– written by HypersonicHarpist
One topic that has been a bit of a sore spot among fans since the release of the Force Awakens is that 30 years after the original trilogy the “return” promised in the title of Return of the Jedi hasn’t worked out so well. The Last Jedi didn’t help matters when it killed off Luke Skywalker and left only Rey as the future of the Jedi Order. But there’s reason to believe that The Rise of Skywalker might change that.
Opening scenes are powerful thing for setting the tone and theme for a movie, or a series of movies, and Star Wars does them particularly well. You can tell from just the first few moments of A New Hope exactly what the film and the entire Original Trilogy is going to be about: a small but plucky group of rebels (symbolized by the blockade runner) fighting back against the overwhelming military might of the Empire (symbolized by the much larger Star Destroyer). The Empire Strikes Back does this as well. The first thing we see is a Star Destroyer sending out probes and then one of the first things that happens to Luke is he is attacked and knocked unconscious. So we know from the beginning that the Empire is on the hunt and that our heroes are vulnerable and won’t necessarily escape unscathed. The Phantom Menace does this a bit more subtly. While not the opening line of the film, Obi-Wan’s opening lines are revealing. “I have a bad feeling about this…It’s not about the mission, Master, it’s something elsewhere, elusive…” This sets the theme for the prequels: Palpatine’s behind the scenes manipulations leading to his rise to power, beginning with the blockade of Naboo.
Now let’s look at how The Force Awakens begins: We see a darkened Star Destroyer spreading across an illuminated planet, symbolizing the shadow of the First Order rising from the darkness of obscurity to spread across the galaxy.
But then the opening line of the film is “This will begin to make things right.” That I believe will become the theme of the entire Sequel Trilogy, making things right in the galaxy. So how are things made right? “I’ve traveled too far and seen too much to ignore the despair in the Galaxy. Without the Jedi there can be no balance in the Force.” Jedi here must be in the plural sense of the word because one Jedi, Luke, is not enough to solve the problem. Presumably, Rey alone isn’t enough either, more Jedi are needed. The opening of the The Force Awakens novelization reiterates this theme:
First comes the day
Then comes the night.
After the darkness
Shines through the light.
The difference, they say,
Is only made right
By the resolving of gray
through refined Jedi sight.
Again, the emphasis is on making things right which can only be accomplished by the Jedi. The first part of the poem further suggests a rebirth, as we’ve seen the day when the Jedi were thriving during the Republic and the night/darkness during the reign of the Empire when the Jedi were all but extinct. Now that the Empire has been defeated its time for the light to shine through again. It would also provide a balance within the three trilogies as the Prequels featured the fall of the Jedi, the Original Trilogy showed the death and rebirth of the Jedi (as Obi-Wan and Yoda, the last of the old, pass on the mantle to Luke, the first of the new), and then the Sequels would feature the rise of the Jedi from the ashes. Another reason I think we will see the rebirth of the Jedi Order in the Sequels is that rebuilding the Jedi is Luke’s purpose in the story. He’s the New Hope, and not just for the Rebellion. Yoda, on his deathbed, commanded Luke to pass on what he had learned. Yoda then reiterated this command to Luke in The Last Jedi.
I would argue that the second purge was written because the story of the restoration of the Jedi is the story that the writers want to tell with this trilogy. As far as the overarching Saga is concerned one of, if not the most important events that can happen post Return of the Jedi is the rebuilding of the Jedi Order. The second purge was a necessity because The Force Awakens is set 30 years after Return of the Jedi (and can’t realistically be set any earlier because of the age of the Original Trilogy cast). For Luke to go so long without training any new Jedi begs the question of why he waited so long to begin that all important task. So the second purge was introduced to answer that question and still allow the writers to tell the story they want to tell.
So where are these new Jedi supposed to come from? Introducing a whole host of new characters is always a possibility, but it would make for a more satisfying story if at least some of them were characters that we already know and care about. Other than Rey and Luke, The Force Awakens introduced a known Force sensitive who isn’t on the Dark Side with Maz.
The Force Awakens also introduced two other possibilities: There’s Finn who somehow broke with his stormtrooper brainwashing and also seemed to hear the screams when the Hosnian system was destroyed when no one else did. (Side note: John Boyega has been a massive Star Wars fan for years before he was ever cast as Finn. He said that when reading the script for The Rise of Skywalker he had to stop to go thank J.J. Abrams for something. When many Star Wars fans fantasize about living in that galaxy far far away they imagine themselves as being some sort of Force user. Did John Boyega thank J.J. Abrams because J.J. made his fanboy dreams a reality?). And There’s Poe who has exceptional skill as a pilot and was raised next to a Force Tree.
It’s also interesting to note that while the parallels between Rey and Luke in the Force Awakens were quite obvious, there were also parallels between Finn and Luke and Poe and Luke as well. Finn busts Poe out of First Order captivity while using stormtrooper armor to deflect suspicion much like how Luke disguises himself as a stormtrooper to rescue Leia. Finn rushes off to rescue Rey from Starkiller Base with a plan that wasn’t completely thought out, much like how Luke rushed in to save Leia without a good exit strategy. Finn is also the one that is given the Skywalker Lightsaber by an elderly mentor figure. Poe is the one that blows up Starkiller Base just like Luke destroyed the first Death Star. Could these parallels be signifying that these characters have even more in common with Luke than that? Other potential candidates for future Jedi are Rose (introduced in the Last Jedi) and Jannah who will be introduced and playing an important role in the Rise of Skywalker.
It’s important to note that in the Star Wars movies there isn’t really a way to conclusively show on screen that a character isn’t Force Sensitive. There are simply characters that are obviously Force Sensitive and characters that haven’t shown any Force Sensitive characteristics (yet). So any character, particularly a recently introduced character, could later be written to be Force Sensitive without undoing anything that came before. This already happened once in the Original Trilogy with Leia and there’s nothing to prevent the story from doing something similar in the Sequels provided the story built up to it in a way that didn’t feel forced (pardon the pun).
Return of the Jedi ends with the expectation that the Jedi are going to rise again. If the sequel trilogy ends with Rey left as the only Jedi, then that expectation hasn’t been resolved. We would be left essentially in the same place as the end of Return of the Jedi, which would beg the question of what was the point of the Sequel Trilogy? This is particularly true given that we have been told that Episode IX will be the end of the Skywalker Saga so there would be no Saga films forthcoming that would resolve that hanging plot thread. It would also undermine the theme set forth at the opening of this trilogy. How can the trilogy be said to have made things right if circumstances in the galaxy are pretty much the same as they were 30 years before?
But there’s reason to believe that this won’t be the case. Snoke in the Force Awakens says “If Skywalker returns, the new Jedi will rise.” This is foreshadowing and it is still very much on the table after the events of The Last Jedi. One potential meaning of the title, The Rise of Skywalker, could very easily be that a resurrection is in store for Luke. Pairing that with Snoke’s line would mean that Luke’s resurrection would be the impetus for the rise of the new Jedi. This would be very fitting thematically (Biblical Symbolism in the Star Wars Saga with Possibilities for Episode IX), give Luke a chance to follow through on Yoda’s command to pass on what he has learned, as well as give many fans what they’ve been hoping to see for a long time.