"Light. Darkness. A balance."
The Star Wars Saga has focused on the great tides of history; the champions of the Light Side who stand against the relentless flood-like advance of the Dark Side. In the Prequel Trilogy, George Lucas introduced the idea that Light and Dark need to be held in a mystical balance. Now, with these four words, the trailer for The Last Jedi teases that we're about to dive head-first into this intriguing concept!
What is the 'Balance' that Rey Senses?
The Prequels introduced the concept of the 'Chosen One' to the Star Wars story. This being would bring balance to the Force. Ironically enough, the films never defined just what they mean by the word 'balance,' and in Revenge of the Sith, Yoda suspects the prophecy may have been misinterpreted.
The first real clue to what this means is found in the Clone Wars animated series. One episode opens with an intriguing quote: "Balance is found in the one who faces his guilt." The episode then goes on to introduce us to the mysterious 'Children of the Wielders', who put Anakin through a test to determine whether or not he is the Chosen One. He proves himself by demonstrating mastery of both the Light and Dark Sides of the Force, suggesting that the Chosen One transcends those boundaries - and that it is through his transcendence that he will somehow bring about 'balance'.
George Lucas Explains
In 2002, Lucas told Time Magazine:
"I wanted to have this mythological footing because I was basing the films on the idea that the Force has two sides, the good side, the evil side, and they both need to be there. Most religions are built on that, whether it's called yin and yang, God and the devil—everything is built on the push-pull tension created by two sides of the equation. Right from the very beginning, that was the key issue in 'Star Wars.'"
So the Chosen One's role is not to destroy the Darkness, but rather to bring the Light and Dark to their proper place of balance. But what does that actually look like in practice? Lucas uses two examples; yin and yang is an obvious one, but he also alludes to God and the devil. In the latter example, the balance is very different; Christianity believes the devil to be powerful, but subsidiary to God. Easter, the holiday which sees the release of this new Star Wars trailer, celebrates the idea that God has triumphed over the devil; that the Darkness has been defeated by the Light, if you will. So, while Lucas's explanation helps us understand just what he means, it's actually not terribly helpful.
If the prophecy is fulfilled by the close of Return of the Jedi, then balance seems to be that darkness is being driven back, with the Jedi restored and the Sith destroyed. But, as we know, the Dark Side is just aching to strike back. Enter Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren. So was this balance actually accomplished at Endor? Or is it something that is yet to be fulfilled, perhaps through Anakin's descendants?
Returning to the Concept of Balance
It seems that Lucasfilm is returning to the concept of balance, with Rey sensing that she is aware of a balance between the Light and Dark sides of the Force. It's unclear whether she's initially sensing that balance in the Galaxy as a whole - or just in the Temple of Ahch-To.
It's no coincidence that we hear Rey refer to the word 'balance'. Lucasfilm is deliberately reminding us of the mythology of the Force, indicating that the idea of balance is about to be revisited. If that's the case, it seems that one of the most mysterious mystical concepts in Star Wars history is about to be explored.
When fans watched The Force Awakens, they were amused that we saw so many nods to the Original Trilogy - and so few to the Prequels. Now, incredibly, The Last Jedi has just given a nod to one of the most complex, and mysterious, ideas in the Prequel Trilogy! But what will 'balance' look like? And how will we get to the place of balance? Only time - and The Last Jedi - will tell.