I’ve put together a full theory over the last year and a half via analysis and reasoning over the full breadth of Canon sources.
‘Balance’ is the Force’s natural state, when it’s free to act as it wills. The dark side isn’t really a side at all, but a cancer that subverts the will of the Force. It cannot, however, do anything on its own; it requires individual users to strengthen and spread it. The dark side’s practitioners use it to impose their own will on the Force. In turn, the dark side acts to subvert the users own inhibitions and conscience which makes it even harder to avoid using it. Anger, fear or hate don’t lead to the dark side in and of themselves, but cloud one’s judgement and make one more susceptible to its use. The Sith seek total domination over the Force and bending it their will which is what is causing an imbalance.
The Chosen One
“You refer to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the Force. You believe it’s this…boy?” – Mace Windu
The ‘Chosen One’ was prophesized to return balance to the Force by destroying the Sith. Each successive Sith Master had been able to gain greater control over the Force, with Palpatine very close to succeeding in ‘breaking’ the Force and fashioning a new ‘natural’ order. While Anakin ultimately did destroy the Sith and temporarily restored balance, the cancer itself and the knowledge created by the Sith over the millennia remain. Ultimately, fulfilling the prophecy created the opening necessary for his descendants and the Jedi to make that balance permanent.
“The dark side clouds everything.” – Yoda
In their millennia long fight with the Sith, the Jedi’s fear of losing control and falling to the dark side, as their fallen brethren had, led to an Order that taught its members to deny themselves and separate itself from the rest of the galaxy. However, this created a new imbalance, an internal one, as understanding the self is critical to understanding the wider Force. Worst of all, it came to see the ultimate expression of connectivity at the heart of the Force as an enemy, love for another individual. It is only through love of another individual that the self is truly transcended and the connections making up the Force understood. By losing internal balance, the Jedi’s ability to ‘hear’ and interpret the Force was compromised and they increasingly relied upon their own dogma and tenets rather than the Force itself. Ultimately, they were unable to sense the greatest source of imbalance when it was literally in front of them.
“I’m the one in the middle!” – The Bendu
The Bendu has the internal balance the Jedi lack, which allows him to have the kind of sight they lost. However, he’s misunderstood ‘balance’ as a position between the dark and light sides. He thinks balance can be achieved by avoiding conflict. However, the dark side is inherently imbalancing due to its drive to subvert the natural order. If unopposed, the dark side will eventually consume him and his world as well.
Resolving of Gray
First comes the day Then comes the night. After the darkness Shines through the light. The difference, they say, Is only made right By the resolving of gray Through refined Jedi sight. Journal of the Whills, 7:477
‘Gray’ is a reference to the frequent moral ambiguity of choices. It is rare that the consequences of a choice is clear at the time it is made and seemingly ‘good’ choices can have disastrous results. It is through ‘refined Jedi sight’ that moral ambiguity can be resolved and the consequences of a path are made clear. A good example would be Luke’s choice to go to Vader on Endor. At the time surrendering putting himself at Vader’s mercy seemed insane and ‘running away’ as Leia implored or remaining with the strike team for the attack on the shield seemed like better options, yet taking either road would have been disastrous. It was only through his belief in and love for his father that Luke chose what turned out to be the best road.
The Force as a Web, an Analogy
We can think of the Force as a giant web of connections between every living thing. Each strand of the web subtly tugs on each individual which expresses the will of the Force. The Jedi attempted to eschew the connection between individuals and tried to grasp the web as a hole. However, because the web is actually made up of the connecting strands between individuals, they actually made impossible to feel and understand what the Force was communicating. It is only through the forging and exploration of connections with other individuals that the web as whole can truly be heard and understood. By way of contrast, the Bendu only concerns himself with the strands connecting him to the Force at the expense of the rest of the web. The Sith want to be at the center of the web and do all of the pulling and spinning.,
The Emperor and His Goals:
We’ve known since Aftermath that the Emperor has had a strong interest in the Unknown Regions, but it was only in Empire’s End that we get any hints as to his goals there. In the book we learn that the regions are incredibly dangerous to navigate and no one has survived attempting it. During Sloane’s journey in the epilogue of Empire’s End, we get a glimpse of why:
The journey through the Unknown Regions has been harrowing. Taking short hyperspace jumps through the chaos has been like navigating a dangerous maze at full speed. But the sentinel assured her the path was safe. They skirted superstorms and saw strange creatures out there in the blackness of the void. They lost system power when a magnetic burst of mysterious origin cascaded through space—but it was only for a few hours, and with power
Wendig, Chuck. Empire’s End: Aftermath (Star Wars) (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy) (Kindle Locations 6649-6652). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Despite this, the Emperor considered the prize worthwhile and in an effort to find a way through, he established a navigational mechanism using ancient machines at the Jakku Observatory which took 30 years to finish its work. Empire’s End hints at why overcoming these obstacles is an obsession for him:
“For decades, these computers have been plotting a journey. Outside the known galaxy is an unexplored infinity, Palpatine explained, one closed off by a labyrinth of solar storms, rogue magnetospheres, black holes, gravity wells, and things far stranger.”
Wendig, Chuck. Empire’s End: Aftermath (Star Wars) (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy) (Kindle Locations 5961-5962). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Palpatine said that this galaxy was to be his, but that it was only one among many. Again that phrase arose: the unexplored infinity. This, he noted, was his demesne. The galaxy was his game board.
Wendig, Chuck. Empire’s End: Aftermath (Star Wars) (Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy) (Kindle Locations 5967-5969). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
These two passages strongly suggest that what Palpatine sought was a means of expanding his rule far beyond his home galaxy. Once a way was found to this dark nexus, Palpatine would have limitless worlds to subjugate. However, domination of the physical universe was just one aspiration driving him towards finding the dark presence first hinted at in Tarkin:
And he would not allow himself to be sidetracked from his goal of unlocking the secrets many of the Sith Masters before him had sought: the means to harness the powers of the dark side to reshape reality itself; in effect, to fashion a universe of his own creation. Not mere immortality of the sort Plagueis had lusted after, but influence of the ultimate sort.
Miller, John Jackson. The Rise of the Empire: Star Wars: Featuring the novels Star Wars: Tarkin, Star Wars: A New Dawn, and 3 all-new short stories (Kindle Locations 4579-4582). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Sidious is after something long sought by the Sith – power over reality itself. He saw the dark presence as a means of becoming a physical god, with the ability to shape the entire universe as he pleased. The question arises, what is the nature of this presence? I postulate the dark presence and the phenomena present in the Unknown Regions is the result of an ancient attempt at doing precisely what Sidious aims to do. There is additional circumstantial evidence that the Unknown Regions have not always been so unknown or difficult to navigate:
- The Unknown Regions is contiguous and no other location in the galaxy is known to feature that kind of phenomena.
- The Jedi had ancient maps of the Unknown Regions deep within their archives at the Temple on Coruscant.
- Illum was located in the Unknown Regions.
- Jedha, a major location for many Force based religions and once the seat of the Jedi Order itself borders the Unknown Regions.
- The rumor in Rey’s Survival Guide that there was a storehouse on Jakku holding artifacts from ancient civilizations.
Whatever mistakes these ancient practitioners made wrecked a large swathe of the galaxy and Palpatine would have done all he could to ensure it didn’t happen to him. In all liklihood, the key lay in the Chosen One and his bloodline:
Save for Sidious, no sentient being in close to five thousand years had set foot in the shrine. The room’s excavation and restoration had been carried out by machines under the supervision of 11-4D. Even Vader was unaware of the shrine’s existence. But it was here that they would one day work together the way Sidious and Plagueis had to coax from the dark side its final secrets. In the intervening years he had actually come to appreciate Plagueis for the planner and prophet he had been. Such perilous machinations required two Sith, one to serve as bait for the dark side, the other to be the vessel. Success would grant them the power to harness the full powers of the dark side, and allow them to rule for ten thousand years.
Miller, John Jackson. The Rise of the Empire: Star Wars: Featuring the novels Star Wars: Tarkin, Star Wars: A New Dawn, and 3 all-new short stories (p. 125). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
A comment by Snoke to Kylo in the TFA novelization suggests why:
Snoke demurred. “It is far more than that. It is where you are from. What you are made of. The dark side-and the light. The finest sculptor cannot fashion a masterpiece from poor materials. He must have something pure, something strong, something unbreakable, with which to work. I have-you.” He paused, reminiscing.
Only someone who’s ancestor is the Force itself can safely harness the Force energy needed to achieve mastery over the Force itself.
Secrets of the Emperor
In his quest for domination of the universe itself, the Emperor had many schemes and tools in play. The most visible and prominant was the Death Star. As his rule expanded, resistance inevitably arose which required his attention and delayed him from attaining true power. The Death Star was the answer to these distractions and its completion was to pacify the restive galactic populace so that he might direct his efforts towards more productive ends. It’s destruction was a devestating setback, but it was only one plan among many.
The Hidden Empire
Above, I laid out Emperor’s goal of using the dark presence as a means of accessing worlds far outside the realm of the galaxy. To conquer required more than just exploration and he quietly began establishing a staging area for his ships and men. Large amounts of resources were transferred into the unknown regions (including Kyber crystals, as revealed in the Rogue One Rebel Dossier) and the infrastructure of war took shape. The world of Jakku was intended to be a new throne-world, where he would direct his conquest of the rest of the universe. The essence on Jakku was to be corrupted and serve as a dark Force nexus to amplify his power.
This hidden empire served a second function: insurance. The Emperor considered it imperative that his goals be accomplished, with or without him and he plotted out a contingency. First, the Empire in the known galaxy was to be disposed of and only those most loyal to him were to be preserved. Second, the secret Empire was to form the nucleus of a resurgence and the eventual reconquest of the rest of the galaxy. The essence on Jakku was corrupted as planned and the research base fulfilled its purpose and was then destroyed before those chosen by Palpatine left the known galaxy. Death was only to be setback.
A Force Sensitive Army
In the Clone Wars episode Children of the Force, Darth Sidious has several Force Sensitive children kidnapped and brought to Mustafar. There Sidious intends to turn them into Sith spies to infiltrate the Jedi Order. At the same time he reveals a much longer term plan:
“I foresee an army of force talented spies in my service. Trained in the dark side to peer into every corner of the galaxy for me from afar; and my enemies will be helpless against such vision”
In that episode he is foiled by Anakin and Ahsoka, but his interest in Force sensitive children continues. In Ahsoka, the Sixth Brother travels to where there had been rumors of a Force sensitive human girl. The girl is able to hide and he ultimately leaves when hears of Ahsoka’s exploits elsewhere. In Rebels we see Inquisitors again attempting to kidnap Force sensitive children and are this time thwarted by Kanan and Ezra. Also in Rebels, Imperial academy instructors on Lothal are shown keeping an eye out for exceptional individuals who are referred to the Inquisitors. Each instance we see was thwarted, but the question is, what happened all the times someone wasn’t around to stop them? The answer is likely that these special children are kidnapped and trained to be agents of the Emperor and his Empire.
There are many functions a cadre of Force sensitive agents could perform:
- Palpatine’s vision above for an army of seers.
- Loyalty enforcers.
- Field agents.
- Exploring and researching Force related artifacts and locations.
We’re actually given a possible hint of the second in Lost Stars:
Her imagination conjured visions of psychological interrogations; they whispered that the questioners could sense the moment anyone began to turn traitor. Had they picked up on her doubt?
Gray, Claudia. Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Lost Stars (Kindle Locations 3842-3843). Disney Book Group. Kindle Edition.
The problem with a cadre of Force sensitives is they can each be extremely dangerous. Indeed, we see the Emperor’s paranoia reflected in the Inquisitors who are given limited training in the dark side. How then, to ensure loyalty? The answer is to find them young and completely indoctrinate them to serve the Emperor. The Inquisitors can fill the initial role of finding the first generation and be dispensed with once an initial capability is established (the Inquisitors are disbanded by the Battle of Yavin).
The Emperor is a busy man and hardly the person to undertake the training of Force sensitive, establishing a second base of power or supervise the exploration of important sites or artifacts. Darth Vader, who is supposed to be plotting to take Emperor’s place, certainly can’t be trusted with any of that. Who, then, can be trusted? Only someone with knowledge of the Force who, like the cadre he trained and directed, was found at a young age and was to raised to devote his life to his ‘father’.
In many ways, Snoke would be Vader’s opposite. He served out of devotion to Palpatine and could be trusted with secrets and tasks others could not. Snoke knew what the Emperor’s intentions regarding the Unknown Regions, the chosen one and understood the many Force related artifacts in ways men like Yupe Tashu could not. Where Vader ran the military and was the public ‘face’, Snoke ran the part of the Empire that worked in the shadows.
While the Emperor intended to rule forever, he was a thorough schemer and made arrangements for his goals to be completed even if he could be the one to do it. He tasked an orphan boy by the name of Galli with seeing that the Empire did not survive its Emperor. At the same time, the Emperor ensured the seeds of a new Empire would be planted. Galli mistakenly believed he was to rule this new Empire, but he was only to prepare the throne for another – one who knew and was committed to the Emperor’s grandest plans. The Emperor had chosen a successor after all.
1. The inquisitors are remarkably poorly trained if their purpose is to hunt Jedi. Ahsoka comments on it in her book and has few problems taking on two of them. This strongly suggests finding Jedi isn’t the real primary goal.
The Importance of Jakku and the Chosen One
One unknown I’ve been grappling with is why Snoke would want Rey taken to Jakku in the first place. It obviously had to do with what the Emperor was so interested in there, but it wasn’t clear beyond that.
The most recent Vader comic has provided inspiration. In the comic, the Emperor has Vader go to Mustafar and use the Dark Side nexus located there to corrupt the Kyber crystal Vader had recently ‘won’. What’s particularly interesting about this nexus is it’s analogous to what Rax did in Empire’s End on Jakku with the planetary essence. By throwing Yupe and several Sith objects into it, the entire essence was corrupted – creating a massive dark side nexus. This nexus was powerful enough to tear the planet apart if left unchecked. However, there was a means of stopping it built into the observatory – suggesting destroying the planet wasn’t the original plan (and probably never was) – creating a massive artificial dark-side nexus was.
In Rey’s Survival Guide there’s a rumor that the Emperor had secretly built a throne room on Jakku to rule the rest of the galaxy. The means of corrupting the essence lends credence to this rumor as it would give the Emperor a massive source of power to tap into. However, given Jakku’s location and the mapping device located there it’s likely this was a means of accessing an even greater power – the power the Emperor sensed in the Unknown Regions:
“No Sith remain,” Tashu says. “And the lone Jedi that exists-the son of Anakin Skywalker-possesses an untouchable soul. At least for now. We must instead move toward the dark side. Palpatine felt that the universe beyond the edges of our maps was where his power came from. Over the many years he, with our aid, sent men and women beyond known space. They built labs and communication stations on distant moons, asteroids, out there in the wilds. We must follow them. Retreat from the galaxy. Go out beyond the veil of stars. We must seek the source of the dark side like a man looking for a wellspring of water.”
Aftermath Page 114.
The Emperor was convinced that something waited for him out there—some origin of the Force, some dark presence formed of malevolent substance. He said he could feel the waves of it radiating out now that the way was clear. The Emperor called it a signal—conveniently one that only he could hear. Even his greatest enforcer, Vader, seemed oblivious to it, and Vader also claimed mastery over the dark Force, did he not? Rax believed Palpatine had gone mad. What he was “receiving” was nothing more than his own precious wishes broadcast back to himself—an echo of his own devising. He believed that something lay beyond, and so that became a singular obsession. (When you believe in magic, it is easy to see all the universe as evidence of it.)
Based on this, I conjecture the Emperor (and now Snoke) ultimately planned to use the corrupted essence on Jakku as a means of harnessing this dark power to achieve his goal of controlling reality itself. However, Tarkin suggests harnessing such power requires two people – the power has to be directed by one into the other. This is where the Chosen One and his descendants come in:
Snoke demurred. “It is far more than that. It is where you are from. What you are made of. The dark side-and the light. The finest sculptor cannot fashion a masterpiece from poor materials. He must have something pure, something strong, something unbreakable, with which to work. I have-you.” He paused, reminiscing.
Using such power is extremely dangerous if it’s not being channeled through a or into a medium with the right qualities – much like a Kyber crystal. The Skywalkers, being descended from the Force itself, are made of the right ‘stuff’ to do this properly – if shaped correctly. If this is correct, this is what the Emperor intended with Vader and Luke and Snoke with Ben. However, the need for proper shaping may not have been apparent. This is where Rey comes in.
At the time Ben was born, Snoke was not in a position to risk detection by Luke and worked to subtlely corrupt the boy. This was a long term project with an uncertain payoff, so when a new opportunity presented itself – the birth of Luke’s daughter – Snoke shifted his efforts to kidnapping her outright. After succeeding in grabbing her, Snoke wasted no time and had his agents bring her directly to Jakku. Snoke hoped she alone would be enough to properly channel or store the power and wanted to act before Luke could find her (as this was a rather dangerous experiment, it’s likely one of Snoke’s apprentices conducted it rather than Snoke himself). The process was incredibly traumatic for young Rey and she did something no one expected – she created a mental shield. For those present the result was possibly catastrophic. Much like an improperly faceted Kyber, the energy went everywhere – possibly killing or driving anyone in the vicinity insane. While Rey herself wasn’t directly affected, her block had the side-effect of making it appear that she had died to anyone connected to her. A few of Snoke’s agents survived to make it back and inform him of what happened.
With one Skywalker child apparently lost to him, Snoke was forced to turn back to Ben. Further, he was also now aware that Ben had to be both willing and properly prepared for his plan to work.
1) In the past, Jakku was once a living world. Given the anomolies in the Unknown Regions and Jakku’s location, it’s possible the essence was once used to stop something that threatened the galaxy. An unfortunate side-effect was life was scoured from the planet.
2) I’ve previously discussed that the research facility’s purpose was tied to the essence. It’s possible it was researching using Force sensitives captured by the Inquisitors to channel the energy there. That the Empire defended the facility for a time before destroying it suggests there was some important work that could only be done after the essence was corrupted.
3) There are other Observatories throughout the galaxy. It’s possible others contain a borehole like the one on Jakku.
4) Who’s supposed to function as the ‘bait’ and who is the ‘vessel’ and what they even mean isn’t clear.
5) I’m well aware this is stretching the limits of what we know. This is conjectural and an attempt at making sense of the disparate pieces of information we have. It’s meant to be a potential staring point.
6) It’s possible Snoke thought the process might corrupt her similar to making a Kyber ‘bleed’.
The Fall of Ben Solo:
I would like to say up front that I don’t think JJ’s statement in the commentary that Rey and Kylo haven’t met before TFA should be taken absolutely. So please don’t reply as though I’m not aware of what he said. Second, this is predicated on Rey Skywalker. Third, it does make some leaps that aren’t predicated on any information we currently have. It’s based on where I think the ST is going thematically.
We have been given very little about Ben’s fall to the dark side. Based on the conversation between Han and Leia in TFA, it’s very likely the two knew Snoke personally. Leia’s statement that Snoke had been influencing Ben ‘from the beginning’ suggests the relationship started close to Ben’s birth. She further states Snoke knew he would be strong in the Force early on. For Snoke to target Ben so early, he must have somehow known Luke, Leia and Ben were the descendants of Anakin/Vader. This presents a problem, as the only people outside Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie to know of the Skywalker heritage were dead and we know the secret was kept until the events of Bloodline. We know Kenobi, Yoda and Bail never told anyone, which leaves the Emperor and Vader. Therefore, the probable way Snoke learned of the Skywalker heritage is through the Emperor.
I posit above that Snoke was a secret apprentice and agent of the Emperor (1). As an apprentice and confidant, he would have been in a position to know the Emperor’s plans regarding the Force in general and the Skywalkers in particular. From there, it’s simply a matter of learning Leia was Luke’s sister to know Ben was Vader’s grandson. He is also the person the Emperor secretly selected as his successor in the event of his death.
In all likelihood, he infiltrated the Republic as a move to plant the seeds for the First Order within the nascent Republic and sabotage Luke, but once he learned Ben was Vader’s grandson, he likely refocused on Leia and her son. As the Emperor’s apprentice, Snoke would have known why the Chosen One and his bloodline were so important and it would prove invaluable if he could corrupt and recruit a descendant. As a child, Ben would have been especially susceptible to Snoke’s influence.
Snoke’s first goal would have been to emotionally isolate Ben while posing as his friend and mentor. Ben would have already been especially vulnerable due to his extreme Force Sensitivity. While secretly encouraging Ben’s exploration of his powers, Snoke would need to see to it that there was no one to give him the guidance he desperately needed. With Luke rarely around (and Snoke probably did what he could to keep him busy), the only other person who could give Ben real guidance was Leia. By subtly undermining Leia’s trust in herself and the Force, Snoke managed to make Leia forsake and even fear that part of her (2).
His own mother’s fear and abandonment of the amazing power they both shared must have caused considerable confusion and distress for the young Ben. So, Ben befriended the only person who seemed to understand and encourage his gift. Snoke took full advantage of this and began to suggest that not only was Ben different, but superior. Ben’s father’s lack of sensitivity made him inferior and someone to be scorned. His mother had the gift, but was too emotionally weak to embrace it as she should.
At the same time as isolating him, Snoke would ensure he Ben had a front row seat to the chaos following the fall of the Empire. Even under the best of leadership, the New Republic would have struggled to fill the vacuum left by the defunct Empire and lawlessness would have been rampant. Indeed, much of Ben’s early life likely involved his parents running to extinguish one fire after another. All Snoke had to do was cultivate Ben’s resentment towards his family and his indignation at the ‘ineffective’ New Republic government. It would also take little effort to suggest Ben and his family not only had a right to rule, but a duty to. The fact his family was squandering its power and right to bring order would just breed further resentment.
Ben’s attitude and resultant behavior would have become more and more distressing to Leia who sensed something was wrong, but didn’t know what. She further worsened the situation by attempting to resolve it by herself, playing right into Snoke’s hands. After every intervention she tried failed, she finally made the desperate decision to send Ben to Luke. To Ben, it must have felt like abandonment.
Away from Snoke’s influence and with people who really understood what he had, Ben improved for a time. He became close to his uncle and even closer to his young cousin after she was born. For Snoke, it was a significant setback, but not an irrecoverable one.
At some point, Snoke somehow learned Luke had a daughter. He could not get close to her as he had Ben, so he waited for the right opportunity to abduct her. When that opportunity came, Snoke’s thugs succeed in kidnapping Rey and bring her to Jakku to turn her over to the First Order. The attempt ends in disaster and Rey is presumed to be killed (something happens which leads to her accidentally blocking her own connection to the Force). This incident is devastating for everyone involved. Luke is emotionally devastated and never fully recovers while Ben is left with overwhelming anger and guilt. His family has refused to do what needs to be done and now the chaos gripping the galaxy has taken one of its own. Ben is further angry at Luke’s refusal to use all options to find his daughter and seemingly abandoning his own family, but the most intense anger is aimed at himself for not being strong enough to save Rey. He resolves to become strong enough that he will never fail to protect those he loves again (3).
With the loss of his daughter and the revelation of a new dark power, Luke dedicates himself to rebuilding the Jedi Order to confront this new threat. As the sole heir to the Skywalker legacy, Luke becomes determined to shape Ben into the Jedi he needs to be. In applying such pressure on Ben, Luke loses sight of how Ben actually is rather than how Luke wants him to be. In the face of the wide rift that has formed between him and his uncle, Ben secretly reaches out to Snoke after this incident for guidance. This result was completely unexpected to Snoke and he takes full advantage of it. He carefully works to further undermine Ben and Luke’s bond and starts to hint at Ben’s true lineage and encourages him to embrace his ancestor’s goals.
At some point, Luke learns of Snoke and moves to confront him. Around this time, Ben learns that what Snoke had been telling him is true; he is the grandson of Darth Vader. That his own family would keep this from him completely destroys his trust in them and cements his belief Snoke is his only true friend.
When Ben and Luke find and confront Snoke, Ben is shocked to find the person Luke wants to destroy is the only true mentor and friend Ben ever had. While Snoke tries to defend himself against Luke, the Jedi Master easily overpowers him and inflicts severe injuries. Snoke is beaten and Luke prepares to strike the final blow, but is stunned as Ben intervenes. Caught off guard, Luke is driven off and Ben leaves with Snoke. Fully believing that Luke and his nascent order are the true enemy, Ben doesn’t hesitate when Snoke tells him to destroy Luke’s order. Luke manages to escape his temporary imprisonment, but arrives too late to stop Ben and finds his students dead.
Luke is left in shock as a Jedi’s attempt to destroy the darkness forever has led to the fall of a Skywalker a second time. Realizing that seeking to destroy the darkness only led to it growing stronger, Luke resolves to study how the Jedi and Sith came to be and find a way to break the cycle (he obviously learned something on Ahch-To that broke him completely). Ben, in the meantime, assumes the identity of Kylo Ren and resolves to destroy all traces of Ben Solo and become what he needs to be return order to a broken galaxy.
1: In Clone Wars, Sidious abducts several Force-Sensitive children to turn them into Sith spies. He further states he envisions a network of loyal acolytes who use the Force to peer into any corner of the galaxy. In Rebels, one of the functions of the Inquisitors is to find and forcibly recruit Force Sensitives. It’s possible Snoke was tasked with overseeing the creation and operation of this network.
2: There is a notable difference in how Leia views the Force in Life Debt and Bloodline. In the former, she’s interested and actively exploring her connection. By the latter, she seems to view her connection with suspicion and abandoned any attempts at developing her abilities.
3: In his moment of vulnerability on the bridge in TFA, Kylo states he wants to stop the pain. I think this may be one of the things he’s referring too.
Rey’s Abandonment (Alternate):
“The Empire needs children.” – Gallius Rax, Life Debt
This is one possible scenario involving Ben going against Luke’s demand that they exercise patience. There are multiple possibilities available for her abandonment. This is just meant as a demonstration of how it might have gone based on the available information.
As I’ve described previously, I believe Snoke discovered Luke had a young daughter and made plans to abduct and turn her (further, I think Luke had returned to Tatooine and was raising her there). To do this, he needed to separate her from Luke long enough to kidnap her. Thus, Snoke staged an attack near Luke and his companions which Luke couldn’t avoid. Luke, not wanting to take his five year old child into a battle-zone, told Rey to stay with ‘Stay here. I’ll come back for you’. When young Rey tried to go with anyway, Luke again reassured her ‘I’ll come back sweetheart. I promise’. Luke then went to assist his companions thinking Rey was safe. Unfortunately, this was exactly what Snoke had intended and a hidden group of attackers found and abducted Rey (possibly including one or more of Snoke’s apprentices). Luke, of course, sensed this immediately and tried to return as fast as he could, but wasn’t able to stop them before Rey’s abductors reached Luke and Rey’s ship and stole it.
The kidnappers immediately went to Jakku, intending to jump to the unknown regions from there. In the meantime, Han had arrived after hearing the distress call. Luke and his companions had managed to trace them to Jakku and Ben (who had been with Luke’s group) demanded they go immediately (1). Sensing that an attempted rescue would end in disaster, Luke counseled patience and Han sided with him, but Ben took matters into his own hands.
On Jakku, the kidnappers landed near the wrecked research facility either intending to acquire the navigation data needed to traverse the Unknown Regions or to do something with the sealed borehole which led to the life essence corrupted by Rax (2). It is possible, they were deliberately attempting to expose the young girl. Regardless, Rey, already terrified and a member of the strongest Force-sensitive lineage ever, was particularly vulnerable to the effects of the corrupted essence (it’s likely it was affecting her as soon as she got close to the planet). For Rey, it felt like a heretofore wonderful and integral part of her had turned on her, assaulting her mind with death and despair.
Ben, sensing Rey’s terror and agony, rushed to attack the kidnappers immediately. While the fight was ongoing, Rey instinctively did the only thing she could to stop the psychic assault she was under, she blocked her own Force connection. Tragically, this occurred when the group of kidnappers she had last been seen with were killed. Ben sensed her disappear from the Force immediately and she had been killed (3). Horrified and heartbroken the would-be-rescuer retreated and returned to Luke with the news. A heartbroken Luke, having sensed her ‘death’ himself, accepted his report and could never bring himself to travel to Jakku.
Also believing she had been killed, the surviving kidnappers returned to Rey’s family ship. Rey, who had been separated during the battle, regained her senses and returned to where the kidnappers had landed – just in time to see her family’s ship taking off (4). Unkar Plutt, a local salvage dealer who had traveled to the scene to investigate the commotion, saw Rey. Figuring she was someone important that he would receive a large reward for ‘rescuing’, grabbed her as the ship was taking off (potentially inadvertently saving her from a worse fate). Unfortunately, every time she thought about her past, the memories of the horror she had experienced would inevitably return and she couldn’t bring herself to tell Plutt where she came from. The only comfort she clung to were her father’s promise that he would return for her.
2) Yupe Tashu after being given several Sith artifacts in Empire’s End – “Yes. I can feel it. I am a locus of dark energies. All the death and despair of the world is filtering through me. I can feel it on the back of my tongue. Captured there like a struggling moth—”
3) Afterwards, racked by guilt and heartbreak himself, Han may have slipped into his old ways for a time and lost the Falcon during this period.
4) Assuming she knows who Rey is by this point, Maz’s statement that ‘whomever you’re waiting for is never coming back’ to Rey would basically mean ‘I don’t know who you think left you on Jakku, but it wasn’t your family’. Maz wants Rey to learn from Luke and doesn’t want to let on she knows who Rey is.
5) LST would come to Jakku years later to search for a means of locating Luke.
6) I think Rey’s disappearance was one of the key events in Ben’s fall and what initiated his falling out with Luke.
I’ve been promoting the idea since April 2016 that Rey suffered severe Force trauma during the events of her abandonment and inadvertently blocked her own connection which gave the impression she had been killed. I even correctly predicted the concentrated Force presence at the Observatory based on the theory. Here is what I consider the canonical evidence for it:
- Rey’s immediate response to the Forceback is to go back to her life on Jakku. Before Maz says anything about belonging, Rey’s immediate reaction is to go back to what she knows. Further, she had spent the first part of the film anxiously insisting she needed needed to get back to Jakku even though she had only been gone a short period of time suggesting she was afraid of more than just missing her family.
- Rey’s strongest reaction came when Maz encouraged her to open herself to the Force and take the lightsaber. The Forceback was scary, but running randomly into the forest seems like an overreaction, unless the experience was triggering a much deeper and older fear.
- The awakening itself. None of the other canonical examples of people discovering their potential has been described this way. Each of the other examples simply became aware of what they were already doing.
- The timing of the awakening. Rey’s awakening happened when she first did something outside of her comfort zone and overcame her fear of leaving Jakku.
- Her dreams of green planets came when she was on the edge of sleep. Her block was at its weakest when she was close to unconsciousness, allowing the Force in.
- The barrier Kylo encountered in Rey’s mind in the novelization. When he pushed against it, she found herself in his mind. That pushing against it produced such a visceral reaction suggests the barrier was internal in origin.
- Rey’s instinctive ability to tap into the Force. Many people have commented on how quickly Rey picked up Force abilities. Canonically, the hardest initial obstacle to overcome for those who have just learned of their potential is how to let the Force in. Rey does it intuitively, suggesting it used to be second nature even if she never received any formal training.
In Empire’s End, Gallius Rax pushes Yupe Tashu into the well with several Sith artifacts, corrupting the ‘essence’ in the planetary core. There is now a massive concentration of dark side energy at the heart of Jakku.
I’ve noticed there’s a plot element that keeps getting repeated – Palpatine, his Empire and the First Order keep targeting children. I’ve put together a list of instances in the new Canon to illustrate how pervasive it is:
- Sidious kidnapped Maul at a young age to be his first Sith apprentice.
- Cad Bane kidnapped multiple Force sensitive children for Sidious.
- The Inquisitors’ secondary task is to locate and abduct Force sensitives – particularly young children (the Lothal rebels foil the abduction of two infants and the Sixth Brother investigates a four year old girl in Ahsoka).
- 20 year old Prelate Verge in Twilight Company was raised to worship Palpatine and saw himself as the future.
- Rax’s obsession with children in Life Debt unnerves Sloane. Gallius himself was recruited by Palpatine as a child.
- Brendol Hux’s ‘feral’ children in EE form the basis of the First Order stormtrooper corps.
- The First Order abducts young children and raises them to be fanatically loyal soldiers (the Visual Encyclopedia mentions the FO’s officers are raised this way too).
- Armitage Hux is raised from age four to eventually take his father’s place.
- Snoke targeted Ben ‘since the beginning’.
While it hasn’t been directly tied to it yet, I would like to point out Rey was ‘abandoned’ at age five on a planet that just happens to be the last stop before the Unknown Regions and Snoke.
Evil isn’t born; it’s made.