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Friday, May 04, 2018

Star Wars: Making sense (?!?) of THE LAST JEDI internal timeline

Okay, this is probably going to fanwank me into utter oblivion but since today is the quasi-holiday of May the Fourth and in light of the festivities here are some thoughts - that have been nagging at a lot of us these past few months - about Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi...
Taken at face value the internal chronology makes little to NO sense whatsoever. There is ENORMOUS incongruity between the events of the Rey and Luke, and the Resistance fleet, and Finn and Rose, and even Kylo Ren and Snoke. And it's bugged the mynocks out of me... until I began studying this film alongside The Force Awakens and now... it kinda jibes pretty well after all.
(Mind ya though, these are the words of a maniac who once upon a time composed a mini-doctoral thesis explaining away midi-chlorians. So parse all of this as you may.)
The key is bearing in mind what the opening crawl of The Last Jedi tells us from the very start: the First Order has struck across the galaxy. In the aftermath of the destruction of Starkiller Base, Snoke isn't playing in the shadows anymore. He's laying ALL his cards on the table and the First Order has come out of the Unknown Regions to take the galaxy in a cosmic blitzkrieg. As crazy as it sounds, the First Order is apparently more powerful militarily than the Empire was, if it's being able to assault the former Republic worlds on all fronts. This was sadly understated across the span of the film (though I suspect it will be emphasized in Episode 9).
This did not transpire instantaneously after Rey left the Resistance base to find Luke. In fact, it was likely several days between her departure and the First Order fleet's arrival at D'Qar. Snoke was taking his time coordinating the invasion of the civilized galaxy. It was also during this time that Kylo Ren was recovering from the wounds he received from the duel in the forest on Starkiller Base (and that hit in the leg from Chewie's bowcaster). General Hux had to rendezvous with the Supremacy and Kylo got bacta treatment, stitched etc. before appearing before Snoke. That all takes time.
Meanwhile, some days after leaving the Resistance base, Rey arrives at Ahch-To and finds Luke Skywalker. And she is NOT going to persuade him quickly by any measure to get back into the fight. It's likely, given the changes in weather and time of day, that she spends a number of days following Luke around the island.
And that is a beautiful thing, actually. This is a common motif in the story of master and apprentice: the aspiring student having to demonstrate patience and tenacity and a refusal to surrender, until at last the master takes him or her on as an apprentice. As Rey told Luke, she has seen his daily routine: intimating that she has had time to understand how he spends his time in self-imposed exile.
So again, there are several days between Rey's departure and when Luke acquiesces and concurrently several days between the First Order's galaxy-wide assault and its arrival at D'Qar. Why didn't Snoke come out and hit the Resistance immediately? Well, for all how they have just broken his new toy, he still considers them a minor nuisance at best in the greater scheme of things. The bigger threat is Skywalker returning and that's not necessarily something to be solved with all-out military action. So the First Order is taking its time. And only when it is unavoidably clear that the First Order is en route does Leia begin a proper evacuation. Which underscores why there wasn't frantic fleeing from the base at the end of The Force Awakens.
And when the First Order does arrive, it is several MORE days possibly between the jump into hyperspace by the Resistance fleet and its arrival on the outskirts of the Crait system. And it's not long after that when the Supremacy and its entourage arrives. And so begins the long slow pursuit across realspace.
(Kylo enters Snoke's chambers after he's sufficiently recovered, which is after the battle at D'Qar. Again, a clue that The Last Jedi's series of events are more protracted out than is initially assumed ).
So why didn't the First Order simply sent a second task force to jump in front of the Resistance ships and end them all there? Two reasons. The first is that the First Order has committed ALL its military resources to attack systems of the former New Republic. Likely a reinforcement for the pursuit of the  Resistance couldn't be spared.
More likely though: Snoke is being cruel. Making Leia and her comrades suffer the agony of knowing they've limited fuel, limited time, limited life left to them. It's prolonged psychological sadism and Snoke is reveling in it. He's enjoying every moment of this crawl across space, picking the Resistance fleet off one vessel at a time.
Now here is the wild supposition on my part. I've a sense that Finn and Rose were off to Canto Bight and back in much longer than within 18 hours.

How it works out fuel-wise for the Resistance fleet, I can't explain unless that was their overall optimum fuel supply before hitting reserves (which has a real world analogy, by the way). Finn and Rose and Poe must have figured that there was some time afforded them though, 'cuz there sure doesn't seem to be utter desperation on their part. I mean, Rose takes time to admire the fathiers racing, fercryinoutloud! So again, possibly a few days travel to Canto Bight, finding the Master Codebreaker (or someone loosely approximating him) and then getting aboard the Supremacy.
It was during the time that the Resistance fleet was in hyperspace on the way to Crait and then for much of Finn and Rose's mission that Luke was teaching Rey, and also Rey and Kylo Ren's "communion" through the Force. And it was a number of days after Rey abandoned Luke before the Millennium Falcon dropped her off in an escape pod to be captured by the First Order. When she is taken captive, at that same time Finn and Rose and DJ are infiltrating the Supremacy to find the hyperspace tracking device.
And it is at this point that the separate chronologies of the film at last convene and take place simultaneously. Everyone is at Crait and the final moves of this chapter of the saga begin to play out.

Between Rey and Chewie and Artoo taking off on the Falcon in the final minutes of The Force Awakens and that coming together of all the elements in The Last Jedi, there could have been a week or even TWO weeks or more of "story time".
But, it really doesn't matter in the end. Star Wars is after all a legend. And no legend is without the quality of being protean and open to interpretation.

Just my two Republic credits...