With The Last Jedi on the horizon, a couple new Star Wars book releases over the last few months have offered some interesting teases of what's (potentially) to come, and added other key details into the new canon. As such, it's time to break it all down and get a grasp on the current "State of the Galaxy."
Obviously, I’m a little behind on this one as a couple of big novels have launched since our last State of the Galaxy update. However, that means there’s plenty to talk about, but if for some reason you haven't checked out these books and still want to be surprised, I'm going to be blasting full bore into spoiler territority.
The Fate of Jar Jar Binks
I’ll keep this short, as word of this landed online before the book launched, but it’s an important revelation for a major (whether you like it or not) character. Many have wondered, and joked, about the fate of Jar Jar Binks following the end of Revenge of the Sith.
Empire’s End lets us know the Gungan has managed to survive the Galactic Civil War, though still banished from his homeland by the rest of the Gungans. He lives a life of solitude, downtrodden and fully aware of the role he played in Emperor Palpatine’s rise to power. As a sort of penance, he performs as something of a “street clown” for refugee children in Theed (on Naboo), in hopes to cheer them up.
For the character everyone loves to hate, it’s a sorrowful ending and made for one of the most legitimately emotional moments in Empire’s End. So yes, he’s still alive after the Empire falls, but his fate is one of self-rebuke.
Crossing Over Into Canon
As all of the new canon novels have done since they started up a few years ago, both Empire’s End and Thrawn have added a slew of little things from the old Expanded Universe (Legends) into the Star Wars canon. I won’t delve too deeply into them, but will list the neat ones I noticed (though I’m sure there are a couple I missed):
* Chewbacca’s son, Lumpawaroo, is officially back! Introduced in the infamous Holiday Special, and then featured in various roles (some prominent) in the EU, it was incredibly neat to see Chewie get his family back in the new canon.
* The primary villain in Kevin J. Anderson’s older Darksaber novel, Durg the Hutt, gets a brief mention in Empire’s End. While there’s no details on whether or not he’s the same gangster as his original appearance, it's a cool nod.
* Pretty much everything we knew about the Chiss Ascendancy from the previous novels, was brought over in Thrawn.
* Major Wyan, Colonel Mosh Barris, Captain Voss Parck, and the ship Strikefast make brief appearances in Thrawn, serving the same role they did in Timothy Zahn’s short story, “Mist Encounter,” from 1995.
* H’Sishi, the Togorian returns from the old Thrawn trilogy in the new book, serving as a dojo instructor this time around.
Church of the Force and Acolytes of the Beyond
One of the more interesting interludes woven throughout the Aftermath trilogy, deals with the Acolytes of the Beyond. The Sith cult (not sure what else you would call it), has appeared in all three novels, pointing to a larger problem for the future. Empire’s End shows them off, yet again, this time as they’re taking action and utilizing Sith artifacts to help them in battle. It’s a neat call back to some of the ideas about the Sith in the Old Republic stories, where they imbue possessions with elements of power.
It gives the dark side a nice mystical quality, and this particular interlude points out the importance of ancient Sith masks and the power they can bring the wearer, even if they aren’t Force wielders. While the connection could still be distant, it seems more than ever, the Acolytes are a predecessor of the Knights of Ren. It would explain their masked appearances, and even Kylo Ren’s obsession with finding relics of power.
The counter to this, of course, is the Church of the Force. We first heard of them associated with Lor San Tekka, who appeared all too briefly in The Force Awakens intro and have since seen their influence in Rogue One (Lyra Erso is a follower, and the pilgrimage in Jedha is related to it). They make another appearance in Empire’s End, and even bring up the Journal of the Whills once more, being used as a sort of prayer:
The truth in our soul
Is that nothing is true.
The question of life
Is what then do we do?
The burden is ours
To penance, we hew.
The Force binds us all
From a certain point of view.
The Journal of the Whills continues to pop up throughout the new canon, and considering major characters in Rogue One (Baze and Chirrut) were former Guardians of the Whills, it seems like the tome will be significant in the future of the franchise. Hell, perhaps the paper book we see in The Last Jedi trailer is a copy of the manuscript.
Once again, Cobb Vanth gets an interlude in Empire’s End and his legacy continues to be an intriguing one. As I mentioned the last time I did a State of the Galaxy, it seems as though Vanth is setting up something for the future of “Boba Fett.” I’m more than sure he’s dead, and once again it’s mentioned that Vanth is wearing his iconic armor. So could the Sheriff of Freetown be a set up for something Fett related down the road? Could be, especially as he’s now helping to raise a baby Hutt and has the aid of Tusken Raiders on Tatooine....
Something Wicked Lurks in the Unknown Regions
This specific point has the most potential on the future of Star Wars in the sequel trilogy, which is why I’ve saved it for last. One of the things fans were most eager to see resolved in Aftermath: Empire's End was the importance of Jakku to Gallius Rax's plans. The end of the second book in the trilogy, Life Debt, made it clear that Jakku held some importance, with the Emperor himself having visited the planet and appointing Rax to guard it.
Speculation ran wild for months until the Empire's End was released, where it turns out the big secret was a hidden Imperial "observatory". Housed within was a number of Sith artifacts and relics, but it's purpose was beyond that. It was one of many such installations that were built to help the Emperor chart paths out into the Unknown Regions of the galaxy. He was searching for something:
"Before Palpatine’s demise at the hands of the rebels, the computers finished their calculations, finally finding a way through the unknown. The Emperor was convinced that something waited for him out there – some origin of the force, some dark presence formed of malevolent substance. The Emperor called it a signal – conveniently one that only he could hear."
Thrawn adds to this idea:
“As a start, I offer information,” Thrawn said. If he was offended, Eli couldn’t hear it in his voice. “There are threats lurking in the Unknown Regions, threats that will someday find your Empire. I am familiar with many of them.”
The big thing about Thrawn, however, is we find out later in the novel he set out to encounter the Empire in the hopes of recruiting allies to aid the Chiss Ascendancy against some looming threat in the Unknown Regions.
What this malevolent thing lurking in the Unknown regions could be is still up to speculation, but I wouldn't be surprised if it has something to do with the origins of Supreme Leader Snoke (the big bad in charge of the First Order and Kylo Ren's master). Frustratingly, we’re not given many answers, but the idea of something sinister in the Unknown Regions is a large plot thread that’s sure to have a big presence for future Star Wars stories.
There you have it. As the Star Wars machine continues to move forward, the connective elements of the Story Group is really coming into focus. The ways in which this books, which take place decades apart, manage to connect and feed into the larger story is both impressive and engaging. Until next time, this is your STATE OF THE GALAXY report!