Star Wars Analysis – What does balance in the Force mean?

star wars the last jedi the force

Are we balanced yet?

Since we first saw The Phantom Menace in 1999, audiences wondered what precisely it meant to bring balance to the Force. Anakin Skywalker was prophesied to “bring it” and at the time, we all assumed it meant to bring more Light Side and less Darkness. Which made no sense, since we all knew who Anakin would grow up to be. He wasn’t going anywhere good until the very last 20 minutes of Return of the Jedi, when he pitched the Emperor over a railing…and died.

There’s been confusion over this ‘balance’ aspect since then. Was Anakin Skywalker’s whole life and six movies leading up to him tossing said Emperor? THAT was bringing balance to the Force? Not too impressive after so much build-up.

Integration is the answer

I always ascribed to a Jungian philosophy, where one needs to balance the anima and animus, or in other words, walk a line between light and dark. We all have aspects of good and evil within. It’s what we choose to do with our potential that makes us who we are. And it seemed that Star Wars creator George Lucas was telling us only the Light made right.


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Well, fast forward a couple of decades plus three more films, and it turns out that I — and Jung — were not wrong. It’s kind of unbelievable it took 42 years from A New Hope until The Rise of Skywalker to make it clear what a “balance of the Force” meant. Succinctly: if there were going to be a lot of Jedi Knights, their Light would be spread pretty thin. And that with only two Sith (roughly) at any time, each of the two would have an equal power of Dark, shared among the Master and Apprentice. This isn’t exactly what I (okay, and Jung) had in mind, but balance definitely did NOT mean destroying Dark Side users and embracing only the Light. Or the inverse.

From what I can tell after the finale of the nine-part Skywalker saga, Force balance means each aspect will have an equal amount of…let’s call it life power…at any one time. This is my theory, at least.

Spoilers follow for Star Wars up through Rise of Skywalker.

In Rey’s communal message from all the Light Side Jedi, you can clearly hear Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) tell her to bring back the balance, “as he did.”

Um. Did he? Maybe he wanted Rey to throw Palpatine into another pit? I just don’t think that was the endgame after all this heavy world-building. I was very glad there was more to it than that.

When Anakin was The Chosen One, there were a lot of other Jedi out there. And two (or more, depending on if you include Count Dooku and General Grievous) Dark Force/Sith users. So, if his job was to bring balance, it wasn’t the good thing anyone hoped for. He brought balance by killing off almost every Jedi in existence.

After he became Dark Vader we had two Sith Lords (he and Palpatine) on the one side, and two Jedi, with Obi-Wan and Yoda, on the other. Actually, that sounds a lot like balance, doesn’t it?

A Ceaseless Cycle of Balance and Unbalance?

When Luke and Leia were born, there was a potential to throw off the balance again, unless one of the twins went Dark and the other went Light. Or neither could use the Force at all. When both became users of the Light, and Luke built his New Jedi Academy to make more Light Force users, right there the universe had a problem again.

If the natural course of existence is to seek Force balance, that meant either some of the students would turn mildly Dark, or one would become very Dark. We got a combo: I think the Knights of Ren were an example of the “some,” with Ben Solo — now Kylo Ren — being the very strong one. We also had powerful Dark strength in Snoke (created in a tank), and Palpatine (essentially a Force zombie).

Who was left to carry the Light half of the equation?

Kylo Ren killed the rest of the Jedi students, so what remained was a lot of Dark Side users, plus Luke (exiled), Leia (retired), and Rey (an unknown). It made sense for Kylo to be conflicted — the Dark Side wasn’t stable.

Of course, now we know Kylo Ren turned to the Light, Rey nearly turned to the Dark, and finally, only Rey remained…with, I suppose, aspects of both. The Kylo/Rey Dyad was broken, but somehow balance emerged.

I’m guessing here about Rey having access to both Light and Dark going forward. There’s no direct indication of where the Force is headed next, or if we get any final closure, ever. Rey buries the lightsabers of Luke and Leia. She lights her new sword: a yellow one made from her quarterstaff, and watches twin suns set over Tatooine…

And the familiar, final Star Wars score begins. Cue the credits.

In The Last Jedi, we saw BroomSaber Boy at the coda, so clearly there are Force potentials out there. In Rise of Skywalker, it appears Finn is Force-sensitive. Maz Canata has some Force abilities. And Rey has all the books of Jedi lore she swiped from Planet Ahch-to.

What does all of this mean, and where do we go after Rise of Skywalker?

I’d like the Force to stay balanced for a nice long while.

I’d really like to think we’re done with the Skywalkers. I was happy one of my guesses about Rey’s parentage proved true, and I’m content to stop the saga now. It would be nice if future movies didn’t involve rebels and fascist regimes.

If I have my way, new characters can allude to whatever Rey and her ghost friends decide to do. Establish a Force Academy that actually teaches balance, perhaps, but don’t make a movie about it. Follow some of the great Star Wars Extended Universe tales as the “New” New Republic rebuilds, rooting out the last bastions of the Empire/First Order/Final Order/Whatever. Something great could be based on the EU’s Grand Admiral Thrawn trilogy, for example. The EU is no longer considered canon Star Wars, but the movies already started cherry-picking storylines from those books anyway.

I really don’t care, as long as the next movies are well made and a pleasure to watch. Star Wars no longer needs to be tethered to Skywalkers, Palpatines, Kenobis, or even Solos. (Although I wouldn’t mind a Lando movie with Donald Glover. He was the best part of Solo.)

We don’t need another set of trilogies establishing how the Force gets balanced/unbalanced, why Rey’s lightsaber is a new color, or if Chewbacca ever goes home to Kashyyyk.

Enter The Mandalorian

If you managed to catch the first season of The Mandalorian on Disney+, it’s clear how much can still be done properly in the galaxy far away and long ago. Jon Favreau gets it: The Mandalorian is very, very good. It takes its sweet time crafting an interesting tale in the storytelling gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, without relying on old characters or well-trodden tropes.  I look forward to season two.

So far, balancing the Force isn’t a Mandalorian theme. Nor does it seem to be about achieving immortality, which is what the Skywalker Saga really boils down to.

Do you think Rey brought balance to the Force? Will her story continue, or should Star Wars follow The Mandalorian’s lead and tell new tales? What do you want to see Lucasfilm and Disney do with Star Wars next?

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The 6 Most Epic Lightsaber Fights in Star Wars (plus 3 that didn’t make the cut)

A Meta-Side Discussion of the Force, and how Star Wars Ultimately Failed:

The Force is dead. Long live the Force.

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