Answering some frequently asked questions about The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi has been out for a while now, and people have had a chance to digest the film.  Many loved it, some hated it, and some are in-between.  That’s what you’d expect with any movie, really, especially one as highly-anticipated as this one.

Some criticisms of the film can just be dismissed out of hand (those who dislike it for featuring “too much” of female or minority characters).  Other criticisms of the film are valid, and understandable.  And other criticisms of the film are seemingly just the result of a lack of understanding of some of the underlying themes, background information, etc.

It’s that latter category that this article is aimed to address.  I’ve heard and seen a ton of questions about The Last Jedi, and while this article won’t fix the movie for some, it hopefully will at least help in understanding it better – which, if you ask me, leads to a deeper appreciation for it.  I love the movie and hope you do too, but at the very least, I hope you’ll take the time to think through some of the questions (and subsequently, the issues) people have had – and maybe you yourself have.

There’s a lot of questions discussed here, so I’ve broken them down into three categories to hopefully make it easier to navigate.  With that said, let’s begin!

THE RESISTANCE

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Why didn’t they give Admiral Ackbar a better death?

The beloved Admiral Ackbar was killed unceremoniously: while commanding from the bridge of the Raddus, Ackbar and the rest of the Resistance high command is killed and sucked out into space by a First Order blast, with only Leia surviving.  We get just a line from Commander D’Acy saying that “Admiral Ackbar, all our leadership, are gone.”  That’s it.  For longtime fans of the series, it might feel like a cheap death for a character who has become an icon.  But think about it: the only thing people know him for is “It’s a trap!”  That’s it.  So he needn’t be afforded a heroic death, though he certainly is a hero.  He was enjoying retired life until Leia personally requested her friend to come to the aid of the Resistance, and Ackbar took her up on the offer.  While the rest of the galaxy was ignoring the threat of the First Order, Ackbar joined the fight, and he fought to the very end.  He gave his life trying to ensure that the Resistance would survive to be the spark that Leia, Holdo, and others knew it needed to be.

Why Vice Admiral Holdo instead of Ackbar?

Another question relating to Ackbar (and probably a more common one) is this: why couldn’t they have substituted Ackbar for Vice Admiral Holdo?  Instead of introducing a new character, why not have Ackbar fill that role?  There are a number of reasons why I don’t think it would have made sense.  (1) First of all, there’s the issue of trust: Ackbar and Poe have a certain level of mutual trust and respect that isn’t there with Holdo and Poe (because they don’t know each other personally).  Since a big part of the tension between Holdo and Poe is that neither fully trusts the other, it wouldn’t have worked with Ackbar instead.  (2) Secondly, there’s the issue of perception.  Part of the reason Poe and others are hesitant to trust Holdo is because she’s “not what I expected,” as Poe claimed.  This new lady in regal attire with purple hair leading the Resistance?  It doesn’t fit the expectation, which is partly the point.  Having a battle-worn, respected military guy in Admiral Ackbar wouldn’t have carried the same weight.  (3) Third, there still would have been complaints had the roles been switched.  After all, how many people don’t like Holdo after The Last Jedi?  So what if that was Admiral Ackbar not telling Poe the plan instead?  There’d probably be longtime fans upset that “they ruined Ackbar!”  (4) Fourth, along those lines, from a storytelling perspective it wouldn’t have made sense, because Rian Johnson built up the tension so that the audience wasn’t sure where Holdo’s loyalties lay until the end of her arc, when he talks with Leia and then stays behind on the Raddus.  There’s not that storytelling tension there if it’s Ackbar instead.  (5) So really, it just comes down to this: some fans wanted Ackbar to get that awesome, heroic moment that Holdo got with her hyperspace jump.  I get it… kind of… but here’s the hard truth: Amilyn Holdo has now received far, far more character development in the Star Wars movies than Gial Ackbar ever did.  For as much as we all love Ackbar, it’s because we – the fans (and the internet) – have made him into an icon.  Let’s not pretend like he’s owed anything from the filmmakers.  They decided to develop a new character, and that’s perfectly fine – and actually makes the most sense in this situation.

Why didn’t Holdo just tell Poe the plan?

One of the more common criticisms of The Last Jedi that I’ve seen is the question of why Holdo didn’t just tell Poe the plan.  If she did, the argument goes, then everything would have been rosy and perfect.  There are a few responses to this that need to be considered, however.  (1) One of the main reasons why Holdo didn’t tell Poe the plan was because she didn’t trust him with the plan.  She basically says it herself: “I’ve dealt with plenty of trigger-happy flyboys like yourself.  You’re impulsive.  Dangerous.  And the last thing we need right now.”  She has experience, and she knows that Poe is impulsive and dangerous.  She doesn’t trust him fully.  That’s part of the storyline and tension between her and Poe: there’s an uneasy distrust between the two of them, even though they’re both on the same side.  (2) We also have to understand basic military operations: A Vice Admiral never has to explain the plan to a Captain.  It would be helpful if we could get this across.  It’s not like Holdo was keeping secrets; the entire bridge of Resistance command knew the plan!  There is absolutely no reason why a Vice Admiral would ever have to or be obligated to tell a captain all of the details of the plan… except for the fact that fans would rather trust the captain they know instead of the Vice Admiral they don’t.  That’s fine, but don’t confuse that for Holdo being in the wrong in this story that’s being told.  (3) It’s also impossible to truly say that if Poe was told the plan then everything would have worked out fine, because he clearly was not a fan of the plan.  It may have still led to an attempted mutiny, only perhaps earlier.  And it may still have led to a different desperate plan by Poe.

How could Leia and Holdo forgive Poe so easily?

The opposite side of the spectrum from some of the other Holdo questions is the question of how she and Leia could seemingly forgive and forget about Poe’s antics so easily – especially since, by the end of the film, he’s transitioning into more of a leadership role.  I think it’s becasue of both the experience and desires of the Resistance leadership, namely Leia and Holdo.  Both of them have been around a while, they’re longtime friends, and they’ve both had their fair share of experience with brash young flyboys.  Even though Poe orchestrated a plan behind Holdo’s back and engineered a mutiny, Leia and Holdo both see that he’s a fiery, impulsive young pilot with plenty of room to grow, who was doing what he thought was best for the Resistance.  It was a stupid, irresponsible move, but Poe learned from it.  I’m sure it’s not something Leia or Holdo would have forgotten, but it’s something they were willing to look past in the immediate moment because they’ve seen Poe’s kind before.  But additionally, Poe isn’t just another trigger-happy flyboy: he’s someone Leia wants to develop into a leader.  So when, at the end of the film, Poe exhibits signs of having learned his lesson and changed, Leia directs the others to follow Poe’s lead with a grin on her face.  Sometimes it takes really stupid decisions, failure, embarrassment, others paying the consequences for your actions, etc. before a lesson is learned, and that’s the case for Poe.

What’s up with the hyperspace tracking?

In The Last Jedi, the First Order employs brand new technology to breathtaking results: the ability to track a ship through hyperspace, never before possible.  Even General Leia Organa is stunned by this new development, as she’s never faced something like it.  But hyperspace tracking is something that has been in the works for a while in the universe.  A really cool little tie-in from Rogue One hinted at it: while Jyn Erso is searching the Imperial archives on Scarif for the Death Star plans, she encounters a file named, “Hyperspace tracking.”  This project was part of the Tarkin Initiative, and so the Empire was exploring the possibility of tracking through hyperspace three decades before The Last Jedi.  It doesn’t seem like they ever figured it out, but the First Order did.  The Last Jedi Incredible Cross-Sections book explains a bit more of how it was possible: basically, it’s just super high-powered computer systems and data processing that allows the First Order to synthesize and analyze all possible routes in almost no time, using that data to track a ship through hyperspace.

Why was that Canto Bight stuff in the film?

I’ve already written a lengthy piece about the importance of the Canto Bight arc in The Last Jedi, so I direct any curious reader with this question to check out the longer explanation.  But the basic idea is that, while it might not be the most exciting stuff, it’s crucial for character development.  The progression that Poe Dameron goes through during the movie is very important, and it is very closely and directly tied in to the Canto Bight storyline.  Additionally, we see Finn’s character develop and progress in the film as well, once again aided by the Canto Bight stuff.  Character development is absolutely a good enough reason to include Canto Bight in the movie, but there’s also another implication on the plot: if it weren’t for this mission, the First Order would never have known of Holdo’s plan to launch transports toward Crait.  So the storyline actually hurt the heroes in the plot, but that doesn’t make it useless; the movie addresses failure head on at multiple points, including here.  So Canto Bight is crucial for both character development and plot development.

Why did Rose save Finn?

During the Battle of Crait, Finn ignores Poe’s orders and continues on toward the First Order battering ram canon, intent on taking it out even at the cost of his own life.  Finn is fully prepared to die in order to stop the First Order, as he even exclaims, “I won’t let them win!”  But at the last second, Rose swoops in and crashes her ski speeder into Finn’s, preventing him from killing himself.  But why would she save him?  Many didn’t like this (probably due in large part to a dislike for Rose in general), but Rose explains her very motives to Finn upon saving him: “I saved you, dummy.  That’s how we’re going to win.  Not fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.”  This is a key lesson for Finn.  In The Force Awakens, we saw a stormtrooper who defected and wanted to get as far away from the First Order as possible, even saying, “there’s no fight against the First Order.  Not one we can win.”  He never got involved in a cause, only doing what he did later in the film for Rey.  That’s where we find him at the beginning of The Last Jedi too, but as the movie goes on (in large part due to the Canto Bight arc) Finn begins to get involved in a cause.  But during the Battle of Crait, Finn makes it clear what that ultimate cause is for him: stopping the First Order.  So Rose rescuing him is a much-needed lesson: it’s not about fighting the First Order, but protecting what is truly important.  So it must be understood that any questions on these matters are not a ‘plot hole’ but rather just a disagreement with Rose’s reasoning.  And Rose’s reasoning is an important lesson to Finn, especially as it pertains to his larger character development of the sequel trilogy.

Where was Snap?

A question that some have asked has been about Snap Wexley, who flew during the Battle of Takodana and during the Assault on Starkiller Base.  He survived both missions, but he’s nowhere to be found in The Last Jedi.  So what happened?  Well, there’s no official confirmation, but The Last Jedi Visual Dictionary might provide a clue: “Most of the surviving pilots who joined Poe in the fight against the Starkiller have since scattered to other evacuation points, or been assigned to other missions.”  So it sounds like Snap could very well have been simply assigned to another mission – and it would make sense that the Resistance wouldn’t keep their entire forces around for the evacuation.  Where exactly Snap was, however, remains a mystery, as does the question of why he (and others) didn’t come to Leia’s aid on Crait.  But at least it seems like we have a clue of why he wasn’t with the Resistance fleet during the evacuation of D’Qar and afterward.

What about that Leia scene?

Depending on perspective, some people have seen that scene with Leia pulling herself back to the Raddus as touchingly beautiful, while others have seen it as or hilariously bad.  So what was up with that scene?  Well, while there can be some disagreements on the execution of it, the concept was wonderful.  Leia was supposed to become Luke’s first padawan, as Luke made it clear to her in Return of the Jedi that “you have that power too.”  The Skywalker bloodline was very much alive in Leia, and she was supposed to be Luke’s first student – but she opted instead to fight from the political side of things and forego Jedi training.  But we know that the force always was strong with her (for example, she utilized it in The Empire Strikes Back to go back for Luke and in Return of the Jedi to know Luke wasn’t onboard the Death Star).  So, naturally, when she resorts to self-defense mode, she utilizes the force.  That makes sense.  As Rian Johnson explained to the Los Angeles Times, “I liked the idea that it’s not Luke concentrating, reaching for the lightsaber; it’s an instinctual survival thing, like when you hear stories of a parent whose toddler is caught under a car and they get superhuman strength, or a drowning person clawing their way to the surface.  It’s basically just her not being done with the fight yet.”  Leia always was, in some ways, the strongest character in the Star Wars universe.  This scene was an illustration of the fact that, while everyone else on the bridge was killed, Leia tapped into her force capabilities as more of instinctual self-defense and pulled herself back to the Raddus.  I think, like Johnson does, that it’s a very satisfying moment.

Why didn’t they just kill off Leia?

This question has come about in hindsight because of Carrie Fisher’s passing, as people saw the scene of her getting sucked out into space as the perfect way to accommodate that.  But come on.  Seriously?  People were pissed about Admiral Ackbar dying that way; how much more would they be pissed about Leia freaking Organa dying that way?  It still would have been criticized.  Instead, Lucasfilm honored Carrie Fisher by leaving her scenes the same, which is really good news because we got a beautiful performance from the legendary princess, and an emotionally touching reunion with Luke.  And the argument that she doesn’t do anything from that point on in the movie?  Again, it misses the entire point of movie development, characterization, and the definition of “impact.”  Sure, Leia didn’t go on some elaborate mission to save the Resistance, but her impact was felt nonetheless.  The Resistance was built pretty much entirely on Leia’s resolve, vision, and connections.  And backed against the wall, the Resistance was hanging on by a thread as people clung to Leia’s hope and strength.  Even the desperate Resistance defense on Crait was powered by hope in Leia – as Finn said, “people believe in Leia.”  Everything about the Resistance is about Leia.  Furthermore, she realizes that and has her eyes on developing Poe as a leader, but has to keep working with him.

THE LAST JEDI

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Why did Luke cut himself off from the force?

When Rey is training with Luke on Ahch-To, she makes a shocking discovery: Luke has cut himself off from the force!  But why was this necessary?  Because there was no other reasonable option left after The Force Awakens!  After all, think of the Luke we knew in The Empire Strikes Back: he left his training early and rushed to Cloud City to rescue his friends; how could he sit by, sense that Han was in danger, and do nothing about it in The Force Awakens?  It wouldn’t have made sense, so the best explanation for it in wake of TFA was that Luke didn’t sense it.  And here’s where the rubber meets the road: sometimes heroes do things that they think are heroic and noble, even though they may be mistaken.  We (the audience) knows that the best thing for Luke to do is get involved and fight the First Order, but Luke sees the damage the Jedi have done and views cutting himself off from the force as the heroic thing to do, letting the Jedi die out for the galaxy for the betterment of the galaxy.  Luke may be mistaken, but it nonetheless presents a view of Luke as a sort of tragic figure in this film.  He’s lost hope, but still views his actions as right.  That’s why, when Luke walks out on the ledge of the cliff in the middle of the night and uses the force, it’s such a monumental moment in the film.  He’s learned that he can’t hide any longer.

So… did they just disregard the map?

One of the big storylines of The Force Awakens was the map to Luke Skywalker, as the Resistance and First Order were fighting for the map for much of the film.  In The Last Jedi… we got no explanation or anything.  What’s up with that?  Well, we were told everything we needed to know in order to understand the two films: there was a map to Luke’s location that the Resistance located, and Rey found him.  But was it left by Luke?  Did he want to be found?  How did Lor San Tekka find it?  Valid questions, but first of all let’s realize something very important that many understood by implication from The Force Awakens but that bears repeating: the map was never to Luke Skywalker, it was to the location of the first Jedi Temple (which is where Luke was rumored to have gone).  And The Last Jedi Visual Dictionary explains that after searching for it, Luke and Lor San Tekka were eventually able to discover the location of it together.  They kept it a secret until, following Ben’s rebellion, Luke headed to the planet in exile.  So what that means is that Lor San Tekka would always have had the location of the first Jedi Temple on Ahch-To, so really the only remaining question is why he would have waited to get the location to the Resistance.  Perhaps he didn’t know for a while that’s where Luke had gone.  Perhaps he wanted to respect Luke’s wishes until he realized the galaxy couldn’t afford it.  Perhaps it simply took a while for the Resistance to connect with him.  But either way, the map was simply a plot device to lead Rey to Luke and didn’t contain some hidden meaning about Luke’s motives.

How could Luke nearly kill Ben?  Seriously?

One of the things that angered and disappointed people about the movie was that Luke Skywalker had contemplated killing Ben Solo to prevent his turn to the dark side (as we see when Luke finally tells the truth, in the third flashback sequence in the film).  After getting a fuller sense of the darkness in Ben and after realizing that Ben could destroy everything Luke had fought for, the Jedi Master ignited his green lightsaber and for a brief second thought about killing Ben.  He instantly felt shame for thinking about it, but from Ben’s point of view he couldn’t see his Master’s thoughts, only instinctively reacting to the drawn lightsaber.  Fans of Luke wondered: how could he possibly do that?  Some even said that’s “not my Luke.”  But wait a second… actually, it’s exactly the same Luke.  And that’s actually what fans had a problem with.  See, the scene of Luke holding his lightsaber in The Last Jedi momentarily thinking of killing Ben Solo is a nearly identical shot to Luke holding his lightsaber in Return of the Jedi momentarily thinking of killing Darth Vader.  Luke thought about killing his father and preventing any further damage, but quickly realized that it wasn’t the Jedi way and that he wasn’t going to kill his father.  Similarly, Luke thought about killing his nephew and preventing any further damage, but quickly realized that it wasn’t the Jedi way and that he wasn’t going to kill his nephew.  So he’s exactly the same Luke Skywalker we all fell in love with, but fans expected him to be the EU version of Luke that was overpowered and perfect.  Instead, we realize that just because our hero grows in power and becomes more mature, some things never change.  Yoda gets at that when he lectures Luke about always having his mind on the horizon.  It’s the same Luke Skywalker we always knew.  He’s more powerful, yes, but some things never change.

Was Luke right about the Jedi?

Whether you love them or hate them, we must understand that the prequels set up The Last Jedi in a key way: the prequels showed us that the Jedi were far from perfect.  As Luke said, the Jedi allowed Darth Sidious to rise and were responsible for the creation of Darth Vader.  In many ways, the prequels show us about the failure of the Jedi.  Furthermore, Luke realizes that the Jedi attempted to monopolize the force, and the reality is that the force flows through all living things.  So Luke sees the failures of the Jedi and, having seen that failure manifest itself in his own life as a Jedi Master, decides that the best option is for the Jedi to end.  By the end of the film he has regained faith in the Jedi and knows that he won’t be the last one, suggesting that he realized that though the failures of the Jedi were real, it didn’t mean that the entire order needed to die.  It seems he saw the truth about the Jedi but was incorrect in what action(s) to take as a result.

Why didn’t they give us a super powerful, heroic Luke Skywalker?

Though this is buried in the middle of this article, I would dare suggest that this is the single biggest complaint held by those who disliked the movie: Luke Skywalker wasn’t as heroic as they wanted and/or expected.  After all, the EU Luke was almost god-like in his force prowess and power, so this Luke seems weak by comparison.  And granted, we’ve had two films post-ROTJ in the timeline and in neither did Luke get the truly badass moment that most wanted… or so the argument goes.  However, we actually did get to see Luke’s power (by implication) and we did get a heroic Luke moment (though not what people expected).  Let’s start with the latter.  At the beginning of the movie, Luke mocked Rey for thinking that he was going to walk out with a laser sword and take on the whole First Order.  But that’s exactly what he did.  After reuniting with Leia, Luke walked out to confront the entire First Order amassed on Crait, with the Resistance fighters looking on and being filled with hope at the sight of the legendary Jedi.  The visuals and music of that scene are wonderful, and Luke defies the First Order and buys the Resistance time to escape, proving to be the spark the whole movie had been discussing and that everyone was hoping he would be.  And as far as his power?  Well, consider that Ben Solo – who trained with Luke and surely would have known the Jedi Master’s power better than anyone – upon seeing Luke ordered every gun the First Order had to fire upon the Jedi.  Ben knew that Luke was so powerful that he ordered everything to be launched at him.  And then, when Luke survived that onslaught and walked forward unscathed, Ben’s reaction was not one of doubt or skepticism but of shock and fear.  Plus, I imagine it isn’t the easiest thing to force project oneself across the galaxy for a prolonged period of time either.  So I think we see Luke’s power by implication throughout the movie, and he did get a truly heroic moment.  But it is certainly understandable why some may have wanted more of the legendary Jedi Master Luke Skywalker than The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi gave us.

Why did they kill Luke off?

Initially I wasn’t sure about The Last Jedi’s decision to kill Luke off at the end, but the more I thought about it the more I liked it, because it was a fitting end – linking the binary sunset in wonderful completion, present at the beginning of Luke’s life (the end of ROTS), present at the beginning of Luke’s heroic journey (ANH), and present at the end of Luke’s life (TLJ).  He had spent much of the film separated from the force, but by the end he was one with the force.  He had spent much of the film utterly broken and hopeless, but by the end of the film he was filled with peace and purpose.  Fans may be upset at the reality that Luke Skywalker is dead (which is a perfectly understandable feeling), but the decision to have him become one with the force at the end of the movie was a fitting conclusion to the film.

How could Yoda interact with physical things?

The Last Jedi also introduced us to a different new force power: the idea that force ghosts can interact with their environments in ways previously unknown.  On Ahch-To, Yoda calls down lighting from the sky to light the tree on fire, and then uses his cane to hit Luke in the head.  So it was established that Yoda’s force ghost can interact with his physical environment.  Most probably, this is either: a) something they’ve always been able to do but that we just haven’t seen (since we didn’t see many scenarios in which it would have been applicable in the OT anyway), or b) Yoda learning more about the nature of the force, having taken Qui-Gon’s initial training and expanding on it.  Regardless of how it was possible, we know now that force ghosts can interact with physical things and people, just without being able to get involved in conflict (per Obi-Wan’s words to Luke in the OT).  That could be very important to remember for Episode IX, when we’ll likely see Luke Skywalker’s return in force ghost form.

What was the meaning of that end scene?

The final scene of the movie might have seemed out of place to some, but it actually did a very beautiful of hammering home a few of the main points of the movie.  Back on Canto Bight, some of the stable boys and girls gather around as one of them tells the heroic tale of Luke Skywalker confronting the First Order.  Temiri Blagg leaves the room and uses the force to call a broom to himself, and as he looks up at the sky he raises the broom like a lightsaber before the movie ends.  So what does it mean?  What I’m not convinced it means is that Temiri Blagg will be the Jedi in training in Episode IX.  But either way, that’s not the point of the scene.  Remember two of the main themes of the movie: a spark of hope, and the force being for all (not just the magic Skywalker blood or the Jedi).  So here’s a boy who can use the force, symbolizing the movie’s theme that the force isn’t just for the Jedi or the Skywalkers.  And this boy is inspired by the heroic actions of the legendary Luke Skywalker, proving that he truly was the spark of hope that the Resistance needed.  Leia held out hope that Luke would provide that spark, and he certainly did.  I’d expect in Episode IX the Resistance to be strengthened by the spark of hope that was Luke Skywalker, as perhaps some of the allies who didn’t come to their aid previously now are hopeful once again.  I think more than anything, the strongest message of that final scene is that Luke Skywalker didn’t fail; he got back in the fight, reconnected with the force, and wound up being the heroic spark of hope the movie frequently talked about.

REY, BEN, & SNOKE

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Why did they lead us astray with Rey’s parents?

When it comes to the identity of Rey’s parents, the audience was left in many ways with the same questions that Rey herself had: whose daughter is she?  And how does she fit in to all of this?  Rey is searching for the truth of her parents, and this search takes her from Han Solo to Luke Skywalker.  And guess what?  That’s the exact same place fans were.  There were hints in The Force Awakens that Rey was Luke’s daughter, and there were hints in The Force Awakens that Rey was Han’s daughter, and there were hints in The Force Awakens that Rey was the daughter of neither of them.  Some wound up believing the first, others believed the second, and others believed the third (postulating that she must be related to Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Sheev Palpatine, or…).  But here’s what TFA and TLJ did: they prompted the same questions within the audience that Rey was having, and moviegoers were not told right away what the answer was (and same with Rey).  So what some may see as Lucasfilm leading them astray, others may see as beautiful storytelling.  Why?  Because the answer is a shock to us just as much as it is to Rey.  As Rian Johnson has explained, he wanted to figure out what the hardest thing for Rey to hear would be: that she’s a nobody.  If you remember in The Empire Strikes Back, the hardest thing for Luke to hear is that he’s the son of the most hated person in the galaxy.  In The Last Jedi, the hardest thing for Rey to hear is that she’s not related to anyone significant in this story.  She has been desperately searching for the better part of two movies to figure out the truth about her parents, and hidden beneath that is also a desire for validation that she actually belongs.  The hardest thing for her to hear is that she doesn’t.  Leading astray?  I see that as good storytelling.

Why did they lead us astray with Snoke?

They didn’t.  Seriously – go back and look at what Lucasfilm publicly put out about Snoke, and what The Force Awakens introduced.  You’ll soon realize that it was fan speculation that ran rampant about Snoke, and while Lucasfilm certainly didn’t shut that down, they never promised that they’d expand on his full backstory or that he was even the main villain of the trilogy.  That role always belonged to Kylo Ren.  So in other words, much of the “leading astray” regarding Snoke was not Lucasfilm’s fault but was the fault of two years (plus) of fan speculation.  Consider, then, that Rian Johnson spent much time working on the script of the film before The Force Awakens was even released, and all of the sudden there’s really no ground to stand on for those who want to suggest that Lucasfilm led them astray about Snoke and just did this to mess with fans.  That’s not true.

Why did they kill Snoke?

This one is very closely tied to the previous question, because fans who were upset with the way The Last Jedi handled Snoke were seemingly mainly upset that they killed him off.  What was the point of that?  Actually, it had a very important point: developing Kylo Ren.  Because, again, Kylo Ren is the villain that Lucasfilm is developing in this sequel trilogy, and the thing that Rian Johnson and Adam Driver did so phenomenally in The Last Jedi was create a truly intriguing and conflicted villain.  That could only go so far with Kylo serving Supreme Leader Snoke, though, and the seeds were sown to indicate that Kylo would eventually turn against him.  One of the most important of those moments?  When Han Solo walked out on the catwalk and urged Ben to realize that Snoke was simply using him for his power.  The words of his father stuck with Ben Solo, and so did Snoke’s taunting and discouragement that came early in TLJ.  Kylo doesn’t see the Jedi or the light side as part of the answer, but he did see Snoke as part of the problem.  He’s about letting old things die, and he decided to kill his master.  From a storytelling perspective, this gives much more opportunity for depth, intrigue, and growth of the character Lucasfilm is truly interested in developing.

Why weren’t the Knights of Ren in the movie?

In The Force Awakens we learned that Kylo Ren was the master of the Knights of Ren, but we didn’t get to really see the Knights (aside from a flashback sequence).  In The Last Jedi, though, we got even less: just one indirect mention.  Luke said that Ben Solo rebelled against him and left with some of his students, killing the others – so it seems that the Knights of Ren are also made up of Luke’s former students.  But why didn’t The Last Jedi feature the Knights of Ren?  It turns out that Rian Johnson had a pretty simple explanation: he just couldn’t fit them in, and if he did then they would’ve just been killed anyway.  He explained that he could have put them in place of the Praetorian guards, but they would have just been killed – and there would have been a more difficult dynamic with their connection with Kylo, too.  And considering the fact that there isn’t exactly always a rational reaction to premature deaths (see: Snoke), The Last Jedi just killing off the Knights of Ren probably wouldn’t have been too well-received either.  So really, Johnson didn’t put them in the film because he considers them worthy of more than that – and with J.J. Abrams returning for Episode IX, I bet we’ll see the Knights of Ren show up.  From an in-universe perspective, I think it’s easily explainable too.  Snoke was the boss of the First Order, and Kylo reported to him… meaning that there perhaps wasn’t room in Snoke’s plans for the Knights of Ren.  But with Kylo Ren now the Supreme Leader of the First Order, perhaps we’ll see him call in his group of warriors in Episode IX to help him in his efforts.

What’s the deal with Rey’s mirror sequence?

Perhaps one of the more confusing parts of the movie is when Rey ventures into the cave and has the ‘multiple Reys’ mirror sequence, hoping to figure out who her parents are.  What was up with that?  First, we have to understand that it is in part Rey flirting with the dark side.  When she is training with Luke and senses the darkness calling to her, Luke says, “it offered you something you wanted.”  After her training with Luke hasn’t been going the way she hoped and after Kylo tells her that her greatest weakness is that she can’t get past the parentage question, Rey resolves to head to this cave – the dark side – to see if she can find answers.  She is so desperate to find out the answer of her parentage that she’s willing to indulge this darkness (keep that in mind when Kylo says she will join him because of the truth of her parentage).  Second, however, is the actual meaning and implication of the scene.  As Rian Johnson explained it to /Film, “We’re drawing a very obvious connection to Luke’s training and to Dagobah here, obviously.  And so the idea was if the up top is the light, down underneath is the darkness.  And she descends down into there and has to see, just like Luke did in the cave, her greatest fear.  And her greatest fear is [that], in the search for identity, she has nobody but herself to rely on.”  When Luke entered the cave in TESB, he saw himself – in his enemy.  When Rey entered the cave in TLJ, she saw herself – all alone. 

How is Rey so powerful?

Following The Force Awakens, there were some who wondered how Rey (a girl) could be so powerful (without any training).  And since this isn’t about TFA, we won’t get into why such criticism is off base – but some have brought that back up in light of The Last Jedi.  My only question is: why?  I mean, what in TLJ suggested that Rey was overpowered?  There really wasn’t anything that Rey did (or didn’t do) that would suggest that, as the strongest indication would come from Luke’s words that he’s seen that raw power only once before, in Ben Solo.  So the argument could only be that Ben deserves to be that powerful because he’s a Skywalker, but since Rey is a nobody she shouldn’t be that powerful.  But any such criticism would completely ignore one of the main themes of the movie.

How could Rey and Kylo still commune after Snoke died?

Since Snoke was the one who bridged Rey’s and Kylo’s minds together, what about the scene at the end, where Kylo sits in the abandoned Crait base and Rey stands ready to close the door to the Falcon, and they have another moment?  It is of course possible that since Snoke had already established the connection it simply remains moving forward, but there’s an even simpler and easier explanation.  Remember that it’s been long established that people can sense each other through the force (Rey and Leia sense Luke through the force in the scene right before this Kylo and Rey one, for instance).  The thing that was new was the fact that they were present with each other through the force and could physically talk with one another.  And there’s nothing to suggest that’s what happened at the end of TLJ; it could have just been them sensing each other through the force.

Any other questions about The Last Jedi that you want answered?  Send them along and this post can be updated with that information!

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