STAR WARS: HOW THE JEDI’S FAILINGS MIGHT’VE INSPIRED LUKE TO END THE ORDER
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and we all learned for the first time about Luke Skywalker’s newfound antipathy toward the Jedi Order with his line, “I only know one truth: It’s time for the Jedi to end.”Recently, the world was gifted with the first teaser for
The internet has been abuzz ever since the trailer dropped, piling on theories about Luke’s statement, philosophical thinkpieces, speculation about the Gray Jedi and the Order of the Whills, and so much more. And we at IGN of course have our own take on Luke’s new outlook, so let’s delve a little deeper into some of the failures of the Jedi Order and the Old Republic which might be informing Luke’s philosophy — the times those ancient organizations took a swing and missed. We’ll also take a look at the trajectory of these failings, leading up to Luke’s current status as a refugee from the battle between the Dark side of the Force, and the Light.
The remains of a long, Jedi-protected galactic peace begin draining away right around The Phantom Menace, when Palpatine is fomenting a coup under the noses of the Jedi Council, the highest governing body of the Jedi Knights. While the Council members certainly suspect something is afoot, or at the very least sense a disturbance in the Force, by the time they leap into combat in Attack of the Clones it’s too little, too late. Certainly, we know centuries of peace in the Republic can be accredited to the Jedi, but it’s worth remembering that the stories about war are the more interesting ones to tell.
It’s also likely that the resurgence of bad guys in the new trilogy starting with The Force Awakens — a double-whammy of militant fascists and the seemingly Sith-like Knights of Ren — was inevitable. By contending that the Jedi’s time is over, Luke may have come to the conclusion that as long as there are those adhering strictly to the Light — like his new Jedi recruits — there will be an opposing Dark force to meet them. If this continuous binary has been the cause of unrest in the galaxy, it might be time to dissolve the binary altogether; without light, there is no dark, and it doesn’t take K-2SO’s probability calculations to tell us how good the Dark side is at driving an arms race. If the rebels blow up their Death Star, they build another one.
Adding fuel to Luke’s ambivalent fire must be the way some facets of Jedi life have contributed to the growing power of the Dark Side. Where the Jedi are dispassionate, the Sith are invigorated; the Jedi don’t encourage strong attachments to any one person or place, whereas the Sith are fueled by these very attachments. Anakin Skywalker’s secret marriage to Padme Amidala and the death of his mother are easily manipulated by Palpatine to turn him, but had those attachments been accepted into the Jedi way of life, he might not have been so easily swayed to the Dark Side. What some would see as the Jedi’s unwavering obedience to the Light side and peace in the galaxy, others could see as fatally relativistic. This was clearly alienating for Anakin Skywalker, and potentially also for Ben Solo.
One thing that stands out about figures like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, and even (against all odds, considering the actor playing him) Mace Windu was their cold, clipped, aristocratic demeanor. Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the rabble of the Mos Eisley cantina, and Qui-Gon’s attempts to pass himself off as a regular trader to the Skywalker family are easily brushed aside. The simple folk on the outer reaches of the galaxy aren’t impressed by Jedi mind tricks, have no use for the Republic currency, and perhaps couldn’t care less whether they’re governed by a military Imperial regime or a democratic republic, as long as they’re left in relative peace (and this of course is the major caveat under Imperial rule). It could also be argued that the Jedi, in their quest to maintain peace in the galaxy, are relatively unconcerned with the fate of these Outer Rim dwellers; the Jedi Council certainly could have done more to help the slaves on Tatooine, if not Shmi, but instead they grabbed Anakin for his midi-chlorian count and called it a day in the name of the greater good. It raises the question of whether or not the Jedi were truly on the side of regular folk, and if they had become so separated from the masses as to not fully grasp the lives they led. This is presumably the exact kind of thing Luke wants to avoid from here on out.
Speaking of Anakin’s status as The Chosen One (which has been up for debate in the past, but was confirmed by George Lucas), how does Luke’s desire for the Jedi to end affect the precarious balance in the Force? Let’s recap: As Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker helped Emperor Palpatine eliminate almost all of the Jedi, leaving Luke Skywalker as the last Jedi Knight. After the Battle of Endor, Vader and Palpatine were both dead, and the former had redeemed himself, joining Obi-Wan and Yoda as a Force spirit. But clearly, the remains of the Empire outnumbered the remains of the Jedi, and so, presumably, did their resources. Though it’s still unclear how Supreme Leader Snoke and the Knights of Ren came into the picture, we can see that a single Jedi (two, if you count Rey) against the newly-revitalized Dark side is indicative of an imbalanced Force.
There has been speculation that Kylo Ren is being set up for a similar redemption arc as his grandfather (maybe his obsession with Vader will play into an updated reading of the Prophecy when all is said and done), and we know our scrappy Resistance heroes are going to take the First Order to task in the upcoming films, so the maintaining of the balance first brought about by Vader is all but guaranteed. However, as mentioned above, the mere existence of the Jedi may, in Luke’s mind, be all that it takes to inspire these cycles of resurgence and retreat from the Dark Side. For the prophecy to become fully realized, perhaps there must be neither Sith nor Jedi.
Clearly, Luke’s family has suffered because of this binary between the Dark and Light sides of the Force. His father was space-Hitler, his mother died, the aunt and uncle who raised him were murdered by Stormtroopers, Han Solo is dead, and his nephew Ben Solo is on his way to becoming space-Hitler 2.0 (more on that below). It only makes sense for Luke to be feeling ambiguous at best about maintaining this divide. The only family he has left to defend is Leia, and perhaps Kylo Ren, if he’s capable of following a similar path to redemption as Vader was. But is Luke really expected to do that all over again? It seems only natural that after the events of these wars he’s been involved in, after his youthful yearning to be a hero and save the galaxy has proven unrealistic and led to nothing but personal misery, he’d seek a radical alternative in ending the Jedi.
In the midst of the New Republic’s brief moments of victory and peace, Luke opens a new Jedi training academy. After this fails miserably when Ben Solo/Kylo Ren slaughtered his fellow students, Luke disappears so hard and fast that he’s already thought of as a myth on remote planets like Jakku by the events of The Force Awakens. With his new Jedi academy destroyed — essentially mirroring how the previous generation of Jedi had also failed — and his search for the first Jedi Temple on Ahch-To, he could be looking to return the Jedi Order/Code to the basics of its origins, or at the very least understand the origins better while avoiding the mistakes the Jedi have made since then. He may come to the conclusion that the temptation of the Dark side is, in fact, too great a threat to the purity of the Light, and that the best defense against this is to dissolve that binary along with the Jedi Order, allowing something more like the concept of the Gray Jedi (although this is pure conjecture) to take its place — Force users who utilize some of the practices of the Sith and eschew the strict rules of the Jedi without falling to the Dark Side.
Throughout the series there are examples of folks tapping into the Force without Jedi training; the Force-sensitive General Leia Organa comes to mind, as do Maz Kanata and (perhaps) Chirrut Imwe. Luke, having fought alongside individuals like these and having seen firsthand the resilience of the nearly Jedi-less Rebellion, might have finally decided to leave the Jedi in the history books and let someone else take charge of restoring peace to the galaxy — for a while, at least.