Written by robotical712, the views expressed are my own.
Canon has existed for just over five years now and in that time, we’ve been given a wealth of Star Wars stories. Yet the stories aren’t random and in this article I examine how each story fits into the narrative being told.
In a controversial decision, in April 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL) relegated everything except the movies and The Clone Wars animated show to its own continuity called Legends. From then on, LFL would establish a new continuity everything would be apart of. There would no longer be such things as Canon ‘levels’. This meant every book, comic and game would contribute to the story as the movies do. A Story Group was established to maintain connectivity between the different stories as well as strategize when and how the stories would be told.
Five years later, there have been four movies, two TV shows and a wealth of other material. While all of this material covers a broad range of subjects and eras, there’s a strong sense of purpose and direction to it. Earlier material sets up later material, even if the payoff is measured in years. While material released over the course of a year can vary considerably in era and subject matter, overall, stories cluster around certain themes, subjects and eras. It is possible to analyze what has and hasn’t been covered and seek to understand the reasons the narrative is unfolding the way it is. From there, we can perhaps see where the story is going.
In the first five years there has been a heavy emphasis on what can be described as world building for key characters, groups and events (‘phase one’ if you will). The elements at work driving the overall story have been hinted at, but by and large stories have been focused on the periphery of events. Stories about the characters that go on to be the principal movers and shakers have focused on their lives before they shaped galactic events (with a few exceptions). Alternatively, the stories have told the struggles of important characters who nevertheless were merely tools for those who really shaped the narrative.
Thus, Lucasfilm has been busy laying foundations while the Sequel Trilogy is completed. As we’ve said in the past and was recently confirmed, LFL has long had an outline for how the ST would end. It stands to reason, they also have a fairly decent idea of the direction they’re taking afterward. Therefore, analyzing not only what’s been seeded directly in the books, but the recurring themes and the stories that have and haven’t been told could tell us much about what’s coming in The Rise of Skywalker and beyond.
While LFL isn’t afraid to tell side stories or take advantage of opportunities (ie: Aphra, the Thrawn series), the stories they choose to tell follow a natural progression and serve the needs of the overall narrative. Below, I look at the specific topics explored over the last five years, how they connect and what they may presage.
Selling stories about one of the most iconic villains in cinema history is a no brainer and the Dark Lord has easily appeared in more stories than any other character in Canon. It’s easy to see the commercial allure of Vader stories, yet filling in his story now also serves a narrative purpose as well. Darth Vader is the shadow that looms over the Skywalker family and defining how he impacted the galaxy and the legacy he leaves to his descendants will be crucial to the Skywalker stories set after Empire Strikes Back.
Tales about Darth Vader also have other benefits. He’s the Emperor’s right hand, yet knows little of the Emperor’s true plans. Thus the Story Group can seed glimpses of the Emperor’s machinations that will become important to The Rise of Skywalker and beyond. Further, since Vader touches so many aspects of the setting, they can use him to setup diverse future stories and concepts. The Vader 2017 comic series links directly to Vader Immortal and the upcoming Fallen Order among others.
The OT3 Between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back / ST3 Between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker
Since 2014, Marvel’s flagship comic has told the story of Luke, Han and Leia (OT3) between A New Hope and Empires Strikes Back. This time period is unique in that it’s when all three characters are together, the characters are still figuring out what their places are and neither Luke nor Leia know the truth of their parentage. Thus, concentrating on the era allows LFL to show the evolution of the OT3’s relationships with each other, finding their roles in the rebellion and their internal struggles before they were completely redefined by the events of The Empire Strikes Back.
Notably, LFL has refrained from featuring stories about Luke Skywalker after The Empire Strikes Back (the recent one shot notwithstanding) and has only featured in Han and Leia in a few. Luke’s story after ESB is very important to his character as Vader’s revelation forced him to redefine himself and how he does so will likely tie directly into the events leading to the Sequel Trilogy. It has been my expectation for some time that the comic would reach ESB right around when Episode IX was released paving the way for the OT3’s stories post revelation.
It should be mentioned, the time between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker directly parallels the OT3’s time between ANH and ESB. Journey to The Rise of Skywalker will focus on this period and explore who the characters are before they’re inevitably redefined in TROS.
Rise of the Rebellion / Resistance-First Order Cold War
Another area of focus is the respective rise of the Rebellion and Empire. Both topics allow LFL to define the galaxy between two well defined points in time. This emphasis builds a strong foundation for later stories to be built upon all over the timeline. To date, most stories have been set close to either Revenge of the Sith or ANH; however, the release of Solo helped bridge the gap by showing a time when the Empire was firmly established, but the stirrings of rebellion were in their infancy. The movie also served as a strong introduction to the underworld and sets the stage for how their activities and interactions with the Empire shape the galaxy.
At the same time, the stories being told are largely on the periphery of the main events. We see glimpses of what the Emperor is up to and the effects of his rule, but his motives and plans remain obscure. So too with the Rebellion. In Rebels we followed a Rebel cell and see some of the key events in the establishment of the Rebel Alliance, but little of the activities of the principal leaders who built it (The young adult novel, Ahsoka, even ends right when Ahsoka becomes head of Rebel intelligence). Those stories remain to be told.
So too with the pre-war First Order/Resistance conflict. Starting with Poe’s story in Before the Awakening and ending with the first season of Resistance, we get a glimpse of the desperation of the people who recognize the First Order and the lives of those on the front lines. While we don’t see the key events of the struggle (Poe’s comic ends just as Lor San Tekka is found and the conflict really heats up), we get a sense of the main players, why they fight and how they interact with the rest of the galaxy. These stories give a firm outline and foundation for later stories before, during and after the Sequel Trilogy to fill in.
Return of the Jedi to the Battle of Jakku
While fans have been clamoring for stories in the thirty years after ROTJ, most of what we’ve been given has been set between the movie and the Battle of Jakku. In that year, the Empire crumbled and the New Republic arose to fill the void. The Aftermath trilogy gave the broad strokes of that year and brought us to the starting line of the Sequel Trilogy while planting the seeds for major story threads all over the timeline. Additional stories, such as Battlefront II, Shattered Empire and the soon to be released Alphabet Squadron have filled in more details and introduced characters and ideas that would become important later on.
Pre-Attack of the Clones
Starting with Queen’s Shadow, the franchise has begun to show how the problems of the Republic and Jedi led to their fall. In Queen’s Shadow, we see Padme’s first steps as a senator and how she deals with the corruption and negligence rampant in the Senate. Though Palpatine engineered the Republics metamorphosis into the Empire, he merely took advantage of the cancer that had long since consumed the government.
In Dooku: Jedi Lost and Master and Apprentice the institutional malaise of the Jedi is explored along with how key characters respond to it. Where Dooku leaves the Jedi and goes on to assist in its destruction, Qui-Gon begins a journey that will ultimately lead to the Order’s salvation. These events will be key to understanding Luke’s and, later, Rey’s efforts to restore the Jedi in stories following TROS.
The last five years have been spent creating a foundation and are just now starting to explore the most important thematic and narrative elements of the saga. Based on this, it is unlikely we’ll be deviating from the time period in which the Saga is set anytime soon and the rumors the next set of films will explore the Old Republic are just that – rumors. By understanding why stories are told when and how they connect to each other, we can begin to see the whole tapestry of the story being told. In coming articles, I will attempt to lay out what I the story leading up to the Sequel Trilogy is.
See also: The Future of Star Wars