How Star Wars TV series open up a world of possibilities after the sequels

The Mandalorian chapter 15 "The Believer"
The Mandalorian chapter 15 "The Believer" /

After Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, the studio quickly announced a new trilogy of films to continue the story of the beloved characters of the original trilogy. This new trilogy, which began with 2015’s The Force Awakens, picked up 30 years after Return of the Jedi, leaving the gap between the two trilogies largely unexplored. The Force Awakens was followed in 2017 with The Last Jedi, which showed the end of Luke Skywalker’s journey, a journey marked by tragic failure since the events of the original trilogy. The Rise of Skywalker ended the sequel trilogy with a return and final demise of Emperor Palpatine and his granddaughter Rey taking on the mantle of Skywalker.

Doesn’t the sequel trilogy make earlier stories fatalistic?

Now that Lucasfilm is exploring the gap between the original and sequel trilogies, particularly with the hugely popular Disney+ series The Mandalorian, many fans are probably wondering if any of these stories really matter in the grand scheme of things. If everything is headed toward the sequel trilogy, which means all the Jedi are going to be killed again and Luke is going to exile himself away from his family, friends, and the Force, then aren’t all the stories told before the sequel trilogy fatalistic?

Doesn’t that mean there’s only so far Lucasfilm can take Mando’s and Grogu’s stories? After all, we don’t see any hint of Mando or Grogu’s existence during the time of the sequel trilogy. Luke is said to be the last Jedi, so wouldn’t that mean that either Grogu dies sometime after leaving Mando with Luke at the end of the second season of The Mandalorian or he’s one of the Jedi killed by Kylo Ren upon Ben Solo’s turn to the Dark Side?

Fans were thrilled to see Jedi Master Luke Skywalker’s grand entrance and single-handed destruction of the dark troopers on the season 2 finale of The Mandalorian. But as exciting as this was to see, does it really even matter if the disillusioned old man we see in The Last Jedi is the direction this post-Return of the Jed Luke is headed? The sequel trilogy seems to impose limitations upon the possibilities of the stories that can be told before it. So why even bother?

Was Luke actually the last Jedi?

Unless, of course, this fatalism is only an illusion. Was Luke the last Jedi? Kylo Ren seemed to think so. But he also thought Rey’s parents were junk traders who sold her off for drinking money. It wouldn’t have been the first time he was wrong. Just because the film is called The Last Jedi doesn’t mean that Luke was definitively the last Jedi. In fact, there’s never been a point in the Star Wars timeline when Luke was the last Jedi. During the original trilogy, even after Yoda declared Luke as the “last of the Jedi,” Ezra Bridger was somewhere in the universe, as well as Ahsoka Tano. Making Luke the very last Jedi would seem to unnecessarily strip pre-sequel trilogy stories of valuable possibilities.

Did Kylo Ren really slaughter all the Jedi?

But we have reason to question Kylo Ren’s belief that Luke was the last Jedi. In fact, we have reason to question Luke’s belief that Ben Solo slaughtered his fellow Jedi. The Rise of Kylo Ren comic book by Charles Soule and illustrated by Will Sliney tells the story of Ben Solo’s fall to the Dark Side, and it’s a bit more complicated than The Last Jedi would have us believe. It picks up right after the moment Ben wakes up to find Luke standing over him with his lightsaber ignited. Luke’s Jedi temple explodes, but it isn’t clear that Ben is the cause. In fact, the comic seems to imply that some other force produced this explosion. Could it have been Snoke or Palpatine? If Ben didn’t destroy the temple, then anyone inside of the temple when it exploded would have died but not because of Ben.

The comic goes on to reveal that three of Ben’s fellow Jedi students were off-planet when the temple was destroyed. These three are committed to finding and rescuing Ben from his turn to the Dark Side. Meanwhile, Ben is on a mission by his strangely benevolent friend Snoke to prove himself to the Knights of Ren. The group’s leader, known as Ren, tells Ben that he can only prove himself through “a good death,” by killing someone who doesn’t deserve it. Luke, who Ben believed he’d killed, didn’t count, so Ben faces the task of killing his former friends. Two of them are killed, one by accident and the other at the hands of Ren, before Ben lashes out and kills Ren himself. Then, after he’s corrupted by the Dark Side act of killing Ren, and it’s implied almost to put her out of her misery, Ben murders his friend Voe, sealing his turn to the Dark Side.

Couldn’t Grogu actually be alive post-Skywalker Saga?

What all this means is that Kylo Ren, as far as we know, only actually intentionally killed one Jedi. Outside of the three Jedi specifically mentioned in The Rise of Kylo Ren, we have no idea of the fate of all the other Jedi just before The Force Awakens. Kylo Ren doesn’t even definitively know the fate of all the other Jedi that were training under Luke when he turned. This means that it’s entirely possible that Grogu is alive somewhere in the galaxy when Kylo Ren claims that killing Luke would be killing the last Jedi. The Rise of Skywalker ends at a new beginning with Rey tasked with re-establishing the Jedi Order. It seems likely that Grogu will have a role in this return of the Jedi, especially as adored by fans as he is. Lucasfilm isn’t likely to allow the sequel trilogy to prematurely determine his fate.

Is this the Luke we’ve been looking for?

But what about Luke? Is there any point to telling his story between the two trilogies if it all culminates in his bittersweet end in The Last Jedi? Some might think so, but it seems more likely that Lucasfilm is realizing the potential of the time period between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. With the exception of a few details, that time period is almost a blank slate. Luke’s appearance in The Mandalorian creates a new hope to see Luke Skywalker as the hero and Jedi Master we’ve all been waiting for. Sure, he’s going to end up disillusioned and will eventually give his life to buy time for the Resistance to escape the First Order. But his journey before those events could completely recontextualize how we see those events. In fact, if Lucasfilm does this right, it could create the sense that Luke in The Last Jedi makes perfect sense and the end of that film is the inevitable end of Luke’s heroic journey.

What will future stories reveal about the Luke of the sequel trilogy?

Star Wars has been doing this kind of recontextualization almost since the beginning. When we met Darth Vader, he was a menacing figure of towering evil until we found out he was once a caring Jedi Knight. Cavan Scott’s Dooku: Jedi Lost original audio drama recontextualizes Dooku’s journey to the Dark Side that makes his end even more tragic given all the potential he carried and how manipulated by Palpatine he was. Even Kylo Ren’s journey was recontextualized with The Rise of Kylo Ren. Not to mention Rey and her connection to Palpatine. This kind of recontextualization is woven into the fabric of Star Wars storytelling, which means that Luke’s story between the original and sequel trilogies is ripe for exploration that will give new meaning to the events of the sequel trilogy.

The sequel trilogy doesn’t make any of the stories like The Mandalorian fatalistic. Instead, it creates possibilities that any Star Wars fan should be excited about in the future.

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