"It's time for the Jedi to end."
These ominous words from Luke Skywalker come at the end of the latest long-awaited teaser for the eight instalment of the Star Wars saga.
These are among the first words we've heard Mark Hamill say in his career-defining role in more than 30 years. So, naturally, the internet is abuzz with speculation.
Has Luke turned to the Dark Side of the Force? Is that why he was in hiding for all of The Force Awakens?
There's one theory that I'd like to put out there. It's one that I've had for a while now.
I've tried to stay relatively across every book, comic and animated TV series that is considered to be the "canon" ever since Disney bought the franchise a few years ago.
And I've come across a theme that seems to be keep popping up.
I don't think the Jedi ever truly understood the Force.
The 'who' didn't understand the 'what'?
Okay, I probably should have started here earlier. If you're not a Star Wars nerd, feel free to stop reading now.
You don't need to be across everything, but a working knowledge of the major films is assumed knowledge at this point.
So, let's start with the prophecy
As much as we like to pretend the prequels don't exist - they are part of the official canon. And the prequels talk of a prophecy that will "bring balance to the Force".
What does that even mean?
We know that there are two sides to the Force, the Light and the Dark. The Light comes from positive emotions, such as compassion and empathy. The Dark comes from negative feelings, like hate and anger.
But the Jedi we meet in the prequels aren't really interested in balancing these sides.
They're an order of warrior monks - not allowed to fall in love or even care for their dying mothers.
As Yoda says, "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."
But this never made much sense to me. It doesn't feel much like balance. Fear is not a negative emotion. It exists to keep us safe and alive.
We're not supposed to shut off our emotions. We're supposed to learn how to deal with them, and maybe that's how the Force is supposed to work. You're not supposed to cut yourself off from the Dark Side, just as you're not supposed to totally embrace it. Maybe it's up to you to find the balance.
Is this new territory?
Not really. The new extended
universe shows there is more to the Force than just the Jedi and the Sith.
We have the novel Dark Disciple - one of the first books to be introduced into the new official canon. This story relates specifically to a mission where Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos struggled to walk the fine line between Light and Dark to carry out a difficult assassination.
Then there is Ahsoka Tano - a fan-favourite Jedi from the animated Clone Wars series. She left the Jedi Order amid controversy but returned as a character years later in Star Wars: Rebels. She no longer considers herself a Jedi, but used her powers to help fight the Empire.
And in the recent standalone film, Star Wars: Rogue One, we meet Chirrut Imwe, a blind member of the Guardian of the Whills. It is strongly inferred that he has the ability to use the Force, taking on a whole squad of stormtroopers almost by himself.
If there is a big picture behind the entire Star Wars series, perhaps the producers are laying the groundwork for us to accept that there is more to the Force than we'd previously been led to believe.
This is what I believe Luke Skywalker is talking about: The old Jedi Order was wrong. You can't just cut yourself off. You need to find a new way to find balance.
What's good about this theory?
Luke has already had a taste of walking the line between Light and Dark.
In his final battle with Darth Vader on the second Death Star, Luke taps into his anger and aggression to defeat his father. The fear of losing his sister motivated him for a devastating attack which disarmed one of the most fearsome villains in cinematic history.
But when it came time to issue the killing blow, Luke refused. He used the Dark Side as well as the Light. He found the balance.
There's also one other nice little benefit to this theory.
It makes the prequels essential to the overall story, while also slamming them for being horrible.
It's like saying, "Sure, it was stupid, but we meant for it to be stupid."
Or, like having a character purposefully installing a weakness in the first Death Star - filling a rather idiotic plot hole from four decades earlier.
This is the theory that's starting to make it's way around the internet: Not Light or Dark, but a 'Grey Jedi'. The end of extremist ideology, and a need for people on all sides of the spectrum to meet in the middle.
Not a terrible message for today's audiences.
As with all theories, all will be revealed in good time. I guess we'll have to wait until December to find out.