As you’ve no doubt heard by now (if not experienced for yourself), The Last Jedi is a singularly unexpected installment in the Star Wars franchise. It zigs when you expect it to zag. It takes a hard left when you thought the road was headed right. It keeps you guessing right to the very end, and it makes you rethink everything you thought you knew about Star Wars.
**Spoiler alert: Lots of spoilers here, obviously**
Based on this directorial outing, Rian Johnson would be right at home in that Monaco of the Stars—Canto Bight—as he's a bit like the high-rolling one-percenters Finn and Rose steamrolled through on a pack of fathiers. He's willing to risk it all.
Since the credits rolled on The Force Awakens two years ago, fan theories about where the story would go haven’t been in short supply. If you've been online at all, you know there were almost as many theories as fans.
Personally, I spent much of that time avoiding fan theories entirely. Some seemed realistic. Some seemed ridiculous. But all of them were just wild speculation. And obsessive nit-picking and theorizing have never held any appeal to me; I feel that it sucks all the fun out of fandom.
So when it came time to sit down and round up many of those fan theories that have now been debunked by The Last Jedi, I was initially pretty apprehensive. Did I really want to dive down that rabbit hole NOW? Turns out, this is actually pretty easy.
Which fan theories turned out to be bunk? Nearly all of them.
Two years of fevered arguments and suppositions over Rey’s parentage. Two years of insufferable Snoke theories. Two years of debate about what happened to Luke and what his first words would be.
In the end, The Last Jedi and Rian Johnson took that collective fan obsession, tossed it in the airlock, and opened the hatch. The Last Jedi not only subverts fan expectations, it intentionally crushes them into the dirt and makes you feel a little silly for investing so much time and effort in your ridiculously convoluted theories.
If we’re to believe the on-screen revelation about Rey’s parents, then absolutely ALL of the theories about her lineage were debunked in a single tearful exchange with Kylo Ren. (And believe me, there are already plenty of conspiracy theorists online claiming this is just more sleight of hand and subterfuge ... to which I ask: Why? To what possible end? How does such audience deception further the story on screen? Can't we just accept that her parents were nobody important—characters we haven't met before? But I digress.)
Rey is not a Skywalker. She’s not a Solo. She’s not a Kenobi. She's not a reincarnated Anakin Skywalker. She’s not Luke’s clone, born from the DNA of his severed hand. She wasn't … ahem … hatched from an egg. (Yes, these are all "real" theories.)
She’s you. She’s me. She’s the downtrodden, oppressed everyperson living under the vicious rule of the First Order. She's every person who's been led to believe she's powerless in the face of tyranny. She’s the light that sparks a new rebellion. Which is exactly as it should be.
But Rey’s not the only character fans spent two years obsessing over. Oh no. Let's not forget the question that resulted in more nerd fights than we thought possible: Who is Supreme Leader Snoke?
I have to admit, I never quite understood this particular obsession. Fan theorists NEEDED Snoke to be someone they already knew. They NEEDED him to connect to previous films. To that end, countless theories posited his "true identity": that he was Emperor Palpatine reborn (or cloned or whatever), that he was Darth Plagueis (or created by him), that he was Ezra Bridger (from Star Wars Rebels) turned to the Dark Side, that he was a time-traveling Kylo Ren! Cripes, the fact that more than one person thought he was Jar Jar Binks is proof of just how desperately theorists needed Snoke to be someone. Anyone.
Ultimately, he was just another in a long line of evil Sith-types bent on galactic domination. Yawn. All of your Snoke theories sucked, and The Last Jedi knows it, flaunts it, and throws them back in your face.
Rey's parents and Snoke's identity clearly dominated a vast majority of fan theories, but they weren't the only ones. Here, then, is a sampling of some of the better ones.
Luke will be the villain. No.
Rey and Kylo Ren will join forces. Close, but no.
Rey and Kylo Ren will become lovers. Ew, no.
Lando Calrissian will make a cameo. Nope.
Benicio Del Toro's character is Ezra Bridger. Um, I don't think so?
Captain Phasma will have a much bigger and more critical role. Alas, no.
General Leia will die. Surprisingly, no.
As Luke might say: Every word in those sentences was wrong.
So what happened? How could everyone have been so wrong? The thing is, almost all fan theories were rooted in the Star Wars of the past. They were based on what we thought we knew about these characters and this mythology. They were based on an assumption that this trilogy would follow a familiar arc and complete George Lucas’s “poetic” cyclical retelling of the hero’s journey.
The fan theories all failed and now seem so laughable because all those fans doing the theorizing had blinders on. They failed to think outside of the proverbial box. They saw Star Wars as a story set on constant repeat and failed to even consider that the narrative could break the mold and deliver something fresh, exciting, and completely unexpected.
So did ANY theories prove true? It's still too early to tell for sure, but it looks like the Knights of Ren were indeed some of Luke's other Jedi students who followed Kylo Ren.
And it looks like we might … maybe … be seeing the birth of Gray Jedi. I guess we'll have to see what happens in two years.
As Yoda reminds us, “Failure, the best teacher is.” So will fan theorists take heed? Will they learn from all of those failures and give their theories a rest?
Are you kidding?
As we move forward, there will of course be more fan theories. I'd like to think fans will be more cautious and measured with their speculation, but I'm also realistic. I know there are already people dissecting The Last Jedi for clues to know the unknowable and figure out where Episode IX will go. My advice to them? Don't take it all so seriously. Let go, have fun, and enjoy the ride.
And most important, don't forget one the film's primary messages: “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.”
The Last Jedi showed us that the past is indeed prologue. Where the franchise goes from here is more wide open than ever before. It's a galaxy full of potential stories; we don't have to focus on a single family anymore. Now, THAT is exciting.