s repeat that – the Skywalker legacy lightsaber is destroyed, but the most important component is not. The Skywalker family is being shorn of its dark legacy, but the family itself can survive and be reforged through Rey (incidentally, it’s a very common trope for a family heirloom to be shattered and then repaired by a member of the family).
S: The tree is burned; Rey saves the books. The saber is broken; Rey saves the crystal. The Resistance is decimated; Rey saves the Rebellion. The Skywalker family is shattered–well, you get the idea.
Holdo rams the Supremacy.
Hux: What happened?
Kylo: The girl murdered Snoke.
Hux: What happened?
Kylo: She took Snoke’s escape craft. We know where she’s going. Get all our forces down to that Resistance base. Let’s finish this.
R: Kylo frames Rey for murdering Snoke.
S: That classic romantic trope of “framing your love interest for the murder of a prominent political figure.”
Hux: Finish this? Who do you think you’re talking to? You presume to command my army? Our Supreme Leader is dead! We have no ruler!
Hux: The Supreme Leader is dead. Long live the Supreme Leader.
R: Kylo becomes the leader of the First Order and the dark side.
FO launches its ground attack. Rey and Chewie arrive to clear the TIE fighters attacking the skimmers.
Rose: That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.
R: A lot of people hate this line, but it’s the thesis of the entire movie. Kylo has been destroying everything out of hatred for the past and the movie has been doing the same thing – except it’s only been destroying the outer trappings of Star Wars while preserving the essence of the franchise. The movie has been saving what we love the entire time (except for all the people who hate the central family of a family saga). Luke and Rey cap it off by saving those they care about rather than destroying the First Order.
Resistance believes no one is coming until:
Leia: Luke. I know what you’re gonna say. I changed my hair.
Luke: It’s nice that way. Leia, I’m sorry.
Leia: I know. I know you are.
Leia: I’m just glad you’re here at the end.
Luke: I came to face him, Leia. And I can’t save him.
Leia: I held out hope for so long, but I know my son is gone.
Luke: No one’s ever really gone.
R: There are several key points in this exchange. First, Leia has given up on her son. Second, Luke looks like he did in the flashbacks of Kylo’s fall. Third, Luke still believes can be turned, but knows he isn’t the one who can reach him. It’s obvious he thinks Rey can, but the question here is, how? (Rhetorical question)
HH: Something interesting to note is the music that plays while Luke is marching out to confront Kylo. It’s not a variation of the Main theme, or even the Force theme, that typically play when Luke is doing something as heroic this. It’s a deconstruction of the Imperial March. The music shows that the Skywalker family still hasn’t been able to overcome the shadow of the Vader’s legacy. If Kylo is the last Skywalker, they never will. (R: Even if he returns to the light.)
Despite objections, Kylo goes to personally confront Luke.
R: Kylo again demonstrates he is utterly obsessed with the past. He ignores the present strategic situation to settle a personal matter with Luke and squanders his opportunity to wipe out the Resistance leadership.
Luke faces the First Order and then Poe leads the resistance into the mine tunnels.
R: Luke is brandishing the Skywalker saber instead of his green one. This is symbolically very important. After refusing the saber – symbolizing his family and the identity of the Skywalkers – twice, he is finally shown to have accepted it. Rey has shown him Vader is not the family’s true identity or fate and she has both taken it up herself and will reforge it – despite her not knowing that she is. At the same time, Luke taunts Kylo with the blade, showing the future of the family does not lie with him.
Rey: If the beacon’s right beneath us, they’ve got to be somewhere. Keep scanning for life forms.
Rey: I see them! Chewie, there!
Poe: No. No, no, no. No!
Rey: Lifting rocks.
R: This is a key parallel here, Rey and Luke are both trying to save those they love – Luke by distracting Kylo and Rey by evacuating them. This parallel action completes the narrative mirroring started in the cave.
S: The fact that Rey is able to track her friends with the beacon also shows that the presence she appears to sense while lifting the rocks is likely not Finn, as many have suggested, and is more likely Luke (who we cut to after) connecting with her through the Force.
Kylo and Luke face off.
Luke: I failed you, Ben. I’m sorry.
Kylo: I’m sure you are! The Resistance is dead. The war is over. And when I kill you, I will have killed the last Jedi.
Luke: Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong. The Rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi.
Rey removes the rocks trapping the Resistance and reunites with Finn in an emotional hug. The scene cuts back to Luke and his eyes are tearfilled and unfocused and he is smiling.
R: Watch Rey’s eyes after she lifts the rocks, she’s looking around as if surprised, and it’s not at the rocks or Finn (seeing him actually snaps her out of it). Luke likely connected with her here.
HH: Luke likely watched Rey save the remaining members of the Resistance and he is beyond happy about it.
R: Luke’s pure joy is the emotional climax of the movie and the single best visual argument. That it immediately follows Rey’s happiness at reuniting with Finn shows it’s not simply the Jedi surviving. He’s overjoyed his daughter is safe, happy and will be ok – everything he really wanted from the start of the movie.
Kylo: I’ll destroy her, and you, and all of it.
Luke: No. Strike me down in anger and I’ll always be with you. Just like your father.
R: Kylo is in a nihilistic spiral and Luke points out every crime just adds to the list of things haunting him. Kylo is attempting to kill his past, but is only really succeeding in making his pain and conflict even worse. This spiral is driving him to more and more extreme acts in a vain effort to fill the growing void.
S: I definitely foresee a Macbethian arc for Kylo in Episode IX. Isolated, paranoid, haunted, and spiraling out of control. Make sure those Force Trees don’t make their way towards Dunsinane…
R: Is this the point that I voice my suspicions there’s an Episode X planned and TLJ is actually the second half of Act I?
Luke reveals the ruse and vanishes. Kylo returns to his shuttle alone and sees Rey in one last vision as Rey closes the Falcon door.
R: Kylo has refused every hand offered to him and watches as Rey and his own mother turn their backs on him, leaving him utterly alone. Rey attempted to reach out to him with compassion alone, but failed. If Kylo is to be turned back to the light, it will require something else entirely.
R: This scene also casts doubt on Snoke’s claim he was responsible for the connection as it happens after his death.
Poe: I’m Poe.
Poe: I know.
R: A key bit of character development for Rey – she realizes there are people who already care about her as an individual.
S: Also probably a nod to how much Finn has been talking about her. Aww.
Rey: Luke is gone. I felt it. But it wasn’t sadness or pain. It was peace and purpose.
Leia: I felt it, too.
R: Rey senses Luke’s death (HH: and not only his death but how he was feeling as he died) like the known members of his family, despite only being with him for a few days. While not definitive, it is suggestive.
With Luke’s passing, the mantle of last Jedi passes to her along and she becomes the Light’s champion. The stage is set for Anakin’s grandchildren to fight over the fate of the Force itself.
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