For most people, the galaxy far, far away is one they visit on the big screen in an annual blockbuster event (or later on DVD and Blu-Ray). But dig a little deeper, and you'll learn that the franchise runs into countless other media — from New York Times-bestselling novels to animated series to tie-in comics, all considered equally canon. The Lucasform Story Group watches over the whole franchise, guarding the canon assiduously and ensuring that everything remains consistent.
Which means, incidentally, if you're looking for hints and Easter Eggs that point towards the plot of The Last Jedi, you need only to cast your gaze to the broader #StarWars universe. Here are some of the main hints so far!
1. The Future Lies in the Unknown Regions
Drip by drip, elements of the old Star Wars Expanded Universe are coming back into the canon. #StarWarsRebels introduced us to Grand Admiral Thrawn, the Chiss military leader whose strategic brilliance in causing no end of trouble for Kanan and Ezra. His backstory is soon to be revealed in the novel Thrawn, penned by legendary Star Wars author Timothy Zahn; the first excerpt just brought one of Zahn's previous short stories back into the canon.
Meanwhile, Rebels has also given a subtle nod to the Mandalorian Wars, hinting that the fan-favorite Knights of the Old Republic games and novels may soon be canon once more.
But there's a common thread between those two key examples: the Unknown Regions, an uncharted realm of space in which something dark and dangerous lies. In fact, Chuck Wendig's Aftermath: Empire's End — a novel exploring the fall of the Empire, and setting the scene for the rise of the First Order — revealed that Palpatine was obsessed with the Unknown Regions. In one scene, we're told:
"The Emperor was convinced that something waited for him out there — some origin of the Force, some dark presence formed of malevolent substance. He said he could feel the waves of it radiating out now that the way was clear. The Emperor called it a signal — conveniently one that only he could hear. Even his greatest enforcer, Vader, seemed oblivious to it, and Vader also claimed mastery over the dark Force, did he not? Rax believed Palpatine had gone mad."
Given that the Imperial fleet headed off into the Unknown Regions at the close of Empire's End, clearly setting up their return as part of the First Order, it seems highly likely that this mysterious Dark Side presence was Snoke.
Meanwhile, Empire's End also set up the 'Acolytes of the Beyond', a Dark Side sect whose obsession with both Darth Vader and Sith masks clearly links somehow to Kylo Ren. Given they were established by Sith cultists who were familiar with Palpatine's obsession, the 'Beyond' likely refers to the Unknown Regions.
It can't be a coincidence: the two most important ideas borrowed from the old Expanded Universe, Thrawn and the Knights of the Old Republic, link to the Unknown Regions. At the same time, Lucasfilm set up Snoke as originating in the Unknown Regions. In fact, Empire's End gave us the first subtle link between these elements, suggesting that Palpatine accepted Thrawn precisely because of the information the Grand Admiral gave him about the Unknown Regions.
2. Luke Skywalker's Wife Mara Jade May Soon Be Canon
Timothy Zahn's return to the Star Wars franchise has fans seriously excited. Zahn was a key figure in the old Expanded Universe — his 'Thrawn Trilogy' essentially relaunched the Star Wars franchise — and he's always been obsessive about continuity. So fans have been eagerly expecting his next Star Wars novel, Thrawn, to re-establish some of Zahn's old stories and ideas. Lucasfilm's excerpt proved us right; in just a few short paragraphs, we got confirmation that one old Star Wars short story, Mist Encounter, now looks to be canon once again.
Excitingly, though, Star Wars Rebels has made mention of another of Zahn's ideas: the Emperor's Hands. Sworn servants of Palpatine, the Emperor's Hands are powerful figures who obey his every whim. To everyone's surprise, Rebels revealed that the character Gar Saxon carried the title 'Emperor's Hand, Acting Governor and Lord Protector of Mandalore'.
The most famous Emperor's Hand is another of Zahn's creations, a character named Mara Jade, who would ultimately go on to become Luke Skywalker's wife. Lucasfilm simply had to know how we'd react to that title. What's more, given we know that The Last Jedi will reveal the secret of Rey's parentage, while Lucasfilm consistently refer to the main films as the 'Skywalker Saga', this could be a pretty important bit of setup. Will Mara Jade be restored to the canon as Rey's mother? If so, I strongly doubt she'll have survived into the time of The Last Jedi - we know there's a grave on Ahch-To...
3. Lando is Back on Bespin
Empire's End gave us a surprising cameo, with interludes revealing that Lando Calrissian returned to Bespin and took his old facility back from the Empire. The novel also revealed Lando's curious choice of a present to celebrate the birth of Ben Solo (a.k.a. Kylo Ren):
"Tell you what. I'll write a note, kind of a . . . Hey, kid, it's me, Uncle Lando, you ever need help and don't wanna call your father, come find me, we'll sort it out. Put that in with the blaster, then secure it in a locker here on Cloud City, and give Han the key. Don't tell him what's in it - he'll pitch a fit if he sees it. It'll be for the boy when he's older."
There are rumors that Billy Dee Williams, is set to reprise his role as Lando Calrissian in The Last Jedi. If that's the case, then Empire's End has just carefully placed him in a familiar context.
- A Star Wars Universe Primer — Everything You Wanted To Know About Star Wars Canon, But Were Too Afraid To Ask
- 'Rogue One' Subtly Retcons The Season Finale Of 'Star Wars: Rebels' Season 1 — And Makes It Even Cooler
- How The Legacy Of Darth Vader Is Transforming The Star Wars Universe
As you can see, between the novels and Star Wars: Rebels we're seeing a lot of subtle hints - ideas that seem to be setup for The Last Jedi. From the increasing focus on the Unknown Regions, to whispers of the Emperor's Hand, Lucasfilm is clearly gearing up for some pretty dramatic revelations. My recommendation is to keep your eyes peeled for more surprising twists as we near The Last Jedi's release; and in the meantime, be sure to keep an eye on Movie Pilot, because I'll be keeping you up-to-date here too!
Do you think Snoke comes from the Unknown Regions?
(Poll Image Credit: Lucasfilm)