Star Wars: The Force Awakens introduced a different galaxy far, far away. Just because we partied with the Ewoks at the end of Return of the Jedi doesn’t mean the war ended overnight. The Empire persisted despite the death of Emperor Palpatine. Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath showed us a glimpse of how the political state changed in the months after the Battle of Endor. Mon Mothma became Chancellor of the newly formed New Republic, seated on her homeworld of Chandrila. She led the re-formed Galactic Senate while the fight continued against Imperial hold-outs. The landscape changed completely in the decades preceding the events of The Force Awakens. The New Republic remains, but it has been joined by the Resistance and the First Order.
The film didn’t delve into a ton of details about how the various factions relate to each other. There was only so much time, and considering how much people griped about the politics in the prequels, it was probably for the best. However, for you information junkies out there, the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary by Pablo Hidalgo goes into further details. This is what we know (and what we can speculate based on what we know):
The Rebel Alliance gave way to the New Republic. The Galactic Civil War continued after the Battle of Endor with retreating Imperial forces rallying on Jakku. Eventually, the New Republic attacked the desert planet and the Battle of Jakku had severe consequences upon the resources of both sides and was the last battle of the war. Eager for peace, the New Republic signed a treaty, the Galactic Concordance, with what was left of the Empire.
The New Republic believed they were at peace, and that the Empire was no longer a threat. They poured their energy into politics and restructuring the galaxy and disbanded the large scale military forces. But not everyone agreed that ignoring the Empire was a good idea, and so the Resistance was eventually born.
Side note: Hosnian Prime was the seat of the Galactic Senate that was destroyed in The Force Awakens. After the Battle of Endor, member worlds took on rotating hosting duties for the Senate.
General Leia Organa created the Resistance. It sort of has the support of the New Republic. They seemingly don’t sanction the existence or actions of the Resistance so much as they put up with them. Leia founded the Resistance because she was suspicious of what those holding onto the Empire’s tenets would do. She didn’t trust the peace and didn’t think the New Republic was doing enough to protect the galaxy. The Galactic Senate regarded Leia as a rabble-rouser of sorts and dismissed her worries.
The Resistance is comprised of recruits (Poe Dameron used to pilot in the New Republic Defense Fleet) and veterans of the Galactic Civil War.
from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary
The First Order
Those who believed in the Empire didn’t let go with the signing of the Galactic Concordance. Leia was right to be suspicious. They were restricted by the treaty though, so they hid away in a corner of the galaxy and formed the First Order. Their numbers grew despite the Concordance; they escaped the attention of the New Republic by doing things like creating new Academies aboard hidden Star Destroyers. The First Order is led by Supreme Leader Snoke, who we don’t know much about. I suspect his physical form isn’t what we saw in the film. We know his command center is mobile and that General Hux and Kylo Ren report directly to him. Hux, Ren, and Captain Phasma were in charge at Starkiller Base–think of Ren as Vader and Hux as Tarkin if you’re looking for parallels from A New Hope.
The First Order stormtroopers are trained and programmed from birth. Hux learned the methods from his father who was a “highly placed official in the Imperial Academy.” Hux believes the galaxy needs to be saved from itself and that New Republic is weak. The goal of the First Order is to destroy the last of the Jedi and the Resistance but also, it appears, to take down the New Republic in order to rule.
Knights of Ren
The group we know the least about is the Knights of Ren. We know Kylo Ren is a member and arguably the leader. I believe Snoke recruited and manipulated him to join the dark side. According to the Visual Dictionary, Snoke “believes Ren to be the ideal embodiment of the Force, a focal point of both light and dark side ability.” We saw the Knights of Ren briefly in Rey’s vision; Kylo Ren was with them and they stood in a field covered with bodies. Kylo Ren has the nickname of “Jedi Killer,” and I’m guessing we saw evidence of that in the vision. While I’m guessing, I think Snoke is responsible for creating the Knights of Ren.
Do you have any theories about who belongs to the Knights of Ren? Have questions or ideas about the politics of the galaxy? Talk to me in the comments or on Twitter.
HT: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary
Images: Lucasfilm, DK Publishing