All the ‘Episode VIII’ Secrets We Learned From ‘Star Wars: Empire’s End’
Lucasfilm’s series of new-canon Star Wars novels have made a point of helping flesh out the universe as we know it. And while many of the biggest revelations are still being saved for upcoming films, we’ve gotten a good deal of information simply by staying caught up on our required reading.
That brings us to the third and final installment in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy, appropriately titled Empire’s End. The book is set during the climactic Battle of Jakku, the remnants of which we’ve already seen firsthand in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The intrigue goes far deeper than that though, revealing tons of answers to some of our most burning questions regarding the latest film trilogy. So with that, let’s dive in and find out what exactly Empire’s End taught us.
1. The Emperor had a contingency plan, and it’s just as crazy as you’d expect
If there’s one thing we know about the late Emperor Palpatine, it’s that he was a master planner, having successfully executed a 20-plus year scheme to take over the galaxy. Knowing that, it should come as no surprise that he had a contingency plan in the event of his untimely death. Much of that revolved around his young protégé Gallius Rax, who was tasked with protecting a secret Observatory on the surface of Jakku.
Thanks to Empire’s End, we finally know the specifics of that contingency, and it’s … well, not great for any surviving Imperials. The scheme involved Rax taking over for the Emperor following his death, and purposely leading it to certain doom so that he could start the whole operation from scratch. The general spirit of the plan was very much a “if I can’t run the Empire, no one can” sort of deal, showing the true selfishness of Palpatine, even in death.
2. What Palpatine and Rax were hiding on Jakku
Jakku may be little more than a junkyard planet, but it was also the hiding place for Palpatine’s method for starting the Empire anew. Scattered across the galaxy, the Emperor had a collection of “Observatories,” each housing everything from ancient Sith artifacts to important data. Jakku’s Observatory was the most important of all, housing one-of-a-kind star maps to unexplored regions beyond the edge of the known galaxy. The reason behind them was rooted in having Rax and a small cadre of Imperial VIPs flee to that uncharted space, and begin planting the roots of a newly-formed Empire.
3. Grand Admiral Thrawn’s surprising role in forming the First Order
Lucasfilm has carefully been infusing old-canon favorite Grand Admiral Thrawn back into the Star Wars universe, beginning with his arc on the current season of Star Wars Rebels. His importance goes far beyond the animated series though, with Empire’s End name-dropping him as one of the masterminds behind helping Palpatine map the unknown regions of space, as part of the data stored in the Jakku Observatory. As we now know, the First Order was born beyond the outer edges of the galaxy, making Thrawn a key architect behind their origin.
4. Jar Jar Binks’ unfortunate fate
Jar Jar Binks is widely regarded as the most hated character in Star Wars history, making the fate he suffers in Empire’s End that much more appropriate. In one of the interlude chapters, Jar Jar is back on his homeworld of Naboo, exiled (again) by his own people, and functioning as little more than a street performer.
We then find out that he’s shunned by just about everyone who used to know him, a move that is likely tied to Jar Jar’s choice to grant then-Chancellor Palpatine emergency powers at the onset of the Clone Wars.
5. Captain Phasma, a young Hux, and the creation of the First Order Stormtroopers
In The Force Awakens, General Hux notes that the First Order’s Stormtroopers are trained from birth. The thing is, that process would have had to begin well before the First Order was even a glimmer in Supreme Leader Snoke’s eye. Empire’s End goes a long way toward filling in that gap, as Gallius Rax tasks Hux’s father, Brendol, with training a small group of children.
That first group proves themselves to be terrifyingly efficient at the art of killing, and is put under the command of a young, timid Hux. Among the trainees, the book singles out a girl, and while they don’t tell us her name, it’s not a huge jump to assume that she’s highlighted for a reason. She later becomes the chrome-clad Captain Phasma in The Force Awakens.
6. A whole new set of Snoke theories
The prevailing thought concerning the true identity of Supreme Leader Snoke was that he was in fact Gallius Rax. It seemed viable, given Rax’s close relationship with the Emperor, and his role as the de facto Imperial leader post-Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Rax may very well have been taken out of the running in Empire’s End though, following his death during the climactic final battle. And even while death is far from final in virtually every sci-fi universe, Rax seemed pretty damn dead.
That leaves us wondering a few things. First, could Rax have survived his injuries to later become the scarred, broken Snoke we see in The Force Awakens. Second, could Snoke have actually been waiting somewhere beyond the outer reaches of the galaxy? Right now, there aren’t many known characters who Snoke could be, and it has us leaning hard toward the “he’s someone previously not introduced” camp.
7. The Knights of Ren continue to take shape
The Knights of Ren began to take shape in the previous Aftermath novel, Life Debt, as a group of Vader acolytes took down a police station. We see the continuation of that story thread in Empire’s End, picking up directly after the police station raid.
Leading the fledgling “Acolytes of the Beyond” is none other than Yupe Tashu, a former advisor to Palpatine and worshipper of the Dark Side of the Force. Given his love of the Dark Side and close personal relationship to the late Emperor, Tashu is now the leading candidate in the “Who is Snoke?” sweepstakes.
8. Ben Solo’s birth (and foreshadowing his turn to the Dark Side)
We haven’t seen much in any of the new books from the man who would later become Kylo Ren, but Empire’s End does prominently feature his birth as a significant plot point. While still pregnant, Leia even notes how she feels her unborn son’s “light that sometimes dims, that sometimes is thrust through with a vein of darkness.”
We know that Ben Solo will later give in to that darkness, making that bit of foreshadowing that much more prescient.
9. Snap Wexley learns to fly
Snap Wexley may not be a major player in The Force Awakens, but he and his mother Norra have been the central characters of Chuck Wendig’s entire Aftermath trilogy. In Empire’s End, a young Snap finally gets behind the controls of his X-Wing, flying headfirst into the Battle of Jakku as Wedge Antilles’ wingman. More than anything, it’s been interesting to look inside the head of a relative side character, who hopefully will continue to be included in upcoming films.
10. Lando Calrissian takes back Cloud City
One of the most exciting parts about Lucasfilm’s upcoming Han Solo movie is that we’ll get to see Lando Calrissian as a young man, played by Atlanta and Community star, Donald Glover. What became of him after he helped blow up the second Death Star though is just as much of a mystery to us as his origin.
Empire’s End gives us a little taste of that, spending a chapter showing him take back Bespin from an Imperial remnant all while he tries to decide on a proper gift to give the soon-to-be-born Ben Solo.
11. Boba Fett’s armor survives the Sarlacc
For anyone wondering if Boba Fett survived his run in with the Sarlacc Pitt in Return of the Jedi, Empire’s End finally answers that question, once and for all. We find out in a brief interlude that while Boba perished in the stomach of the Sarlacc, his armor was successfully scavenged and re-appropriated. Local Tatooine lawman Cobb Vanth now dons Fett’s Mandalorian threads, as he fights off a rising criminal element.
12. Chewie’s son Lumpy is now officially canon
There isn’t a whole lot anyone wants to remember about the much-maligned Star Wars Holiday Special that aired back in 1978. Hilariously enough though, Empire’s End brought back one of the special’s characters, Chewbacca’s son, Lumpawaroo. Affectionately known as “Lumpy,” a brief chapter shows him escaping an Imperial labor camp on Kashyyyk, before getting caught, and subsequently rescued by Chewie and a band of fellow free Wookiees.
Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire’s End is on bookshelves now!
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