“A magical power holding together good and evil, the dark side and the light. Crazy thing is… it’s true. The Force. The Jedi… All of it… It’s all true.” – Han Solo, The Force Awakens
Star Wars is a world of good and evil, light and dark. One where your entire life can be defined by a prophecy, your family’s allegiances, or even just your menial job as, say, a maintenance worker on a government space station.
Delving into the intricacies of Star Wars canon can be an overwhelming task. But luckily for you, I’m here to explain exactly what the deal is with the Jedi and Sith, why they hate each other so much, and how The Last Jedi could introduce us to a new kind of Jedi who’s never before been seen in Star Wars‘ celluloid universe.
An ancient monastic order built around their belief in the concept of the Force–an energy source that connects all living things in the galaxy–the Jedi acted as protectors of the Galactic Republic for a thousand generations. Using the light side of The Force, Jedi fought for millennia with another ancient order who harnessed the Dark Side of The Force: the Sith. Eventually destroying themselves, the Dark Side turned the Sith against each other, making it easy for the Jedi to destroy them once and for all. At one point the Sith were even believed to be extinct. In fact, only one Sith survived, and that Sith–Darth Bane–established The Rule of Two, which meant that only one Sith and their apprentice could exist at any time.
This is a war that’s been going on for a very, very long time. But as we follow the path of the Jedi and the Sith, we begin to get closer to a more widely recognizable world, one that many of us grew up with: the world of the Star Wars movies.
After over a thousand years in hiding, the Sith reappeared in the last days of the Galactic Republic. The appearance of Darth Sidious and his apprentice–Darth Maul, the iconic double-bladed lightsaber-wielding bad guy from the first of George Lucas’ now notorious prequels–marked a vital turning point in the galaxy’s history. The Force was once again clouded by the Dark Side. With the resurgence of the Sith, the galaxy was in turmoil and Darth Sidious used this imbalance to shield himself and his intentions, rising up the ranks of the Galactic Republic and using his position to manipulate the senate. It would be Sidious who would finally turn a young Jedi named Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side, creating one of the most feared Sith of all time, Darth Vader.
So to put it very simply, the Jedi and the Sith are essentially just different sects of a very old religion. They’ve spent years at war over how to best utilize the power that the invisible binding energy they worship bestows upon them. In Star Wars canon, there’s a very clear good and bad analog with the Light Side and the Dark Side… though you can read plenty of arguments about how the Empire is really just trying their best and the Jedi are a terrorist organization. Still, it’s obvious to most of us that the anger, jealousy, and hatred that fuels the Sith makes them the bad guys, compared to the calm and coolheaded nature of the Jedi, who utilize the Light Side of the Force and are clearly meant to be the moral compass of the Star Wars movies.
However, in the wider world of Star Wars, things are often more complex. There’s another kind of Jedi, one who’s rarely appeared outside the pages of the now (mostly) decanonized Star Wars Expanded Universe. Gray Jedi have long been a part of the lore and legend of Star Wars, though the definition of the term has evolved throughout the years. Formerly referring to Jedi who simply disobey the Jedi council, Gray Jedi is now more widely recognized as a Jedi who uses both the Light and Dark Sides of the Force without ever being corrupted.
First canonically appearing in the Dark Horse Star Wars: Republic comics, these renegade Jedi have become one of the favorite topics of fevered fan speculation. Which characters are Gray Jedi? (Aside from those whom we already know, like Qui Gon Jinn.) What traits truly make a Gray Jedi? And the most burning question of all: Will Disney bring the Gray Jedi back into canon?
The Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012 led to a huge cull of the unbelievably expansive Star Wars canon that’d been built up for decades in thousands of books, comics, and video games. Disney has begun to slowly reintroduce some of the story beats and characters that fans thought they’d lost forever, and that’s why many of us now believe that The Last Jedi will introduce Gray Jedi into recognized Disney continuity.
In the first incredible trailer for The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker–a lifelong Jedi, now embittered and resentful–tell us that the Jedi must end. In the film’s poster released alongside the trailer, Rey holds a lightsaber with a blade that’s both red and blue, the colors of both the Dark Side and the Light. Could Rey be the Star Wars movies’ first canon Gray Jedi? Luke has definitely flirted with the Dark Side, but maybe it will be Rey who must harness the focused totality of the Force to save the galaxy. Perhaps she could be the one who finally brings balance to the Force the only way it can truly be done: using both the Light and the Dark Sides.
Are my Gray Jedi thoughts out of this world? Do you believe Rey can truly bring balance to the galaxy? Let us know in the comments!