The Jedi Order must reinvent itself after The Rise of Skywalker

Story arcs that go from decline and fall to rise and redemption are common in fiction that operates on a grand scale. The Star Wars franchise operates on a large enough scale to do it twice in three trilogies, as I’ve mentioned here in previous articles. When you watch the scene with Ben and Luke in A New Hope, it’s all about establishing the mythology of the golden age of the Jedi and the Old Republic, as well as the stakes and the goal of the original trilogy. The scene at the end of Return of the Jedi seems to promise the fulfillment of that goal, with the three Force ghosts of Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Anakin watching Luke and Leia form the foundation of a new group of Jedi to guard the peace.

The new trilogy is telling the same story for a new generation, but to have it inspire the same effect as the victory at the end of Return of the Jedi, something needs to change. The audience has seen failure and false promise before, and won’t be so easily led to accept the results. At the end of the new trilogy, the reaction to the triumph of the Resistance might be “how long until this victory is also thrown away?”

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In The Last Jedi, Luke describes the legacy of the Jedi as one of failure, and the return of a failed era can’t be the goal after Rise of Skywalker. For there to be justified optimism among the victors of the latest struggle, Rey and those who eventually take up the mission of the Jedi must craft a new way forward.

It’s hard to know how the new Jedi are to avoid the pitfalls of the past if those pitfalls haven’t been made very clear to the viewer, because the story of the fall of the Jedi of Luke’s era has yet to be fleshed out in much detail. Between the end of Return of the Jedi and the arrival of the prequels, there was a lot of speculation about Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side and how the Empire purged the Jedi, but there hasn’t been the time with the new trilogy to have similar numerous theories emerge on what happened between Ben Solo and Snoke. Kylo Ren’s corruption by Snoke seems to have come at a distance, in contrast to Anakin, who was shown to have a lot of personal contact with Palpatine.

Recognition of the need for change seems to already be present in Luke and Yoda, as the scene with them together in The Last Jedi makes clear. The old, largely unused texts are destroyed to make way for a new approach. Luke seems to have been trying pretty hard to be faithful to the old ways of the Jedi Order as he saw them, which is interesting because in the original trilogy, he’s more willing to carve out his own path. He defies Obi-Wan and Yoda’s command not to go to Cloud City, and finds his own way to facing Vader, rather than the physical defeat of Vader in battle that Obi-Wan and Yoda seem to be looking for. Perhaps Luke’s awareness of the weight of responsibilities he took on as head of a restored Jedi order led him to adhere closely to the past Jedi way of doing things, as if those older ways were his security blanket.

The line from the trailer from The Rise of Skywalker is that “we’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now.” While it’s a poignant line, Rey’s connection to the Jedi legacy at the end of the new film will be quite different from where Luke was at the end of the original trilogy. Luke got to spend a lot more time with two Jedi, Yoda and Obi-Wan, than Rey does with Luke, and of course he had the family connection with his father. Maybe Rey will feel less restricted by a legacy that wasn’t thrust upon her as it was upon Luke. Obi-Wan watched over a young Luke on Tatooine and told him that he “must learn the ways of the Force if you’re to come with me to Alderaan.” Luke was sent to Yoda on Dagobah to continue learning the ways of the Force.

In contrast, Luke didn’t seek out Rey or encourage her to train with him. Rey’s encounter with the Force and the history of the Jedi and their opponents comes over a much more truncated period than does Luke’s. So perhaps Rey can be more comfortable with making changes to the Order going forward; changes like a less rigid approach to romantic relationships among Jedi, since that’s an example the viewer is familiar with, and one that had a role in the Jedi’s downfall in the prequel trilogy.

The Force will still be with the Star Wars setting, whatever the outcome of the end of the current Star Wars trilogy. Much like how with the X-Men, Xavier’s School for the Gifted serves as an institution to teach responsible and positive use of mutant powers, an institution like the Jedi would be needed to ensure responsible use of powers by the Force-sensitive and to prevent abuse of those powers by others. The Resistance and Rebellion leadership has seen how the absence of an involved and active Jedi order has hurt their cause before. Keeping future Jedi engaged in the process of rebuilding a restored republic and having them involved in the communities they serve—beyond just in high-ranking military, political, or diplomatic roles—would make sense as a way to prevent the perception of the Jedi as aloof and out of touch, which is what enabled Emperor Palpatine to turn his followers against them.

Finally, a new era for the Jedi could start with acknowledging that they may have to come up with a better way of dealing with the lure of the Dark Side to their members. Dooku, Vader, and Kylo Ren were all originally Jedi, and their eventual turns to the Dark Side had disastrous consequences for the Jedi Order. Yoda does spend a lot of time warning against the Dark Side’s pull during Luke’s training on Dagobah, but through much of the prequel trilogy, as well as parts of the original trilogy, the approach from Jedi teachers seems to be providing a list of “shall nots” and “bewares”, and lists of activities and behaviors that they see as leading Jedi down the wrong path.

Clearly, the Sith and similar groups have devised an effective pitch of the potential power that their approach can bring, and use that as temptation. Perhaps the Jedi can go back to the drawing board with new members, coming up with an alternative to the approach of what to avoid, to instead focus on a positive side of what empathy, peace, and self-discipline can bring. The title of the new film, The Rise of Skywalker, and what it means have been the subject of much debate, but it seems that at least there’s an idea here of Rey leading a new group of Light Side Force users after the conclusion of the events of the new trilogy. And if the title refers to Luke, then maybe he’ll be alongside her in spirit, serving to remind her and lead her away from the failed paths of the recent past.

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  • Murry Chang

    If there’s one thing that the movies have shown us it’s that the Jedi suck and should not be allowed to return.
    Also that everyone would probably be WAY better off without The Force.

    • Greenhornet

      According to Kennedy, EVERYBODY has the force, “even Hux”.
      So if the whole galaxy has the force, it could be like everybody on Earth holding a hand grenade with the pin withdrawn; one wrong move and things blow up.
      I’ve thought about this but didn’t have a chance to post it. Here’s my opinion for the final Star Wars movie(s):
      There’s a lot of “normals” who just want to live their lives, work, love and be relatively happy. They are sick and tired of Sith and Jedi fighting each other for over “a thousand generations” and want to put an end to it. They organize “The Alliance” and make war on those arrogant bullies who have been making their lives miserable for longer than anyone can remember to end it.
      Maybe this is why Leah had chosen a different path from her brother?

      • ppi23

        Yep. I thought the most dangerous element to the franchise in The LAST JEDI was the last 5-second shot in the last jedi where they decided to show a random down-trodden child picking up a broom using the force. EVERY kid’s really a wizard seems like a serious story gamble for the Star Wars universe. A world where everybody can intervene in the plot at any time with mystical cosmic powers will be hard for story-tellers to deal with in a satisfying way that makes sense with in that new world-building rule

        • Greenhornet

          Scene For Next Movie:
          Kylo sneers at Hux, declaring that HE’S the master and force shoves him aside as he leave the room. When he reaches the door, we see Hux make a small gesture and Kylo flinches, grabbing the back of his head.
          “Is something wrong, MASTER?” Sneers Hux. “Did you feel a disturbance in the force?”
          We get a medium shot of a tech at her station, smirking as her coffee cup slides into her hand.

      • PhysUnknown

        Is the idea that everyone has the Force that wild a concept? Obi-Wan says as much in A New Hope: “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”

        And then Yoda in Empire: “You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere! Yes, even between this land and that ship!”

        My understanding was that the Force flowed through everybody, just not everyone could sense it and even fewer could actually control it. I mean, there’s a reason the Rebels constantly say to each other, “May the Force be with you.”

  • danbreunig

    I just need to say this. One thing I am so tired of anywhere online is reviewing and critiques on upcoming properties and episodes prior to release. Fan theories are fun and therapeutic and I would never knock anyone’s like or dislike of how their favorite fandoms develop and evolve. The thing is though, when a subject isn’t yet openly available to actually digest, then we only base our perspectives on speculations of the subject matter, instead of the subject itself. This is summer 2019 at this writing. My intake and criticism of the current movie discussed will happen in 2020 upon its actual release and reception. Then it’s time to go nuts with the theorizing and positive and negative criticism, because then there’s something there to do so.

  • Kradeiz

    “Keeping future Jedi engaged in the process of rebuilding a restored republic and having them involved in the communities they serve—beyond just in high-ranking military, political, or diplomatic roles—would make sense as a way to prevent the perception of the Jedi as aloof and out of touch, which is what enabled Emperor Palpatine to turn his followers against them.”

    Good advice for anyone in a position of power. I hope the people making these movies take it into consideration.

  • Greenhornet

    Just remembered something.
    Rey’s parents were “junkers who sold her for drinking money”.
    No. Kylo LIED about that. He’s a villain, that’s what they do.
    We clearly see in the “force vision” (I guess) that they had a SPACE SHIP. So why didn’t they just sell/trade their emergency radio or some other expendable gear “for drinking money”?
    “Show me my parents” she said in the temple and her own reflection walks up.
    Does this mean that she’s her own mother and father? That she created HERSELF? Is this supposed to be like Anikin’s mother suggesting that THE FORCE was his father? Or maybe this is simply confirmation that she’s “Marey Sue”?

    • PhysUnknown

      My initial interpretation of all of that was that she was born (or perhaps reborn) via the force.

      The simpler explanation is that the mystery of her parents is unimportant. What is important is Rey and her connection to the Force. It doesn’t matter if your parents were righteous, evil, powerful, or weak – what matters is what you do with the power you have.

  • Aaron

    “The old, largely unused texts are destroyed to make way for a new approach.”

    They weren’t destroyed. Rey took them. At the very end of the Last Jedi, we see a shot of them in the Millennium Falcon. Yoda was being literal when he says that the tree didn’t contain anything that Rey didn’t already possess. She took the books.

    “We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now.”

    This line means that Rey read the books containing all the knowledge from “a thousand generations” of Jedi.

    In all likelihood, the “new path” that will be forged by Rey is that of the Grey Jedi. Rey shows equal affinity for both the light and dark side of the force. The only way to end the everlasting battle between light and dark is to merge the two. This is the culmination of the prophecy that Skywalker would “bring balance to the force.”

    • Xander

      And why aren’t you writing the script for the next movie?
      I’m not being sarcastic. I think this is a better interpretation than Abrams will get out of his writer.

      • Aaron

        This isn’t my theory, unfortunately. A lot of people have been speculating that Rey will form a new order that walks the line between light and dark. The latest theory is that this order won’t be called “Jedi” at all. Instead, it will be called “Skywalker” after Luke. The theory is that “Rise of Skywalker” refers to the founding of this new “grey” order.

        • PhysUnknown

          The Knights of Skywalker to combat the Knights of Ren?

    • Steven Birkner

      That’s a good point about the texts, although I think that trailer line at this point is open to a lot of interpretations until we know more about what Rey was doing in the period between the last movie and the new one, and what approach she does go with or at least start to go with at the end of the new trilogy.

      • PhysUnknown

        I thought it just meant that she has the books, not necessarily that she’s read/understood them.