Let's face it — Lucasfilm are marketing geniuses. The moment they chose to give Episode VIII the title The Last Jedi, they knew they'd stir up a hornet's nest. Putting the font in red? Guaranteed to launch a thousand conversations. But while the film's title may be smart marketing, it's hinted at a whole new direction for the Star Wars universe. Assuming that the title refers to Luke Skywalker in singular form, what do Lucasfilm have in store for Rey? Here's one intriguing possibility...
Why Luke Skywalker Is the Last Jedi
Let's first deal with the assumption that Luke Skywalker is the last Jedi. When Jedi Master Yoda lay on his deathbed, he told Luke that he was the "last of the Jedi". Move forward a few decades to The Force Awakens, and Yoda's words seem oddly prophetic; Luke attempted to reform the Jedi Order, but he was betrayed by Kylo Ren, and his Jedi were slaughtered. Described as "the last Jedi" in the opening crawl of The Force Awakens, he's retreated to lick his wounds and study the Force.
So, let's run with the argument that Luke Skywalker is himself the titular 'Last Jedi'. Conceptually, that would fit remarkably well; Luke has been sequestered on Ahch-To, the site of the first Jedi Temple, where he's been learning the mysteries of the Force. The film could easily feature an extended period of training, in which he passes on what he's learned while in hiding on Ahch-To.
Why Rey Should Become Something New
As iconic as the Light-Dark narrative of Star Wars may be, the reality is that it's pretty restrictive. The old 'Expanded Universe' toyed with the idea of Grey Jedi, and the "New Jedi Order" series introduced the concept of the Potentium: a heretical Jedi sect who believed there was no Light or Dark Side. Del Rey (who published those books) soon lost their nerve, and retconned the Potentium heresy as a Sith plot to infiltrate the Jedi Order.
Rogue One has reintroduced this kind of concept, though; the film introduced us to the planet Jedha, a world visited by believers in countless Force-sects. One particular sect, the mysterious Guardians of the Whills, took on a major role in the film. Although we still don't know much about the Guardians, this much is clear: they are an ancient order who venerate the Kyber Crystals, have a strange ability to access the Force, and don't believe in the division of the Force. They reject the concepts of Light and Dark.
Of course, Rogue One didn't just hint at a rejection of the traditional Light / Dark duality. It also featured a Rebel Alliance who were much more 'shades of grey'; whose missions took on a far darker hue than ever before, and whose morality was highly questionable. It forced us to accept that the Rebel Alliance wasn't entirely innocent; that in a galactic war, even the 'good guys' have to embrace a little darkness. Far from being criticized for this, Rogue One earned critical acclaim. The film's success hints that there's room for 'shades of grey' in Star Wars.
Why the Guardians of the Whills?
It's pretty clear that Lucasfilm has real plans for the Guardians of the Whills. Donnie Yen is still forbidden from revealing any of his character Chirrut Imwe's backstory, and studios only put a detail like that in an actor's contract if they plan to explore it later. What's more, we now know that Lucasfilm's latest Star Wars book will star the Guardians — but, again, are set far enough ahead in the timeline so as to avoid revealing that all-important backstory. It's pretty clear that Lucasfilm has plans. Now, given Imwe's role in particular isn't significant enough to be the focus of a separate film, I've already suggested Donnie Yen could return as a background character in the Han Solo movie. All of which would give us the following timeline:
- 2016 — Rogue One introduces us to the Guardians of the Whills
- 2017 — The Last Jedi explores the mysteries of the Force, with Luke training Rey
- 2018 — The Han Solo movie potentially reveals more of the Guardians' secrets
- 2019 — Rey's journey ends
If I'm right, it's not hard to see a pattern running through all these films; even as Lucasfilm diversifies the Star Wars range with spinoffs like Rogue One, a common theme of Force-exploration is emerging. With the Guardians of the Whills such a major part of this, I'd suggest Episode IX will see Rey become not a Jedi, but a Guardian of the Whills.
Although this would radically change the shape of the Star Wars universe, the reality is that it would also be a nice way of honoring George Lucas himself. You see, when Lucas first created Star Wars, he also created the Whills. As Lucas explained in the Annotated Screenplay to A New Hope:
"Originally, I was trying to have the story be told by somebody else; there was somebody watching this whole story and recording it, somebody wiser than the mortal players in actual events. I eventually dropped this idea, and the concepts behind the Whills turned into the Force. But the Whills became part of this massive amount of notes, quotes, background information that I used for the scripts; the stories were actually taken from the 'Journal of the Whills.'"
Whatever Lucasfilm has planned for the Guardians of the Whills, they're clearly somehow related to Lucas's original ideas. And I can't see a more respectful nod to Lucas than to integrate one of his original concepts seamlessly into the now-booming Star Wars franchise, and to do so by making them central to the future of the Galaxy Far, Far Away.
Of course, this is only a fan theory; I have no way of knowing what Lucasfilm is truly planning. The reality, though, is that the Guardians of the Whills are an important new part of the Star Wars franchise, and Lucasfilm clearly has plans for them. If I'm right, these plans could well include a radical change to the Star Wars status quo, with the end of the Jedi / Sith dichotomy — and a new, starring role for the Guardians of the Whills.