After watching The Last Jedi again after its home release, I’ve realized that the Third Lesson is essentially the theme of the movie as a whole. The lesson involves fighting for the galaxy as a whole, and not making family your bottom-line motivator. It’s a battle between Luke and Kylo Ren to turn Rey to one end or the other, and Rey represents the audience. The Third Lesson was not only taught to Rey, but it was taught to us as the viewers.
Luke Skywalker: “This is not gonna go…the way you think.”
Luke Skywalker is aware of the Third Lesson, but is struggling to act it out himself. Back in Return of the Jedi, Yoda told Luke that he could only become a Jedi once he confronted Darth Vader. When Luke succeeded in confronting Vader by redeeming him, Luke became the last Jedi and was tasked with passing on what he had learned.
Enter Ben Solo. While we are still oblivious to the chain of events that led to his downfall, we know (from context) that Ben’s downfall would heavily shake up Luke to his very core. It fundamentally goes against: 1) how he became a Jedi, and 2) what he valued in being a Jedi. It required a reworking of his mindset that Luke struggles to put into action. It leads to his depressive state and his intentions to end the Jedi on Ahch-To.
Enter Rey. Alongside the downfall of his nephew, Luke also had to deal with the death of his wife and the supposed death of his daughter. As we see in The Force Awakens, the return of his daughter immediately makes Luke emotional. But not too long after, the memories of his failure with Ben and his lack of understand of what it means to be a Jedi, makes them throw away the lightsaber in an act of defiance. The events that follow this involve Luke’s denial that Rey is his daughter or that he can properly lead her to the Third Lesson. It’s only when Artoo shows him the hologram message of Leia that he realizes: his daughter can lead the new Rebellion. The movie ends on this note, which I will get to later.
Luke continues to keep the truth away from her as he begins training her. As shown in the First Lesson, he is immediately tough on her to follow his orders and stay the path that he has laid out for her. Meanwhile, Kylo and Rey are having their conversations that ultimately leads to their discussion in the hut. Luke is terrified that Kylo told her the truth of her family (much like Yoda and Obi-Wan wanted to keep the truth from Luke about Vader). Rey ends up straying the path due to finding out Luke’s lie about the events of the Temple massacre, which leads to Luke’s plea of: “This is not gonna go…the way you think.” This is Luke’s plea to bear with him as he trains her. But it’s too late, and Rey goes to Kylo Ren on the Supremacy of her own accord.
The events that follow this involve Rey acting out Luke in ROTJ, but without knowing Kylo Ren is her cousin. This is a pivotal moment for Luke and Rey for a couple of reasons. First of all, Rey not only attempts to find the light in Kylo Ren, but also refuses to join him. This is all done on her own accord, with her own compassion and heart. The burden of family was not on her. It was with this action that Rey progresses in understanding the Third Lesson. In the Throne Room, it is the Resistance that makes Rey turn Kylo away. Like I said earlier, Luke realizes his daughter does have potential to lead the new Rebellion.
This is also a realization for Luke in that his daughter was able to pass a trial of the Third Lesson. Initially when she leaves, he thinks all is lost and plans to burn down the Jedi texts. Yoda’s talk to Luke gives him a spark of hope in that she can make the right choice. When he feels she has (remember, Luke reached out to Leia earlier), it spurs him to save the Resistance on Crait.
On Crait, Luke finally puts the Third Lesson into action. He plans to sacrifice himself to save the Resistance, only after feeling his daughter has found belonging with the Resistance. He sighs deep relief at the feeling of her hug with Finn, and passes on into the Force. He has found peace, and he has found purpose.
Kylo Ren: “Let the past die…kill it if you have to.”
Kylo Ren is keeping Rey’s lineage from her as well, but for a different reason. His mindset is rooted in what redeemed Vader: family. Kylo is hoping to squash out any longing for family out of Rey, to get her to join him out of necessity. Rey, however, not only tries to find the good in him, but also refuses to join him despite his words. Tying in with the Third Lesson, Rey is able to practice compassion and refuse the Dark side without the requirement of family being involved. It’s possible Luke feels this moment (much like he did with Rey embracing Finn) and decides to act out the Third Lesson on his end.
Kylo is the only other character who brings up her parents in the movie. He’s the reason Rey looks for answers in Mirror Cave, and only finds a reflection of herself.
This sets up an interesting conundrum with the movie: the heroes win out, but Kylo essentially loses. He only gains control of the First Order. This is unusual for an Act II. We’ll see how that turns out.
The Rebellion Is Reborn
One of Luke’s final sayings is declaring that the Rebellion is reborn. The rebirth stems not only from Luke’s final act in putting the Third Lesson into motion, but also in Rey learning the Third Lesson (despite not knowing it).
One aspect of the Third Lesson is that, it’s important to always fight for the “spark” that will inspire rebellion in the galaxy against the forces of evil. Luke had to teach himself to value this concept when family has failed him. He passes this on to Rey, and Rey values it by embracing her “found family” in the Resistance. Luke’s final act of sacrifice to spare the Resistance inspires the galaxy to fight for this cause, shown by the final scene of the movie in the stable boy.
The second aspect focuses more on family. The original trilogy showed Luke that family is worth fighting for and that there’s always good in someone. He succeeds in acting this out with Vader, and becomes a Jedi according to Yoda’s dying words. However, the failure to save his nephew from the Dark side (alongside the deaths of his wife and supposedly his daughter) destroys Luke to the very core and stomps all over the values he learned in the OT. With this Third Lesson, Luke learns to value the galaxy as a whole and fight for the good of everyone. His refusal to tell Rey her lineage is a way to teach her this lesson without clouding her mind. Luke proclaims, “The Rebellion is reborn today.” and the weight of those words cannot be overstated.
There are a couple of statements that you should be aware of.
One statement that someone might bring up to object to this theory is Rian’s comment on how Kylo was being honest with Rey in the Throne room regarding her parents, and that it wasn’t a “chess move.” I’m choosing to ignore this statement only because, it makes no sense and cannot be combined with ANY theory that you could come up with regarding her parents. The reason is, the canon has repeatedly stated that Rey has no memory of her parents nor any details. It would be impossible for Kylo to know that her parents are in a grave on Jakku or sold her for drinking money. At most, Kylo is simply telling Rey’s fears back to her. In a way, he is being honest by repeating what she fears deep down.
Another statement comes from the director’s commentary for the movie. Rian describes Rey as part of the audience. This is important to remember, and my theory should be read with this in mind alongside any analysis on the movie. It shows where Rian’s brain was.