Saturday, April 22, 2017

Why It's Time for the Jedi to End

"I only know one truth: it's time for the Jedi to end." Luke Skywalker's chilling words from The Last Jedi's teaser trailer shook the Star Wars fandom to its core. The young, idealistic farmboy who was once committed to the return of the Jedi is now resolved to see the Order's demise. The simplest reasoning for this is that Luke is just an old pessimist whose logic has been clouded by personal loss, but maybe he's realized that the Jedi were completely ineffective and deserve to finally die out in order to make way for something better.
In the Prequel Trilogy, we saw the Jedi at the height of their prosperity. They had thousands of members, a huge Temple on Coruscant, and the respect of the entire galaxy. All of this started to crumble when the Clone Wars began and the Jedi were immediately placed in military command. There's something inherently wrong about these noble "peacekeepers" leading soldiers into battle, even if the Separatists (or at least, Count Dooku) were evil and wanted to conquer the galaxy.
And while Yoda, Mace Windu, and the rest of the Jedi Council were seemingly wiser than the corrupt politicians of the Senate, they made a lot of very poor decisions. In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, they faked Obi-Wan's death in an elaborate plot and purposefully excluded Anakin, letting him believe that his best friend was dead. In Revenge of the Sith, they refused to appoint him as a Jedi Master and instead ordered him to spy on his old friend, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Their reluctance to trust Anakin ironically sent him down a dark path that didn't end too well for any of them.
The Jedi's whole "no attachments" rule didn't do them any good, either. If Anakin hadn't been forced to keep his marriage a secret from the Council, he may have accepted their advice, instead of the dark teachings of Palpatine, when he began to fear Padmé's death. In the Expanded Universe, Luke even seems to recognize this flaw when he rebuilds the Order, allowing romantic relationships and starting a family of Jedi with Mara Jade. 

For many Star Wars fans, the Council's greatest misstep was when they expelled everyone's favorite, feisty Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, after she was framed for a Jedi Temple bombing in The Clone Wars. Despite years as a loyal and diligent Jedi, as well as strong evidence supporting her innocence, they abandoned her when she needed them the most. Later, Ahsoka was proven innocent and the Council sheepishly rescinded her expulsion; having seen for herself that they didn't trust her, Ahsoka rejected them and left.
Perhaps the best person to explain the faults of the Jedi Order is Barriss Offee, the obedient Padawan who bombed the Temple and framed Ahsoka. In front of a grand trial, she not only confessed her crimes but called the Jedi out for what they had become:
"I did it because I've come to realize what many people in the Republic have come to realize: that the Jedi are the ones responsible for the war, that we've so lost our way that we have become villains in this conflict, that we are the ones who should be put on trial, all of us! And my attack on the Temple was an attack on what the Jedi have become: an army fighting for the Dark Side, fallen from the Light that we once held so dear."
In case it wasn't clear already, the episode's official trivia gallery confirms that Barriss' words were 100% true. The Jedi had become pawns of the Sith because Chancellor Palpatine was secretly their greatest enemy, Darth Sidious, something that they failed to realize until much, much too late. He manufactured the Clone Wars, controlled both sides of the conflict, and manipulated the Jedi the whole time, until the day finally came to execute Order 66 and give birth to the Galactic Empire.
Maybe it's unfair to call the Jedi incompetent and idiotic for their obliviousness to Palpatine's plot. He was a master of deception, after all, and the Jedi were too busy to second-guess their Chancellor. But they had become peacekeepers fighting a war, and very few of them recognized that dichotomy. The Council also completely mishandled Anakin (who was the Chosen One for all they knew), refusing to respect him and turning their backs on his beloved apprentice; you almost can't blame him for falling to the Dark Side.

30 years later, history repeated itself. Luke attempted to train a new generation of Jedi, but one of his most gifted students – his nephew, Ben Solo – was seduced by the Dark Side and destroyed Luke's temple in yet another Jedi purge, albeit on a much smaller scale. Stricken with grief, Luke fled to the first Jedi temple on Ahch-To, where he spent the next several years in isolation until a certain multitalented, Force-sensitive young woman showed up at his door, presumably expecting him to train her in the ways of the Jedi.
Luke must have come to the conclusion that the Jedi Order is simply overrated, that it completely and utterly failed at its most basic purpose – to ensure the safety of the galaxy and prevent the Sith from rising – and that it doesn't deserve to be renewed. But maybe it goes even deeper than that. Maybe Luke has realized that what the galaxy truly needs is balance, something that the Jedi are incapable of providing.
At the beginning of The Force Awakens, Lor San Tekka told Poe Dameron, "Without the Jedi, there can be no balance in the Force." We've heard similar declarations before, but how is a galaxy with thousands of Jedi and exactly two Sith a balanced one? If balance is your ultimate goal, how is aligning with the Light Side any better than the Dark Side?

This is where Rey comes in. Anakin was tempted by the Dark Side, and Kylo Ren struggles to resist "the pull to the Light." In The Last Jedi's teaser, Luke instructs Rey to "reach out" into the Force, and what does she see? "Light. Darkness. A balance." Now look back to the posters for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi; Rey is always standing in-between the Light and the Dark. 
And while Rey has the compassion and innocence associated with the Light Side and the Jedi, we also see her fear and her fury, two emotions that lead directly to the Dark Side. She's drawn to an old Jedi lightsaber, but she wields it with Palpatine's unique fighting style and even seems to take pleasure in hurting Kylo Ren.

The reason that Luke trains Rey might be that she is equally attracted to both sides of the Force and thus makes the perfect candidate to start a new order that stays in the middle (similar to the Bendu in Star Wars Rebels), bringing true balance in a way that the Jedi and Sith never could. Kylo could even join her at some point, since he's admitted to being "torn apart" by his allegiance to the Dark and natural tendency towards the Light.
The term "Gray Jedi" has been thrown around quite a bit since the teaser's release. Although this would accurately describes Rey's potentially Force-neutral stance, we should probably stop using it; no matter what word precedes it, "Jedi" implies a bias towards the Light Side, something that Rey's new order would need to avoid. The big lesson that the Sequel Trilogy might teach us is that indulging either side of the Force more than the other is deeply unhealthy. It could easily be viewed as the source of the unceasing galactic conflict that the franchise is named after.

At the very least, we can be sure that Luke is aware of the Jedi's failures and sees Rey as an opportunity to found a new order. Luke is the last Jedi, and Rey is the first, uh, something else. As for whether this will be a better, purer Light Side organization or a revolutionary, neutral group of Force-sensitive individuals, only time will tell.
In the end, the Jedi had the best of intentions and they definitely did a lot of good for the galaxy, but their foolish leadership, rules against attachments, and possibly even their basic adherence to the Light Side all prevented them from fulfilling their basic goals of peace and balance in the galaxy. One way or another, it is time for them to end.

Why do you think Luke is training Rey? What will she become? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

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