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WMG / Return of the Jedi

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R2-D2 mind-controlled the Death Star, wanting to destroy it more awesomely.
This would explain why Luke, who was a great pilot, was on the strike team instead of piloting an X-wing — R2-D2 begged him not to destroy it with something so mundane as a torpedo. He was able to convince Luke, but just never got around to asking the rest of the Rebels, hence why they went ahead with their original mundane plan. All this can be explained by two things:
  • First, in Legends, we see an IG-88 droid upload his conscience to the Death Star at this point and effectively control the entire thing — he's the reason why the superlaser hits. He's trying to foment a droid uprising, which ended when the station exploded. This shows that it's certainly possible for R2 to control the entire Death Star, and it gives that sliver of room for an Epileptic Tree that R2 fought the IG-88 for control of the Death Star and eventually won.
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  • Second, it's exactly the kind of thing R2's player Pete would do.

The ending celebration montage takes place over several years.
The film shows a massive party on the Imperial capital Coruscant — but there's no way they could have organized it only hours after the destruction of the Death Star and the death of the Emperor. After all, how could they have learned about it so quickly? It makes sense on Endor's moon, with Luke and company having been firsthand witnesses to everything, but not halfway across the Galaxy. And even once they did learn on Coruscant, why would they assume that this would have led to the collapse of the Empire? They'd need a couple of years to sort through the political fallout — and there would still be some Imperial troops and officials on the planet whom they have to get rid of. The celebrations we see coincide with the formal announcement of the end of the Empire. Indeed, the EU describes a riot taking place on Coruscant once they hear about the Death Star's destruction, and Imperial troops had to put it down; in Legends, it wasn't until two years after the Emperor's death that the New Republic could liberate it.

"Last of the Jedi will you be" is Yoda-speak for "You will be of the last Jedi".
In other words, Yoda is not saying that Luke will be the very last Jedi — there will be others. And he's right — not only in the Expanded Universe, but also in the Sequel Trilogy, there are a number of other Jedi wandering around. Even though the title of Episode VIII is The Last Jedi, Luke in that film explicitly says that he's not the "last Jedi".

Indeed, this explanation makes more sense than the implication that Luke is the "last Jedi". Several EU works have had to jump through rhetorical hoops to disclaim the "Jedi" who appear chronologically after Return of the Jedi — for example, in Star Wars Rebels, Ahsoka and Kanan profess to being unworthy of the title of "Jedi", and in The Thrawn Trilogy Luke encounters an apparent surviving Jedi and muses that Yoda might have been mistaken.

Sure, it's entirely possible that Yoda was indeed wrong — his premonitions aren't perfect. But more likely, he was correct from a certain point of view. Luke isn't the "last Jedi" on a purely technical level, but he is the last to have been trained in the manner of the old Jedi Council. Luke's conception of the Force is very different from that of any Jedi before him, and the school of the Force he founds could easily be a totally new school — neither Jedi nor Sith, but called "Jedi" for historical reasons. This is what Yoda is alluding to. If not this, he's alluding to a premonition of Vader's redemption and brief return to the Jedi way before his Heroic Sacrifice.

Admittedly, grammatically speaking there is no "of" in the sentence, but Yoda's strange syntax doesn't necessarily require a straight rearrangement of every word therein.

Indeed, they were completely ready to roast up Luke, Han, and Chewbacca for a feast to honor their new god. They probably also did this to a few of the fallen Imperial soldiers, hence why they used their helmets as drums in the celebration at the end of the film. And in Star Wars: The Old Republic, you can recruit an Ewok mercenary named Treek, who admits to having no problem with eating a defeated sentient enemy and that she'd like to "try" roasted Rodian sometime.

The Ewoks are the most badass race in the Galaxy.
  • They can take on enemies with far more advanced weapons, like AT-STs and blasters. Not only does it take guts, it takes cleverness. They set up huge suspended villages and effective traps in a short amount of time, demonstrating good planning and discipline. They're also very adaptable and unafraid of using unfamiliar technology.
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  • They appear to live alongside a lot of big, nasty predators, even by human standards — and they've supplanted them to become the apex predator on their homeworld. Those vicious little teddy bears Had to Be Sharp.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic shows us Treek, an Ewok mercenary who was so badass that Mandalorian Clan Ordo considered her worthy to fight with them. She can push aside humanoids twice her size, killed the crew of the crashed ship to get off Endor, and has an array of hunting tools that might be primitive, but also vicious and effective. And that's just one example; the Heroes of Yavin recruited a small army of Treeks and handed the Imps their asses.
  • They appear to be one of the few groups in the Galaxy to consistently and effectively implement railings.
The Galaxy is lucky that they're not particularly interested in power — they could set up their own empire if they really wanted.

The Ewoks are the Furlings of Stargate fame.
Given the intelligence and skill they show throughout the film, including their giant hanging villages and their victory over a much more technologically advanced Imperial force, they could easily have been one of the four races if they had a stargate.

Palpatine threw the final battle.
He's stupidly powerful — how could he have lost the entire Empire so easily? There are a number of theories:
  • He did it on purpose. It's part of his overall plan, eventually enacted in The Rise of Skywalker. He gives the illusion of his defeat to ensure that the right people are in charge for when he really sets his plan into motion. Adherents of this theory consider Palpatine to be The Chessmaster, perfectly willing to feign stupidity and weakness to get what he wants. They'll also point to his fight with Mace Windu in Revenge of the Sith and claim that he also threw it, allowing him to frame the battle as an assassination attempt and attain political support for the establishment of the Empire.
  • He just lost it. He does quite a few stupid things in Return of the Jedi, especially his total dismissal of Luke's obvious attempts to turn Vader away from the Dark Side. He's so powerful that he's supremely arrogant, utterly convinced that he can turn anyone to the Dark Side. He furthers his arrogance by essentially grooming Vader's replacement right in front of him (although the Sith are practically defined by their Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, so this shouldn't have surprised Vader all that much).
  • He's betrayed by his premonitions for the first time. He became a Galactic Conqueror in part by being able to predict everyone's actions and using it to his advantage. But Vader can predict Luke's refusal to turn to the Dark Side, while he himself cannot. This makes him cocky — and why wouldn't he be? It's always worked for him before. Palpatine, being The Chessmaster that he is, isn't going to rely solely on his premonitions. He knows that it's not enough for Luke to turn to the Dark Side — he'd have to kill his own father and take his place, and Palpatine isn't going to bank on that happening. Worst case scenario, Palpatine just kills Luke for his refusal to do that and sticks with Vader. But Palpatine got cocky and decided to torture Luke before killing him, and then comes the one thing he really didn't predict: Vader coming to Luke's defense and committing a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • He's doing a Scorched Earth thing. If Palpatine did realize the implications of the sudden failure of his premonition power, he figured he'd do a Death-or-Glory Attack. And if he failed, he would take down the entire structure of the Empire with him. Indeed, the Expanded Universe uses this as an explanation for how the Empire fell so quickly once Palpatine was eliminated — he set it up so that this would happen on the off chance he were defeated.
  • He was never that powerful to begin with! He doesn't do a lot of fighting, preferring to manipulate people into doing his bidding. And most of the people he's trying to manipulate are pretty Weak-Willed — in the prequels, he mostly works on the fragile Anakin, the feckless and rigid Jedi Council, and the ambitious yet bumbling politicians in the Senate. He's never tried to turn someone as strong-willed as Luke, who for all the temptation never comes particularly close to turning to the Dark Side. He gets angry, throws a tantrum, tries to torture Luke, triggers Vader's anger, and puts up almost no defense against Vader when he attacks.

Palpatine did see Vader's betrayal coming, but not as soon as it did.
What else would he expect? The Sith have a tradition of apprentices murdering their masters and taking over. He either got his premonitions wrong, or he simply got cocky and assumed it would happen once Vader was totally turned to the Dark Side. Vader still had good left in him, and Palpatine could sense that as well as Luke; Palpatine figured that as long as Vader wasn't completely turned, he'd have no reason to go "full Sith" and stab him in the back. Whether because Evil Cannot Comprehend Good, or whether because he was Drunk on the Dark Side, Palpatine did not expect Luke to turn Vader to his side and Vader's betrayal to come as a result of that.

Striking down Palpatine wouldn't have turned Luke to the Dark Side on its own.
Palpatine is well aware of this. As far as he sees it, Luke would cement himself as a Rebel hero as the one who killed the Emperor. Palpatine has to maneuver into a situation where Luke killing him would be cowardly rather than heroic, hence why he insists that Luke take him down while he's defenseless. Luke would genuinely feel so guilty about it that he'd think he'd fallen to the Dark Side — which will become a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. And if Luke does stay true to his guns and refuses to slay Palpatine in that scenario, Palpatine survives to continue his reign of terror, so he wins either way. Except he didn't count on Vader's intervention.

Palpatine lied about being unarmed.
After all, he always had the ability to use Force lightning. He may also have been thinking of repeating his stunt from Revenge of the Sith, in which he claims to be unarmed but suddenly pulls out a lightsaber, but by Return of the Jedi he's probably pretty old and doesn't exactly want to do hand-to-hand combat. (That, and it's just more fun to torture Luke with lightning.)

The Sarlacc is a larval space slug.
Back in The Empire Strikes Back, we saw the adult space slug — a gigantic, worm-like creature that lived in an asteroid and had a breathable atmosphere inside it. The theory is that the Sarlacc is the larval form, and that it also has an atmosphere inside it, given that Boba Fett can hang around in there for a long time while he's slowly digested.

Indeed, this creature bears a striking resemblance to the sandworms of Dune, which actually supply the atmosphere of the planet Arrakis. These space slugs are very similar, supplying atmosphere to other planets that might need it, including Tatooine. They may even have been planted there by the Rakata or one of the other Precursors that were so prevalent in the Galaxy, as part of ongoing Terraforming efforts. The one we see in Empire might also have been placed on a planet that met a similar unfortunate fate to Alderaan (which might also explain why it's part of an Asteroid Thicket). Notice also how the mouth of the Sarlacc in the Special Edition more closely resembles what we see in Empire.

The space slugs have an extremely slow metabolism, digesting things over thousands of years. They use the biological entities they eat to power their atmosphere-making system; although it takes forever, their slow metabolism also allows them to go long periods between feeding. This isn't very evolutionarily advantageous, but it's a damn weird universe; they may even have been genetically engineered for their terraforming purpose.

As for why Jabba the Hutt uses the Sarlacc as an elaborate execution device: He's out in the ass-end of the Galaxy. Most of the nasties will use much more efficient execution methods. Jabba probably isn't even aware of what a space slug is for; he probably just sees it as a way to kill people in as painful a way as possible.

The Sarlacc is an Eldritch Abomination that serves as a portal to Hell.
That's why the people who fall in there undergo an eternity of pain. It's not digestion — it's a Fate Worse than Death, the Galaxy's primitive understanding of the eternal torture of Hell. The people who ascribe biological sources to the torture are either ignorant of the Sarlacc's true nature or are incredibly freaked out and lying to the world at large.

Anakin brought balance to the Force by killing Palpatine.
This doesn't really count as WMG because it's George Lucas's interpretation of the prophecy. But we know so little of the prophecy, and there are so many competing theories about it, that there's probably more than one fan out there who's never heard this interpretation before.

Basically, the idea comes from the Dark Side being an inherent imbalance in the Force. While many viewers see the light-dark dichotomy as a balance, the Dark Side's use of the Force is unnatural. If the Force is basically The Lifestream, the Dark Side is essentially abusing it for personal benefit; the Force doesn't like that and wants to get rid of it. Anakin fulfills the prophecy in Return of the Jedi when he kills Palpatine.

Now, the competing theory (a WMG in itself) is that Anakin fulfilled the prophecy in Revenge of the Sith by slaughtering most of the Jedi, leaving only two Jedi (Obi-Wan and Yoda) and two Sith (himself and Palpatine). But if you call this balance in the Force, it doesn't last very long; Obi-Wan dies, and it takes a while for Luke to really become a "Jedi" (and if you claim he was always a Jedi because of his bloodline, then you have to add Leia to the equation, too, and we're back to imbalance).

A further point in favor of the theory that Vader fulfilled the prophecy in Jedi is the companion theory that Luke's conception of the Force is totally different with that of the old Jedi Council; all they have is the name "Jedi" in common. It's not just the selfishness and perversion of the Dark Side that's an imbalance; it's the rigidity and obtuseness of the Jedi, too. Although Luke is the one to have established the "new Jedi" school of the Force, it was Vader who eliminated the last vestige of improper Force teaching. And he probably was the first to truly understand how the Force really was meant to be taught; it adds a more poignant touch both to Vader's offer to Luke that they overthrow the Emperor together, and to Luke's line, "I am a Jedi, like my father before me."

Vader threw the fight with Luke, because he couldn't bring himself to kill his own son.
The only time Vader genuinely tries to kill Luke is when he tries to shoot him down over the Death Star in A New Hope, and he doesn't know who Luke is at that point. Once Vader learns that Luke is his son, he makes every effort to try and turn him to his side — so that together, they could overthrow the Emperor and rule together.

In The Empire Strikes Back, he's clearly toying with Luke and refuses to kill him so that he can reveal who he is and offer his ultimatum. He does cut off Luke's hand, but that was a ploy to activate a Traumatic Superpower Awakening (or perhaps an accident — he might not be used to holding back). By Return of the Jedi, Vader is reluctant to actually bring Luke to the Emperor; he does so mostly in the hope that Luke will join him. His comment that "it is pointless to resist" refers to Luke's hatred of the Emperor; he's encouraging Luke to kill the Emperor so that they could take over together.

Vader hasn't given up on turning Luke by pissing him off, forcing him to give in to his anger. And he succeeds when he threatens to turn Leia. Then he finds Luke suddenly going to town on him, but he still can't bring himself to kill Luke, essentially allowing Luke to cut his hand off. You can even see Vader kind of wave his hand as if signalling Luke to calm down. He's realizing that his plan might backfire on him — if Luke gave in and killed Vader, Palpatine would train him in the real Dark Side. Luke, however, can't bring himself to kill Vader, and Vader sees clearly that he is much more closely aligned with Luke than with Palpatine — so he chooses to get rid of Palpatine.

Ben and Yoda didn't tell Luke who Vader was in the hope that Luke would kill Vader.
Ben claims he didn't tell Luke because as far as he was concerned, the man he knew as Anakin was dead, having been subsumed by Darth Vader. Yoda, meanwhile, claims he just figured that Luke couldn't handle the truth. But both were lying when they said that Anakin was totally lost to the Dark Side; they believed he still had good in him, as Luke did. But they didn't want him redeemed — Anakin had committed such crimes in the name of the Dark Side, including slaughtering children, toppling the entire Galactic government, and replacing it with a dictatorship, that he was beyond forgiveness. They suspected Luke would try anyway, and he was doomed to fail.

In some sense, this proves the point of Luke not really adhering to the old Jedi ways. One would think that the Jedi would teach what Luke believes: nobody is beyond redemption, and revenge is evil and pointless. The old Jedi, however, were mired in war and politics; Obi-Wan was a general in the Old Republic, and Luke wasn't exactly unjustified in thinking of Yoda as a "great warrior" before he meets him.

The second Death Star was built faster than the first one because of spare parts.
Even if you account for the fact that the Empire had already built a functioning Death Star and didn't need to repeat the research and testing for the second one, that's a remarkably fast turnaround time. They would have still had to raise the funds and political capital to build the second Death Star — even in a dictatorship like what Palpatine runs, it's harder than it would seem because it's a really bad look to have your "unstoppable" superweapon blown up in such spectacular fashion. Palpatine probably convinced the skeptics at least in part by showing that they already had much of the raw material to build it quickly (the rest of it was just plain ol' "do what I say or I choke you to death with the Force").

There are two possibilities for where said parts came from. The first is that they salvaged some of the wreckage of the first Death Star floating around in space. The second is that they had spares from their initial construction efforts. Which makes sense — if you were building a Death Star, you wouldn't stop at just one, would you?

Leia's memories of her mother are visions from the Force.
Leia claims that she remembers her mother, but given what we see in Revenge of the Sith, this isn't possible — her birth mother died basically minutes after giving birth to her. So what gives? She was sensing her mother with the Force. Yoda does mention that Jedi could see visions of the past as well as the future. Leia, not knowing she was Force sensitive at the time, didn't realize what she was seeing and assumed they were genuine memories rather than Force visions. The Force also seems to be rather random in what it chooses to show with respect to visions, explaining why Leia could see Padme and Luke couldn't.

Yoda didn't fancy Luke's chances much.
Yoda tells Luke that his training is not yet complete, but that he will become a Jedi if he confronts Vader. Putting two and two together, Yoda is essentially saying that if Luke manages to confront Vader and survive the experience without being turned to the Dark Side, then he will have proven that he is a Jedi. It's a slim chance of happening, but Yoda doesn't want to discourage Luke. Alternatively, Yoda recognizes that there's an imbalance in the Force in the form of the Dark Side (one that wasn't present in the prequels because the Sith had been "extinct for millennia") and that if Luke were a true Jedi, he could correct it by successfully confronting Vader.

Luke and Leia being siblings was a last-minute addition.
George Lucas claims it was his plan all along, but it doesn't jive with what we saw in the previous two films. Luke and Leia were clearly semi-flirting with each other and shared two kisses (well, one and a half). Clearly, he was originally thinking of a Love Triangle between Han, Luke, and Leia.

Now, the two are not mutually exclusive; Luke and Leia don't know they're siblings, and as far as they knew they were part of a genuine love triangle. And furthermore, given that they didn't grow up together, they might even be more inclined to be attracted to each other on account of their relation thanks to genetic sexual attraction. But we need to remember that we're dealing with George frigging Lucas, who over time has proven himself famous for inconsistent claims as to his intentions, shocking familiar revelations, and complete inability to write a believable romance. It's more likely that Lucas wanted Han and Leia to get together, but realized that Luke and Leia would have been a more natural fit, and so resolved the love triangle by making two of the parties related. (And with Leia's line, "Somehow, I've always known," he can make the viewer look stupid for even thinking that Luke/Leia would have been better!)

There's also the issue that several characters did know that Luke and Leia were siblings, most notably Obi-Wan, Yoda, and R2-D2. A character like Obi-Wan would probably bring it up at some point; even if he were afraid of Luke piecing together who his father is if he knew Leia were his sister (which is unlikely), even a celibate monk like him should at least know there's something wrong with Twincest.

In all honesty, this resolution to the love triangle was probably unnecessary. There was no real reason to think that Luke and Leia were genuinely attracted to each other. Luke's initial infatuation with Leia could easily stem from her representing the world outside Tatooine that he never got to experience — pretty princesses running rebellions is not exactly a thing on Tatooine. Luke doesn't make nearly as much effort to win Leia over as Han does. Leia, for her part, likes Han but is easily annoyed by him, and when Han annoys her, she flirts with Luke to show Han what he should behave like. Luke finds the whole thing faintly amusing, given his smug reaction when Leia kisses him and his quick dismissal of Han's, "You think a princess and a guy like me..." If Lucas had a better sense of writing a romance, he could easily have shown Leia and Han growing closer to each other and Luke being okay with that, choosing to focus on learning the ways of the Force.

The Ewoks will quickly modernize, and then they'll realize that C-3PO was not a god and become outraged.
They had no stake in the war, and they only joined it because C-3PO told them to. They probably won't be happy to learn that they fought and died on the word of something that rolled off an assembly line.

Chewbacca filled Han in about Lando joining the Rebels while they were locked in the cell together in Jabba's palace.
That's why Han is immediately friendly to Lando when they meet again afterwards, rather than still being mad about being betrayed to Vader.

The previous film's Leia/Luke kiss was a No Sparks moment
As soon as Obi-wan offers some kind of explanation for how Luke could possibly have a long-lost sister, he instantly knows who it is. Similarly, as soon as Luke explains this to Leia, she reveals that she always knew something was up. The kiss on Hoth seems like a funny retrospective moment for siblings, but both of them are secretly thinking "something didn't feel right about this at all..." Basically, they had a growing bond ever since the Death Star, and discovered on Hoth, in the worst, most awkward possible way, that it wasn't romantic.

Jabba doesn't lust after humanoid females.
The Twi'leks are there mainly to make him look powerful, provide morale for his men, and to torment them. Similarly, he wasn't trying to molest Leia, just creep her out and demean her. The EU short story collection Tales from Jabba's Palace implies that Jabba can lust after humanoids if they make an effort to look more like a Hutt, hence why the skinny Twi'lek was expendable but the other dancer was not. Leads to some Fridge Horror if one assumes that Jabba might have been thinking of fattening Leia up to make her more attractive to him.

Ewoks are a Lost Colony of Wookiees.
George Lucas apparently originally had Wookiees in the role the Ewoks play in Return of the Jedi, but the known technological capabilities of the Wookiees would have obstructed his desire to abuse the Rock Beats Laser trope. One can split the difference and suggest that the two species are related, having diverged evolutionarily over the course of generations and having grown up on different homeworlds.

Anakin's Force ghost can change appearance.
In Return of the Jedi, he looks like he did before he turned to the Dark Side. But in Clone Wars, at a later point in the same celebration, he appears to Luke as he would have had he never turned to the Dark Side.

Moff Jerjerrod escaped the Death Star II and immediately defected to the now-dominant Rebel Alliance and the New Republic following the Battle of Endor.
A major squad of Princess/General Leia's Resistance in The Force Awakens has the same name as Moff Jerjerrod. While this would likely not happen in the Legends continuity due to his Adaptational Villainy in that universe, in the canon universe and the deleted scenes, he only saw the Death Star as a means just to keep order and was not happy about destroying planets. He could very well have surrendered to the Alliance and joined them due to having morals, and going on to be a major player in the Alliance and the formation of the new Republic, if not the Resistance itself. If this is true, it makes him the second high-ranking Imperial to make a Heel–Face Turn in Return of the Jedi, after his boss Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker.

Leia didn't plan on firing the "listen up shot" before she and Chewbacca entered Jabba's main chamber.
Not only did she likely hear Oola's death-screams while she was walking down the entryway, but the implication from when Luke was hanging from the static vane at Cloud City that Leia is also force-sensitive means that she might have felt everything Oola did in her final moments, which angered Leia either out of empathy, or confusion about what she was experiencing.

Palpatine wasn't actually going to kill Luke.
Think about it, Luke at this point is young and fresh and possibly the most powerful (or at least has the most potential) Force user alive in the Galaxy at that point. Vader is never going to get better because he's hindered by his injuries and cybernetics and is aging up. When Luke threw his lightsaber away and said he'd never turn to the Dark Side, Palpatine wouldn't have just shrugged and said "well I tried" and throw away his chance to have Luke as his apprentice. So he moves on to plan B - torture Luke with unimaginable agony and make him fear he's going to die. He just has to inflict so much pain on Luke that eventually Luke will accept to do anything to make the pain stop - perhaps kill his own father and turn to the Dark Side?