It may sound crazy, but I feel that Luke Skywalker always got the short shrift.
Sure, everyone is super excited to see what’s become of the character thirty years after we saw him vanquish the Sith from the galaxy. But there was a time, a very long time I think, where no one really wanted to give Luke is props. At the very least, no one wanted to be Luke Skywalker.
Most people seemed to want to be Han Solo, because he was a roguish space cowboy. Or Darth Vader, because he was clearly the baddest dude in the galaxy. Or even Boba Fett, because he had a cool-looking helmet and a cool-sounding job title. But Han had no discernible character arc, Vader was overrated with a .500 record in on-screen lightsaber duels, and Fett was really just a jobber with cool ring attire.
Now, some may write off Luke as a boring old Chosen One character, but that’s not really true. The only thing “chosen” about him was something he shared with Princess Leia – that being Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader’s child. No, typically a Chosen One shows up, denies how chosen they are few a few scenes, and then suddenly save the world.
Luke, in fact, had quite a long and winding path to becoming the Jedi who saved the galaxy. I’m breaking his story down into eight parts (or Episodes, in keeping with the Star Wars themes) in honor of the forthcoming Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.
So gather ’round, ye children, and let me sing you the Ballad of Luke Skywalker.
Episode I: The Dreamer
When we first meet Luke, he’s a restless young man living on a moisture farm with his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. We’re told that most of his friends have already left Tatooine to join the academy, and seek adventure amongst the stars. Meanwhile, the closest he can get to those stars is longingly watching the binary sunset.
His journey begins with the hologram of a mysterious girl beseeching a man named Obi Wan Kenobi for help. This leads to his recently acquired droids – R2-D2 and C-3PO – to lead him out into the desert towards Master Kenobi. It’s here that Luke learns of his heroic father (as far as he’s told by crazy old Ben Kenobi at any rate).
Obi Wan wants to lead Luke out into space on a quest to save the galaxy from Imperial rule. But Luke – being a good and responsible “son” – refuses to fly off until his aunt and uncle are murdered by Storm Troopers. Shortly thereafter he, Obi Wan, and the droids hire a smuggler and his Wookiee co-pilot to take them off Tatooine and mount a rescue mission of Princess Leia.
Episode II: The Hero Of The Rebellion
After getting an abbreviated Jedi 101 course from Obi Wan, Luke and his allies find their way onto the Death Star in their mission to rescue Leia. As any amped-up teenager on his first adventure would, Luke rushes headlong into heroism without a doubt in his mind that he is right, and that right always wins.
During their escape from the Death Star, with Leia in-tow, Obi Wan is struck down by Darth Vader. They manage to reach a Rebel Alliance base, but Luke is shaken from the loss of three parental figures in a very short span of time. Still, he’s willing to jump into an X-Wing fighter jet and strike back (as it were) by taking a massively long shot at destroying the Death Star.
With Obi Wan riding shotgun, in Force Ghost form, Luke is able to make the shot and obliterate the Death Star. This cements his role as a hero, and a symbol, to the rebellion. It also sets him on a path that he will soon be unable to walk away from even if he wanted to.
Episode III: The Impatient Padawan
After scoring something of a Pyrrhic victory on the ice planet of Hoth, Obi Wan sends Luke to Dagobah to seek out the ancient Jedi Master Yoda for further training. He proves to be a fast learner, but a failure during on of his tests proves to be a harbinger of darkness to come, as he lobs off Darth Vader’s head, only for the Sith lord’s mask to vanish, and reveal Luke’s own face staring back at him.
Despite Yoda’s warning that he’s not ready, Luke speeds off to Cloud City when he senses that his friends are in-danger. He arrives too late to save Han Solo from being frozen in carbonite and taken away by Boba Fett – yet another loss of some he cares for – but just in-time to face off with Vader. Luke holds his own against the superior Sith lord, but it’s not long before Vader takes Luke’s hand from him, along with something much more precious: The belief that his father was a heroic Jedi martyr.
Episode IV: The Son Of Evil
What is a guy to do when he learns that the most evil man in the galaxy is his father? The first thing Luke does is mount a rescue mission for Han. This gives him a chance to flex his Jedi abilities, and bring his surrogate family back together to mount a final assault on the Galactic Empire.
The next thing he does is return to Dagobah to get confirmation about his ancestry from Yoda. Before passing into The Force, the old master comes clean and tells Luke that Vader and Anakin Skywalker are one-in-the-same. Yoda also leaves him with the revelation that there is another Skywalker somewhere out there.
He soon realizes that Leia is his sister, but that doesn’t change the fact that – with Yoda gone – Luke is now the last Jedi. Any hope of stopping Vader and his somehow-even-more-evil Emperor, falls completely on his shoulders.
Episode V: The Last Of The Jedi
By this point, Luke has lost everyone that ties him to his past. The aunt and uncle who raised him, and the two Jedi Masters who helped him become a man. The only things left binding him to anything at all are his sister, who he leaves almost immediately after dropping that knowledge bomb on her head, and his father, who he had spent the past few years training to kill.
It’s worth noting a few overlooked details at this point. The first being that, upon taking up the mantle of Jedi Knight, Luke clothes himself in all black. It’s a fashion choice worth mentioning not only because it is closer to what we’ve seen the Sith decked out in than the Jedi, but also Luke’s own previous white, beige, and orange gear.
The other visible change in Luke is with his lightsaber. While he’d previously wielded his (and his father’s) blue lightsaber, he now carries a saber with a darker, green blade. It’s not quite red yet, but it’s closer than we’d seen before (not considering the prequel films, of course).
Still, knowing that now he is the only one who can break the tyrannical Sith lords’ grasp on the galaxy, Luke allows himself to be taken to the new Death Star to embrace whatever fate might hold for him.
Episode VI: The Sith Apprentice?
A very bizarre love(?) triangle plays out in Emperor Palpatine’s throne room, as both Vader and the Emperor wish to take Luke on as their Sith apprentice. This twisting dynamic plays out during Luke’s hellacious lightsaber duel with his father.
Here’s the part that doesn’t get mentioned nearly enough: Luke succumbs – at least in-part – to the Dark Side of The Force. In order to finally defeat Vader, he taps into his fear, his anger, and his hatred. The truth is that he likely would not have been able to win if he hadn’t.
Yes, he pulls himself back from the brink in the end, bringing what’s left of his father back with him. But would that be enough to heal the mental, and emotional scars that come with betraying everything Obi Wan and Yoda taught him about the Light Side and the Dark Side of The Force in his desperation to vanquish evil?
Episode VII: The Man Who Talks To Ghosts
The last we see of Luke Skywalker is Leia pulling him away from the Force Ghosts of Anakin, Yoda, and Obi Wan to celebrate the fall of the Galactic Empire. But what happened after that? How much of what happened in the throne room did he even tell Leia, or anyone else for that matter? Was the burden heaved upon him something he chose to carry alone for the rest of his life?
When we catch up to him in the closing moments of The Force Awakens, we’ve learned a little about how he spent the 30 years since defeating Vader and Palpatine. He started a Jedi school, only to have his students massacred by his own nephew, and then to flee into self-imposed exile. Other than that…
Episode VIII: ?
There are many questions that we need answered. Among the most pressing, for me at least, are:
When did he start his Jedi school?
How did he pick his students? How did he track down the Force-Sensitive people?
How long did it run before its destruction?
How did he lose Ben Solo to Supreme Leader Snoke, and the Dark Side?
Is he Rey’s father?
If so, who is her mother, and what happened to her?
What has he been doing while in exile?
I really do hope we find out the answers to these questions in Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. I also hope we get to see old Master Luke unleash the full power of The Force in at least one super ass-kicking scene, since The Ballad of Luke Skywalker is deserving of a big finish.