All your STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS questions answered – Episode I

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SPOILER WARNING: This post is the first of several this week that will be breaking down, explaining, examining and discussing several different plot points in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and attempting to answer the mysteries they’ve brought up. So if you haven’t watched the movie yet – and why the heck not?! – then you should back out of this article right now! This is your final SPOILER WARNING!

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I can comfortably say with no hyperbole, that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been on my mind constantly since I watched it last Wednesday. There’s a lot to dissect in the movie’s narrative, especially since it raises a huge number of questions and that’s not something that can be done without spoilers or lots and lots of words. Hence why I’ve decided to do this series of follow-up posts to my 4-star review.

This is going to cover a hell of a lot of info, so I’ve broken this dissection down into 3 “Episodes” that run over the next 3 days, making for easier reading – some of it answers question regarding plot points and character actions in the movie, while others fill in gaps in the timeline, or even cover new info that’s been revealed over the weekend past.

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It’s been 30 years since Luke, with the help of his father Darth Vader, destroyed the Emperor, and the Rebellion blew up the second Death Star, signalling the end of the evil Empire, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens actually provides only scant background info about what has transpired in that three decade gap. As JJ Abrams explained to EW over the weekend though, that sort of obfuscation was intentional:

“Everyone who has seen these movies thinks about ‘I am your father …’ and ‘There is another …’, but neither of those things were in [1977’s original] Star Wars. Star Wars didn’t say Luke was the son of Vader. Star Wars didn’t say Leia was the sister of Luke. You didn’t understand what these references were: the Empire, dark times, Clone Wars. There were these things that were discussed that don’t get explained. George [Lucas] dropped you into a story and respected you to infer everything necessary to understand what you need to know.”

I actually respect this creative decision to keep things a bit more mysterious and not bog down the first film in a trilogy with exposition about every move that has happened, so I guess this is me inferring so that you don’t have to. And I’ve decided to start at the best place: The beginning. Or actually, before the beginning as there’s some much needed history that actually helps tremendously to understand some of the events and character motivations in The Force Awakens.

  • How does the New Republic, the Resistance and the First Order fit together?

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Since Lucasfilm scrapped the old Expanded Universe as non-canon, it’s been steadily introducing new official novels, children’s books, comic books, TV series and video games. Most of these take place during the events of the previous six movies, with one novel, the unfortunately poorly written ‘Aftermath’, being the only one that explicitly exists to fill in the gaps post-Return of the Jedi. But even ‘Aftermath’ hasn’t delved too deeply into these events yet.

However, if you were to gather all the details spread across the new material, we learn the following:

The destruction of the second Death Star and the fall of the Emperor was not the end of the Empire. The Rebels would continue engaging them in military action for another year, during which time the most senior Imperials gathered on the otherwise meaningless planet Akiva and established the Imperial Future Council, whose mandate was to figure out their next course of action. They were divided on this, as some members wanted an immediate strong military response while others (actually just one) wanted to instead bolster their power first by going after a legendary font of Dark Side Force power rumoured to exist somewhere in the Outer Rim. They never get to truly decide though as the Rebels eventually show up and thanks to some assistance from a motley crew of locals, kicks their butts right out the system.

The Empire keeps falling back until they eventually make their last stand, so to speak, on the planet of Jakku. Yes, the same planet that our new Jedi heroine Rey lives on. This is why there’s a downed Star Destroyer and AT-AT in the desert. It’s at Jakku where the Empire is finally stopped properly as the Rebels rout them, with only a small Imperial remnant managing to slink off to hide and lick its wounds in the wild frontier of the Outer Rim.

Across the galaxy, the remaining Imperial holdouts fall soon thereafter and the Rebels go on to establish the New Republic government. Rebellion leader Mon Mothma relinquishes her total leadership, including the military powers she technically inherited from Emperor Palpatine, and the Senate is reestablished.

Coruscant, traditionally the seat of power for both the Old Republic and the Empire, is relinquished as the galactic capital, with it being decided that all systems need to be represented equally. To do this, the senate routinely moves to different planets in the Republic, with members voting on where to convene next. The latest venue is Chandrila, a historically rich planet in the Hosnian system (It is this planetary system that we see General Hux obliterating with the Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens, essentially wiping out the entire Senate in one fell swoop).

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And with the New Republic firmly on the path of government building again, they just don’t have the time to investigate and hunt down the last dregs of the Empire, and so they ignore it. Or more accurately, they ignore Princess Leia who is the only one that recognizes the danger of an Empire allowed to regain its strength once more – which is exactly what happens as the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke starts to rally all the Imperial remnants together under the new banner of the First Order.

And with the rumblings of the First Order getting louder, Leia – now General Leia – successfully drums up support and forms her own military unit to go after them. As the chase expands and continues on over the years, this unit would then go on to become the very imaginatively named The Resistance.

Now officially the New Republic and the Resistance are two separate, autonomous entities, as the New Republic does not want to antagonize the First Order into another war and would rather maintain the uneasy status quo, but it’s an open secret that the New Republic does in fact sanction/condone the Resistance’s actions. This is why Hux destroys the Hosnian system, as he sees the New Republic as enabling the Resistance even though the New Republic and the First Order are officially not at war.

  • Who/what is Supreme Leader Snoke?

At this point we really have very little idea of who Snoke is or how he assumed leadership of the First Order – or how he managed to convince young Jedi in training Ben Solo to turn on his fellow pupils and betray his master Luke Skywalker to become the villainous Kylo Ren – but I have a personal theory that it has something to do with that ancient font of Dark Side power mentioned previously.

There is also a fan theory going around that Snoke could possibly be Darth Plagueis, Emperor Palpatine’s own Sith master. In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine tells Anakin Skywalker of Darth Plagueis, revealing that he was so powerful in the Dark Side of the Force that he attained “power over death”. This power couldn’t prevent his ambitious apprentice Palpatine from eventually poisoning him while he slept, but what if he didn’t die like Palpatine thought? It’s an intriguing theory, but one that currently really doesn’t have any facts behind it other than the fact that they’re both clearly on the Dark Side, and that George Lucas once described Plagueis as being a Munn, an alien race with thin, drawn out facial features.

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Andy Serkis, who mo-capped Snoke, spoke to EW a while back about the character and how he had been around during the events of the previous films.

“He’s aware of what’s gone on, in the respect that he has been around and is aware of prior events. I think it’d be fair to say that he is aware of the past to a great degree.”

He also seemed to indicate that something happened to Snoke prior to The Force Awakens that has left him vulnerable – perhaps barely recovering from a lethal dose of poison? – which is probably why he doesn’t appear in the flesh.

“Supreme Leader Snoke is quite an enigmatic character, and strangely vulnerable at the same time as being quite powerful. Obviously he has a huge agenda. He has suffered a lot of damage. As I said, there is a strange vulnerability to him, which belies his true agenda, I suppose…He is large. He appears tall. And also just the facial design – you couldn’t have gotten there with prosthetics. It’s too extreme. Without giving too much away at this point, he has a very distinctive, idiosyncratic bone structure and facial structure. You could never have done it [in real life.]”

If it is Plagueis and he is a Munn, that would fit with Serkis’ descriptions of him being tall and having a weird bone structure, although the Munns we saw in the Prequels all had much, much more elongated skulls. Also, it would confirm that while he’s probably more than 7-ft tall, he’s not as gigantic as he appears in the movie and that is all just an affection of his hologram projection. Remember, the Emperor also appeared to Vader as a gigantic hologram and he was just a regular sized man.

UPDATE: GeekNation has just pointed out something that may just be the most compelling piece of evidence yet that Snoke is actually Darth Plagueis, Palpatine’s old master returned. And the clue was right in front of our eyes – or more accurately our ears – the entire time. Have a listen to the track “Palpatine’s Teachings” from John Williams’ soundtrack for Revenge of the Sith, and then listen to “Snoke” from Williams’ latest effort on The Force Awakens.

That is way too similar to be a coincidence, right? Williams is a legendary composer who is not in the habit of being lazy and just copying his own work.

  • Who are the Knights of Ren?

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And staying with the new power players of the Dark Side, we learned from JJ Abrams earlier in the year that Kylo Ren’s last name is not a name at all, but rather a title (“Kylo” appears to be a portmanteau of sKYwalker and soLO). In The Force Awakens this becomes clear as Supreme Leader Snoke himself tells us that Kylo is the Master of the Knights of Ren. But who are these Knights? They’ve certainly never showed up in the official canon until now.

For a while, before they were officially named, there was a very strong rumour going around that Kylo Ren and his group were in fact the “modern” version of the Inquisitors introduced in the animated Star Wars Rebels TV series. We only see the Knights of Ren in a single shot during Rey’s Force vision of when Kylo destroyed Luke’s new Jedi, and there certainly appears – as much as we can glimpse – to be a distinct similarity in their dress sense when compared to that of Inquisitors Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister.

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But how did the Jedi apprentice Ben Solo end up becoming Kylo Ren, master of a mysterious order of knights? And where are these knights now? Were they all busy hanging out with Snoke wherever he was broadcasting from? These are all still questions that will probably only get answered in 2017’s Episode VIII when we will more than likely hear the story of how Luke was betrayed.

And speaking of questions, tomorrow we’re going to delve into the mysteries surrounding Rey, specifically the hints that Rey may actually have been one of Luke’s prior students. Or even – dun dun DUUUUHHHHNN – his daughter! We’ll also look at Finn’s rumoured parentage, Leia’s lack of Force abilities and R2-D2’s rather convenient actions.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.

Last Updated: December 22, 2015

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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