The teases and implications of the latest Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer have gotten the fanbase talking and speculating about all of the possible game-changing turns we'll get in Episode VIII.
Of all the many theories out there (like Rey and Finn's true parentage, or Snoke's origin story), one that has been consistently echoed since The Force Awakens came out is that this Star Wars sequel trilogy could be introducing a new category of character to the canon: The Gray Jedi.
Here's what you need to know about Gray Jedi, and they may be exactly what this modern day Star Wars saga needs.
In Star Wars (non-canonical "Legends") lore, Gray Jedi are Force users who balance between the light and dark sides of The Force, and/or Jedi who operated outside of the traditional structure of the Jedi High Council and Jedi Code.
The Gray Jedi date back to the era of the Old Sith Wars, when the High Council wanted to consolidate power in a centralized Jedi Order, but certain Jedi splintered off, feeling that these power structures were irrelevant or corrupting, and that their true allegiance was only to The Force itself. These Jedi disagreed with the Council over crucial tenants of the Code, such as forming attachments or limiting training in Force powers.
Eventually, the term was expanded to include many sects of Force belief that were not part of the Jedi Order, but not part of the darkside, either.
So, how can the concept of Gray Jedi be applied to the story of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and this larger sequel trilogy? That's where it gets interesting...
From what we've seen so far, the story of Episode VIII involves both Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) trying to find the respective proper pathways and uses for the growing Force powers. Supreme Leader Snoke seems quite clear in his outlook of how power should be used - but Luke Skywalker seems to be the pivotal figure in this chapter of the story.
Clearly, Luke has been through some hard times, and is as unsure of what to do with his power as Rey is. The trailer dialogue from Luke and Rey is where we've gotten the earliest hints about how the traditional notion of The Jedi may be ending, and that with help from Lukes studies and guidance, someone like Rey could "find her place in all this" by finally achieving "the balance" between light and darksides.
This theme is echoed in the storyline of Kylo Ren. The Force Awakens made it clear that Ben Solo is actually trying to tap into the darkside in part to quell the undeniable lightside of Force powers, which Snoke and his parents were all aware of. While this latest Last Jedi trailer makes it seem as though Kylo Ren will kill Leia, a lot of fans believe it's misdirection, and that Ren will be looking for some redemptive balance in his own use of The Force.
The introduction of Gray Jedi would be something incredibly bold and timely and for the Star Wars franchise. It's clear from the elements of Episodes VII and VIII that modern concerns of race, gender, politics (and soon sexuality) are all themes of the sequel trilogy's characters and storyline.
The Last Jedi seems particularly charged with socio-political subtext, with imagery of a black character (Finn) battling against authoritative oppression (Captain Phasma); Rey and Kylo struggling with their respective female/male perspectives on power, while Snoke is the fascistic leader grappling against democratic resistance. Meanwhile, Luke is the crazy old white guy in the mix - a former figurehead of power who is now perplexed and frightened by a changing world, and an untamed new generation of Force users.
In the tradition of good sci-fi, Star Wars: The Last Jedi may attempt to offer a reflection of the currently chaotic and dark world we live in, while taking things a step further by offering a proposed solution: In a world where everyone seems more and more polarized, maybe we can all stand to more of a "shades of Gray" outlook.
“This is the second of three films,” Ridley said. “So there may be a lot of gray that’s very exciting.”
“We’re all gray,” Tran added.
The interviewer asks if Star Wars: The Last Jedi itself will dwell more in the gray area and Ridley responds:
“I would say, yes.”
The introduction of the Gray Jedi would certainly make The Last Jedi more than just escapist entertainment. In this brave new divided world we now live in, the backlash for entertainment that tries to deliver a message can be substantial. On the other hand, it would be nice for a Star Wars movie to get people talking about more than new lightsabers and the Porgs...
Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be in theaters on December 15, 2017.