It's been made pretty clear by the folks in charge that Star Wars: Episode 7 and the Expanded Universe - a collection of stories and comics that were kind of, but not really Lucas-approved to follow and determine the history of the Star Wars Universe - are two very separate things as of now. As disheartening as that is (the Star Wars gods have more than likely ripped Jaina Solo away from me and I'm still not quite over that), the rumors, leaks, and plot details that have either slipped through the cracks or have been planted on purpose by Abrams' team have connected elements of the Expanded Universe to the new film. In fact, these elements may be the norm. Kathleen Kennedy, the woman in charge of overseeing the development of the entire Star Wars universe from here on out, had this to say in response to the EU canon's changes:
While the universe that readers knew is changing, it is not being discarded. Creators of new Star Wars entertainment have full access to the rich content of the Expanded Universe. For example, elements of the EU are included in Star Wars Rebels. The Inquisitor, the Imperial Security Bureau, and Sienar Fleet Systems are story elements in the new animated series, and all these ideas find their origins in role-playing game material published in the 1980s.
With that said...
DISCLAIMER: These are all my observations of connections. I fully believe that we will not be seeing a direct copy of the Expanded Universe storyline in the upcoming films, but with creative freedom comes the freedom to draw from previous storylines, and I'm just pointing out similarities.
This article will contain potential spoilers for [Star Wars: Episode VII](movie:711158), so if you don't want to know anything about the movie at all, stop reading. Capisce?
Adam Driver will not be Grand Admiral Thrawn... but He will Collect Cool Sith Stuff
This was a pretty dead giveaway, given that Thrawn's existence in the Expanded Universe technically ended a hefty 25-30 years before the events of this particular movie, and his iconic blue skin was not seen on Driver (who looked nothing like Thrawn to me in the first place) in this supposed leaked photo of the actor on set.
Despite this, it's been rumored that Driver's character is a bad guy that shares a few key elements with Thrawn. According to IndieRevolver (who has been knocking it out of the park with new art and plot details):
A couple of sources have expressed that the chrome troopers are a private security force for Adam Driver’s character – silver mercenary rent-a-cops rather than true Imperial Forces for Adam Driver’s character. While we’ve not heard this from anyone directly, the most abundant rumor about Driver is that he’s a wealthy aristocrat with an interest in Sith artifacts.
Outside of being a brilliant officer, climbing his way through the ranks of the Empire to eventually become one of Darth Vader's Grand Admirals and generally being the absolute most perfect villain in every way, Thrawn (his actual name was Mitth'raw'nuruodo, but that's kind of a mouthful) was known for collecting artifacts and artwork from several different alien species in order to get to know the culture behind the planet they came from. On top of this, during The Thrawn Trilogy, the Grand Admiral has an entire race of assassins -- the Noghri -- at his command, much like these mercenary stormtroopers. These are just character parallels, and they're not even confirmed, but it still makes for an interesting story and I most certainly would not be opposed to a villain of Thrawn's capacity causing trouble in the new films.
Another tidbit of coolness: When rumors flew that Benedict Cumberbatch was being considered for Episode 7, fans went into a frenzy and likened him to Thrawn immediately. I'd absolutely agree with this totally flawless casting, but alas, Thrawn will most likely never make it to the big screen.
"Kira" and Possible Ties to Skywaker/Solo Bloodlines
Daisy Ridley is the only cast member thus far that has publicly signed on for all three upcoming Star Wars films. Alongside the very obvious fact that she is a main character - if not the new heroine of the Star Wars universe - recent rumors and plot details have deterred me from believing that fully. Fans and news sites alike have taken to calling her by her possible character name and rumored on-set code name, Kira.
The immediate assumption with Ridley's character was that she's playing the daughter of Han Solo and Leia Organa. In fact, multiple leaks have claimed that the films will focus on the offspring of Han, Leia, and Lando. Given how much Ridley looks like Natalie Portman, who portrayed Leia's mother and Actual Political Badass Padme Amidala in the prequels, it wouldn't be too out of this world to assume exactly that.
Unfortunately, yesterday's reveal of Kira's home threw a tiny wrench into her connection to the Skywalker family: she's apparently working as a junker on a desert planet, and living out of a destroyed AT-AT. Not living with her parents is pretty acceptable, but being completely alone and making a living out of being a desert scavenger doesn't really sound like something the daughter of the galaxy's greatest heroes would do. Still, just like there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, there must always be a Skywalker carrying Star Wars, and I think that Ridley could definitely pull off that kind of role.
Max Von Sydow's Role is similar to (but isn't, more than likely)...
He’s a beaten man. He’s old enough to have lived through the Clone Wars, seen the Intergalactic Civil War unfold and then the aftermath of the fall of Emperor Palpatine. He’s no longer a man, he’s a cyborg. His eye is obscured by an ocular viewing device, most likely from a past injury which meant he could no longer use the eye with any ease. One leg is entirely cybernetic now, almost like a Super Battledroid but with metallic claws where his toes would be. He sits at a bar drinking, wary, and old. If you have an oddity, a rare weapon, you might want to bring it to him for evaluation.
Von Sydow was originally rumored to be a baddie, but sources say his character seems to be hanging out with Ridley's, possibly giving Ridley's team (so far only seeming to consist of her and John Boyega's character) a mechanic and a mentor if he shares the screen with her peacefully for more than one scene.
According to rumors, Boyega and Ridley's characters will acquire Luke Skywalker's lightsaber - and with that mention of a rare weapon, Sydow's character apparently comes into play.
Badass Digest later expanded on that leak:
She's hanging out there with von Sydow, who is an old cyborg dude, a guy who maybe has dementia. He talks a lot of nonsense. But as soon as that lightsbaber shows up, he gets lucid. He recognizes it. He begins to talk about the old days, name drops a couple of Prequel Trilogy characters, even. And then, after Kira and the alien leave he makes a call to a mysterious figure. "It's here," he says. But who is he calling?
So, as weird as it sounds, that led me to think of Dark Jedi Master Joruus C'Baoth. C'Baoth is in no way a good guy: he's a clone of a controversial, elitist member of the old Jedi order, and was created by Emperor Palpatine himself to keep watch over an imperial storehouse. When Thrawn came upon the warehouse, he recruited the dark Jedi to his side with a promise that C'Baoth would eventually get his hands on Luke, Leia, and Leia's twins (did I mention that Leia escaped multiple kidnappings, took out assassins, and lead a diplomatic movement in the new Republic, all while she was pregnant in the EU? Hopefully Grandma Leia is still just as badass as she was in RotJ) in order to train them in the Dark Jedi arts.
While I'm sure there are tons of alien races in Star Wars that live for centuries (hi, Yoda, you wonderful old nut) and being half-cyborg also backs up his long existence, I wouldn't be surprised if von Sydow's character reflected the lunacy that the wild C'Baoth so deeply committed himself to.
Oh, and there's also the bit where von Sydow's character seems to be an informant - particularly regarding the discovery of Luke's lightsaber. If those rumors about Driver's character are true, the two might well be in cahoots and after Luke's lightsaber, or Luke himself. It would be awesome to see something along the lines of a Thrawn and C'Baoth's partnership going up against whatever they're calling the new Republic these days, even if it is with completely new characters.
Luke and the Dark Side
Then there's the bombshell that hit the internet today: that Luke, one of the Heroes of the Rebel Alliance, ultimately turns to the Dark Side and brings Kira into the fold with him. I'm not buying this - not for a second. Maybe I just don't want it to be real, but everybody seems to be on this rumor. I just can't see Luke turning to the dark side permanently, and these summaries make it seem like it's so final. Luke, after all, is supposed to overcome what his father couldn't.
But in the EU, Luke has had his fair share of clashes with the dark side. After both Vader and the Emperor failed in getting the young Skywalker to turn (although, to his credit, Vader was sort of plotting to off the Emperor and spend his days ruling the galaxy with his son - oh, Ani, you're so delusional) Luke went on to search for Jedi relics and further his training, facing tiny temptations to do something out of anger or fear along the way and overcoming them. Then, of course, Dark Empire happened.
This is easily one of my favorite EU comics of all time because everyone is such an incredible badass in it. Luke ends up coming face-to-face with Palpatine once again, who reveals that he had "achieved immortality" by creating several clones and projecting his mind into the next available clone whenever he died. Luke, not only completely trapped but also extremely impressed with the Emperor's tactics, agrees to replace Vader by the Emperor's side.
Eventually, Leia, Han, Chewie and C-3PO show up, but the group is overcome by the Emperor's cronies and Leia is brought to his quarters to be turned. Unfortunately, Palpatine slips up when he reveals that he plans on taking the body of Leia's third child as his next vessel. Leia outright clocks him, takes a special relic he was using to subdue her, and attempts to escape with Luke and the others.
Luke attempts to off the Emperor's clones entirely, but misses exactly one. That clone then assumes the presence of Palpatine and completes Luke's turn, reducing him to the watch dog that Vader once was.
In the end, Leia returns for Luke and helps her brother free himself of the Emperor's control. Luke takes out Palpatine and the two reunite with their friends, with Luke proclaiming that "the Jedi Knights will rise again."
So that was a mouthful.
Still, it does ring in the question: If, in the end, Ridley is related to Luke, will it be her that returns to pull him from the dark side?