Greetings everyone, and welcome to the Sarlacc Pit! This is an exciting week as on Thursday the newest Star Wars saga movie, “Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi,” was released in theaters! Now, this post was written before I watched the movie, but by the time this post is released I will most likely have seen “The Last Jedi” at least two times. In preparation for the film, I have been pondering the movie’s title. “The Last Jedi” is pretty foreboding. It speaks of darkness and the end of a great Star Wars tradition. Coupled with the line spoken by Luke Skywalker in the first released trailer for the movie, “I only know one truth: it is time for the Jedi to end,” things don’t look great for the Jedi tradition. This has gotten me thinking more about the directions that new canon has taken, particularly where it has stepped away from focusing on the light side vs. dark side struggle. Current canon has had a massive focus on that in-between area, which begs the question, is there a gray side to the Force? This week, we will discuss that by looking at new canon, and having a quick Legends review as well, so there will be spoilers. With that, let’s dive in!
The Gray Jedi of Legends Canon
In Legends canon (which, remember, is no longer canon), there were certain Force users called Gray Jedi. This referred to Force users who straddled the line between the light side and dark side of the Force. These Gray Jedi had no affiliation with either the Jedi or the Sith. Furthermore, these Gray Jedi were able to use both light side and dark side Force abilities, making them pretty powerful warriors.
Back to Canon
“Jedi and Sith wield the Ashla and Bogan The light and the dark. I’m the one in the middle. The Bendu.” – Bendu, “Star Wars: Rebels”
For all of its faults, “Star Wars: Rebels” has done the most out of any canonical content to explore the gray area between the light side and dark side. In season 3 of the series, Kanan and Ezra met Bendu, a mysterious figure who claims to represent the true balance of the Force. He served as a brief mentor to both Kanan and Ezra. He helped Kanan get through the loss of his sight after his battle with Maul, as well as helped repair his and Ezra’s relationship after Ezra began to fall to the dark side. He also would give Ahsoka Tano advice as she struggled with visions of the future. However, Bendu was stubborn in his non-commitance. Bendu refused to pick a side in any conflict and would not help the budding Rebel Alliance in their struggle against the Empire. This frustrated Kanan and Ezra as Bendu displayed immense abilities using the Force, including the ability to create and control Force storms, appear and disappear, and even, as Thrawn would eventually discover, be perfectly fine after being blasted through the chest with a laser cannon. Perhaps Dave Filoni and LucasArts were using the Bendu to show that perhaps true strength in the Force is not through the dark side or the light side, but rather through the gray area in between. However, this strength may very well require total pacifism, something that has not been mastered by either side.
Another time a bridge between the dark side and light side was built was when Maul and Ezra Bridger combined a Sith and Jedi holocron. Holocrons were repositories of information about the Force. Generally playback took the form of interacting with a hologram of the person who recorded the information. Some holocrons were so in depth that the hologram interface served as an A.I. based on the personality of the recorder. These holocrons were powerful in the Force, and could only be used by Force users using either the light side of the Force (for Jedi holocrons) or the dark side of the Force (Sith holocrons). During “Rebels,” Maul informed Ezra that when a dark side user and a light side worked together to combine the two type of holocrons, the two users would have any question they asked answered. Maul worked with Ezra in order to find the location of his nemesis, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Ezra worked with Maul to find a way to defeat the Empire. Interestingly enough, they were both led to Tattooine where Maul found Kenobi, who was guarding the key to defeating the Empire: Luke Skywalker. Furthermore, Ezra was able to use pieces of the combined holocron to track Maul, who had other pieces of the same two holocrons (Maul used his pieces to lure Ezra into a trap). Once again, this all speaks to a stronger understanding of the Force resting between the light side and the dark side, and I think we will see a lot more of these kinds of interactions in the future.
What Does this Have to Do with “The Last Jedi?”
The Jedi and the Sith are not the only two paths to understanding the Force. There were several other traditions of Force users (the Nightsisters of Dathomir, the Dagoyan Masters, etc.). I often use this analogy to explain the Force: the Force in Star Wars is like the sun; and the Sith, Jedi, and other Force traditions are like the many religions that worshiped the sun over the course of human history. So, a lot of people panicked when they heard Luke Skywalker say “…it is time for the Jedi to end.” As a fan of the Jedi Order it pains me to say this but, I think he has a point. The religion of the Jedi Order failed, and each time they failed the dark side pushed back with even more Force. They failed to stop the Empire, and Luke failed to train the next generation of Jedi which led to the rise of the First Order. Perhaps the solution to the age old conflict between the light side and the dark side is not for the victory of one over the other, but instead a compromise of the two. The dark side gets its power through strong emotion, this is often twisted into anger, hate, or fear, but imagine a Jedi using strong positive emotions to strengthen themselves. The Jedi used knowledge, understanding, and patience, could these tenants not be used to prevent a fall to the totality of the dark side? When we talk about who is “The Last Jedi,” I believe that Luke Skywalker will be the last Jedi, but it will give rise to a much stronger and more interesting Force tradition than we have seen in canon so far.
This theory of mine is strengthened by the novelization of “The Force Awakens.” In the novelization Snoke at one point tells Kylo Ren that he chose Ren because of his family history. Not only was Kylo Ren Darth Vader’s grandson but he was also Leia’s son, and Luke’s nephew. Kylo Ren was chosen for training by Supreme Leader Snoke specifically for the strong mix of both the dark side and the light side. Maybe it is not just the Jedi tradition that is being left behind in this new canon, but also the Sith? I think we will be seeing a much more complex battle in the Force in the future. Perhaps the next big battle will be one not of the dark side vs. the light, but instead a battle composed of various shades of gray.
With that, we are left to see what happens in the future. I will say that I (obviously) absolutely love the current canon, and I am so excited for more content in the future. I am especially excited about the newest addition to the Star Wars saga! So excited, in fact, that next week I plan to do a review of “Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.” So if you haven’t seen the movie yet then get up and go check it out! As always, thanks for watching, and may the gray side of the Force be with you!