The Force Awakens: Let’s Speculate
There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?
—Supreme Leader Snoke
So there’s a new Star Wars trilogy coming out, and it will have nothing to do with the Expanded Universe continuity. Disney and JJ Abrams have been keeping the story behind The Force Awakens under tight, jealous wraps. Sure, Abrams has been teasing us lately with a few choice, juicy details. But it’s just spattering blood into shark-infested water. It doesn’t tell us what has been going on since Anakin Skywalker brought balance to the Force and the Ewoks sang “Yub Nub” (prior to the most un-wizard special edition release, that is).
Or rather, it wouldn’t be much to go on unless everything he has been saying had confirmed your months-long speculation and guesswork. As it has mine. At the risk of sounding vain, I want to go on record for having speculated these plot threads before they were confirmed and to put forth the rest of my guesses to see how well they fare against the actual film.
If you are spoiler-phobic, nothing I am about to say is a spoiler. Just speculation. I think, though, that it’s pretty decent speculation, seeing how a major aspect of my hypothesis—something that was quite a long shot—was confirmed by Abrams in a recent interview with Empire. Guesses I made that were confirmed by Abrams are noted in parentheses. Let’s see what you think:
So. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Second Death Star blew up. What happened after that? Well, as far as we know, Mara Jade never existed, there was no Sun Crusher, Jorus C’baoth probably never existed, there were no Emperor clones, the Yuuzhen Vong are just a silly name, and there may be no Solo twins or children of any sort. There may have never been a New Jedi Order. I’ll be writing another post about that, and I don’t think you’ll like it. But that’s another day’s battle.
I think one major way this new continuity will be different from the previous Expanded Universe continuity hinges around one point: the New Republic failed.
It makes sense. The Empire, as we learn in A New Hope, had done away with the Senate, replacing it with a regional hierarchy of command tracing back to the ultimate authority of the Emperor. The infrastructure and political system of power shifted into a thoroughly despotic system. Most policy- and decision-making power rested in the single person of the Emperor. The big draw for a system like this is things run smoothly. Brutally, but smoothly.
Sure, the Rebellion was formed around big names in the former Republic, but it was a ragtag group of former senators like Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, not really enough to restore the Senate and effectively change the system of government. You can’t count on citizens to happily adopt the new system because of its ideological superiority. Even if they want to, their support will quickly wane when they discover the new government can’t dispose of the trash or protect the streets like the old one did. When a system is designed to be run by a dictator, eliminating that dictator will create instability unless you have virtually unlimited manpower and means in addition to popular support. Which the Rebellion did not.
So my hypothesis is that the New Republic was founded after the destruction of the Second Death Star, but (a) the Empire was not completely destroyed, remaining a major force to be reckoned with, still controlling large swaths of the Galaxy, and (b) the New Republic’s administration was, frankly, poor. Driven by good intentions, of course, but incapable of effectively replacing the iron grip with democracy to keep order over half a galaxy’s worth of star systems. However, after striking so many grievous blows to the Empire, it showed that it stood a chance of winning, encouraging would-be allies to join, and nothing strengthens a rebellion better than a bandwagon.
Fast forward twenty years. The galaxy is torn and war-weary after more than three decades of the Galactic Civil War. With the fall of the Second Death Star, the Rebellion began to attract any group wanting to see the downfall of the Empire, not just idealists and former Republic sympathizers. And after their losses over Endor, they had little choice but to accept anyone who would stand with them. After selling their soul for more firepower and star systems, the Rebellion has become the blanket organization both for the New Republic and their many allies, including the unscrupulous crime families in the galaxy and the remnants of the CIS of the Clone Wars. After ceaseless war, both sides are wearing thin, deeply in debt, lacking public support, and on the verge of collapse.
The common people of the galaxy are no longer sure which cause is right. With the Sith extinct, the Empire looks less evil; after Luke’s disappearance and the arrival of assassins and gangsters, the Rebellion looks less good. And at long last, the day of reckoning has come: the Empire and the Rebellion find themselves forced to engage in what they both know will be their last battle. This is their Armageddon, the Battle over Jakku. The battle is terrible and devastating. Both sides limp away broken. They finally collapse, leaving the galaxy in chaos.
In the vacuum of power and order are many disgruntled, angry people. They look back at what happened and begin to ask some very dangerous questions: was the Empire so evil? Were the Sith really the villains of this struggle? Surrounded by chaos left behind by the Galactic Civil War, it looks to them an awful lot like things were golden under a strong rule of law and a powerful galactic civilization until the jealous former rulers of the galaxy, the Jedi, plotted the downfall of everything.
With Luke’s disappearance and Anakin’s death, there are no more Jedi or Sith. But they begin to wonder if perhaps they might not be able to resurrect the dead religion of The Force and in some way restore order and civilization to the galaxy. They band together and call themselves the Knights of Ren (confirmed and named in recent interview with Abrams; prior, I just guessed they would be some sort of quasi-religious paramilitary group).
A movement began, driven by memories of prosperity and order under the Empire, rather like ISIS or the Third Reich, which saw themselves as the restoration of a golden age that, in reality, never really existed (also confirmed in a recent interview with Abrams). This group could be made up of former Imperial leaders and soldiers as well as former Imperial citizens.
This movement believes that order and prosperity have always followed when the galaxy was in the control of the original, pure religion of The Force, the First Order of the Force, the original wielders of the Force—the Sith, from which the Jedi split off anciently (remember that only the post-RotJ Expanded Universe was declared non-canonical). Hence, the movement calls itself the First Order. It is something like a religion of fanboys of the Empire and the Sith. They have a temple dedicated to relics of the past, including Vader’s helmet, and are on a hunt for everything pertaining to the Sith or even the Jedi, and have been raiding Yavin’s Massassi temples and anywhere else they suspect might hold these relics.
Fast forward eight years. The planet Jakku has become a haven for pirates, scavengers, and traders, making a handsome living off of the scrap and tech deposited in the deserts: fleets of ships, weapons, and transport, both Rebel and Empire, that fell in the battle. But something is stirring on the planet’s surface that attracts the attention of the First Order.
Princess Leia’s movement is now only a shadow of its former self, having jettisoned or lost most of its former allies, and is called the Resistance, in conflict with the First Order. Both movements are smaller and growing, as opposed to the behemoths that were the Rebellion and the Empire.
And somewhere, hidden in the vast recesses of the galaxy, an old threat emerges: the last vestiges of the old Empire, which gladly aligns itself with this First Order. This was actually not part of my original speculation, but came from the Dark Side cover of Empire magazine’s Star Wars issue. If you look carefully, the stormtroopers to the right are Empire, not First Order. And Disney doesn’t make mistakes like that.
Kylo Ren, the best of the Knights of Ren, has constructed a functional lightsaber out of scrap. He has begun to discover the Force awakening in himself. He is a young idealist, not really evil but dedicated to his belief that the First Order is a force for good, which will bring about the prosperity of days past. He is the young, charismatic hero of the movement. He wears a mask (with voice modulation!) to invoke his hero, Darth Vader.
A young, hitherto unimportant First Order stormtrooper named Finn also begins to feel the stirrings of the Force within him. Only he has never been a Knight of Ren. His new powers amount to blasphemy and will threaten his life, so he must run away to save himself, suddenly feeling lost and betrayed by the First Order, which he had truly believed in and dedicated his life to.
And suddenly, rumor spreads that Darth Vader’s original lightsaber has been found. The First Order desperately wants it and dispatches their best and most loyal convert, former bounty hunter Captain Phasma, to retrieve it.
Beyond that, I have nothing. There are still a lot of mysteries. Who is Supreme Leader Snoke? That’s my number one loose end. Is he a Sith or just another fanboy? Is either Finn or Rey a descendent of someone in the original trilogy? Who is Captain Phasma and why have we never seen her face? Will she be this trilogy’s Boba Fett? Where has Luke been all this time? Is the Starkiller base on Hoth?
Wild guess: Captain Phasma or Kylo Ren is Luke’s daughter/son.
But all that aside, I suspect my plot outline here is something like what we will be seeing in the text crawl as we are blasted by the glorious strains of John Williams come December 18th. Or I could be totally wrong. So, any bets? What do you all think?
UPDATE (1 September 2015)
After an official news release by the Star Wars Battlefront website, I have learned that the Battle of Jakku takes place 29 years before the start of The Force Awakens. That means two things for my above theories: (1) my timeline is off (I had assumed that The Force Awakens would take place 28 years after Return of the Jedi since 28 years have elapsed in real time since the release of that film, and that the battle over Jakku would be many years after the fact), and (2) it suggests the Galactic Civil War will be settled very quickly indeed after the events of Return of the Jedi, since the Battle of Jakku is described as a pivotal battle that possibly spelled the end of the Empire and the Rebellion. Further suggestions of this are the fact that the same website declared that a new, never-before-seen planet would be featured in the new Battlefront game: Sullust. Now, Sullust was previously supposed to be the site of Obi-wan and Anakin Skywalker’s fateful duel, prior to the release of the prequel trilogy. It has been described as a volcanic planet, and is mentioned in the original trilogy as a place where the rebel fleet gathers. As far as I know, there have been no major battles in the Galactic Civil War on Sullust, suggesting this will be a new battle, before or after the battle of Jakku. In short, it looks like the Galactic Civil War will come to a head very quickly, leaving most of the 30 years intervening between the films for groups like the First Order to fester and for the names Han, Luke, and Leia to fall into myth rather than fact.