**Note: This article dives into some of the details of the recent movie—which I highly recommend—but that also means it’s full of spoilers. So, read on, but be warned! **
“We are the spark, that will light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down to the ground.”
At the end of The Force Awakens (VII), Rey’s outstretched hand holds a glimmer of hope and a lightsaber out to Luke Skywalker. That faint twinkle of hope carries us into The Last Jedi (VIII), but quickly all expectations are dashed and the characters’ very faith is shaken. They find themselves questioning: Can we hold onto that spark of hope when all seems lost?
The outstretched hand of Rey delivers the lightsaber to Luke Skywalker, and in response he takes the lightsaber and throws it over his shoulder and walks away. After persistence, Rey convinces him to teach her, but Luke agrees to teach her only three lessons designed to convince her that: “It’s time for the Jedi… to end.” But still we hold out hope, however faint, that Rey can convince him to rejoin their cause. In the end, she leaves him alone in his exile; alone, she goes to face the Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren.
Kylo Ren offers us echoes of hope. For much of the narrative, he seems torn wrestling with both his darkness and his light. He kills Supreme Leader Snoke, and for a single moment hope burns brightly. Yet, in this moment, Kylo Ren turns to Rey and asks her to turn to the darkness and rule the galaxy with him. In response, she asks him to turn to the light, but he refuses. What was hope, falls apart. Kylo Ren was never good—we soon realize his action was motivated not by the light, but his own selfish desire for power.
Throughout the movie, the Resistance is outgunned and on the run. It’s a desperate chase, with the Resistance using every ounce of their fuel to stay just out of reach of the First Order. As they run, they lose—piece by piece—the entirety of their fleet. They move in numbers from thousands, to a couple hundred, to only a dozen.
The floundering Resistance calls for help, yet no allies arrive. As the impending doom seems knocking, Leia hangs her head and says: “We fought until the end, but the galaxy lost all its hope. The spark is out.”
In that darkest moment, Luke Skywalker shows up… In the battle that ensues, he throws every last bit of himself into tricking the First Order and Kylo Ren, in order to provide the rebels an escape. The power and the strain kill him. And with that, the last Jedi dies… Only, that’s not quite the case.
The spark remains. Hope remains. Rey remains. She understands in that moment, that she is a Jedi, that she is the hope, that spark remains within her. She accepts the role, and she and Poe Dameron lead what’s left of the Resistance to safety. Luke Skywalker’s words echo in their hearts, “The rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And, I will not be the last Jedi.”
There is a faith that drives the hope, protecting it and carrying it through even the hardest of moments. A faith in the Force, in something more than oneself, and also in each other. A reassurance that even when surrounded by darkness, there is light still. The movie’s plot is a narrative spiral into an abyss of darkness; every expectation and hope that the rebels have, fails them. Yet, still they continue on.
It’s that faith and hope they hold onto to which makes them strong—it brings them through even the darkest moments into the light. Even if it fails their expectations, they hold onto it—trusting that it’ll bring them through it all.
It’s that same faith and hope that we need to carry us through our darkest moments and greatest challenges. The moments where our expectations are not realized, and we have to rethink what is possible. Even in the darkest of moments, we are neither alone nor ever completely in the dark.